We have our building warrant, FINALLY. I have a new job. The small one has started school.
MBC are here. The glorious day of the 29th August arrived, and so did the vans, carrying Brendan's crew. The sun was shining, tonnes of sand were delivered and painstakingly spread out. It's amazing how much time the MBC boys took to make sure everything was exactly level before carrying on, I found the level of care that was taken very reassuring, and of course Sean was on hand with a terrible joke whenever required. Sometimes, also when not required.
Our months of waiting for the building warrant were not completely unproductive as we now have a pimped out site office, including a cast-off white leather sofa (practical colour choice for a building site), high speed wifi, a gopro to capture the build, a desk (with executive chair), first aid point, filing cabinet, H&S kit storage, many many many copies of all the plans, and most importantly of all, a tea/coffee point with fully stocked biscuit drawer. "Luxury!", as the MBC boys proclaimed.
Drainage channels were hand dug the next day - a nervewracking time with measuring and re-measuring. The brand-new-just-out-of-the-box Bosch laser measurer was ceremonially launched from the top of the rubble pile by the small one, landing with an ominous crunching noise. "That will hardly have affected the accuracy at all", we thought. Still, at least we know who to blame if all the drains are in the wrong place.
Over the months/years we have had various thoughts about where the kitchen island should go, but now we come to decision time. The drains and conduit must go in, today, and they are non-changeable. The island will be all our workspace (the rest is floor to ceiling units) so needs an electrical feed and hot/cold water as well as a drain for the sink, waste disposal and dishwasher. So, instead of making a decision that will inevitably be wrong, we decide to put in the two final options.
1: The architect's recommended positioning that we think is too far away from the sunny spot
2: Our preferred option, closer to the large sliding doors
We try and position the pop ups in such a way that the unused one will be under a sofa or table and hopefully not too noticeable. It is almost guaranteed that the architect will be right in the end, as he always is, but it's a struggle to commit at such an early stage. The unused one will be cut off, and topped with an official plaque set into the floor, engraved with "always listen to the architect". We're justifying it as a feature.
The next day was the delivery of the EPS on a very large lorry. Our site is right in the middle of town and the access is surrounded by garages and illicit parking. This time of year, there are no students around, so although the lorry is a tight fit, there are no hastily abandoned cars in the way. Next month though....
The EPS ring beam is fitted and the footprint of the house becomes rapidly visible. Although pre-warned by our architect that the space would look small with no walls up, we are both thoroughly freaked out and convinced that the rooms are all too small. There is measuring, re-measuring. comparing against plans... but nothing we can do. Thankfully, on our way back to the rented place, we drive past a new build estate that is also just at foundation level. We slowly realise that the footprint for those homes contains a 3-bedroom house AND garage. Ours is generously sized in comparison, to say the least.
The next few days are taken up with making steel reinforcing cages, laying UFH pipe and checking the drainage (again). My time is spent at work, obsessively checking the weather forecast. We have, against all sensible and knowledgeable advice, decided to attempt a smooth concrete finished slab. No tiles, carpet, wood, screed, diamond polish … nothing. Trying to explain this concept to the many people involved has not been easy. Reactions have varied between trying to convince us that diamond polishing to a mirror finish is hideously expensive (we don’t want a mirror finish – there are deliberately no shiny surfaces in the whole house, as I am obsessed with matt finish and hate polishing) to “but it’ll look like a B&Q warehouse!” (my dad). MBC are also not keen AT ALL, due to a problem they had with a previous job where the finish didn’t work and all the window/door thresholds had to be redone to allow to an additional screed to go on top. Showing people a photo of a farm shed floor that had been done by a friend by just powerfloating the surface for longer than normal did not help. The conversation went along the lines of the following:
“This is the finish we’d ideally like, it’s a farm shed.”
“…..? A farm shed? For cows?”
“But, polished to expose the aggregate? What kind of aggregate do you want?”.
“No, no aggregate. Not polished. Just powerfloated.”
“But it won’t be shiny, and that needs specialist tools.”
“We don’t want it to be shiny. Just smooth. Like the IKEA warehouse. Or B&Q”.
“hmmmm.” (sucky teeth noises follow..)
The process was somewhat wearing, but we rode confidently over everyone’s objections and doubts anyway and carried on. One thing we did know (from our farm shed creating friend) was that rain during or shortly after the pour would be bad. Very bad. It’s September, in Scotland. Could have been worse. Two week ahead forecasts are notoriously inaccurate. Right? Right? I had seven different weather apps on my phone at one point, all saying the same.
A 14 day forecast went to a 10 day one, then a 7 day one .. rain all week, particularly heavy on the day of the pour. Just to put the cherry on top. The day before we poured the floor, it tipped down all day. Not 5 minutes passed without freezing rain. The next day, I left for work, having deleted all the weather apps and given up all hope of a polished floor. At the site – not a cloud in the sky. Brilliant blue skies, sunshine, tonnes too much concrete. The MBC crew powerfloated the slab for much longer than they normally would, and by the time I saw it at 8pm that night, it was as smooth as we could have wished for, and a beautiful mottled grey. If I wasn’t a rabid atheist, I would have sworn I heard a troop of celestial trumpets playing.
So, a perfect end to a brilliant first stage of the build.