• entries
  • comments
  • views

About this blog

Hello everyone.


I've decided to start a blog for purely selfish reasons.  This is going to be a long long process and I want this blog to help me remember along the way why we made certain decisions.  It's going to be more a diary of my thoughts leading up to decisions with hopefully some succesful outcomes at the end.  I discovered first time round that I have a habit of forgetting why I have decided upon a course of action which leads to me thinking through the whole process again - hopefully this blog will allow me to read my thoughts rather than think it through again saving me a bit of time!  A lot of the stuff below is already on my introduction but I've added it here to keep everything in one place.


Our plot is 1.5 acres in green belt within 400m of an SSSI.  We are less than 3 miles to beautiful beaches which the dogs love.  The New Forest is a 20 minute drive away.  All in all it is a wonderful place to live and very different from West London where we moved from in 2015.


The plot has a chequered history and was taken into the ownership of the family we bought it from basically by sqautting.  They rocked up in the 50's, planted a caravan and never left.  The plot is divided into two parcels of land.  One parcel came with absolute title and this is where our current house sits.  The other parcel (the much larger parcel of land) was bought with possesory title and an indemnity insurance to protect us should the original deed holder turn up.  Our new house will be built on this land so we will need to increase our indemnity insurance to cover the cost of the build.  We can convert this title into an absolute title in 2023.


The house that we are currently living in is classified as a temporary structure and following the tightening of the mortgage rules after the 2008 crash, is no longer mortgageable.  It previously lived about 5 plots up and was brought here with a tractor, trailer and a crane by the previous owners.  It is lovely to know that we can stay in this house for the whole time of the build - life will be so much easier here than in a caravan.  The current planning permission has a condition that this house is removed from site within 28 days of a completion certificate being issued.  It's a shame that it is too wide to get down the lane - it is a perfect self-build dwelling but just that bit to large to move on.  


I have read quite a few of the blogs on here and found them so helpful and informative - a little insight into another person's life.  I am thinking about running my blog a little differently.  It may not work at all - time will tell.  As there are so many different desisions that a self-build needs and they all run in parellel, I am thinking about starting several different threads, each one belonging to an individual area of the build which I will continue to add thoughts (and hopefully comments from the collective mind added in) until that area is done.  It may end up a huge confusing mess but as I've never done a blog, the only way to find out is to try it!


Welcome along to the ride.


Entries in this blog


Just what DO we want to build?

I uploaded my draft floor plans a while ago and I have lived with them a while and am fairly content that they will meet our needs.   We have one elderly parent left  who we could easily argue needs to move in with us ( that is closer to the truth than I like to think about as it is my MIL not my own mum).  That gives us the need to a downstairs bedroom and en-suite.  Everything else is fairly normal but of reasonably generous proportions in line with most self builds. We hope to have a comfortable, energy efficient home that we can live in for as long as possible.  Our need to move as we get older and frailer will be more to do with the lane that we live on and our inability to get the 1 mile down the track to the nearest corner shop than the house with luck.  Low maintenance is a biggie for us of course - we have no wish to be doing regular maintenance as we get older.   We have appointed an architect technician to look at my floor plans and check that it is buildable but we have given them permission to come up with better ideas if they can.  The house will run from east to west - the longest wall faces south and I have planned an overhang from the floor above along the entire length of that wall to keep the ground floor cooler in the summer.  The only window I have planned on the first floor facing south is on the stair well.  The east and west balconies will again give shade to the bedroom windows hopefully helping to keep them cool in the summer aswell - a woman of my age needs no help at all to get to hot, especially overnight.   I've posted these plans before but as this thread is going to be all about the design i thought it would be a good starting point so that we can see the progression up to and including planning consent being granted (note the confindence in that sentence  ).   My intention was to have a flat roof so the house would have a very modern look - all render and block like with maybe a little wood cladding as a feature to break up the render in a couple of places.  The architects are trying to talk me out of the flat roof as they believe we will struggle to get the plans approved as they are not in keeping with other houses in the area.  It's a bit hard to know what other houses they may consider as our nearest neighbours are horses on each side who do have stables but tend not to object to planning permission so long as they get a carrot or apple in payment.  Neither plot is likely to get planning appoval for a house in my lifetime (one side has tried and failed).  Very few plots down the lane have lawful houses on them but there are a few plots occuplied by one of more travelling caravans, most of which have enforcement notices served on them.  So finding what is "normal" is a little tricky.  The SSSI which we are close to is a hill that is home to a number of reptiles.  We have walked up the hill many times and you cannot see our house from anywhere on the hill, you can see the end of the plot, but not the house.   I understand that flat roofs have inherant issues that require careful detailing by good roofers - I have been reading @pocster's thread today to remind me of how badly things can go.  I don't like flat roofs.  However I like the look of PV panels even less but I know that I want them.  We have considered putting the PV panels in one of the paddocks on a ground mount system but the dogs love rompng up and down like idiots.  Having space for them to run was one of the big drivers for our move so filling up ground with panels is not something I want to do.  A flat roof to me would be the lesser of the two evils and it means I can have PV panels facing any direction that I want.     So here are the opions I am seeking from the collective:   Is a flat roof a sensible compromise to allow PV panels to be hidden from my view? Is it worth having PV panels facing east, south and west to get the optimum solar generation? What limits are there on PV generation - I saw something today mentioning 4kw and not sure what dictates that? I know we won't be getting the FIT tariff so is there anything stopping us going above the 4kw limit (if that is what it is) and just "wasting" the excess if that is possible so that we don't overload the network?   As you can probably tell, I know very little about PV but am reading whatever I can find.  I've been meaning to put this thread up for a while now and seeing @Russell griffiths post about solar panels reminded me to pull my finger out and ask the questions.   Thank you

Sue B

Sue B


Kitchens, Utility Rooms, Pantries and Appliances

This week is half term in school so I have had two days at work, in splendid isolation, making the many many changes to the timetable ready for the first day back.  Today we have the architect round to do a proper start on the plans and while I'm waiting for him to arrive, I started to do some batch cooking of things to last me through the next 6 weeks or so.  Being in the kitchen, turned my thoughts to what I really wanted out of the new house in terms of cooking, eating and washing.  This blog entry is likely to go on the longest - after all, the kitchen will be going in quite late in the process but I don't want to forget what I really want.  I remember the further into the build we got last time, the easier it was to lose sight of the end goal.  The photo attached is the kitchen oin our last house, 3 years after we started building.  I've put it here to remind me of just how dog tired of the whole process you become.  We just stopped for about 2 years and regained our strength to get to the final rooms.  How we lived like that for 3 years is a mystery to me now.  We had family parties and fed 20 people easily (slow cookers and large BBQs are wonderful things),.   So here goes another thread in this very unusual way of blogging.

Sue B

Sue B


How to build - so many options

When we first started on this path, we wanted a hands off, almost turnkey project.  I'd heard of SIPS and seen lots of positive stories about energy efficiency so all was set.  Then we spoke with a mortgage advisor and our world started to tumble down.  I am now 56, Peter is 57.  We will need a mortgage to build this house but because of our ages, we know that the mortgage providers will all keep the term of the mortgage down to 15 years max which will make the repayments large.  Drastic action needed to be taken so we have now decided to build using a method where we can do this ourselve.   We have no experience of actual building work but let's face it, how hard can it be 😲 - famous last words.   Our previous house was built using traditional methods.  We did have underfloor heating and a MVHR system but we struggled to get through the air-tightness test.  We have learnt a lot since then.  We nearly built that time round using ICF but I chickened out.  This time, it looks like it is going to win.   We have looked at the various types of ICF.  The majority are of course the polystyrene type blocks and these do have real advantages for self builders.  They are light and easy to manage.  Our main  issue with them is the fixing ability at the end of the build.  Once the plaster is on, finding the fixing lines becomes harder and harder and so other ways of fixing heavy items to walls need to be used. Looking at various websites and you tube videos, it is also apparent that blow outs are more likely using the polystyrene and more bracing is required during the pour.  The concrete is of a stiffer consistency that with the woodcrete ICF.   The woodcrete type ICF blocks solve the fixing issues - you can attach anything to it.  We have looked at three types of this type of ICF, Velox, Durisol and Isotex.  Each has pros and cons and we have yet to decide which type to use.  All three appear less likely to blow on pour day without significant bracing but of course it can still happen.  We can't get a price without plans so at the moment the comparisons are being made purely on preference but without the benefit of a cost comparison.  The concrete for this method is of a very runny soup like consistency.   VELOX This method uses two flat panels that are clipped together as you build.  The panels are large - 2000mm x 500mm so will go up quickly.  One panel has the insulation attached to it.  The system comes with a variety of options for the depth of the wall giving different u values.  I have found getting information from the website quite difficult - the website is clunky and parts of it are not in English.  The way the panels fit together, you end up with a completely solid concrete wall inside the formwork.  I believe this gives a better chance of airtightness from the actual structure of the walls.  The UK supplier seems to be a little difficult to get hold of sometimes - maybe this is the result of too many enquiries but it does ring alarm bells to me.   The system has products for both internal walls and floors.  The internal walls are two panels glued together, this takes the weight to 68kg - we struggled to lift a panel off the floor so raising it above shoulder height would be impossible for us. The size and weight of the panels pretty much rules this system out for us as it is simply too heavy for us to manage ourselves. It is however, my favourite product.   DURISOL Durisol blocks are more like a squarish 8 with the top, middle and bottom bar at less than full height to allow a honeycomb concrete wall to form during the pour.  The blocks are all 500mm x 250mm with the external walls coming is two depths - 300mm with a u value of .23 or 365 mm with a u value of .11.  There are 3 different types of blocks. A standard block with the reduced internal height connectors.  A facing block which has one end at full height - this is also used for lintels.  A corner block for ...... turning corners!  Because of the way the blocks work, the second row and above will all need a cut to ensure that your keep the "brick bond" in place. This is particularly pronounced if you choose the 365mm blocks as it is the width that causes the issues.  QUESTION - couldn't you fix the problem by making the cut on the first row instead and increasing the size slightly so that every other run works properly?  That didn't cross my mind at the training.  The blocks have male and female ends so that they lock togehter prior to the concrete pour The blocks are rough and gloves are definitely needed.  The blocks do shed while you are working as well so care needs to be taken to butt the blocks up properly as the debris can move things apart a little.  The design of the blocks means that there are the 3 woodcrete bars, each end of the block buts together with only a small amount of concrete bonding the blocks together.  The blocks are produced in this country so less likely to suffer with issues to do with Brexit.  Lead time is in weeks.  Free training is provided (we have done the one day training course) and they will come to site to help you get the first row laid, ensuring that you get a nice level row.  Purchase of the blocks over £10k gives you one free site visit (need to check if that is the initial row or if you also get the first pour day).  Other visits are by negotiation but they rely heavily on facetime calls to see your site without actually being there. The anecdotal evidence that I have is that Durisol will discount heavily but they do not talk about a standard price - you only appear able to get a price from the drawing that you provide.  I believe this will be our third choice of block based on properties but is probably the cheapest of the three.  It is also the one we are most likely to use due to the price.   ISOTEX Isotex is a very similar produce to Durisol.  The blocks are mainly 500mm x 250mm but there are "pass" blocks to match the block depth that you have chosen.  This gets around the issue of "brick bond" issue.  The blocks come in depths of 300mm with a u value of .23.  330mm with a u value of .19.  380mm with a u value of .15 and 440 with a u value of .11.  There are more options for shape of block - not sure how much that will help on site - will it be more difficult to find the right type of block while doing tricky areas?   The shape of the blocks is like an H but with 2 horizontal bars not one.  This means that the blocks allow a freer flow of concrete between the blocks than you get with Durisol.  It will still be a honeycomb but less so, there is roughly a third less woodcrete in the way of the concrete wall.  Butting the blocks together mean that they just sit together without the benefit of the locking togethre - this means that there are two short unsupported parts of the block holding the concrete - does this make a blow-out more likely? Insulb the UK supplier provide similar training to Durisol - we are attending in February half term at Swindon NSBRC.   The blocks are slightly smoother than the Durisol ones and seem less likely to shed. Jamie has made it quite clear that the price is non-negotiable.  £55m2 for the 300mm block (I think I wrote down the correct block size but not 100% certain) against £62m2 for the 440mm block. I believe that this will be our second choice block based on properties and probably second choice one price comes into play - time will tell.    

Sue B

Sue B