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The Build - Mission accomplished! We're in!!

A busy November saw all the trades coming good, albeit some were cutting it fine for the moving in day – 30th November – However, we have moved in with all the services up and running. Having said that, BT and Openreach have missed the deadlines and as a result we are without any internet, phone line or TV for at least a week! Also the master bedroom built in wardrobes are still be fitted.   The landscapers have finished their work, providing us with a patio area and a driveway area which will see plenty of activity. Look closely and you should see the hedging that has been planted. 330 separate plants in all. This was a planning condition and the hedges are a mixture of Hawthorn, Beech, Holly and Maple. Locally referred to as native hedging. The turf will be laid next Spring.   Our Air Tightness test was conducted by a guy from Perth - a good couple of hours away. We never set out to achieve such low levels because we didn’t want the capital outlay of such a system as well as the infrastructure it requires. Our score was 4.9 which in our eyes is very good.   There are a number of minor jobs which I need to do such as touching up the paint work here and there; re-oiling some wood in places but all that can wait until we have given the whole place a deep clean. The main external jobs outstanding are the erection of the oak framed porch and the downpipes. Both of which should be completed within the next 10 days or so.   Anyway, this was not a self build in the true sense of the words but it was project managed by myself and built using a main contractor and sub contractors after the TF had been erected. I hope you have not only enjoyed reading about our project but have found some useful bits of information within the blogs in order to assist yourselves with your projects, whatever that may be.   Overall my experience has been a good one. It hasn’t been without its difficulties, such as additional unforeseen expenditure and additional expenditure as a result of our mistakes, or due to us changing our minds! Such examples include ordering the wrong door frame - we failed to realise we hadn't ordered a threshold suitable for level access - a mistake that cost us £1k. Changing our minds over the 3 toilets we had ordered. They simply looked lost in their respective environments so 3 new ones were ordered at an additional cost of £850. A failure to get a full grip of the scaffolding cost an additional £1k and a failure to budget correctly for the foundations and dwarf wall for the carport cost an additional £4k. Final facts and figures - Build schedule – 6 months from the day the TF arrived. Cost per sq metre - £1850 – includes everything, and I mean everything - from the scaffolding through to the landscaping and it includes the car port and porch [ still to be erected] but not the land or fees. Only two skips were used throughout the build – everything else was removed by us to the local dump or burnt on site – best investment was a £25 oil drum which we used as an incinerator.   Thanks for reading - Paul.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

The Build - Now on notice !

Blimey another month on there is a real sense we are getting there. So much so, we have given notice on our rental. We move in on Friday 30th November regardless!   The main emphasis this month has been installing the treatment plant and drainage system. The treatment plant was initially installed, somewhat optimistically, without any anchors only for it to pop back out of the ground within 24hrs, despite being filled with water and the pit filled with pea shingle. Needless to say the second time round, it was anchored down and the pit filled with a lot more concrete than the first time. SEPA – [Scotland] had requested a soak away to be installed along with a 20 metre drainage channel 1.2 metre wide, before connecting to a field drain that eventually discharges into a nearby water course. I then had to register my plant with SEPA at a cost of £137.   The local Building Controller arrived on site to test the drains and within 20 minutes or so, both the foul and rainwater systems were passed. As soon as they had been given the all clear, the landscaper and his team set about back filling the trenches and levelling the site ready for a Hammer Head driveway, boundary hedging and turf across the remaining plot.   Landscaping can be one of those often forgotten costs and to assist others here are my quantities and material prices. I haven't included the cost of the turf as it is still uncertain as to whether or not it will be laid this year or next. That decision will be taken during the week.   Patio mix slabs & single slabs 2265 Setts 540 MOT 3 x 28 tonnes 448 Sand x 6 tonnes 195 Cement x 40 bags 150 Membrane - 60 metres 150 20mm whin stone x 26 tonnes 650   Internally, progress has been frustratingly slow. I had a check of my records and found that the joiner / tiler had only been on site for 11 of the possible past 30 work days!!   That said, we now seem to have a momentum building and the floor tiles have started to be laid. This in turn will allow the kitchen units to be fitted this coming week. The electrician will have completed the second fix installation by the end of this coming week and the plumber is booked in for the following week to complete his second fix installations. Once the tiles are down, the joiner will turn his attention to cladding the dormers.   So, over the next 4 weeks the following needs to happen – Internally – Floor tile to be laid, grouted and sealed. Kitchen, utility room cabinets to be installed. Fitted furniture in the master bedroom to be fitted. Electrician to complete his second fix and to wire up the pump for the treatment plant. All sanitary ware to be installed. Final bits of internal joinery to be completed. Externally – The gable end stone work to be completed. The dormers to be clad. The porch to be erected. The chimney to be finished off. The landscaping to be completed. Open Reach to connect us to the BT pole outside the plot.   What can possibly go wrong ??  

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

The Build - Nearly done!!

Yes it seems the main phrase for our build currently, is "nearly done" -  As much as September seemed to be a frustratingly slow month progress wise, I am optimistic that we shall see things all come together during October allowing us to move in for November !! Having said that when I look back on the photos that I had taken, quite a bit of progress had indeed been achieved. It is easy to lose sight of such things when you are in the thick of it on a daily basis.   The upstairs is now complete – in as much as we are still awaiting the sanitary ware to be fitted – but the rooms have been decorated, the bathroom and en suite, paneled and tiled. The paneling is moisture resistant MDF, which came in long panels, making it a lot easier to fit and also better than individual T&G panels. The floor tiles, laid in an OPUS design, went down on anti fracture matting.   The oak staircase arrived and has also been installed. We have gone for a predominantly oak staircase. The main stair treads are redwood as they will be carpeted. We decided to go against a full oak staircase as we were concerned about the noise, safety element when coming down them and also due to the financial costs. The cupboard under the stairs is yet to be completed. Once done this will prove to be a very useful storage area.   Downstairs, the cylinder and associated items are being installed together with the ASHP. The cylinder itself is a 170 litre tank which will have a recharge time of 37 minutes to 40 degrees. This will allow the UFH to be fired up and thereby ensuring the screed floor would have dried out completely, prior to any tiles being laid downstairs.   The sitting room is now being plastered and will be painted in due course. The delay in getting this room finished was due to the fact that the chimney hadn’t been completed. Thankfully, it has now been done, which in turn, has allowed the WBS fitters to come and install the oak beam and register plate. The WBS won’t be fired up and formally commissioned until early Dec, due to the delays cause by the chimney not being done in time.   Outside, the stone work is almost complete. The chimney end will be finished this coming week and then work can turn to the awkward gable end above the single storey roof. We are now in discussions with a landscaper, so things must be heading in the right direction.   Over the coming weeks, the drainage system and treatment plant will be installed, allowing the roofer to return and fix the downpipes.   So by contrast, October should be the month when it all comes together - we can look forward to the kitchen being fitted, electrics and sanitary ware being installed and the floor tiles being laid.   Fingers crossed for a good month! Thanks for reading.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

The Build - Things have got very messy!

Hi - yes things are getting messy but in a positive manner!  I have been very busy these last few weeks, working a full 8 hours or so and a full weekend. The house has now been plastered except for the sitting room. The reason being the chimney still hasn't been completed. Should be done this week I am told! Once it has been done, the plaster boards can be finished off and the room plastered.   Allowing for the rooms which have been plastered to dry thoroughly, I have followed on with my paint roller and whitewashed to walls and ceilings. I am using Johnstone's  Trade Contract white emulsion which in turn has been diluted. The first coat I applied was more diluted than the second coat. Having asked a question on the main forum, I am comfortable with painting the walls in a weeks time or so with our favoured colours.   I have been giving it my all simply to keep ahead of the joiner, who has started the second fix joinery. The upstairs has been finished but the downstairs will wait until the floor tiles have gone down.   Outside I have also been painting the exterior wood. We are using the Dulux range - Weather shield - Firstly, I applied two coats of preservative primer. Then, on went two coats of dark grey undercoat, before finishing off with a top coat of Bowler Hat. Having followed their procedures, I am hopeful this will be good for at least 10 years.   The stone work is nigh on complete. It is basically the gable ends that need finishing of together with the chimney.   Unfortunately I am struggling to upload some photos - these are the ones I did manage to do. Perhaps I will have better luck when the next post is due.   Thanks for reading.   

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

The Build - Getting there

Hi all - a few photos showing the house 95% plaster boarded and some plastering started. Just the cloakroom and plant room off the utility room to complete. Somewhat frustratingly, we will have to wait a full week before the plasterer returns, which holds up the decorating and second fix joinery. The ceilings for the first floor have had two layers of plaster boards fitted, which helps with sound proofing.   Whilst this has been going on, the stone ,an and his labourer have really cracked on and finished the front of the house. The stone has been taken up to just above head height around the rest of the house. they just need to build up from there and to do the external chimney.    The kitchen fitter came out to do final measurements and noted that the external waste pipe in the utility room was a bit snug to allow both the washing machine and tumble dryer to fit in, so has recommended a breakfast bar type work top which is 665mm as opposed to 600mm deep. This will allow sufficient room at the back for the appliances and removes the hassle of having to adjust the pipework / drainage.   The next phase will see the plastering completed and the second fixes started. Outside I hope to see the house fully stoned and the chimney started. We'll see.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

The Build - plaster boarding and insulation

Yes, now that the first fix has been completed, the plaster boarding has started with the upstairs being done first. The builders will move downstairs an a weeks time or so. Whilst they have been boarding out, I have been installing the insulation for the partition walls, loft space and ceilings downstairs. The insulation being used in the loft space is 140mm - two layers laid at right angles to each other if that makes sense. The insulation used for the partitions is 100mm and the plasterboard for these walls has sound proofing properties, weighing in at 6 kilos more than the standard boards. You will see from some photos that we have also managed to install two full length oak beams. One for the sitting room and the other for the kitchen/family room. They look great even if I say so myself. They are not structural just aesthetic. Outside, the stone mason and labourer have been cracking on with the stone work. They intend to get the house done at head height before moving up as additional scaffolding will be required. They start the back of the house later this week. Enjoy the photos and I will be back in a couple of weeks, hopefully with a full boarded out house. Thanks for reading.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

The Build - First Fix

Since the last update, things have pressed on but unlike other activities, the visual impact isn’t as obvious. I have uploaded some photos but sadly they are not very exciting as you have to look hard to see the electrics - Anyway, it's a record. The upstairs has had the same treatment as the ground floor; in as much as the walls have had additional insulation fitted, wrapped in vapour barrier and had service battens fixed.  The last two weeks of July has seen the plumber and electrician come to site to do their first fix. A lot of work has been undertaken and all their efforts will be covered by plaster boards.  Whilst all this has been going on, the chimney has been started – the wood burning stove will arrive late September. The front and rear doors have arrived and been installed. The scaffolding has finally come down and I’m pleased to see them off site. This has allowed the stone mason to start laying the stones – a total of 177 squares will be laid in all. So far we have had 31 bags of stones delivered and we await a delivery date for the final 25 bags. Things must be heading in the right direction as we have started to order sanitary ware – a bath, 2 showers, 3 toilets, 3 basins and associated taps and traps. The plumber wanted the shower valves and basin traps on site for his first fix. We have also ordered all the oak skirting, window boards, internal doors, door linings and architraves. The oak products are due at the back end of August. The joiner has assured us the walls will be plastered boarded and plastered in time!!   Thanks for reading.
 

The Build - Stone work commences

A few photos of the stone work that has now started on site, whilst others continue to prepare the upstairs for the first fix. I have also included an image of the "biscuit screed" laid upstairs over the UFH pipes. Close observers and those who have read previous entries, will notice that the windows have been corrected with fire battens fixed. Anyway, the stone is called a local blend and is made up of Perthshire stone, Cumbria stone and Borders Buff. The Quoins have a hint of lilac to them, to have blend in with the colour palette of the stones. The Red things seen in the photos are glass fibre Fire Socks - They fill the cavity at the corners and other strategic locations. Either these can be used or indeed 45mm x 45mm battens.  

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

The Build - Insulation ahead of 1st Fix - UPDATE

A few more images showing the completed UFH network for upstairs, the servicing battens downstairs and also some additional "supports" to accommodate the fitted kitchen units. I have really been impressed with the UFH fitter - he has even supplied photos of vulnerable positions so there should be no excuse for puncturing a pipe after the screed and boarding has gone down. You will see the areas left "unpiped" in the en-suite and bathroom areas. The manifold is stored in the landing cupboard.  
 

The Build - Insulation ahead of 1st Fix

A quick pictorial update. The ground floor screed has set allowing those involved to install the additional 50mm rigid insulation to the inside of the external walls of the TF which had 120mm factory fitted insulation pre fitted. They then set about putting up the Vapour/Air Tightness Barrier — Protect VC reflective foil. The next stage will be the 50mm service batons and this will allow the electrician to start the first fix. Whilst this has been going on, the UFH pipes for upstairs are being installed and outside, the roofers are finishing of the rear facing section of the roof.    As a footnote to a previous entry which detailed my mistake regarding the incorrect positioning of the windows, these will be corrected next week at a cost of £300. Sometimes it is the fer of the unknown that can de-stabilse you - Yes it's £300 but in the scheme of things.............. Thanks - PW.
 

The Build - moving forward.

What a difference a week makes in the world of self build – Half the roof has been slated, the additional insulation has arrived on site and the liquid screed has been poured. The guys who did the pour travelled from Perth, some 95 miles away – very few firms seem to do this work north of the Border it seems. The ground floor was prepared by the guy doing the UFH and our builder. The company doing the screed dispatched a surveyor the day before in order to measure the various heights and lay out what they called “spiders” but are in fact tripods. Each tripod was marked with a height and a spot so that if they were knocked over they could be re-positioned correctly. The pour was completed within an hour and should be ready for “light” traffic on Monday. Talking of which, we should see the Joiner, roofer and builder on site to start the internals, finish the back section of the roof and start building the external chimney respectively. Enjoy the weekend.
 

The Build - watch out for the pot holes!

I suppose after the impact of seeing the TF go up within a few weeks, progress on the eye thereafter, was always going to be less so. If that was the only reason, then it would be an element of self building one would have to adjust to. But unfortunately the lack of progress on our build over the last couple of weeks was not just simply down to a trick of the eye! Frustrating yes and in isolation a mere blip, but other things during this period compounded that frustration into real anxiety – so much so, I felt unable to deal with life’s usual problems in the same way. A lot has been mentioned on this forum about the effects that self building can have on ones mental well being. I’m not looking to over egg the pudding but these past 7 days or so, caused me to recognise that as a reality, and also for the need of support from those around you when the going gets difficult. I now understand that what I was fretting about wasn’t really worth doing so but that is easier said than done when in the middle of the “fog”. I feel much happier with things now albeit the build isn’t progressing as quickly has I had hoped. Let me explain - Since my last post, the plan was for the windows and doors to be fitted, followed by the ground floor UFH pipes and manifold to be installed, leaving a couple of days before the weekend break for the liquid screed to be poured. All of which would allow the internals to be started with earnest on Monday. Yes the windows arrived but no front and back doors – they will take a couple more weeks. With no tradesman around I was asked by the fitters where I would like the windows placed in regards to the TF they are to sit on. This is where my lack of understanding came and bit my backside. I instructed them to fit them flush with the outside of the TF – See photograph below. It was the following day when the builders returned to lay the insulation ahead of the UFH that I was told that the position of the windows was incorrect. They should have sat out from the TF to allow the fire batons to be fitted etc. My inexperience caused me to feel physically sick, fearing the worst and not being able to see that the problem was able to be fixed relatively easily. It was my roofer how gave me a “virtual smack around the face” which caused me to see things differently. I contacted the fitters and explained to them that I had made an error. Could they come and correct it for me at my expense? Of course they could and will do so, albeit in a couple of week’s time. My builders then set about laying the insulation and sheeting across the ground floor only to present another “problem” to me – A block from an internal supporting wall was to be removed in order to allow the UFH flow and return pipes to run through from the cylinder to the manifold. They said that now the block had been removed, there was no defence in place for the liquid screed and if poured in its current state, it would just fill up the cavity between the two supporting walls. When I asked him what he would do to correct this he basically said that is someone else’s problem – the guy doing the UFH!! Again, my lack of experience in these matters caused me more concerns and anxiety. [I doubt it but I can’t help thinking that the builders enjoy presenting problems to me knowing that I am not fully experienced to be able to either “shrug” them off or to have an immediate answer.] When the UFH fitter arrived on site, he did just that – shrugged it off as if it was a common issue which he has dealt with on many occasions. He spent 3 long days on site doing the ground floor UFH pipes etc. I’m really pleased with his work. That then left Thursday and Friday free for the liquid screed. Here’s the rub. This plan of attack had been given to the builder some two weeks ago and has been mentioned a couple of times since. Thursday afternoon I get a call to say the screed will not be poured until a week Friday as the company doing it are busy!! This effectively puts back the internal work by a week as I’m not comfortable with tradesmen entering the house whilst the pipes are exposed so to speak. Another hit I have to take on the chin as the alternative would be for me to “jump up and down” and risk losing the builder. As mentioned above, in the scheme of things these issues aren’t fatal, just frustrating but more importantly, it showed me how my inexperience / understanding of things can build up and affect me personally. Something I’m now aware of and also with how to overcome such issues again. Hopefully. Finally, to conclude on a happy note, I have included some photos of the car port which is now complete apart from the door and window. Thanks for reading.
 

The Build - Timber frame erection

It has been 3 weeks now since the last post and the TF arrived as planned. Sadly the tele handler didn’t!! It was two hours late and thankfully, didn’t impact on the delivery of the TF, although the driver was less than pleased being held up for so long. During the second week of erection, we saw the arrival of the large crane which really did pay for itself as it made light work of the roof timbers. A long day for all, but worthwhile. The final week saw the sarking and dormers being fixed and created respectively. A few little jobs remain but in essence the TF is up. The details – two joiners spent a total of 14 work days across 3 weeks – half a day being lost due to one of them nailing his finger rather than a rafter with his nail gun. Ouch!! The erection was arranged via the TF supplier, as was the large crane hire for the day. A total cost of £7600. This includes the sarking, soffits and barge boards. The crane hire alone was £500. Whilst all this was going on, the following was also being taken care of – A water connection from the mains across the other side of a single track road into a stop cock just inside the plot boundary. Our contractor carried out the road crossing whilst Scottish Water inspected the trench and established the connection. Cost of Scottish Water services - £976. Road crossing by independent contractor - £932. We took the opportunity to fit in the BT ducting at the same time as the BT pole is also across the road. The electric meter was fitted and power connected. This is being housed in the corner of the car port. Our electrician then came out and fixed up a temporary supply for the various trades to use. I have to say the Utility companies were fairly straightforward to deal with despite their somewhat strange working practices - SPenergy supply and fit the cable but not the meter. That is fitted by someone else. SPEnergy then have to come out and make the connection!! The stand alone car port /shed / log store was also completed. Just the door and window to the enclosed shed remain outstanding. This structure measures 7m x 6m deep – It has an oak frame and larch cladding. [Photos to follow] Finally, a word on the scaffolders. They have been called back to site on a number of occasions to move the structure or indeed amend the position and in fairness to them; they undertook these tasks without complaint. Yes, I will be pleased once they are off site but to be fair, when they have been asked to do a job and have done it. Coming up............the windows and doors will be fitted as will the ground floor insulation, ahead of the UFH pipes and screed going down.
 

The Build - Scaffolding ahead of TF arriving

By way of a quick update as the TF arrives on the 29th May -  The Car port now has a slate roof on it - the sides and enclosed shed will be finished once the scaffolding comes down, hopefully the larch cladding will be complete within the next 10 days or so. The scaffolders have erected the main structure in readiness for the TF. You will see one section has been left "open" to allow the panels to be fed inside. This will be closed off upon completion. I'm told the TF will be ready for the windows and doors within 3 weeks. For those interested, the scaffolding you see for both structures - the main structure being on an 8 week hire has cost just shy of £5k. This was the agreed price after 3 separate quotes. Which in fairness were all in the same ball park. The Telehandler with a 10 metre boom will arrive on the 29th, and the hire for that for a week, amounts to £300 plus £40 delivery and £40 collection - another one of those "hidden" costs! The TF company will be erecting the TF and the carne they will hire in has been absorbed in the erection costs. I will breakdown the erection costs when I post about the TF arriving etc. Thanks for reading - PW.
 

The Build - Ground works - Final part

The ground works have moved on considerably, no doubt assisted by the fine weather we have experienced since  mid April. The dwarf wall and base for the car port was always the priority as the frame itself arrives to site on Monday 14th May. The main house sub structure is almost complete – the ducting for the electricity cable and water pipes are in as are the drainage outlets. Over the next week or so the sub base will be completed. The TF is due to arrive Tuesday 29th May. You will see I have electricity going into the car port structure – this is where I will be housing the main electricity meter. Look close enough and you will see an additional piece of ducting. This will allow a return run back into the house. I have also allowed for water to be supplied to an outside tap in future. You may be able to pick out the orange temporary fencing. Installed to protect the tree as per a planning condition. However, more importantly, nesting in the long grass between the fencing and the tree is a pheasant. She is sitting on a nest of at least 10 eggs. I discovered this as I was strimming the long grass a week or so ago!! I have also attached an image of the trench in which we placed the water and electric ducting. One of the many reasons for joining this forum was to try and establish the likely costs for various elements of a self build. A s a complete novices it was important to us to try and establish such costs as we didn’t want to venture into something that was going to financially break us. So with this in mind, I am happy to disclose the cost of our ground works to the point displayed in the photos shown in this entry. Hopefully, others will  appreciate it as I am keen to offer whatever information I can for the immense wealth of knowledge I have gleaned so far from this wonderful forum. Total cost so far for the ground works – Strip site and to do concrete foundations - £5500 To build to floor level - £4100 To prepare and concrete ground floor - £9000 [includes car port] Thanks for reading.  
 

The Build - The groundworks - Part 3

A few days for the foundations to settle and then the deliveries arrive and the builders set to work again............ The images will show the footprint of the house and utility room together with the walling and dwarf wall on which will sit the oak framed car port.
 

The Build - Part 1 - The groundworks

Yes, after years of dreaming, thinking,  researching and waiting, work  finally started on our first self build project. After a couple of false starts due to the builder having to finish a job that over ran and the arrival of the better weather, we eventually broke ground on Wednesday 18th April, two days later than anticipated. Annoying yes, but then what can you do? It’s only two days and it’s important to maintain a relationship with your builder. Nonetheless, we are now ready to do the foundations, which start W/C 23rd April. The sheer amount of top soil removed was somewhat overwhelming. The site had to be stripped down to what is called the sub soil – the firm clay stuff and therefore everything above it had to be removed.   We had allocated a spot within the plot to store the topsoil but we soon realised that this space wasn’t going to be enough! Thankfully, the neighbouring farmer allowed us to deposit the remaining topsoil, in the field directly next to our plot. He will no doubt make use of it over the coming months but I have to say, if he hadn’t allowed us to do that, we would have had no choice but to hire in a fleet of tipper trucks with grabbers attached. Imagine the expense of that !! Anyway, the  top soil removed and store within our plot we come in handy once the landscaping starts. I spent a couple of days as the Dumper truck driver and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t have the nerve to give the digger a go – far to many levers and pedals!! The hired in toilet was christened within half an hour of the Digger driver arriving ! Thank goodness it gets serviced every week. SPEnergy and BT Openreach both dropped off their respective ducting for when the time comes. Interesting to note that SPEnergy would only allow us 50 metres of ducting as anymore would affect the type of cabling that would have to be installed. 50 metres should be more than sufficient for us but in any case the guy who dropped off the ducting, gave us 75 metres!! The structures, namely the timber frame for the house and the car port, will be erected during the middle of May and the back end of May. Again, another little set back really, albeit a week later than expected. The team of erectors will not have finished the job before ours in time so we had to take a slot, a week later. More photos will be posted as the work unfolds but for now here are a few of the work so far. Thanks for reading.    

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

Getting ready for the earth to move!

This is a short update and precursor to the updates that will soon follow once the ground works begin in April. Having now finally sold our house in Milton Keynes, we have made the move north to the Scottish Borders. We are renting a small flat, few miles from our building plot. At £320 per month, I was never going to win the caravan argument! We lost 7 weeks due to the initial sale /purchase of our house collapsing at the last minute. Fortunately it was sold very soon after being put back on the market. On reflection, that was not such a bad thing as the weather in the Borders was awful during February and early March, so any planned works would have just been put off anyway. So, with less than 4 weeks until the ground works start, we have set about making the necessary preparations and will also use the time to visit various contractors, suppliers and utility companies to confirm arrangements. Such as – BT Openreach, Scottish Water and SP Energy. I have to say, my experiences with the utility companies thus far continue to be good – meetings arranged and kept, very informative and happy to help. All approaches were via the internet and their respective websites. Connection costs for all 3 will amount to less than £2k, as BT Openreach appear to be indicating that the connection costs will be covered by their allowances. We have paid a visit to the window manufacturer, based just outside Newcastle, to discuss lead times -  All seems good. We will also be popping  over to the stone merchants to ensure they are aware of the time frames we are now working to. To help cement in our mind that the choice of stone we are going for is correct, we will visit a couple of buildings in the Kinross area of Scotland to see it for ourselves. It’s OK seeing various stone options on a sample board  but you really do need to see it on a larger expanse. It’s not like wallpaper, once the stone is up, you can’t take it down again!! We have met with the Timber frame supplier and our builder who will undertake the majority of the work alongside his various tradesmen colleagues. We lost our plumber two weeks ago due to unforeseen circumstances but thankfully we have another on board. The builder confirmed all systems are go for the 16th April - We will be travelling slightly further north to Dalkeith, just south of Edinburgh, to have a cup of tea with the guy responsible for making and erecting our oak framed car port, log store and man shed! His surname is quite apt – Mallet – I kid you not! I have also secured a site toilet on a long term hire - £25 per week was the best price I could find. This includes a weekly service. Just need to sort out the scaffolding company and plant hire for the TF as and when it arrives. Hopefully come mid April I will have some construction photos to post, so until then take care and thanks for reading. PW.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

Part 3 - A little less conversation, a bit more action!

There really is a sense that we are approaching the business end of our self build project – the thinking, reading and talking has now evolved into making firm commitments and paying deposits to secure various orders. Ahead of our permanent move  to the Borders in February 2018, [Rented accommodation] we travelled to the area in late October with the express determination to finalise matters with a local builder and to confirm the stone we are going to use, the specification for the oak car port and oak front porch, [ see attached images] together with the kitchen cabinet requirements. The windows and external doors will be confirmed in February when we will have more time.         We also met with the Landscaper / gardener who has been maintaining the plot for us and whilst there, we took the opportunity to measure out the footprint of the house and car port. A neighbour asked – is it a big house on a small plot or a small house on a big plot? To us, it seems a perfect fit but even so, it is still very hard to visualise both structures sitting on the empty plot. I’m sure once March comes round and the ground is broken so to speak, there will be days when we think it is both! We also met with Field Operatives from the Electricity provider and Water Company to discuss connections. Both were set up via their respective online websites and to date, the process has been a pleasant one. Neither foresee any difficulties so that is one thing less to worry about. However, I do find it strange that Scottish Water will not do any “road crossing” connections. I have to source this through the builder / independent contractor. They will only connect their work once it reaches the plot. So without this additional cost, which is yet to be confirmed, the utility connections have cost me £740 for the electricity and £957 for the water. A  builder is on board. No written contract as such has been prepared and signed. He was sent a very comprehensive schedule of works to price up, we have since discussed a few minor matters and he has agreed to undertake the work. I know this perhaps goes against perceived wisdom but he is a well established local builder, with a family reputation to maintain. I will be supplying the bulk of the materials for him and his team to install etc. When we first met, he mentioned the word “trust” and that has to work both ways. Each case has to be considered individually and against its own circumstances. For us, we are happy to move forward. Deep down, I would have liked to have entered into a formal written contract but it just didn’t feel right to impose such a process. Fingers crossed! We have chosen the stone to be used and that in itself was a surreal moment. We travelled to the back of beyond to a stone merchants and found ourselves in a  small hut called the office. For all its basic elements and piled up paperwork, their internet connection was probably faster than we have at home!!  When the stone is up, it’s not like wallpaper. You just cant go and buy an alternative pattern! So after much thought and deliberation we have gone for a “local blend” made up of stone from Cumbria, Perthshire and Borders Buff. I just hope it looks OK ! The next update will be in March 2018, when we hopefully break ground and set about with building our dream home with earnest. [No, that’s not the builders name!] Thanks for reading. PW.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

Part 2 - Getting ready to move on...........

So, its been nearly a year since my last post and this is what we have achieved thus far. We attended the NEC show in Feb to confirm in our own mind the products / suppliers we hope to use – namely roof tiles, flooring, rainwater goods & windows and doors. Despite our best efforts to remain focused we had our heads turned by a range of wooden windows – Accoya wood – we made some enquiries and after a few weeks we received their costings - £37k for 10 windows, two French doors and 2 external doors in triple glazing. The fact that this was so over our budget, helped dismiss them from our thinking. We also made day trips to various showrooms up and down the country to cement in our own mind the type of kitchen units we would be looking to use, oak joinery and floor tiles. Five local builders were identified, all within a 20 miles radius of the plot. One was already booked up, well beyond this time next year, leaving me with just 4. All expressed an interest so they were sent the plans and associated documents in the hope that they would be able to provide a meaningful price. Three responded and personal visits were arranged in early July to discuss the details. The 4th failed to get in touch so we didn’t bother chasing. During our visit up North, in early July, the intention was to meet with the builders and discuss the finer details prior to making a decision which regards to which one we would be going with. One builder had done everything we had asked of him and presented a price within our estimates so all good so far. Unfortunately the other two had failed to anything with the papers I had sent them some months ago – “We’ll get it done in the next couple of weeks” – Yeah right! We’ll see – the problem is their failure to deal with what was a reasonable request in a reasonable time frame has left a cloud which is difficult to shift. After all, they said they would be interested in the first place. However, our visit wasn’t all in vain - It allowed us to visit two non-wooden window manufactures, one of whom we will be using –  We have chosen to go with a Heritage Range from Evolution – similar to the range offered by Residence 9. Both very similar in design but the Evolution range, in particular, the Flush range, really does have the appearance of wood, which is lacking in the R9 range we believe. Both quotes came out within £100 of each other so the costings were not part of the decision making process. We also visited two quarries / stone merchants to discuss the external wall requirements. An expensive part of the project and important we choose the correct looking stone. A further meeting will be held in October.  We are working to a budget of around £22k and this should be achievable – Lime mortar is a given and the beds will be 150mm, tied into the TF across a suitable cavity. We are told there will be no need for an additional rain screen such as SURECAV. We also met with a local company who will undertake the underfloor heating / DHW requirements and an independent Kitchen manufacturer who will supply and fit. There was an opportunity to visit our neighbours. An issue over previously agreed access to their septic tank needed to be ironed out. Up until we had purchased the plot of land, they were granted access by the farmer to allow the Septic Tank lorry to access their tank, across what is now our land. Through talking with neighbours we discovered a new build being developed very nearby – it just so happens that the TF Company they are using is the same as ours. We took a look and identified a new builder who I have since furnished with the appropriate details – watch this space. This was an unwritten agreement which clearly needed to end. It has been resolved because in recent times the truck has been parking on the roadside verge and the suction hose carried across the land to the tank. This practice will continue so all is good on that front. The building warrant has been issued just recently and was dealt with by the TF manufacturer. I believe I could have perhaps saved some money in this area but like most things, never having done this before or having had people around me who have, I felt I needed the comfort of having it done for me. Of course, such peace of mind comes at a price. I estimate the total cost of the following to be just South of £10K Planning plans drawn up Soil survey - Planning application – Solicitors fees - Building plans for submission to SBE – Structural Engineers report – Building warrant – So hopefully with a builder in place soon, costings and products such as the roof tiles, windows and doors, joinery, floor tiles, heating and DHW all agreed, it seems we are in a good place. Ground works will start in  early 2018 ahead of the TF which is due to arrive in April 2018. I will spend the months in between contacting the Utility companies and ensuring that they are all on board with our build schedule and finalising / confirming the builder. Next update due in 6 months……………….. Paul.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

Base Camp - finally

Our Journey North of the Border - Around August 2015, I started a blog intending to detail our experiences, as we set about securing a plot of land and planning permission ahead of our self build development. By way of a reminder and introduction, this was the first and only instalment since. Well this is it, we have finally reached a tipping point. Our retirement plans, which were no more than mere dreams and aspirations some 7 -8 years ago, have now become more focussed following the acceptance of an offer, on a plot of land, North of the Border.
Yes, over the coming months, we are looking to finalise the sale on a plot of land nestled in the rural landscape of the Scottish Borders.
Once secured, we plan to sit on it for a couple of years pending my actual retirement and no doubt the intervening months will provide many anecdotes for this blog.

Anyway, coming from South of the Border, we expected that negotiations over the offer price would be conducted within 24 – 48 hours and by way of a few telephone conversations. Oh no. Ten days after we made our first “marker” offer, we received an 8 page legal document from the solicitors setting out the offer and everything that goes with it. I’m yet to find how much that is all going to cost, so watch this space!

Therefore and somewhat surprisingly, it took us the best part of three months just to agree a price but nonetheless, an agreement has been reached.

Now the hard work begins as the deal could fold at any one of these hurdles –
We need to secure planning permission for our proposed dwelling, arrange for the soil to be tested both for strength and porosity and the utility companies need to be contacted to ensure there are no nasty surprises with regards to connections etc.
We also need to confirm that the plot boundary is confirmed as being that as indicated by the OS map supplied as part of the agreement.

Well that was then – I am now in a position to publish our second instalment, as a result of what is written about below. Finally, we have arrived at Base Camp – Base Camp being the plot of land we have finally purchased after many months of legal based delays and a relatively quick and painless planning application, which was granted just recently. The initial offer went in during May 2015 and it has taken all these months to be formally accepted. The offer was always going to be subject to certain conditions - cost of utilities, condition of ground and planning permission.    The reason for the delays stemmed from the complexities of our Plot being severed from a much wider area of land which had various financial charges against them. Quite why the Vendor hadn’t sorted this out prior to putting the plot to market, remains a mystery but thankfully, the delays have not impacted on our build schedule as we now intend to sit on it until early 2018, which is when we will start to cut the turf so to speak. So what did we do and what did we experience, on our journey to Base Camp.- Having had plans drawn up by a relative, learning his trade in a Corporate Architects Practice, we thought that we should have them quality assured prior to submitting them to the Planning Dept. We decided to visit the NSBRC at Swindon – they were holding one of their “Architects Free Sessions day” – Thought a second opinion on our plans wouldn’t go a miss. Well, it didn’t quite go as we had hoped - when we started hearing comments such as – “I have never worked with dormers so can’t really comment, as to what type of finish you should go for” “You should invest in a GSHP and put UFH in the upstairs as well as downstairs” - “But we don’t have the land available to us for a GSHP-“ - “well bore down 60 metres or so, well worth it” Came the reply. We realised then that we were probably not his target audience so left feeling somewhat disappointed by the whole experience. Nonetheless, it was a day out and an opportunity to visit a very useful resource. We also contacted local Utility companies and a local Ground Works company to try and ascertain “ball park” figures for a connection to Mains water and Electricity.  The water mains is on the over side of a single track road, which runs along side our plot. Water – the tunnelling under the single track road, in order to join the water mains has been priced up at £1600. - Plus standard water board connections – should come in around £2000. Electric quotes for connections – from 3 metres to post & to lay 45 m of low voltage main, termination and associated jointing equipment  - £2300. This was all done on-line and quite a painless process I thought. We also had the soil tested for its strength and porosity - £1200. This test was done in our absence and I just wish that I was there for the exercise. Sadly living some 300 miles away, it just wasn’t possible, added to that, we didn’t anticipate such a delay in securing the offer! The findings stated that we are good for “conventional strip foundations - down to 1.15m, with an allowable bearing pressure of 80Kn per q square metre” - I am hoping for an insulated slab but have not made any enquiries as yet into this possibility. We also contacted SEPA and I have to say, I found them to be very useful and helpful. They have agreed in principal for us to connect to a nearby drain, which runs into a local water course. However, we must install a high level pit between the treatment plant and the drain itself. SEPA have informed us that nearer the time we will have to apply for a Registration certificate in order to allow for this discharge. The fee for that will be £82 for an application. Planning - the entire process was carried out on line - again a very user friendly procedure. Scottish Borders Council, for their part, was very good - they kept us well informed by way of e-mail and telephone calls. The actual application was always going to be a fairly straight forward one and this proved to be case. No complaints of the process at all. Rather than load up a number of images I have provided the Planning reference for those of you who may wish to view things in a bit more detail. SBC Planning Portal - 15/01530/FUL. https://www.scotborders.gov.uk/info/20012/planning_and_building So all in all, we feel we are in good shape. We have contacted a local landscaper who will “maintain” our plot for us over the coming months, which will be money well spent, as it will also allow us to have a pair of local eyes and ears, whilst I wait for retirement to arrive. Finally, for now, I would like to add that all of the above and more was achieved through reading magazines and by getting involved in this forum. One simple example would be ensuring our ASHP was shown on our plans at the time of submitting them - thanks Pro Dave and to everyone else, who has taken the trouble to contribute. I for one am very grateful, more knowledgeable and less financially exposed, as a result. Further updates will be written but they may be few months off, as we will be using the next 12 months or so, to focus in on Builders, contractors and various build methods that are open to us.  Thanks for reading - PW.

Redoctober

Redoctober