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  1. 5 points
    At the same time that all the indoors first fix was going on during December, there was plenty going on outside, too. From the perspective of the build, the main event was the slate cladding but the thing that drew by far the most attention was the digging of the pond. I use the term 'pond' loosely, and it has been the subject of great debate, but it is a wildlife pond. Not a swimming pond, not a boating lake, nor a flight pond, which are all alternative suggestions that have been made. It will be a wildlife pond. Let's begin with the simplest thing - a old inspection whiteboard from work and a permanent marker meant that I finally got a sign up to stop all our delivery drivers carrying on down the lane and annoying the farmer. During the design stage, the architect was very keen for us to have the super-trendy (around Dorset, anyway) burnt larch effect cladding, but we really didn't like it at all. Not the colour, but the overall effect, and so when we saw a house with slate hung vertically as a type of cladding, we decided that was the one for us. I persuaded our roofer, Dylan Faber, that this would be a really good job for him to undertake and add another string to his bow. We had originally intended to use Marley vertigo slates, which are designed to be used for that purpose, but it turned out that they aren't used much in the UK and would have to be made to order in France and then shipped over, giving a lead time of somewhere in the region of 8 to 10 weeks. Instead, we used the same slates as are on the roof, but with the Marley trims and accessories, and it all worked out well, particularly as the slates were slightly cheaper than the Marley ones. The brand is SVK. The process is exactly the same as for the main roof - membrane, batten and counterbatten with the slight variation of using copper rivets rather than the hooks that were used on the roof and they're nasty scratchy things that you don't want to lean up against. Here's the first stage of the prep work: Once all the counter batten was up, the slating could start. The team started at the front as this is the most weather exposed area and I was keen to get some protection on it and make the building more water tight. A little later that day: Other than the stairwell section, the whole of the upper floor of the house is now clad with the slate, and a fine bit of work it is. Dylan Faber and team have been a pleasure to work with and I would gladly use them again. The stairwell section will be clad with the stone slip Tier system that's going to cover the ground floor. This gives a nice break to the slate and reduces the visual impact of the upstairs, and this work should be getting underway at the start of February. It's a little later than I had planned, but that's largely due to the lead time to get the materials in as the supplier has stock of every colour apart from the one we're having. Besides the slate and the stone slip, one of the more dramatic features outside is the brise soleil that sits in front of the stairwell window. This is a vertical run of horizontal cedar fins that are held in position on a RAL coated steel frame. The brackets and coach bolts that hold the frame and fins in place had to be done as a first fix item and before the cellulose was blown in. There are 3 sets of brackets, top, middle and bottom, and it's the top and middle ones that take the majority of the weight of the entire structure. The MBC timber frame construction means that there is nothing behind the outer boards and so the positions for the brackets had to be packed out before installation. This meant cutting out a section of the airtight board on the inside, attaching some nice sturdy noggins to the external wall from the inside, then re-sealing the cut out. Clearly, trying to do this once the cellulose had been blown in would be more than tricky. Once packed, the guys from Contrasol Ltd, who are supplying the system came along and first fixed the brackets. Here are the top ones: And here are the centre ones: In due course, once the cladding is complete, the framework will be attached to the brackets and the timber fins fitted. Contrasol have been a really good firm to deal with and the standard of how they approach things has been very professional. Besides working out all the loads for the framework, etc., they also calculate the optimum angles for the fins and the fins themselves are engineered and precision cut. The fins are actually manufactured by Vincent Timber Ltd in Birmingham, and they are things of beauty in their own right. Here are the fins carefully stacked up just after delivery: And here's a close-up of them: Besides the house itself, we've intended from the outset that the garden and field were every bit as important a feature and fundamental to this is the wildlife pond. One could ask what else we would do with such a large plot otherwise, but this has allowed OH to realise a long-held ambition of having what we hope will develop into a fabulous haven for wildlife. Given that, there seemed little point in limiting our ambition at the start so our groundworkers, Keith and Gail, got digging. This started off with me using a couple of cans of line marker paint to give the outline and then Keith scraping off the turf. Next up was scraping off the topsoil so that we could retain that for later use. Here's the outline of the pond, as seen from the scaffolding. Keith had just started digging out the deeper part of the pond when the tracks came off the digger - the first of many times that day. That will teach me to try and save money by hiring kit from the local farmer. This is what he had to contend with multiple times: We finally got there over the course of a few days, and here's the pond with the deeper centre dug out, prior to having these scraped a bit more and given gradients rather than steps. Once things were smoothed off a bit, this is how it ended up. The water you can see coming in is from a land drain that we broke through, which we will leave broken as it's as good a source as any to fill it up. Our attempts to block the other end of the land drain haven't worked so we need to give this another go in due course as we'd really like the water to stay in the pond. Finally, this is to prove that I'm an equal opportunities employer and that ladies can do groundwork as well. And because Gail felt very neglected about not being pictured on the blog when she and Keith have done so much work on the site. This one's for you, Gail! Keith's other act of vandalism work that week was to give the old electricity pole a good shove and get it out of the way once and for all. Most satisfying. Next up on the blog will be more inside work involving vast amounts of plasterboard and rockwool, but that's for another evening. TTFN
  2. 3 points
    Right, Christmas came and went - I had spent enough time with my family and friends, recovering from the previous 3 months. It was time to resume on site! ☺️ So, first up - inspect what the basement looked like, now that it was largely enclosed... Big mistake, because it was horrendous: You can see that the water level is approx 2/3 of the way up the first course of blocks, so about 250mm deep. You can also see the bit of EPS that were chipped away to make the 95mm bearing surface for the floor beams, just floating around. Still, nothing that couldn't be remedied, and at least the basement was holding water - that suggested it might be able to keep the water out, too! Now, we were starting to do things that required real tools to be kept on site. When the groundworkers were on site, we had hired a proper site cabin - hot and cold water, cooking facilities, drying room, toilet, etc etc etc. However, now that we were above ground, it was going to be just me and the occasional mate helping out. Kim had off-hired the site cabin, and swapped it for a porta-loo. Can't really keep much in the way of tools in a porta-loo if you don't want them nicked... So we decided to buy a van! It had a few dents, but it was nice enough, and it would hold the tools, generator, etc, safely overnight. Cha-ching! Now, another reason we hadn't made much progress over the holidays was because we were lacking some fairly necessary items to carry on building - the wall blocks. The ground floor ICF blocks were due for delivery the week commencing 11th December 2017. They actually arrived on site on the 12th January 2018, so just over 4 weeks late. This was something of a running theme with Logix, TBH... if you recall, the internal wall blocks for the basement were a few weeks late too (and you'll find out just how late the rest of the blocks were delivered later in the blog!) Still, they turned up eventually: Still, ICF blocks now on site, we were able to progress... A day later, and we were looking at a decent amount of the external walls done (3 courses, most of the way around), and we were starting on the exciting 45-degree wall between the hallway and the garage: 3 courses turned into 4 courses, and all of the window openings started to be formed: (The ladder was our only means of getting into the basement now, but TBH we didn't really care about down there - we just wanted to get the shell completed and progress to watertight as quickly as possible... Regrettably, that was going to be more problematic than anyone could have envisaged at this time!) Anyway, the walls were flying up, even with all the steel reinforcement having to be put in. At least above-ground we only had a single face of steel to worry about (and our builder-turned-consultant pointed out that we didn't really need any steel at all except in lintels, because: the concrete mix we were using was so strong, and because you don't put steel into brick / block walls, which are perfectly acceptable for building houses with But we did it anyway, just in case we ever decided to move the entire house to Jupiter (where 300mph winds area apparently possible, and where, therefore, our level of reinforcement would come in handy). 🤔 (In case you are wondering, the vertical steel isn't in as of this picture - they were all placed once the ICF walls were finished being assembled!) 4 more days on site (although 2 weeks had passed - remembering that I was only part-time at site, and I only had a mate helping me out on weekends), and we were putting up the bracing system again. Here's our exciting 45-degree wall inside the garage: Isn't it lovely? You can also see the fantabulous set of steps I made from a couple of the many many 10" core ICF blocks we had left over, thanks to a considerable over-estimation by Logix. (I needed the steps anyway, because I am a short-arse and couldn't reach to put steel in above 3 courses!) Some more pictures of the ICF going up: Another week passed... And here, at the end of January 2018 is where it got... hmm, let's say interesting... it was time to put in the lintel blocks for the 6m bifolds in the kitchen... It took me 3 days (so 2 weeks in calendar time) to get those blocks up and to sit square, and there was no way on earth they were going to stay like that with all the steel in them... time for some supports to be introduced to the opening! Size 1 acrows every 1m across the opening. They're bearing off the concrete wall below, so no problem taking the weight. We put a single 250x38mm timber across the entire 6m opening, with 11mm OSB cut to 330mm rips on top of that (to support the ICF blocks fully). On the inside, the bracing system stopped the OSB from moving. On the outside, we screwed timbers down from the webs to trap it. Then we jacked up the acrows approx 10mm at a time until everything was perfectly level / square / plumb. For some curious reason, I don't have photos of the steelwork in this wall, but it was prodigious - 2x25mm steel rebar in the bottom of the bottom course of blocks, 2x 12mm steel rebar in the top of the bottom course of blocks, and 2x20mm steel rebar in the top of the top course of blocks. 8mm rebar links every 200mm across the entire opening, plus onto the columns. I lifted and placed nearly all that rebar on my own (because my mate Paul had some family event on, he missed one Saturday, and I figured I could handle it)... big mistake! 7.5m lengths of 25mm rebar are very very unwieldy! I trashed one ICF corner block just resting the first 25mm bar on it while I got up on the scaffolding! Still, 5 hours of sweating and swearing later, plus some help from a more glamorous assistant in the form of Kim, and it was done...just in time for Paul to arrive and see how I'd gotten on! 🤬 Now, for the most part, the ICF walls had gone up fine. Even the 45-degree wall was a doddle. But those of you who were following the basement wall pour will probably remember that we had a couple of places where the basement walls went a little wobbly. This caused us a bit of a headache, because blocks wouldn't sit down properly in those areas. As it turned out, there was also an issue with the blocks not being level in those places either. This led to ever-increasing gaps between joints as we went up above those points, as you can see here: Solving this was quite a problem. We ended up using about half a can of PU foam in the 3 places this had happened, followed by some serious strapping across both faces of the wall to keep it together. I spent several weeks trying to get everything braced (making bucks for the window and door openings), and plumb, and before I knew what had happened, it was the end of March 2018, and time for another concrete pour... Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment!
  3. 3 points
    Okay, so I know that I promised another blog post soon way back at the beginning of December but it was busy on the build. Crazy busy, details to follow. As for Christmas, well, that didn't turn out as planned, and I had planned it so well. Both OH and I were proper knackered by the time we got into December - me with the build, OH running our business by himself, so we planned some quality R&R by running away to Gran Canaria on Christmas eve for a week. A fly and flop, turn ourselves into zombies for a week then return all bright eyed and bushy tailed for the new year. You just know this isn't going to end well, don't you? You'd be right. 2 days after we got to Gran Canaria, Paul started to feel off-form, then he felt crap, then he felt like death would be a more comfortable option. Turns out he developed real flu, not man flu, but real, proper, can't get out of bed to pick up a £20 note that someone has dropped on the floor flu. Not great, but it got worse. On Thursday, I learned the hard way why all-inclusive buffet style food has such a poor reputation and I mulled on this whilst turning myself inside out and wondering whether, in my sickly state, I had the necessary co-ordination to take care of everything with only one WC and no handy plastic bowl available. Thankfully, I did and whilst recovering the following morning I thought that the worst was over. You just know this is going to get worse, don't you? It did. We just about managed to get home (thankfully flying into Bournemouth) with OH in an increasingly sickly state. Ever the prima donna and insisting on trumping my food poisoning, flu became something between bronchitis and pneumonia and OH was a very sickly boy to the extent that tomorrow will be his first day back at work. I banned myself from the build for a few days in the new year as I'd caught a cold, but I couldn't be self indulgent about it given my patient was worse. So, if there's any justice in the world, we should be good to go for the next and final stint on the build but I'm all to aware that life isn't fair, so we shall see. Enough of plague and pestilence, let's get onto the plastering bit. Actually, I'll come back to that because although in real time we are mid way through the skim now, a vast amount has gone on since early December when the cellulose was blown in as first fix got started in earnest and at a break-neck pace. The plastering has only started in earnest in the new year and I'd like to cover the first fix stuff that happened in December, given that this is the heart and circulatory system that will make the building function as a comfortable home. We received our planning permission just over 1 year and one week ago and I already knew largely how I wanted the building to function, as a result of reading so much here on BH. Serendipitously, about the same time as PP was granted, Nick popped his bicep. This was disastrous for a plumber but brilliant for me as it meant that I was able to drag him on board to design the systems for my building from the outset. Every cloud, and all that. Things have moved on and been formalised since then, but suffice it to say that all my plumbing, heating, MVHR and electrics have been seamlessly integrated into the building and designed alongside the technical and engineering drawings from MBC by Total Energy Systems Ltd, headed up by Nick. Other systems firms are available, of course. Here is Nick and team. You will see that in the true spirit of accuracy, Nick doesn't have the sun shining out of his posterior, but a laser beam shining out of his head. The nature of the first fix work means that it's hard to photograph the amount of effort that goes into it, but there is plenty. Initially, the team is focussing on getting all the MVHR pipes through the metal web joists and, in time, insulating them. Then there are all the underfloor heating pipes to be run through to the right places and the manifolds. We're having UFH upstairs as well as downstairs - the ground floor manifold is in the very useful cupboard under the stairs, the upper one in the loft space along with all sorts of other interesting things. Here's a nice selection of the MVHR pipes, some insulated, as well as the clipped up UFH pipes that are insulated where they are tied together and in contact with one another. And here's a close up of the insulated UFH pipes. Neatly done. Much thought has gone into how air will flow around the building with the aid of the MVHR system. In particular, in the large open plan lounge/diner/kitchen area, and how to ensure that none but the stinkiest cooking smells make it out of the kitchen area. As a result, there are long runs of the MVHR pipework leading to plenums at the far end of the lounge area where air will flow into the room. The exhaust pipes for this area are (almost) directly over the hob on the island at the far end, so the airflow should ensure that all the cooking smells get sucked up and out over the kitchen area. Here's a photo of the inlet plenums either side of the window at the far end of the living area. Originally, the architect designed the entire upstairs to have vaulted ceilings, including the landing. Whilst MBC were still drawing up their engineering drawings, we asked for the landing area to be boarded out to create a loft area as this would be an ideal space to stuff a load of plant, including the MVHR manifolds. On reflection, this was also a good decision as I think the proportions of that area would have looked very odd and felt like a vertical tunnel due to the height of the ceiling at that point (4.7m). The MVHR manifolds have been neatly attached to racked out sections in the loft area, making sure that room is left for the upstairs UFH manifold and, in time, the PV inverters. Here's the loft area back in December: And the one on the west wall. You can also see the UFH manifold and the black cables from the PV panels that will be connected to the inverters. There were also the soil pipes to tackle and these were planned to get sufficient fall on them as they came through the web joists: For anyone tackling a similar build, I can't stress too much the advantage of having your systems people involved from the very start. It means that any holes that need to be put through steel beams to accommodate pipework can be designed in and made at the fabrication stage. Even then, things can go awry and a couple of the steel penetrations were either off kilter or not in the right place, but the majority were where they needed to be and made life much easier. An example of this kind of thing is the stud wall between the landing and the en-suite for the master bedroom. In order to be able to hide the various pipes that travel up to the loft space, Nick asked MBC to make this into a twin stud wall and specified the depth so that it would carry the pipework. Here it is. A bit tricky to see, but you can easily see the benefit of being able to conceal this bulky pipework into the fabric of the build. Speaking of concealing things, all the loos in the house are wall-hung with the cistern concealed in the wall. All you see is the loo and the flush plate, and so the framework needs to be put in before walls are boarded and plastered. Here's one such frame: I'm on a bit of a catch up now so stay tuned for the next exciting episodes of ponds, brise soleil and vertical slate cladding. Ta ta for now.
  4. 2 points
    You could pave the half nearest the house and have a step or 2 up to decking at the back, where you could have a properly fixed rotary washing line. Dig out where you are paving and put that under where the deck will be. Consider keeping some borders / planting pits. A bit of effort on design will cost next to nothing and the finished garden will be much better.
  5. 1 point
    So in my last thrilling instalment I was moaning about how I had just spent 6 days putting in the first row of blocks well for the next week I kept on to my mate helping me that I hoped that wasn’t how the rest of it was going to go, I mean 6 days for 1 course, how bloody long was it going to take to do 12 courses. Well one afternoon we had finished doing a few odd jobs and I thought it was about time to get on with putting up the main walls right then god loves a trier 4 hours later I had this lot up. Bloody hell that was easy so the next few days we spent knocking all the Lego together, still easy, then it started to get a bit more complicated, some idiot has designed this house with far two many openings, small pillars of wall between the openings and SEVEN gables more advice, build something square with just 4 external corners it will save you hours of agro So more windows and openings slowed the progress a bit, things you sort of forget about is all these windows and doors require some form of support, so you add a bit of timber to hold all the icf in place, then you wake up at 2 in the morning and think, should I add some more bracing, then you watch a YouTube video of an icf concrete pour so you add a bit more timber, then you talk to a lad down the road who has done half a dozen icf builds he pops around one afternoon and adds his thoughts into the mix, you guessed it. More wood added, it was starting to look more like a timberframe house than icfso we’re up to lintel height so in icf you don’t actually install a lintel but cast them in situ, lots of reinforcement bar added to the inside of the blocks so when you add the concrete it all makes a monolithic concrete structure. Plenty of steel over these openings tbh it was a thorough pain in the arse, lots of steel a skinny gap and fingers like sausages does not make an easy job. So reo in,corners braced-its time to install the bracing system that hold the walls all plum before you install the concrete now some of you may think you should have put the bracing up a long time ago, and you would be correct but the way my icf provider hires the bracing out meant I would be paying for it for all the time it was on site, so I decided to not bother having it on site until I actually needed it, with all the bracing it was once again looking more like a civil engineering project than a house. 7.30 one morning the concrete pump turned up and for the next 12 hours all hell broke loose i had arranged everything perfectly, extra tea bags plenty of milk it was going to be a breeze ol yea bucko don’t get cocky, I had 3 lads coming to help all with a set job. And at 8.30 on a Sunday night I got a text from from 1 of the lads saying he had a poorly tummy, oh boo hoo to###r so we are now down to 3 of us in total and hence why all hell broke loose, we ran around for12 hours solid I managed a cup of cold tea halfway through the day and 1 slice of toast, we ended up troweling the top of the walls with head torches on and a floodlight. Anyway it’s all in first lift done,no major disasters, one tiny bit of wall that has a bulge in it that I can fix with a mornings fettling. Things I would recommend if doing icf, add lots of bracing every where, if it looks dodgy add a chunk of timber the big orange pipe thing is called a MUD SNAKE it fits to the end of the concrete pump hose and allows you to place concrete so much more accurately than with the big rubber hose, it also allows you to squeeze the end and stop the dribbling concrete from running out when you pass over an area that doesn’t need concrete in, hire one it’s the best £30 you will ever spend. Dogs, if you have a stupid dog try to prevent him getting his head stuck in an icf off cut.
  6. 1 point
    It's just dense EPS. Snapping with your hands isn't easy but possible, about the same difficulty to snap as a 38x25 roof batten I'd guess. Depends on the type of block, and the manufacturer. The Logix XRV blocks that we have used above ground are 70mm internal, and 102mm external face. Depends who you ask... Logix say it is slightly more thermally insulative, but our builder (who is very clued up on ICF) says its essentially a con and just a coloring agent...
  7. 1 point
    We're going to see what happens by letting nature take its own course for the first year or so. We're not intending to use tap water, that's for sure - way too expensive and demanding for a pond of that size.
  8. 1 point
    Lol...if I write too fast, I'll catch up with real time, and then you'll have to wait more than a few days between updates! 😉 Don't worry, I'll cover the concrete pour in the next post tonight / tomorrow! In the meantime, I need to get some assistance from @PeterW and @Nickfromwales on my heating system - I have a plumber coming tomorrow to connect up the boiler to the heat bank, and no idea what I am doing!! 🏳️
  9. 1 point
    Nah. Always leave 'em suspended...
  10. 1 point
    Heh. Also bear in mind that there are some cost-saving threads around, so you can probably get up to a third more material for the price you first look up in Wickes, and that it is also useful to do a heat model on the famous @JSHarris spreadsheet, and that it is worth taking a few years .. say 10 ... heating bills into account for your lifecycle cost. eg You can get a routine 10-20% off at Wickes itself with a Trade Accoutn and a Reloadable Cash Card, for example. The thing about the fabric improvements is that you only get the chance to do them once, and only have to pay for them once, so some bullet-biting helps. it particularly helps when you are half under a floor at arms length with a staple gun. F
  11. 1 point
    We have looked into the tax position and are seeing the accountant on Wednesday so will add more after that, Our son is thinking of buying the 2nd house so we may sell him the plot adn then he is a self builder so can get VAT back.
  12. 1 point
    Sorry We normally shot fire Hilti nails into steel But if you haven’t got a gun You can simply run a band of gyp sealant down the edge of the steel and trap the edge with your next saved board
  13. 1 point
    Yes sorry separate structural engineer fees are standard rated. You will only get them zero rated if (for example) you order a timber frame kit and they include the structural engineer’s design for the frame as part of the package.
  14. 1 point
    Plan well, and consider where recessed items may be fitted later ( such as FR spots / speakers with FR hoods etc ) and pull the ducts once. got caught out a few times and had to pull out and reinstate a couple, but you'll get the hang of it if you're the 'hands on' type. If you're feeling brave, its far less wasteful if you can at least provisionally fit the outlet 'boots' and terminate as you go. A lot easier to see where you're runs will actually end up if you have given yourself visible targets. The 'all round' metal band to mount the duct securely came from Screwfix.
  15. 1 point
    Can I ask why they insulated the mvhr ducts? You normally only do that if they pass through a cold zone.
  16. 1 point
    Sod all to do with making one, just about knowing how they work so that one that does heating and cooling can be chosen. Not rocket science, just a matter of reading the specs and understanding that the manufacturers of ASHPs often hide the fact that they will cool just as well as they heat, perhaps because to be eligible for the RHI the cooling functionality has to be hidden, even though it's always there for a heating ASHP.
  17. 1 point
    You remember that blog that republished Pepys 300 years later? This is the building version.
  18. 1 point
    @Sue B, another one here. This time mine will be (not started yet) a passive slab combined with screw piles (because of unstable soils, clay beneath that can heave, and lots of tree roots that need to live a long and happy life). I have collected a small sheath of cross-sectional diagrams of piles and rafts. Any of the raft of pile companies will have one that they can send you.
  19. 1 point
    @Cambs What was your reasoning in Using Storma to do your building control please It was one of the warranty company’s approved inspectors, so was driven by the choice of warranty company and my desire to combine building control inspections and warranty inspections to hopefully reduce costs.
  20. 1 point
    FWIW, we have a passive slab AND piled foundations. Although we don't have a high water table, we are on highly shrinkable dessicated clay down to 12m and beyond. We could have managed without piles but then would have had to reduce dig to about 3m and backfill - based on my now known cost of muckaway, this would have cost in the order of £40k +. Instead, we had a reduced dig to 800mm, then mini piles. The mini piles were put in in one week and the muckaway was far more modest as well as being considerable cheaper on the groundworker labour and plant hire. We also had the UFH pipes buried in the slab at the time it was done and the heating zones were planned in advance to allow this to be done.
  21. 1 point
    FWIW, the core components of an air con unit and an ASHP are identical, and many units can be run both ways quite happily. The only difference is that a heat and cool unit will have a 4 way reversing valve, a heat-only unit will also have a 4 way reversing valve, but a cool-only unit may or may not have a 4 way reversing valve; it depends on whether or not the manufacturer just uses a generic refrigerant circuit for several models in their range. We've been running our ASHP in both heating and cooling mode pretty much since the day I installed it. Cooling mode wasn't advertised as being available by the UK company that badge engineered it, but was there in the control system and just needed to be set up to enable it to work.
  22. 1 point
    There are different types of ASHP and an AC is an air to air ASHP. A2A HPs can provide cold air only or warm and cold air.
  23. 1 point
    It's not just an English problem. Most houses built with tiles in Scotland are built with felt over the joists, unless it is for a council.
  24. 1 point
    Any WRAS approved pipe lube works OK. Most are just a water-soluble gel that contains glycerin and thickened with methyl cellulose (pretty much identical in composition to KY Jelly...).
  25. 0 points
    Super cute We lost both our six and 12 months ago
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