Since the basement was finished at the end of June things seem to have been dragging on for ages but we are finally out of the ground and ready for the timber frame. It has taken 13 weeks and we had delays with materials that held things up but when I look back at the photos from the basement being finished to where we are now it is amazing how much has been done and we’re very excited about the timber frame going up next week.
When the groundworkers came back post-basement they started by insulating the basement walls externally with 200mm of EPS 100 and then backfilling with clean crushed as per the structural engineers specifications.
Then they started digging the foundations for the ‘arms’ of the building as I call them and you’ll see why from some later photos as the main building looks like the body with 2 x arms coming off it. These are a garden room (that links to the kitchen/diner) and the utility room and garage. These are designed as insulated slabs with 300mm EPS underneath which you can see in the photos.
Here we see I had to put some Perinsul blocks in, thank you to @ToughButterCup for getting them to me.
While that was happening the brickie was also on-site building the internal walls for the basement. We have a 3m ceiling height in the basement so we had to get scaffolding in to build them safely which was another expense I hadn’t planned for (beginners naivety) but something that had to be done.
It was around this time that I purchased a DJI Mini-2 drone. It is brilliant and has given us a whole new perspective on the build. Here are a few videos from before the slab pours (please excuse the auto-added cheesy music that DJI added).
And some photos of the slab pours.
I also put in some VCL between the basement and ground floor as a Tony tray.
Once the slabs were poured we move on to the block and beam flooring. This caused the biggest issue with getting materials as the company the groundworkers were using moved their lead times from 15 days to 6 - 8 weeks which would’ve put us stupidly behind schedule. So I sourced some beams from a local builders merchant and paid the beamers to cut them to size on site rather than waiting for the correct sizes to be fabricated and delivered. It was pretty stressful to say the least. But what made it worse is that I decided a while ago to move from precast hollow core slabs to block and beam but no one along the way told me that the beams couldn’t take the load of the walls above like the hollow core could and, by chance, during my conversations with the block and beam company designing it I found out that I had to put supporting steels on top of the basement walls to take those load bearing walls from above ground. Back to the structural engineer to get those designed and then fabricated and installed.
And then the beamers tell us that they won’t do the work without a complete fall arrest system across the entire basement 600mm down from the top of the basement walls. Back to the scaffolders to come and put that up at yet another expense (although the safety of the contractors is important to us so I didn’t grumble too much!) and we were finally ready for the block and beam to be installed. So what turned out to be the decision to save a few £k by moving to block and beam has in the end cost me a lot more due to the extra work involved. Oh well, you live and you learn.
Anyway, the day came for the beamers to install it and they were a smash and grab outfit but that is, apparently, what all block and beamers are like. They just turn up and smash it out and leave without any due care and attention. To say they were miffed that they couldn’t do that on our build due to the steels on the basement wall is an understatement and comments like ‘if I’d known there were steels I wouldn’t have taken the job’ and ‘I’m losing money of this job’ really filled me with confidence. And if I ever do this again I will probably do the block and beam myself as, although hard work, it’s not complicated and I would’ve done a much better job.
Anyway, it was done and they left and we could get on with laying the coursing blocks for the sole plates to sit on.
This is where I insisted on precision and I spent a lot of time out there with the brickie assisting with setting out to make sure everything was spot on for the sole plates and checking that the levels throughout were within 5mm - 10mm across the building. It was time consuming but I think the accuracy will pay off in the end. While that was happening and with the timber frame imminent the scaffolders came and put up the required 2 lifts around the entire building and by 5pm the Friday before the frame was due it was all finished and we were ready……or so we thought.
The timber frame ended up being delayed by 4 days due to the chippies testing positive for Covid-19 (the first time we have been directly impacted (not including the material shortage etc) by Covid) and during that 4 day delay the contract manager attended site and noticed that the garage (which is 120mm below the main house) had it’s coursing blocks below the main house. After a quick email exchange it was pointed out to me that I’d misread the plans and that those blocks, and the sole plates, need to be at the same level throughout so I needed to raise the coursing blocks by 120mm in the garage by the end of the following day. The groundworkers have moved on and I couldn’t get anyone to do it so I knocked up some pug, borrowed a disc cutter, bought myself a trowel and got laying. I’ve never laid blocks before but I did spend a lot of time watching and helping the brickie so I had a good idea as to what to do. I started after work on Wednesday (sole plates due to be fitted Friday) and finished half of it well after dark and then got up early the next day to finish the rest off. And it worked! Level and straight (ish) and still standing the next day. Phew!
And this is where we’re at right now.
Timber frame ground floor wall panels are due next Tuesday so we should really start to see things happening rapidly now and within 4 weeks our superstructure will be up. But that will be the subject of my next blog.
Here’s a time-lapse video of this part of the build. I had to speed up the footage x10 and each day is about 4s long so things happen at quite a speed but it’s amazing to look back and see what has been done these last 13 weeks.
Thanks again for reading and I hope you’re enjoying this journey as much as we are.
Until next time…