It's been a while since we obtained planning permission and my last blog entry but we've not been idle. it seems that the last 3 months or so have been a constant stream of decisions that need to be made to get this project started. It's also been a period where money seems to be going out but we don't have much to show for it!
The majority of the decisions have stemmed from the architects needing to get the detailed BC drawings finished. here's a nice summary of our decisions so far (although I've probably missed and forgotten a few)
Timber Frame Company
This was a one of the biggest decisions for us (windows and doors was the other) and was the one that had to happen as soon as possible after getting planning permission so that we could get the timber frame designed and the BC drawings created. We previously had quotes from 9 on the original plans before we had to make changes to get through planning. Of these one was discounted as they never got back to me about changing their set specifications, one because they wouldn't use metal web joists insisting that they only used I-joists, another due to extortionate costs and one more because of costs although not as excessive the ones that made the shortlist but just enough for us to make an easy decision not to include them.
That left 5 for us to get updated quotes on the approved planning documents. We are going for an open panel system and I will be fitting the insulation to help reduce costs; even though this will extend the build time the savings are substantial enough to justify it. With those quotes we discounted another due to their location and narrowed it down to 3 local companies and MBC. MBC were by far the most expensive for an open-panel TF but they get such good reviews on here and we have friends that are using them we couldn't discount them out of hand, but in the end we couldn't justify the extra cost when we weren't getting from them what they excel at, i.e. factory fitted insulation and promised air tightness levels. to give them credit they were completely upfront about it and completely understood the decision. So that left just 3 local-ish companies to choose from. We visited sites from each company to see their work and after that, although it wasn't easy, there was one clear winner and that was Flight Timber (https://flighttimber.com) based in Essex. We were very impressed with the quality of the build we visited and are very happy with how they've conducted themselves during the negotiations. So we signed the contract and paid a deposit. Since then they've been doing great work in getting the TF design done and liaising with the architects to finalise everything. That has now been completed and it's all with the structural engineer to do the basement/foundation calculations and drawings.
For the structural engineer we had 3 quotes from firms that the architects use, one from a friend of a friend and 2 from recommendations from the buildhub hive mind. We are having a basement and so this was a consideration and needed someone who could provide us what we needed. One of those requirements was an insulated slab foundation under the basement and the arms of the house.
There was quite a discrepancy on costs between the 6 quotes and a couple were easy to discount as they were so much more than the others. So from the remaining 4 and after much consideration and communication we decided to go with TSD as they have a great reputation for insulated slabs, are highly recommended by many on here and their price was very competitive! So far, they've only been working on the design since the start of the week, I've been very impressed with the communications and their open-mindedness to my ideas and requirements. I made a decision (doesn't really require it's own heading) to ditch the idea of using block and beam for the lid of the basement and will be using hollow core precast slabs. Sadly though, after the SE spoke to a supplier it was obvious that they wouldn't span our basement at a reasonable thickness without internal structural walls (which we were trying to do without) and so we've resigned ourselves to having load bearing walls in the basement, otherwise costs could easily have gotten out of hand by going for thicker precast slabs, thicker foundations and thicker external basement walls to all accommodate the extra weight of the thicker slabs. so be it, I'm sure it's not the last concession we'll need to make to save money.
we are creating a new entrance to our plot from the road that will go over a ditch and so requires a culvert. so we decided to hire a civil engineer to plan and manage that, the drainage, driveway levels and water course discharge. we only got 3 quotes (it's my magic number for quotes) all from companies that the architects deal with and simply chose the one that wrote the best proposal and the costs were reasonable trusting that the architect's recommendation for each company was good enough for us.
Windows and Doors
This was a huge decision for us and caused a lot of brain power to try and work out who best to go for with spreadsheets being created to compare the various companies. We have a lot of glazing (about 120m2) and we want triple glazed alu-clad units. We approached 7 companies initially, visited lots of self-build shows to get a feel of the windows to help us to decide. We did consider IdealCombi for full alu windows but in the end our desire to have timber internally won and we didn't proceed with them. We discounted a few others due to costs and in the end it came down to Internorm and Norrsken. Internorm windows are so nice but they are so expensive; despite this we thought we could potentially justify the extra cost but the reviews of the supplier on here put a dampener on them as the last thing we wanted was to pay a load of extra money for windows that we didn't get any sort of support for when things go wrong.
We visited the Norrsken showroom in Poole and were very impressed with the windows, doors and sliders and I couldn't find any bad reviews on here for them. The price was very good and so we signed on the dotted line and paid our deposit. We are very happy with our decision and the money we saved over going with Internorm will pretty much pay for our kitchen!
With all the windows we are having I was worried about overheating, especially after reading some of the issues other forum members have had with solar gain. We needed to make a decision on these before the TF design was completed so that they could be built in to the frame and are then hidden from view. So, external blinds were on the cards and needed to be researched and a decision made posthaste. I've posted elsewhere about my experiences with Roma blinds so I won't repeat that here. In the end I came across Warema blinds which look good and seem to do what we would need them to and found 2 London based Warema suppliers to get quotes from. Both were so similar in price it was hard to choose between them. In the end, after my company house checks (which I do on all people I wish to do business with) it looked like one of the companies had grown their business really well over the last 5 years when looking at their accounts that I decided to take a punt on the smaller guy and went with Corner Star Aluminium. Only time will tell if I made the right decision on that one.
This is a subject that I have done a ton of reading on here in the forums and also posted a few times on the subject. the whole 1 or 2 unit debate is real but I really would like a single unit solution. I got 5 quotes (one through the architect and 4 off my own research). BPC wouldn't do a single unit saying that the largest unit they do is for a 350m2 house but our house is 450m2 and so we need 2 units. I felt that they're just sizing on Part F calculations and the manufacturers own statements regarding house size for unit size and didn't take running at Passivhaus levels that most on here feel that running their MVHR units at is fine. Also, they do sell bigger units, e.g. the Airflow DV245, so they could do a single unit but I just got the feeling that they couldn't be bothered to consider another option. so they're not getting my business. CVC were just too expensive and I didn't trust the company the architects asked to quote as they didn't give any details as to the ducting etc that they'd use (and also were selling a 2 unit solution). so it came down to PAUL Scotland and Enhabit, both of which were offering a single unit solution (Zehnder Q600 with 90mm ducting). Pricing was very similar so in the end it came down to location again (although a price reduction did help!) and Enhabit won. the deposit will be going over today and then they can crack on with the design.
I'm sure there are loads of other smaller decisions we've made, like external finishes for the discharge of planning conditions etc, and I know there will be hundreds more to come as we move forward with the build including ASHP, Solar PV, UFH, DHW, RWH, floor coverings, tiles, lighting, home automation and so on.
The next big decision will be the groundworks company to do the culvert, driveway, foundations and basement. Once I have the SE plans and designs I can approach the companies I've shortlisted to get detailed quotes and can carry on with the decision making.
I have ended up having to make a list of decisions to be made there are so many. that way I can tick them off when they get done as it was getting to the point that it seemed they were never ending. at least this way I can see what has already been done and can see the list getting smaller as we progress.
thanks for reading. 😊