It's a bit overdue but this is the first post of our build. The start was a long time coming, the idea to do a self-build struck in May 2017 when I spotted a plot on Rightmove which happened to be exactly equidistant between my family and my wife's family. With a young child and ageing grandparents the idea of relocating to be nearer to family appealed, as did the idea of building a house.
Purchasing the plot was not without challenges and the legal side took about 9 months. Most of this was down to the useless solicitor we had instructed but we got there in the end. That took us to early 2018. The plot had detailed planning permission (won on appeal) for a 5 bed very traditional looking house. We knew it wasn't what we wanted but thought we could get by with a few amendments to the planning permission. We spoke the architect the vendor of the plot had used for the original planning application but he was very old school and liked to do a lot more talking than listening. Instinctively we knew he wasn't for us. After a search on the internet and telephone calls with a few other architects and architectural technicians found the practice that seemed right for us. They listened to our ideas and seemed on our wavelength. They convinced us that a new scheme, taking into account our needs and wants was the way forward so we worked with them through early 2018 to put a design together. This was submitted to planning in June 2018 and took until December 2018 to get approval. The council did ask for a couple of amendments to the design which we largely complied with and extra ecological reports which were supplied. There were a number of pre-commencement conditions attached to the approval.
So in January 2019 we engaged a structural engineer, energy assessors and noise surveyors to do the work required to discharge the conditions and get in position to start on site. We also started the work of selecting a timber frame supplier. After speaking to half a dozen and getting quotes, a localish timber frame company came out on top. Their quote was competitive but more than anything they were on the right wavelength and seemed very open to listening to our concerns and questions. We hoped to get started on site in the spring / summer but unfortunately our planning condition for surface water drainage (SUDS) resulted in the council asking for a land drainage consent. This particular piece of bureaucracy was relevant as we want to discharge surface water and treated foul water into a brook adjacent to the plot. In addition to a further ecological report regarding voles and otters which I commissioned, they also needed design details of the headwalls we were using and discharge calcs for the roof run off. Reluctant to spend any more money on consultants I used the building regs info to do the calcs myself and submitted. Deafening silence followed for 8 weeks until I reminded them of their statutory obligation to respond within 8 weeks. Soon after this reminder the approved consents arrived. Discharge of the planning conditions followed shortly and we were free to get started.
Unfortunately by the time this happened in early September our groundworkers were on another job and didn't become free again until early November. We did look around but couldn't find anyone who could start sooner that didn't want significantly more money for the job. So they started on site on 20th November 2019, two and half years after I spotted the plot on Rightmove.
Since starting they've cleared and levelled the site, although there's still some spoil to be taken away. We have difficult ground conditions with clay / sand soil and a low bearing capacity. Due to this the SE has specified piled foundations, a ground beam to link them all together and suspended block and beam floor. I've had a piling contractor lined up since the spring and they visited site for the first time after it had been cleared and levelled and proclaimed there's no way that dug trenches would suffice and that the ground beam would need to be shuttered (another £4k). That means the ground workers needed to excavate to underneath ground beam level which they've done and also have provided the piling contractor with a bed of stone as a rudimentary piling mat. This was completed last week and the nice man with the total station has been out and precisely marked the position of each of the 50 piles.
The piling contractor was due on site yesterday. However they have been delayed by a couple of days and are meant to be starting tomorrow. It'll be a big day as they have quoted to pile down to 4m, after which it's £30 / pile / metre - fingers crossed we don't have to go down too deep.