In at last!

Simon R


In at last! Building controls came out and checked the site and have issued a “temporary habitation certificate”. Big sigh of relief especially for a self build where you’ve been the main contractor.


Lots of bits and pieces jobs, as you would expect at this stage of the project. Adding stairs to second floor, making lights work, finishing off bathrooms, the last bits of flooring etc… it’s a long list but getting shorter by the day helped by being on site.


The stairs are a feature of the build and getting them right was a tricky path between the minimalist look we wanted and compliance with building controls. The main problem we faced was that the kit stairs we used from Fontanot did not have a stock solution for stairs installed in a void rather than from a solid floor. A modified mounting was ordered. When it arrived it was the wrong colour! And of course the colour was not RAL. Getting it re-manufactured was an option but it would have taken a couple of weeks. Fortunately we have a local powder coating firm K and N we have used in the past. They were incredibly helpful, managed to get a powder coating that matched for the manufactures copper-black. Two days later we had our newly powder coated bracket and we could start the installation.



Working from a staircase is a little more tricky than working from a solid floor, a case of don’t look down. Again we started from the top of the flight and worked down. On the first flight we supported the assembly with props from the floor. This time we needed to support the second flight from the first flight. The lower stairs are rock solid, all the same we added supports to it to transfer all load to the concrete floor. This being our second installation it went fairly quickly. It proved more difficult to keep the structure square with no walls to gauge from. With the last tread in place and all bolts torqued up we removed the props. The stairs promptly sagged a good 20mm, some of this was due to the temporary supports being to long, but not all of it. After a bit of head scratching it appeared that it was down to flex in the modified bracket. Walking up the stairs showed another problem, the lateral stability was not brilliant. On the lower stair this was taken care of by stabilising brackets attached to the walls, not an option on a staircase with no walls. The stair kit comes with a very heavy duty mid-flight support bracket made to either attach to the floor or the wall behind the stairs. In our case, the wall is a window. The window is however flanked with 150mm of concrete inside the ICF. Plenty of structural strength to stabilise the stairs. More calcs and a design for a suitable structure was drawn up. Luckily for us one of our daughters is an artist blacksmith with more than adequate welding skills, steel was ordered, bracket constructed.


We did a test fit before getting it powder coated. All looked good so it was off to the powder coaters. Installing the bracket was a three man job due to it’s weight and the need to get the position spot on. High tensile studs resin fixed into the concrete and left to cure. The stairs had been supported during this process and I must confess I held my breath as the supports were removed. I need not have been worried though, it didn’t move a bit or drop and lateral stability concerns resolved. Result!





In addition to the internal staircase we also have an external spiral staircase. We had poured a footing for the stairs when the concrete pumps were being purged after the ICF pours, so the prep was done. Assembling the stairs was very straight forward, a central boss fixed to the concrete, onto which an armature is bolted. The steps then get added.




Once all the stairs are on the armature the top platform is added and bolted to the wall. So that the bolts didn’t form a thermal bridge we anchored glass fibre rods into the concrete. The rods were tapped to take 8mm threaded rod. With the platform bolted in place the steps get rotated to form the staircase and are held in place by rods through the stairs. The whole armature is then put under compression by a large nut. All very neat and simple unlike the internal stairs.




With the stairs done, it was back to work on the bathrooms. Before the covid outbreak we had stayed at Centre Parcs and rather liked the woodland pictures they use in their showers. After some research Pat found a company Reco Surfaces who manufacture them. We contacted them and decided they were a good option for providing an alternative to the run of the mill shower finishes. Interestingly it reduces the cost if you supply your own image. In hind sight we would have gone for this option, the only reason we didn’t was image size. The resolution needs to be a minimum of 300dpi to avoid pixalation. In our case a three panel screen would require a 48 megapixels image. Sounds a big image, but it’s not exceptional and even available from some phones. In any event we went with stock images.


We decided on the images we would use to brighten up the showers and also one for the kitchen splash back. The panels were ordered and arrived in three days, really good support from the guys at Reco. The panels are easy to instal on a flat surface. We put ours on 11mm water resistant MDF. The track saw paid for itself again making accurate cutting of the panels possible.










































All in all the panels are a great way to add interest to an area, at around the £120 mark for a 2400 by 1200 panel much more affordable than glass. The pictures really don't do them justice they are very eye catching and with the option of using your own images very versatile, a real find.


Next on our list was lighting. We’ve installed some lights during the build but not implemented switching or dimming. Lights get pretty complex, not in technical terms, but just what you want ,where and from where do you want to switch it. Lots and lots of decisions very early in the build when you have more important things like walls and roof to do. Our lighting very simple. All our lights originate from a single point allowing the switching to be changed at some later date should we need to or want to go to an automated solution. All lights are wired with a combination of remote controlled dimmers and battery powered touch sensitive wall switches.





It’s a simple system that means the lights can get turned on from the wall switches or the remote. The dimmers retain there last level setting so come on at last setting when the wall switches are used.



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Nice work.


Why on earth did you not just block off the lower stairwell to give yourself a safe working platform when you were erecting the top flight?  Some joists slipped through the spindles and a couple of sheets of ply would not have taken too long.

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12 hours ago, Mr Punter said:

Why on earth did you not just block off the lower stairwell

Good point and we did think about it, site safety can't be ignored and we do take it very seriously.

I must confess I overplayed the drop, the distance between the two sets of stairs is pretty much a constant at 2.7M so I was never far from the lower steps. The other problem was the need to put in timber supports as we went. Having considered our options, working from a small set of steps properly supported was the best.

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14 hours ago, Dunny1234 said:

Great job! Looks awesome 

Thanks, it's all to easy to forget to stand back and look. Sometimes it feels like everything takes forever, at others you can't believe how much has got done.

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Looking fantastic, good to see some thought being put into stairs.

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3 hours ago, markc said:

Looking fantastic, good to see some thought being put into stairs.

The stairs are really important, especially when they are in a windowed void. The price of bespoke stairs tends to be very high, so it's nice when you can get a kit that looks the part and does not cost an arm and a leg. Our three stair cases came in at 8k(not including VAT) which makes them a bargain.

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