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Introduction to us and our (my)dream

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ICF all done, yippee

So last blog had seen me doing my first icf pour, and it was a proper baptism of fire, 3 blokes running around trying to do 4 mens jobs bloody nightmare.  So next stage was to get some scaffolding up and build up the next bit, I decided to buy some scaffolding as I’m building this myself I knew it would be a long term project and renting scaffolding was going to be a complete non starter, so 4 grand later I own a load of scaffolding.    As usual the walls flew up fairly quickly, until you get to a gable or a window  so for some unknown reason when I designed this place it ended up with 7 gables with 2 different pitches and 17 windows.  That really slowed things down a bit.  from what we learnt on the last pour we knew we needed to add a bit of bracing around the windows So it all got a bit messy looking with random bits of ply every then it decided to snow so I had to bring out one of my all time favourite sayings.  IN CASE OF RAIN OR SNOW TO THE PUB YOU MUST GO.  So for the next couple of days not a lot happened.    With icf  you can fit additional structural parts as you go up even if you don’t need them yet, as when you cast the concrete core it locks in any fixings you have in place, one of these things was our roof support timbers or pole plates, these where fixed to the face of the blocks with temporary screws and anchor bolts poked into the hollow core ready for the concrete to encase them.  if you look at that long timber halfway up the wall that’s our poleplate for that side of the house, all bolts are in place and restraint straps embedded into the inside of the blocks ready for concrete.  Above the pole plate you can see a funny wooden box, this is shuttering to form a cantilevered beam that supports the roof, there are 6 of these in total with the longest sticking out 1900mm from the main structure, so lots more reinforcement in these and then ready for concrete.    The second concrete pour went  without a hint of any trouble, and we even pushed the boundaries of sensibility a few times by pouring the concrete to a depth not recommended in 1 pass without a hitch, this sounds like a recipe for disaster but we had little choice, let me explain.    It is recomended that you pour aprox 1-1 1/2 courses at a time in a single pass, so starting in the middle of a wall go all the way around the house up to your 1.5 block depth or 600mm aprox, you then go around again starting at the same place this gives the concrete just enough time to just start curing very slightly, this will Norma get you to a point of having an empty truck, perfect it gives you chance to vibrate anything you need to and have a quick cuppa, then the second truck turns up and you go around again, 2 trucks of concrete or 15m and your up 3/4 of your first pour, and then so on.  Well with our second pour it didn’t work like that, as we had lots of windows and funny gables the actual concrete amount was fairly small 11m but with that 11m of concrete we had to lift 5 courses of blocks, so 2 passes around the perimeter of the house meant we had to come up 2.5 courses at a time, which was a bit bum twitchy but was perfect it worked a treat.  one of the beams after the last pour.  feeling rather smug. 
 

Ooh ooh it’s getting bigger.

So in my last thrilling instalment I was moaning about how I had just spent 6 days putting in the first row of blocks  well for the next week I kept on to my mate helping me that I hoped that wasn’t how the rest of it was going to go, I mean 6 days for 1 course, how bloody long was it going to take to do 12 courses.    Well one afternoon we had finished doing a few odd jobs and I thought it was about time to get on with putting up the main walls  right then god loves a trier  4 hours later I had this lot up.    Bloody hell that was easy so the next few days we spent knocking all the Lego together, still easy,  then it started to get a bit more complicated, some idiot has designed this house with far two many openings, small pillars of wall between the openings and SEVEN gables more advice, build something square with just 4 external corners it will save you hours of agro So more windows and openings slowed the progress a bit,  things you sort of forget about is all these windows and doors require some form of support, so you add a bit of timber to hold all the icf in place, then you wake up at 2 in the morning and think, should I add some more bracing, then you watch a YouTube video of an icf concrete pour so you add a bit more timber, then you talk to a lad down the road who has done half a dozen icf builds he pops around one afternoon and adds his thoughts into the mix, you guessed it.  More wood added, it was starting to look more like a timberframe house than icfso we’re up to lintel height so in icf you don’t actually install a lintel but cast them in situ, lots of reinforcement bar added to the inside of the blocks so when you add the concrete it all makes a monolithic concrete structure.  Plenty of steel over these openings  tbh it was a thorough pain in the arse, lots of steel a skinny gap and fingers like sausages does not make an easy job.    So reo in,corners braced-its time to install the bracing system that hold the walls all plum before you install the concrete  now some of you may think you should have put the bracing up a long time ago, and you would be correct but the way my icf provider hires the bracing out meant I would be paying for it for all the time it was on site, so I decided to not bother having it on site until I actually needed it, with all the bracing it was once again looking more like a civil engineering project than a house.        7.30 one morning the concrete pump turned up and for the next 12 hours all hell broke loose i had arranged everything perfectly, extra tea bags plenty of milk it was going to be a breeze  ol yea bucko don’t get cocky, I had 3 lads coming to help all with a set job. And at 8.30 on a Sunday night I got a text from from 1 of the lads saying he had a poorly tummy, oh boo hoo to###r so we are now down to 3 of us in total and hence why all hell broke loose, we ran around for12 hours solid I managed a cup of cold tea halfway through the day and 1 slice of toast, we ended up troweling the top of the walls with head torches on and a floodlight.  Anyway it’s all in first lift done,no major disasters, one tiny bit of wall that has a bulge in it that I can fix with a mornings fettling.    Things I would recommend if doing icf, add lots of bracing every where, if it looks dodgy add a chunk of timber the big orange pipe thing is called a MUD SNAKE it fits to the end of the concrete pump hose and allows you to place concrete so much more accurately than with the big rubber hose, it also allows you to squeeze the end and stop the dribbling concrete from running out when you pass over an area that doesn’t need concrete in, hire one it’s the best £30 you will ever spend.    Dogs, if you have a stupid dog try to prevent him getting his head stuck in an icf off cut. 
 

Up it goes

So the floors in and it’s time to start putting up this icf stuff       now there’s many ways to build stuff and I chose to build the icf up from the footing blocks and incorporate the block n beam floor in the process, thus locking the ends of the beams in place this first course of blocks would then get filled with concrete up to finished floor level.  With the height difference between the foundation blocks and my block n beam floor, this meant I had to cut the first row of blocks with a step in them, the inner face half the height of the outer face.    OMFGG. What a shit choice that was, I think I am possibly the worlds expert on icf cutting, what I thought would be a couple of days work took 6.  Cutting leveling, plumbing up, more cutting the static generated by cutting the blocks is ridiculous, the little bits stick to your face arms, hands anything that it fancies.  This is a pic of the stepped block, inner leaf cut smaller than outer to allow next course to come up level from that.  So 6 days of cutting the bloody stuff and it’s all the way around the footprint,fill it with concrete and that’s another bit done.  The random spacing on the reinforcement bar relates to pillars that will be between openings  we have a lot of openings and not a lot of wall between them we also have some very substantial reinforcement over the windows to compensate for the lack of wall structure around the openings Tadar that’s that done.  So anybody going to start an icf build with block beam floor let me know and I will tell you exactly how to do it.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES FOLLOW THESE PICTURES. unless you want 6 days of frustration. 🤪🤪🤪🤪   Bugger me we thought we where down sizing.   

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

Ooh er. I feel a backache coming.

Just a quick update to stay on track, nothing special happening really just lay some blocks, have a cuppa, lay some blocks, have a cuppa, I can’t believe I used to do this to earn a crust the most exciting thing is putting the floor beams in place, I love messing with big machines or fancy tools, the local farmer has been very obliging with his big telehandler, after an hour with the forklift you can start to see some real progress  whilst we have him on site it’s handy to get him to shift a few pallets of blocks about, I don’t think we have had to move many further than a couple of metres from where he put them.  So next week we go from bloody heavy concrete blocks and concrete beams, to great lumps of polystyrene as the ICF blocks have just turned up.  Lets hope it all goes together as good as the Youtube vids make out. 

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

Look at my RING.....beam.

So the piles are in, 29 steel tubes, smashed into the ground, down to a depth of 7.5 m, all filled with concrete  so what’s next  A RING BEAM.  this is basically a steel reinforced beam that spans from pile to pile, so spreading the wall, floor, roof load down on to the piles. Piles in pic.   So the ringbeam consists of a square of 450mm by 450mm reinforced concrete, the traditional method and one I have used in the past consists of cutting ply to the desired size and nailing and screwing for the next millennium until you have a mold in which to place you reinforcement and then concrete to form the beam.  Whoo there boy, this is 2018, plywood is so last year so in 2018 what are we using.  PLASTIC, BLOODY PLASTIC  I have a love hate relationship with plastic, it is so clever, it can be extremely strong, but it also goes brittle and cracks, I find it very hard to recycle it so this is what the BLOODY PLASTIC looks like.  To be perfectly honest it was terrific, all folded to the exact dimensions of the beam 450x450 it has a steel mesh core to keep it ridgid, it cuts nicely with a cordless grinder,  i priced up to do it in ply and it was about  ply £650 plastic fantastic £1100 but the labour saving was absolutely bloody huge, 2 of us had it all installed in 6 days, I think I possibly saved about 10 days in labour for 2 men so a massive saving.  The plastic also stays in place after the concrete is poured, so a degree in waterproofing to the ring beam also.    steel reinforcing, so over the years I have used more than a few tonne of this stuff, but I’ve never brought it in ready fabricated  well blow me over what a breath of fresh air this is.  All cages pre fabbed to your dimensions, a steel layout showing where it all goes, and a luggage label on everybit of steel. PERFECT  the only Sod’s law bit to hit us   yep you guessed it cage one is on the bottom of that bloody great pile of steel.    This is the largest reinforcement project I have done on my own without a big bunch of lads as backup and it went so smoothly I had to do a little jig around the site.  If anybody wants details of the suppliers pm me I would thoroughly recommend both companies.    this is what it basically looks like, round pile poking up in middle of pic, steel reo sitting on top, plastic shutter to hold the concrete in place, back fill around the plastic to hold it in place CAREFULLY.    this is is an example of a junction of 2 walls.  So in this pic are 3 cages, 2 joined as a lap splice and one coming in from the side, all tied together and sitting on top of a pile.  so 6 days of sweating, a minor amount of swearing we are ready for conc         24 cubic metres, one concrete pump, 3 lads, 28 degrees, all finished by 10.30am.  100 m of hessian soaked for 2 days in the water butt.        That will do, off to Spain for a week to smash it up, give it large, and generally get drunk and fall about on the dance floor. 

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE.

At the end of my next two blog instalments, you may all be shouting OMG YOU FOOL at the screen a couple of people asked for a no frills no BS account, warts an all they said.  Ok it’s coming i think there are more than a couple of people on here that will probably need a Prozac and a lie down if they even considered going the route I have.  Well time will tell.  If I come back with a blog of how my house fell down or is full of cracks, I will stand here and allow you to all tear chunks of me.  So after all the extra concrete had gone from my build site I was left with a bare patch that looked like the Somme.  and then it rained,and rained.    So we have worked out we are on bad ground, and some form of extra measures will be needed,  1. Ground investigation survey. £1500-£2500 2. Engineer to design slab ,foundations. £2500-£5000 these where the prices quoted from two different companies that turned up to have a look.  Both companies stated that I would need some form of piles no matter what type of foundation I placed on top. Raft, ringbeam whatever it would need a pile of some description.  So being the bloke I am I put my hi vis jacket on and drove over to the site down the road to talk to the piling team, I found out more about piling in 10 minutes than I had in a lifetime  unfortunatly they thought they would be too expensive as they are a nationwide company and deal in multiple houses on big sites, so of to google a couple of local companies  i got two companies out to talk to me and this is where it gets a bit interesting.  This is how the first conversation went.    Me. Hi piling guy, now to be referred to as pg. hi.  Me. So I’ve had a quote for a ground investigating survey and there a bit shocking.  Pg. yea piss takers pg. So looking at the drawings you sent me I have done some very rough calcs and you will need 29 piles spaced around the perimeter and two rows through the centre.  He produced a CAD drawing with a piling layout showing which piles would be carrying a higher load due to floor loading etc i was more than slightly impressed.  Me. So if I get the ground investigation done, you will work from that.  Pg. what for I just told you what we will need to do.  Me. Yea but, we need to pg. If you want to spend two grand being told your soil is crap that’s up to you, I thought you just told me it’s crap me. I did but won’t we need it for the engineer  pg. what engineer, I’ve just done it for you, all your loadings have been given to our in-house engineers and that’s who designed that cad drawing your looking at.  Me. Oh.  Pg. I don’t mind if you want to pay some plonker in a BMW £5000 to tell you you’ve got crap ground and you need piles driven to 7-8 metres that’s up to you,  Me.  Oh.  Me. So you design each pile to take a design load of the wall that’s going on top of it, plus floors and roof and, er, er  pg. yep.  Me. But I will need the engineer to design the ringbeam that ties it all together pg. Nope. We do that all in one design package, piles ringbeam, steel bar schedules    everthing this bloke said is exactly how I envisioned it done if I was the piling company, no knobs in suits with their pinstriped trousers tucked in their wellies,  good solid blokes, no bullshit, no messing been doing it 30 years, exactly as I am, take it or leave it.    I was starting to like this guy, in a manly way you understand.    Pg. so that’s it lad I will have a quote over to you in the next day or two.    so 3 days after the quote arrived I laid a piling Matt for the rig to sit on, nothing fancy as the piling rig only weighs around 5 tonne.      So. No ground investigation, no separate engineer  and I was just on the verge of instructing both at a cost of about £6000 all in.  Every differant saying was rushing around in my head.  FOOLS RUSH IN WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD.  OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE.  3 weeks later this lot turned up   bloody hell that’s a lot of steel, 58, 4m steel tubes making 29 driven piles all going in the ground 8m.  The next day a couple of lads turned up with the piling rig.    For the next 4 days they proceeded to upset everthing within a 300m radius  bong,bong,bong, the piling rig looks a bit unassuming but it has a 500kg weight that is lifted to the top of the mast and dropped down the steel tube, the ground shakes for a good 25m around it,  over half the piles went down to there design SET, the rest stopped at REFUSAL somwhere between 6-7m.    So thats it thats how I roll.   

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

Results, and cock ups

When I posted up the first install in my blog there were a few comments saying they want a warts and all blog   ok then let’s see if I can do that, now you will have to bare with me a bit as my spelling is terrible, my punctuation even worse and I’m using one finger to type.    A GOOD BIT.  as you may have seen I removed the cabin from site.  So what did it cost to do this ? NOTHING, ZILCH, NOT A PENNY   so we had two skips to take away some of the waste. Cost aprox £520.  I put an add on e bay for the insulation that was in the ceiling and sold all of it in 48 hours. £240 next day I took a drive down to the scrap yard to weigh in a copper cylinder and all the pipes from the heating system.  Scrapyard payed me £226  sold the oil tank on e bay for £250  so all in it covered any fuel in the digger, petrol in the truck and a couple of sheckles for me so I can keep the wolf from the door.      Now for the the beginning of the    COCK UPS,  our site is an ex quarry, a gravel extraction pit, a big hole where they took out gravel and allowed it to fill with water to become a lake.    So our house plot sits on the edge of the dig line   so ASSUMING that it’s all gravel,under the plot we should get away with some simple footings, an insulated slab maybe.                            wrong,you fool Two trial holes with the digger down to 1.8m, nothing but poop,crap,plod,backfill,   oh bugger,    so major reality check, poor ground,go and talk to a neighbour who had recently built.  AYE LAD HAD TO PILE IT DUN WE.  go and talk to the contractor building a bunch of holiday homes just down the road from me.  You guesed it.  PILES MATE about 8m down.  oh shit telephone type numbers flying around in my head breath son, calm down, shall we throw in the towel, sell the site, take the money and run   after a couple of large jack n cokes and a nights sleep I calmed down a bit, so I built our last house and that was piled, so what’s the problem.      SO THE REALITY BIT FOR ANYBODY THINKING OF SELF BUILDING  THIS SITE HAS JUST COST YOU £20,000 more than you think it was going to.    what could i have done, what should you do, you could have a soil survey before you signed on the dotted line Really has anybody actually done this on a site they don’t own yet.   

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

Cabin remodel.

So we’ve got planning for a new house.  Middle of February and it’s just starting to sink in, I told the misses I was going for a walk around the lake to gather my thoughts and get a plan started.  after a walk I made the executive decision that the little hedge would need to go before bird nesting started.  So I grabbed the digger and a box of matches (I do like a bonfire) this won’t take long I thought, soon have it ripped out, bit of smoke won’t hurt it’s a very overcast day.  I asked on here before for people’s opinions on what to do with the old cabin sell it dismantle it sail it down the river Severn to @Nickfromwales house   well i can be accused of being lots of things, but a dithering bloke is not one of them so the next day the little ol cabin had a slight accident      two skips turned up one for the insulation and one for the plasterboard, 2days later I had this.    sorry Nick.   

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

Planning. Slipping in the back door

So I’m laying in the bath (steady ladies) trying to think of a witty title without being to rude  the one I came up with might get a chuckle out of mr @Onoff as I know he likes things that are a bit near the mark.    PLANNERS I hate them  little squirming plebs, just hanging on for their fat council pension  our planning officer even admitted he could earn better money in the private sector but stayed at the council for the pension      BUT I WON. I BEAT THEM    HOW DID YOU DO IT RUSS, I hear you ask   @ProDave asked why we had built on the plot we did, 2 reasons   1 I don’t think dave could see the picture clearly. )   dave mentions building on the bit of land at the bottom, well under all that green that looks like grass is actually another lake, it just looks like grass due to the surface covered in lilies.  Out of the 11 acres we own only 2 acres are land the rest is water.    So the brown blob in the picture is an old timber building built on 1 out of 2 useable plots of land          this is what it looked like in February of this year.    SNEAKING IN THE BACK DOOR.  HISTORY OF THE SITE.  so in 1993 my business partner decided to buy this site, with being rather busy at the time he decided to put a manager in the cabin to run the lakes, answer the phone and cut the grass.  Now unfortunatly, or fortunately depends how you look at it.  The poor bugger died just a little while later, so with out him we didn’t have a manager, but we did have a tenant in the shape of his wife, so we gave her a rent book and it was all official.    We had to cut our own grass but where getting rent, so alls good in the world    move on to 2015, we have moved back from Australia, off I go to collect the rent one day to be greeted by an ambulance at the gate trying to get in   blow me down the poor lady widow in the cabin gets whisked off to hospital, never to be seen again.    So we decide without a tenant we might as well move into the cabin.    Perfect idea. IM NOT LIVING IN THAT BLOODY PIG STY.  im sure that’s what she said.  Oh well another plan was needed, let’s knock it down and build another new house then.  I decided to go and see a planning consultant as I like to get a bit of professional help now and then, we sat down and I told her the postcode and where it was, oh dear I didn’t like the look on her face, she basically told me hell would freeze over first before we could build a dwelling on this site, but we already have a dwelling I told her. No you have a managers residence she insisted. But the manager died over 20 years ago I said.    WHAT. You haven’t been using it in connection with the business.  No marm sorry, have we been naughty  well it turns out we had been very naughty and we should never have let the cabin out, as it’s sole purpose was for habitation of the business manager the consultant said we had a good case to get the cabin as a lawful residence as the council should have stopped us years ago and made us remove it.    When we put in for lawful use i thought the top of the council blokes head was going to blow off when he realised how we had slipped that past them.    So the next part was to apply for a replacement dwelling.  EASY.  NOPE.  16 months and £14,600 later we had consent we had the newts counted the bats counted over wintering birds flood risk calculated  aeriel photos  models made thanks @JSHarris internet pictures found from 1960 you name it we did it     and then in February 2018 WE BLOODY WELL GOT IT.  STICK THAT IN YA PIPE AND SMOKE IT COTSWOLD COUNCIL.    so @ProDave that’s why we are building on that bit.    The last 2years has left me a bit bitter towards any official pen pusher types   can you tell.  Hope that wasn’t too boring    Russ. 

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

Introducing the Griffiths family

So where do I start without this turning into a life story, when you really just want to see the house.    me and the wife, I’m the one with the stubble.    What are we building ? hmn I don’t know really it’s sort of like a big bungalow  big as in you don’t find many bungalows with 5m high ceilings,  i am still having sweaty moments about the design and hope I haven’t made a gigantic balls up of it all.    this is a pic off the internet that we based everything around, the final design is a mirror image so it slopes the other way.  The pic is American so don’t you all get your knickers in a twist about cold bridges and those steel beams poking out, it’s all been re hashed and I hope still has the same appeal after we re hashed it for about the tenth time.    THE PLOT.  we own a chunk of land in an area known as the Cotswold water park, it’s a series of lakes that where dug out for gravel extraction.  Our plot was dug in the late 1940s and finished in the early 50s, the gravel is still being extracted and new pits appear every year as planning is granted.  The gravel in the ground was deposited here in the ice age as just down the road from us is the source of the river Thames.    Our house site is the square brown blob you can just make out.    I might stop there as you are probably all yawning away.  

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths