• entries
    47
  • comments
    158
  • views
    20,626

About this blog

A Blog by Ferdinand

Entries in this blog

 

Accessible Ablutions - Three

This project has now been going for a week, and should be finished with just under another day of work.   Tiling and grouting has been done, and it is now just to fit the shower, the loo, and install shower screen and those grab handles etc that we have obtained so far. Then it will a case of experimenting and putting the final touches in as the shower is used.   Here are a few slightly rushed  photos taken at this stage.   Two runs of pipe installed for the future just in case, which go through to where most of the plumbing related gubbins live beyond the other end of the bathroom.     Shower tray protected from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.   Access hatch for future maintenance     Give it a shout - get on and grout. It's Friday.     Nice corner detail     Stay out and let it set     If anyone has any bright ideas, I need to have a set of hooks about a foot below these. Is there any product that hangs hooks off the other hooks?     We should have wrapped up by Monday afternoon, and I'll aim to do one more piece, with details and costs.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Accessible Ablutions - Two

At the end of day two ... the shower tray is in. I was planning a moulded non-slip shower tray, but these are proving elusive without a special order so I have gone for a normal one instead and will add a full size non-slip mat.   The only other point worthy of note is that the UFH manifold-and-gubbins are under the stairs, but that a lot of other gubbins is in the garage at the other end, so I am putting in a couple of runs of water pipe in case they are needed later. These will be sealed at the garage end.     Look to your laurels, @Onoff, we'll be done in the time it takes you to choose loo rolls.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Accessible Ablutions - One

And so it begins ... the refurbishment of my downstairs bathroom to be a shower room.   The self-builder who added an upstairs and extension to the bungalow got a few things wrong, and one of them was that he put a bathroom downstairs, and a shower room upstairs; exactly the wrounf way round for when a frail relative or disabled visitor needs to have downstairs facilities.   So this summer both bathrooms are being overhauled - starting with the downstairs one this week.   I was expecting a few things to emerge from the shadows, given that there have been a couple of idiosyncracies in the way elements of the house have been done.    The downstairs bathroom has been gutted this morning, with FOUR surprises.   Firstly, and I am probably unwise to admit not finding this in up to the last 5 years or so, it turns out that the plughole was not connected to the waste pipe .. or rather, became disconnected from the waste pipe at some point between 2009 and now. I moved in in 2012, and have never had reason to burrow under the bath. And I don't mean the overflow, I mean the plughole - where all the water exits.   You could have blown me down with a bicycle pump on that one.   It seems that originally it was not pushed on by the self-builder who did the house (treat self-builders like Mr Brezhnev - trust but verify !), in that the little flange around the male half had been treated as a "push pipe up against here" thing, rather than a "push pipe over this flange to make sure it grips properly and stays on" thing. Interesting. So the waste pipe was in mid-air below the plughole and a portion of the bathwater had been missing the entry to the pipe. The effect was a moist slab, but apparently no humongous harm has been done, other than a need to run my medium sized dehumidifier overnight.   (The room dimensions are roughly 3m x 2m.)   Photos:   Damp patch in screed caused by plug-disconnection. And secondly, a huge crack in the sand-cement screed - caused we think by expansion-contraction as the ufh cycles. Fibres, Fibres, Fibres !     Davina the Dehumidifier doing her thing.     Thirdly, for some reason the chap had painted the wall behind the bath with some kind of water-impervious gloop, which guarantees that the tiles were not very well attached as the strength is that of the weakest layer.     And fourthly, there was an interesting recessed trench round the end of the screed, perhaps for pipe-tidy and "flat floor" reasons.     And that photo shows a better view of that crack.   I am now hoping that the already identified crack in the floor of the upstairs bathroom is in the screed not the subfloor, as that will perhaps save me hoicking out quite so many of the underlying layers.     Come back tomorrow for the next enthralling episode of ... the Saga of Badezimmer Zwei.   And - if you have not done so recently - check that your drainage pipe is properly attached.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Checklist for Dodgy Media Articles

Inspired by *this* piece in a newspaper by Rupert Jones, I am compiling a Checklist of Items for testing the dodginess of an article.   1 - Is the author a specialist in the area being reported?   2 - Does the feature image actually relate to the content of the article? Is it giving a false impression?   3 - Does the Title represent the article accurately? Is it sensationalist? (The title is the snippet that will make Twitter).   4 - Does the "hook" (probably first sentence of paragraph) ask a relevant question? Or is it misleading?   5 - Is the killer fact to set the agenda credible? Is it anecdotal? Is it evidenced?   6 - Are relevant facts or information missed out when a point is made? Why?   7 - Are claims supported by linked evidence?   8 - Is anything simply wrong?   9 - Does the newspaper show any evidence of subeditting or fact-checking?   This is a checklist and a work in progress rather than a scorecard; yet the article linked above scores about 12 out of 9.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Supervisory Cats

For a reason or reasons unknown to me I am about to pen a short piece about cats.   I think it is mainly because @AnonymousBosch posted a picture of his supervisory cat, here.     Now, that cat is a lot of things, and whilst allegedly Jellicle (ie black and white), is not so. It is clearly a Rum-Tum-Tugger - particularly given a penchant for using 'playbites' as a slightly abrupt management tool.   It is also the fault of whoever did not tell me about the statue of Hodge, the supervisory cat that used to own Dr Samuel Johnson, when I was living in the City of London back in the late 1990s. As reported by Boswell:   'I recollect [Hodge] one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson's breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, "Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;" and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, "but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed."'   I need to record somewhere that a statue of Hodge now exists in Gough Square, outside Dr Johnson's House - just around the corner from where Cafe Opera used to exist in Fleet Street. Cafe Opera was just what it says - reasonable Italian Food whilst being serenaded by Opera singers earning a crust on the side.     (Credit Mrs Woffington, who's current blog, which seems unfortunately to have stopped in 2010, is here. I will assume she found a congenial Latin teacher who now occupies her interest).   The oysters, upon which Dr Johnson used to feed Hodge, are a sign (in 2019 anyway) of a very supervisory cat.   Whilst I'm jabbering about this area, I recommend that anyone wanting to get some amazing ideas for Garden Design take a tour around the two dozen pocket-parks in the City of London. These are genuinely delightful, complexly small designs, and deserve a profile as high as the collection of City Churches by Wren.   Greyfriars Bobby, never mind Paddington Bear, eat your heart out.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

2019 Design of a High End HMO

I thought this might of interest to Buildhubbers. I have been sent this as material to inform the redecoration / minor makeover of a student house in the summer.   It is some pics of a recent 'Co-Living' (= HMO for Professionals) development designed by Comfort Lettings, one of the most forward thinking Lettings Agencies in Nottingham. It shows how these developments are evolving. It is a careful refurb of a largish terraced house roughly 15 minutes walk from Nottingham City Centre.   There is nothing here that is particularly expensive to do, although some of the items are probably "dressing" for the (professional) photos. I do not see, for example, mini-cacti for the dining table / bathroom, or duvet covers, being supplied as part of even a Furnished Let.   There is more information on the  original page.   Of note are: Greater variety of tones in the room design than 7-8 years ago. "Feature walls" incorporate materials with an 'industrial' feel. "Scaffold plank feature wall', for example. Textiles on walls. Good use of mirrors. All rooms Ensuite (this is interesting, as it is possible for "rooms with facilities" to be individual units taxable as "Band A" dwellings. That is just one of the complexities with which Landlords have to deal.) A " large leafy plant" (a bit different from a "French Widow") in every room.  Everything inclusive, including Bills, Council Tax, and 300Mb broadband. Included fortnightly professional cleaner. An EPC number of D67 - a good move to manage those inclusive bills, and within a shower-waste-water-heat-recovery-device or two of getting a "C", as may be required for 2030. The basic fabric of a renovation such as this will last 15-25 years, even though redecorations, carpets etc may be redone after 5-7 years. All rooms are double bed, unless there is a very good reason not to do so. Typical rents are approx. £500-550 per room per calendar month, with the package described.   It is interesting to see that they are already addressing the Tenant Fees Ban which comes in from June 2019.   Whilst it is clear that this is done to a budget, it looks good. The main effort of design is in careful choice of unifying themes - here I make those common themes to be:   Monochrome vs contrast. No longer 'soopa-doopa-white-and-pale-scandi' - for those who will admit to knowing their Abba, I'm tempted to call the new version an Annifrid-inspired palette rather than an Agnetha-inspired version. It's a bit more folksy-hipster. Industrial and 'natural'. Exposed materials .. eg bed frames, tables, basket chairs, wire shelves, textiles. Geometric patterns. Consistent use of these elements.   Photos (from Comfort Lettings website):                     For me this is an interesting parallel to @puntloos' question about a "next level" vs a "finekitchen" design. The evolution of design feels similar - the finekitchen option seems like a "2010-ish" high-end HMO design, whilst the one featured here shows some similar features to the "next level" version.      

Saving Stamp Duty on Derelict Properties

This is potentially relevant to Buildhub users who have purchased, or are purchasing, existing properties (derelict or habitable), in order to repair or replace them. It concerns whether you pay the Residential Rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax, or the Non-Residential Rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (which are lower).   (Gird your loins - slightly - for this, and get a cup of whisky plus a couple of Jaffa Cakes.)   This post is General Information only, and does *not* constitute advice in any form.   It is about a Court Ruling from January 2019 in the First Tier Tribunal Tax Chamber called HMRC vs Bewley, which changed the Liability for Stamp Duty Land Tax in England in one case where the property was found to have been unsuitable for use as a dwelling, and so the (lower) non-residential rate should have been applied. This level of Court is not automatically precedent-forming though decisions may 'be taken into account' by other Courts; the Upper Tribunal, where a case goes when Appealed from the First Tier Tribunal, is precedent-setting.   For two groups of Build Hubbers, it could affect people who buy buildings on plots to demolish, or perhaps people who want to pass a plot or  building-on-a-plot on for the purposes of developing more than one dwelling. There is potential, for example, for the vendor to sell the property in an uninhabitable state by doing various things, and the price varying to allow for the lower amount of Stamp Duty which may be due, or perhaps for an indemnity against a higher tax bill considered (if such an agreement is lawful). The status of a building would be changed by an application to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).   On Buildhub we have had conversations about what makes a property uninhabitable in connection with liability for Council Tax, for example the absence of a potable water supply. This conversation is similar, and eventually will be about what prevents an empty or derelict property from being suitable for use as a dwelling.   I am not launching into my own discussion of that, beyond noting that factors that may end up coming into the future guidance which may eventually be published by the Tax Authorities if necessary may include things such as "is there a kitchen", "is there a bathroom" (both of which affect 'mortgageability'), and potentially "does it have planning permission yet". I will simply post the summaries of the Ruling.   What about the potential impact?   The difference between the Residential rate of SDLT can be substantial. The potential savings for people buying expensive plots look to be quite tasty. Note - these rates quoted below are basic, partial information for illustration; there are exemptions and special cases by the bucketload - and you do need to check properly.   Residential SDLT   Source :https://www.gov.uk/stamp-duty-land-tax/residential-property-rates     Non-Residential SDLT   Source: https://www.gov.uk/stamp-duty-land-tax/nonresidential-and-mixed-use-rates     HMRC vs Bewley Summary     and     Resources:   The full decision is here: http://financeandtax.decisions.tribunals.gov.uk/judgmentfiles/j10915/TC06951.pdf   The existing VOA Guidance relating to Council Tax Liability for Properties in Disrepair or Derelict is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/council-tax-domestic-properties-in-disrepair-or-derelict/council-tax-domestic-properties-which-are-in-disrepair-or-are-derelict   Some notes from a 2018 meeting of Tax Authorities on the meaning of "residential property" subject are here: https://www.tax.org.uk/sites/default/files/SDLT Section 116 FA 2003 meeting 11 June 2018 summary points FINAL.pdf (document itself)   Winding Up   It would be useful to have some of the Buildhub hive mind on this, especially as this is not an area of specialist knowledge for me. We have discussed this issue wrt Council Tax, and mainly at the end of the build, for example in this thread by @vivienz. But we have not - that I am aware of - considered so carefully unsuitability for use as a dwelling at the start, and with respect to Stamp Duty.   Another category I am not aware that we have discussed is Stamp Duty liability on properties gifted.   In general this is one to be aware of, and then probably discuss with advisers. The difference in SDLT liability in the case discussed was £6k.   I have discussed this wrt England (and probably Wales if they have not changed that bit yet !), but the "Notes form a 2018 Meeting" link above shows attendance by Tax Authorities UK-wide.   For example:   Has anyone successfully applied to have derelict properties defined as unsuitable for habitation and removed from the 'register' at the VOA, and subsequently reduced their SDLT liability on that basis? Has it been done with kitchen and bathroom removal, rather than roofs and windows?  

In a renovation install your ASHP early - here's why

If you install an air-source heat pump (ASHP) to heat your property, it will attract a subsidy called Renewable Heat Incentive, which is a payment to you based on how much CO2 emissions are saved by the installation of the system.   The calculation is done on the basis of the guestimated CO2 emissions numbers in your (less than 2 years old) EPC Report, taking potential savings by loft and cavity wall insulation (which you can often get done for free) into account. Naturally that means that if you upgrade your fabric by other methods, and have a new EPC done before you apply, your subsidy will be materially smaller.   Here is a comparison for 2 semi-detached bungalows, one with an EPC of 74-C, and the other with an EPC of 44-E.   Restored bungalow.   EPC: 74-C. Annual energy for heating: 6,577 kWh. Annual energy for water heating: 1706 kWh. Total energy: 8283 kWh.   Calculated RHI Payments: £530 for 7 years.   Unrestored bungalow.   EPC: 44-E.. Annual energy for heating: 12,283 kWh. Annual energy for water heating: 3421 kWh. Total energy: 15704  kWh.   Calculated RHI Payments: £630 for 7 years.   What to do:   Get a new EPC report to document the poor status (about £50), and get your ASHP process done under that rule, rather than doing it later.   In the case of the small detached bungalow above, the difference is worth £700.   (Cynics Corner: The apparent truth that for such an install done the official way to get the subsidy - via an Approved Installer - seems to cost more than having one by a competent installer who is not Approved, by an amount which takes up most of your potential subsidy-gains, is not to be mentioned.)

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Bathroom Refurbishment Project (2) - Proposed Design

My bathroom needs a refurbishment because a whole line of tiles has cracked, I think due to moisture-induced movement in the subfloor.   In my last article, I posted some photos of the current arrangement, and possible ideas. This is just thinking out loud about a couple of possible layouts. As ever all comments are most welcome.   Here is the current layout, which shows the plan but does not include the full set of posh bits (eg shower here is a wetroom area with showers both ends):     and 3d-view   Here are my two ways to incorporate a bath, and replace the wetroom area. Personally my preference is for  a location in the window, though perhaps with no door to the shower. Whilst I think this is stylish, the other option below is more practical.    IMO this option would need something of a more solid barrier to separate bath and loo.   2 - Bath in Window Area / Reduce Shower Size   This option uses a double ended bath as shown.       3 - Bath in Alcove / Reduced Shower Size   This has more intimacy, and would probably want a single ended bath, due to the alcove.       The alcove into the hipped roof:     And a photo of the dormer window alcove, which is 1.5m wide.      

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Grand Designs Gravenhill - Budget vs Reality

This post is a record of the initial Estimated Prices, and stated final cost of the 10 self-builders featured in the Grand Designs - The Street, about 10 of the first houses built at the Gravenhill Self-Build development site at Bicester.   Watching the first episode, the 10 property street is starting to remind me of the Homeworld 1981 / Future Home 2000 exhibition, which is now Coleshill Place, Milton Keynes. The featured picture is of that exhibition site as it is now taken from Google Earth - looking embedded and conventional.     No 1, The Street - Budget for plot + build £275,000. Out-turn quoted - £335,000. A couple in their 60s.   No 2, The Street - Budget for plot + build £275,000. Out-turn quoted - £400,000 approx. A single lady in her 70s. This house had cantilevers fail and the roof split at the ridge-beam, requiring £20k + of recovery work.      

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

10 steps to Cut your Energy Bills in an Older House

These are 10 steps if your Electricity Bills are out of control in a house which has not yet been renovated. They are the "low hanging fruit". The aim is to get you started and seeing good results in a short period without too much long-term work.   If your house is currently not insulated, and you have not optimised your electricity bill, savings of 40-50% or more may be achievable.   Here with go with the first 10 steps, which can be done then left alone for some time - ignoring major investments like new windows and doors, and major or very detailed projects.    1 - Set some realistic targets and monitoring - I suggest, over 3 years:   Year 1: Minus 20% on current bill. Year 2: Minus 33% on current bill. Year 3: Minus 40% on current bill.   Record and monitor usage at some regularity ,whether weekly, monthly or quarterly. Perhaps a thread on BH or a blog post. For performance and encouragement.   If you want to monitor your whole house supply, there are also meters where a sensor clamps around the main supply cable and transmits to a meter inside your house. These have been around for a long time, and the best known is by a brand called OWL.   Suggest in addition to your meter and a couple of plug meters, one of those Owls or similar that clamps on the supply - use it to check which of your four buildings uses most. If nobody else can, I can lend you one - I think.   Remember to keep looking for the big targets.   2 - Check the balance vs payment numbers.   Is there a big credit on the account if you are on monthly payments. Can you get 10% off the monthly charge with a phone call just by challenging it?  This will need a repeat check as your usage falls fsater than they notice.   3 - Change tariff.   Savings on the first switch seem to be 20-30% for most I have seen try it.   I use MSE Cheap Energy Club, and have it set to warn me when I can save >£150 per year. That prompts action, but does not annoy me every month.   Consider a longer term fixed tariff from a decent big supplier of energy, rather than a bust-every-3-months minnow.   4 - Get the stuff other people will do for free.   Call someone like the Energy Saving Trust, and see what is available in your area. For example:   a - 250mm insulation in loft. I can still get this. b - Cavity wall insulation? I know someone who had this last year.   5 - Replace all your lightbulbs with LEDs.   Payback time may be around a year. Especially any of those 300W or 500W outside floods.   6- Are there any visible holes?   For example, light through gaps round outside doors, catflaps etc. Block 'em up with traditional draught remedies, and keep the cat in the shed, with a catflap there.   7 - i s your roof space well sealed from the main area of the house.   For example, is your loft hatch sealed and insulated? New insulated ones are cheap.   You will need this in place for a Positive Input Ventilation fan to work successfully.   8 - Do your extract fans have backdraft shutters?   If not, switch them over. From about £30.   9 - If you have trickle vents, then replace them (foam them up) with proper controlled ventilation.    Use a PIV in the house, and trickle /boost extract fans to keep it flowing. That is what I usually do in rentals and have now done at home. Works and gives some control for £400-£750.   10 - Use spot heaters that heat People not Rooms   Can you tweak the heating in your garage or shed, by using spot radiant heaters rather than heating the whole thing?   eg For our childrens play area at the gym we have one of these: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eterna-Quartz-Radiant-Mounted-600watt/dp/B00F2H1WF8 . Costs <£30.   Bonus 11 - Over time work on the strategic stuff as you are able - underfloor insulation, 2G, dry lining, thermal survey etc. And also the tactical stuff - replacing appliances, finding small but constant loads.   Turn it all the way to 12, and beat Spinal Tap  - Plan a big treat with some of the savings. This may help convince the rest of your household that it is worth persevering.   Wrapping Up   I hope that this brief guide will get you started on some of the more straightforward and easier things you can do to cut your bills, without having too much hard slog to achieve noticeable results quickly.   If you have any questions, join Buildhub and start a thread on the main forum, or comment below.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Bathroom Refurbishment Project (1) - Comments Please

This summer I need to have my upstairs bathroom refurbished. It was installed 12 yeas ago by the previous house owner, who also did the self-build addition of an upper storey to the previous bungalow. The bathroom has lots of lovely features including electric ufh, and a long crack all the way down a row of tiles.   I think the room pretty much needs gutting, as the problem is probably under the floor, which is a huge pity because the fittings are so pleasant. I think, however, that I may be able to retain the wall tiles, and perhaps reuse the existing shower screen (which looks expensive to replace).   The requirements are:   1 - Fix floor, replace ufh and retile. 2 - Replace wetroom area with large shower, perhaps with storage area (I really do not need a 2.6m x 1.1m shower). 3 - Add bath. 4 - Replace loo with something a little less temperamental. 5 - Replace whb with one with more space for bottles and things, possibly a vanity unit.   I have a couple of months to think about this, so any comments would be very welcome.   Here is the crack:     My verdict on that crack is that the subfloor may have been done with 8x4 sheets of standard chipboard, rather than tongue and groove, and that moisture has got in and made the joint expand. There are also a couple of other cracks at right angles, and the wetroom area is suffering a little.       Here are a few snapshots of the room, including some excellent tiling on a hipped corner. First a simplified layout and 3d:       Where it fits:     Inside of dormer window:     Whb and towel rail:     Loo (the blotches are as a result of compressing the photo):     The wetroom area:             As I say, this is one to chew on ... so any comments are welcome.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Get rid of those awful downlighters...

Bored of your downlighters? Why not replace them with bulbs to give a different appearance to your ceiling?   Just an idea that I happened to see in a house in Kent a couple of weeks ago.   GU10 bulbs are available in shape other than downlighters, for example  candle bulbs:          It is far netter not to have done it in the first place, but at least there are ways to mitigate the damage.   (No, GU10 downlighers are not my favourite. form of lighting.)

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Scaffold Tent over 16C Barn - An Example

A scaffold tent is a shelter completely encompassing a build, or part of a build, to allow 'indoor' working whatever the weather.   Recently a ran across a 16C barn inside one when I was taking the scenic route from Canterbury to Lewes to buy scaffolding.   The project was a builder restoring his barn, after a Planning Process that had taken more than a decade.                  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

How to Conceal a Door in a Wall

I spotted this inside a local cafe this week.   Liquorice Allsort chic is not quite my taste, but the door is not as obvious as could be the case.   It is an a sample of how to incorporate an element into a stronger pattern than the outline as a means to de-emphasise it. Here it could have been further concealed by choosing a different handle, or concealed hinges.   It could also have been made full height.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

What about a Modular Loft?

This week I came across a team installing entire sections of loft on a house-build with a seriously large crane.   Really quite interesting, and an opportunity to indulge in some doggerel.   As I was planning for my toft I met a man with a Modular Loft Windows were installed and tiles With insulation, floors and style Windows, Lift, Loft, Tiles Make an instant ancient pile! A extraordinarily transportable loft -  But do I want one for my toft?   (with apologies to St Ives)   More photos below, and you can see the contact details on the side of the van in the last picture if you want one..   Gently does it...                 What they are matching...       Close-ups and Details                   The Company Installing    

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Diversions whilst Laying Laminate

A varied, and educational, long weekend laying down laminate flooring (one of the Uniclic range from Quick-Step) to help an acquaintance improve his house in London.   The task was to lay about 3 rooms-worth full of Uniclic Laminate (28 packs), and moving a lot of furniture around - the killer reason for needing two people.   My protagonist in laying the laminate, and moving all the furniture, is a detail-of-finish man, and at one stage was whittling away with a multitool for 20 minutes at a piece of laminate to match the outline of a curly 1930s doorpost; a demented boy-scout aiming for "Floor Laying, Advanced".    Inevitably the worst happened. As at Beauvais Cathedral in 1284, the integrity of the structure did not quite measure up to the aspiration of the designer, and there was a sharp crack followed by some of the most creative language expressed in 750 years. It worked second time around.   Having bought a car with the dimensions of a small barge (aka my new Skoda Superb Estate), this was the first opportunity to really test the performance over a long run. An MPG of 59 on the way down to London on a Thursday afternoon / teatime, and 64 mpg on the way back on a clear run,  measured on a tested-and-accurate car-computer, will do for a car that can fit in a couple of coffins, and tow 2 tonnes. It is about 10-20% more economical than my old non-turbocharged Citroen BX from the mid-1990s, and has twice the power.   Whilst on waiting time, I was able to binge-watch on Netflix the documentary The 9 episode 11hr documentary mini-series The  Civil War, by Ken Burns. I never studied this historical period at school, and time to reflect provoked a few new insights for me - a bit of an eye-opener.   I had not absorbed just how contemporaneous is the American Civil War. We (or at least I) think of it is a long time ago, but the war was only 5 years before my own Great-Grandfather was born.   The last Civil War widow -  Maudie Hopkins - only died in 2008. Yes - she was a 19 year-old who married a pensioner during the depression, on what looks like a classic security-for-care type arrangement, but the point stands. Sobering.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Scale : 1 inch to 6 feet

Clearing out a little, I have come across a cache of material from my father's Architecture Course at Sheffield University in the late 1950s. There is also a brochure from the GRP products he was offering around 1983 from one of the original Raleigh Buildings in Nottingham.   Lots of interesting projects - this is one for a "Country House", and I can see the stripped down style of the period, but there are also quarters for a maid. And a lot of illlustrations done in watercolour.    And the scale is - yes - 1 inch to 6 feet. Here are a few pics, which are just auto-colour-balanced. The entry was done in haste so there are a couple of duplicates.                              

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Today we went to meet the Planners...

Some things are irresistable.   This prescient 1903 painting by C. M. Coolidge shows Planning Consultants meeting the Council, even though it is supposedly called "A Friend in Need".     With apologies to any highbrow art people on the forum ... this is very much the 1890s version of the Jack Vettriano niche.    

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

One way to fix a wonky shed

Like the best magazines, this article consists mainly of pictures - as it is nearly Bank Holiday weeking and I am heading off to a Camping Barn near @recoveringacademic's place with friends.   The problem is straightforward.   About 5 years ago on moving to the current house I had a 8' by 8' shed constructed in a corner of the garden which consisted of (perceived) well-packed rubble from many years ago. We used a base of concrete fence-posts laid flat to allow some minimal give, and room to expel any unwelcome undershed-dwellers, and to avoid the extra expense of a full concrete slab.   How wrong I was. The ground turned out to be as movable as a slow-motion mattress, probably due to the rubble not being as compacted as thought, heave from a nearby tree, and a succession of extreme summers. The thing seems to move by up to a couple of inches at one end or the other up or down depending on how the weather, the tree and the rubble are changing. And the shed has needed adjusting twice since it was put in, and it still looks wonky.   A further issue was a frame on the shed not quite strong enough to prevent shear distortion (ie the roof moving sideways relative to the base to give a rhombus shape.)   I decided to use a product from ASP Wallbarn called Adjustable Support Pads, in this case their Megapad product which supports 1500kg per pad, and which give nearly 4 inches of vertical movement on each pad. These were installed under the existing posts using a couple of trolley jacks and a bit of digging. The pads can be adjusted after installation. The cost for 8 pads delivered was just over £70.   If you order these or similar from online trade or retail sellers, then you may well be much more heavily clobbered by expensive shipping costs. I ordered these over the phone from Wallbarn, and they even reduced the £15 shipping cost to £7; the products arrived the next morning.   Total time taken was about 6 hours for one man.   This photo shows the full range of adjustment, and the component parts.   The shed as it was on Wednesday morning   Leaning to the Left.   Wedges and a door that has not been lockable for some time       Doing the job   Levelling Up         Correcting the shear, and installing a new brace         Job Done. I hope.     Will it work?   Ask me in a couple of years, when the ground has moved again.   Total cost was under £200. A new shed plus a concrete slab would have been about £1000 or a little more done professionally with careful sourcing.   The chap doing the work is the excellent John Smith of Little John Property Services (M: 07702 033296), who does a lot of property maintenance for me.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

 

A Domain Name for your Self-Build? Try .uk

I came across this conversation about having a domain name for a self-built house between @ProDave and @vivienz, and thought that the new .uk domain names are potentially of interest and would be worth a brief comment.   These are domain names which link straight into the uk's top-level domain - so you have dunroamin.uk rather than dunroamin.org.uk or dunroamin.co.uk. That seems to me to be more suitable for a house which is inherently neither a non-profit 'organisation', nor a commercial company. That can be used for a project website or self-build blog, or a business such as a B&B - or can be reserved in case such a use might be required in the future.   There is a limitation in that if an identical name exists in the co.uk, org.uk or me.uk domain hierarchies, then the owner of that domain has a pre-emptive "grandfathered"right to buy the .uk version until mid-2019.   However, where the domain name is not registered in one of the other hierarchies mentioned, it can be purchased now.   There is a fairly good explanation of this process on the 123-reg website.   As an example, I have recently helped set up a website for my handyman under the domain little-john.uk, for "Little John Property Services" (this is near Sherwood Forest) which is available now, but littlejohn.uk is not available now as littlejohn.co.uk  is used by a Bathroom Company already.   This is slightly ironic for me, as I have been trying to get rid of the name of my house for the last 4 years.   It is called something horribly 1950s, and the name seems attached to the Council database like a stand of Knotweed. Every time the nice person on the phone says "I have taken it off and it has gone", it comes back about 6 months later as if by magic.   Personally, I think the answer is that the master database is probably owned by the Post Office, and it is very difficult to correct. Until very recently we were receiving Pizza Deliveries for next door every couple of months, and it turns out that my detached house, and "1a" next door which was built in 198x on a slice of the garden of this one, were listed by the Post Office as a pair of flats in a single unit. Go figure! (*)   (*) In the end it took a pitched battle by the new owner of next-door over a period of months to get the database updated, including multiple mis-assumptions by admin staff when they had emails stating the simple facts sitting in front of them. But that persistence of inaccurate information is to me an example as to why we should keep information about us get in database-state information banks to an absolute minimum.   People believe bollocks when the bollocks emerges from a computer, and that causes practical problems for real people. So keep computers in the dark.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Sweat and Detail in Self-build

I am annoyed this morning.   Once again my washing-up water - the first hot water I have used in the kitchen today - is running warm then cold then hot.
And the cold water is running warm then cold.   This probably means that the last people, who renovated the house, did not insulate the water pipes where they pass through the zone where there is underfloor heating, and the water standing in the pipes has heated up.   A small annoyance due to lack of sweat applied to the detail. But one that is noticeable and about which I can do nothing practically.   Boo !

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Protect your Fence Posts with a Postsaver

A video I made whilst we were putting Postsaver protective sleeves on part of the stock of fence posts.   It is a really excellent product, which should more or less double the length of life of a fence post, and takes little more than a minute to apply once you are set up.   But make sure to buy direct from the manufacturer, because retail outlets will gouge you comparatively. The starter kits are particularly good value.   And they do trade accounts if you have a repeated need.     The feature photo repeated below shows an alternative way to  create a long-life fence - use a repair spur and keep the wood off the ground completely.    

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

 

Do Not Appeal (sometimes); apply for a Variation on a Planning Condition

There are different views about Planning Consultants, and whether they should be used.   This is a short example of a Planning Consultant offering superb advice, that most of us self-builders would perhaps not think about.   The Problem   I have just received a Planning Permission, after 3 months of engagement with the Council. It is a commercial Change of Use but the lesson applies to self-builder permssions. We received our permission, but on the last morning the Planning Department applied an unacceptable Planning Condition which threatened the whole project. The Planning Condition clearly violates several of the basic tests.   This condition had not been mentioned in the previous months of consultation, and I did not see it until it appeared on the Decision Notice. At this point the Planning Application has been "determined" (ie decided and frozen), so the Condition cannot be modified without a further Planning Application or an Appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.   The problem is that a Full Appeal gives the Inspector the opportunity to reopen the basic Planning Application, and modify it - which I do not want.   The Solution   The recommendation from our Planning Consultant was:   1 - To apply for a Variation of the unacceptable condition, which might be accepted, then... 2 - To Appeal the Refusal of the application for the Variation if we need.   The advantage is that we then if needed we can get a Determination by the Planning Inspectorate on the narrow point, while keeping all the other acceptable aspects of our Planning Permission out of their scope.   The Learning Point   As self-builders, we think about discharging Planning Conditions at the end of the build process. The same process can be used to vary them before we start building. It takes extra time and a fee, which is smaller than a Full Planning Application fee for a new dwelling, but does not run the risk of reopening the entire Permission to change.   More information   The appropriate form on the Planning Portal. Explanation of Planning Condition Variations on the Government Website.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

 

Case Study: Water stains on a brick wall

A perennial problem with walls is water or other staining.   Yesterday I was walking past a fairly new wall, built perhaps 15 years ago. There are an interesting number of white stains now running down the wall.   What is the cause? My candidate is probably the weep holes, and also the 'shadow' from the road sign (which should be a few inches further out). I wonder if it also cheap bricks, or an insufficiently considered design. In any case, if stains show up this prominently so soon, then something on the detailing is not right.   What do you think, and what would you do differently?   ( I have uploaded these at full size so you can zoom in.)   Photo 1.     Photo 2.     Photo 3.     Photo 4 .   Photo 5 . .

Ferdinand

Ferdinand