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  1. 27 points
    Well, folks, that's it. The last nail in the last joist. Its been hammered in HARD. Here's why. For reasons only known to the inexperienced self-builder, I put the floor joists up working from both ends of the room to the middle. 400 centers. That makes a gap between joists of about 328ml. The middle three joist are longer than the others - they had to be inserted closer than the others: 310ish. Tight. Well tight if you are my size. Arms and head above the top chord of the joist - beer gut wedged firmly between the POSIs, but swinging the hammer now like a demon (900 nails down and just a few more to go - all because of you @Pete). Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. Well yeah, until it came to turning round to reach that sodding wedge to help nudge the top chord a mil or two higher. Christ this is tight. Turned a few degrees. Couldn't reach the wedge. Bugger - - Hand in my pocket - - maybe there's a spare wedge in there? Nope. By this time there is a semi painful wedgie though.😳 Dropped the hammer. "Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo" Stumped, and firmly wedged, I realise I am going to have to wriggle out of this. Up? No way Jose. Not strong enough to overcome the effects of the beer years. Starting to sweat a bit now. More from annoyance than anything. Down? No choice. Only way . Now, those of us whose work trousers 'need' braces because our trousers have half a ton of tools hanging off them (all lies girls, just lies) will realise that descending through a really tight space has an inevitable effect on your braces. That partially painful wedgie now got worse. A lot worse. You see the back clip of my braces caught fast on the bottom chord of the joist. The front of my work trousers started to pull hard. My eyes started to water I think. By this time, my hands were in the air, and my head altogether too close to the gap between the joists. And suddenly with one bound (as it were) I was free. PING - THUMP The clip of the braces parted company with the waist band - shot up inside my clothing and hit the bottom of my shoulder. No wedgie pain now, just shoulder pain instead. All of this was happening dear reader at the same time as my T shirt, gillet and windproof were slowly making their way past my beer gut on the way to my my head. Couldn't see a thing. But sure as Hell, I could feel my shoulder. A few seconds later, there I was topless on the scaffold boards. Cold? No. Furiously hot. Just a matter now of jumping down to the floor. Yep, I suspect you are ahead of me......... The jump was elegant. Feet and knees together (just like I wuz taught) Thump. I stopped. My trousers didn't. Normally that wouldn't matter. No need to fuss over a small thing like that. Standing in the doorway way my best friends wife with a grin from ear to ear. I wouldn't have minded but her dog went mad.
  2. 18 points
    Big day today. Scaffold finally down. I’ve still got a few outside jobs which I’m going to have to do off my tower, just couldn’t justify any more weeks hire! Still soooooo much to do
  3. 17 points
    Some of you will know that we've recently completed our build and moved in. What you may not know is why we built the house we have, and why it is quite literally proving to be a breath of fresh air. Mrs NSS has had various health issues all her life, not least chronic asthma, but a little over 4 years ago things got a whole lot worse. Cumulative damage from the asthma had left the lower third of both lungs in shit shape, and this had led to a 6-weekly cycle of chest infections and antibiotic courses. This vicious circle eventually resulted in hospital admissions for pneumonia and pleurisy, and a diagnosis of Bronchiectasis, a degenerative lung disease for which we were told there was no treatment/cure. My first and only question to the clinician was, "Okay, so what can we do to slow the progression?" The answer, "in an ideal world, live in a hermetically sealed bubble". Essentially, eliminate as many of the irritants (airborne particles and allergens) to her condition as possible, and that's what I set out to achieve from our new home - not so much building the dream as building the bubble. Four years on, plot found, research conducted, house designed and built, and the news is so far so good. We've been in for about two months now and the difference has been remarkable with her reliance on inhalers significantly reduced, and sleeping much better due to reduced congestion. This week she had her regular respiratory check up and her breathing was found to be the best it has been for several years. Yes, it's early days, but if this house enables me and Mrs NSS to enjoy quality time together for longer than may otherwise have been the case, then it will have been worth every sleepless night, every bead of sweat, and every single penny. Whatever your motivation to self build, take a deep breath and go for it - you won't regret it.
  4. 17 points
    So after 14 months of stress and worry we were granted full consent, for a replacement dwelling on our plot. A couple of years ago we where told we would not get planning full stop, so being a bit of an awkward bloke I decided to go for it. We have had to jump through plenty of hoops and spent a big chunk of cash but it’s done, PASSED. I would like to thank @JSHarris for his encouragement in making a scale model, I think this shocked our planning officer to the detail we had put into our application, I think he was also shocked when I produced photos from the 60s showing our plot and our neighbours house. so the moral to this is don’t give up if you feel you are right and also supply as much supporting evidence as you can. Im going to add up all the bills and see what it has cost us, if anybody is interested I will put them up. Thanks to anybody who offered advice or encouragement. Russell and Lorraine Griffiths.
  5. 16 points
    So last blog had seen me doing my first icf pour, and it was a proper baptism of fire, 3 blokes running around trying to do 4 mens jobs bloody nightmare. So next stage was to get some scaffolding up and build up the next bit, I decided to buy some scaffolding as I’m building this myself I knew it would be a long term project and renting scaffolding was going to be a complete non starter, so 4 grand later I own a load of scaffolding. As usual the walls flew up fairly quickly, until you get to a gable or a window so for some unknown reason when I designed this place it ended up with 7 gables with 2 different pitches and 17 windows. That really slowed things down a bit. from what we learnt on the last pour we knew we needed to add a bit of bracing around the windows So it all got a bit messy looking with random bits of ply every then it decided to snow so I had to bring out one of my all time favourite sayings. IN CASE OF RAIN OR SNOW TO THE PUB YOU MUST GO. So for the next couple of days not a lot happened. With icf you can fit additional structural parts as you go up even if you don’t need them yet, as when you cast the concrete core it locks in any fixings you have in place, one of these things was our roof support timbers or pole plates, these where fixed to the face of the blocks with temporary screws and anchor bolts poked into the hollow core ready for the concrete to encase them. if you look at that long timber halfway up the wall that’s our poleplate for that side of the house, all bolts are in place and restraint straps embedded into the inside of the blocks ready for concrete. Above the pole plate you can see a funny wooden box, this is shuttering to form a cantilevered beam that supports the roof, there are 6 of these in total with the longest sticking out 1900mm from the main structure, so lots more reinforcement in these and then ready for concrete. The second concrete pour went without a hint of any trouble, and we even pushed the boundaries of sensibility a few times by pouring the concrete to a depth not recommended in 1 pass without a hitch, this sounds like a recipe for disaster but we had little choice, let me explain. It is recomended that you pour aprox 1-1 1/2 courses at a time in a single pass, so starting in the middle of a wall go all the way around the house up to your 1.5 block depth or 600mm aprox, you then go around again starting at the same place this gives the concrete just enough time to just start curing very slightly, this will Norma get you to a point of having an empty truck, perfect it gives you chance to vibrate anything you need to and have a quick cuppa, then the second truck turns up and you go around again, 2 trucks of concrete or 15m and your up 3/4 of your first pour, and then so on. Well with our second pour it didn’t work like that, as we had lots of windows and funny gables the actual concrete amount was fairly small 11m but with that 11m of concrete we had to lift 5 courses of blocks, so 2 passes around the perimeter of the house meant we had to come up 2.5 courses at a time, which was a bit bum twitchy but was perfect it worked a treat. one of the beams after the last pour. feeling rather smug.
  6. 16 points
    Will be leaving the technical speak to@Nickfromwales and @PeterW From my perspective: heating working in all rooms - tick! solar working - tick! rooms heating rapidly (as opposed to taking 24-36 hours to increase the temp by about 3 degrees) - tick! enough hot water to fill a bath / shower - (even the big bath) tick! extension connected up - tick! able to run hot water without the heating being on - tick! TS not emptying itself of hot water within about 30 mins without the boiler being on constantly - tick! Plus everything has been labelled to within an inch of its life. A magnaclean filter has been fitted, various new pumps etc have been installed. I have a new outside tap, the loo in bed 4 now works and various other things have been done, including them sorting through the endless pile of shite here helping me understand what I should keep vs things to throw away. Massive massive thanks to @PeterW and @Nickfromwales, and @PeterW‘s mini-me Will (who consumed his body weight in Tunnock’s tea cakes). I can’t believe that Nick and Peter have never met before as they seemed like guys who had worked together for years. These guys put in more hours to fix the things here than I could have imagined possible, fuelled by bacon, beer and coffee, and some good humour, with lots of banter. 7am and they are already up swapping some things over when they didn’t finish until gone midnight last night. And Will is going to come up again to finish the other bits and pieces here when I will finally be able to say that my build is completely finished. It’s been a pretty long haul after everything that happened here. Buildhub rocks! I could never have imagined when I initially posted about my vat claim 2 months ago that it would also be the key to sorting my heating woes and other unfinished bits and pieces.
  7. 14 points
    A busy November saw all the trades coming good, albeit some were cutting it fine for the moving in day – 30th November – However, we have moved in with all the services up and running. Having said that, BT and Openreach have missed the deadlines and as a result we are without any internet, phone line or TV for at least a week! Also the master bedroom built in wardrobes are still be fitted. The landscapers have finished their work, providing us with a patio area and a driveway area which will see plenty of activity. Look closely and you should see the hedging that has been planted. 330 separate plants in all. This was a planning condition and the hedges are a mixture of Hawthorn, Beech, Holly and Maple. Locally referred to as native hedging. The turf will be laid next Spring. Our Air Tightness test was conducted by a guy from Perth - a good couple of hours away. We never set out to achieve such low levels because we didn’t want the capital outlay of such a system as well as the infrastructure it requires. Our score was 4.9 which in our eyes is very good. There are a number of minor jobs which I need to do such as touching up the paint work here and there; re-oiling some wood in places but all that can wait until we have given the whole place a deep clean. The main external jobs outstanding are the erection of the oak framed porch and the downpipes. Both of which should be completed within the next 10 days or so. Anyway, this was not a self build in the true sense of the words but it was project managed by myself and built using a main contractor and sub contractors after the TF had been erected. I hope you have not only enjoyed reading about our project but have found some useful bits of information within the blogs in order to assist yourselves with your projects, whatever that may be. Overall my experience has been a good one. It hasn’t been without its difficulties, such as additional unforeseen expenditure and additional expenditure as a result of our mistakes, or due to us changing our minds! Such examples include ordering the wrong door frame - we failed to realise we hadn't ordered a threshold suitable for level access - a mistake that cost us £1k. Changing our minds over the 3 toilets we had ordered. They simply looked lost in their respective environments so 3 new ones were ordered at an additional cost of £850. A failure to get a full grip of the scaffolding cost an additional £1k and a failure to budget correctly for the foundations and dwarf wall for the carport cost an additional £4k. Final facts and figures - Build schedule – 6 months from the day the TF arrived. Cost per sq metre - £1850 – includes everything, and I mean everything - from the scaffolding through to the landscaping and it includes the car port and porch [ still to be erected] but not the land or fees. Only two skips were used throughout the build – everything else was removed by us to the local dump or burnt on site – best investment was a £25 oil drum which we used as an incinerator. Thanks for reading - Paul.
  8. 14 points
    And so almost another month has gone by but progress is still being made on the build and, just as importantly, hubby and I got away for a week's holiday in northern France just as the warm weather hit. After our abject failure at R&R over Christmas, it was wonderful to have a really relaxing break without illness or stress and come back refreshed for the final push on the build, which is just as well as there's a busy time to be had over the coming weeks. In the last blog entry, I detailed some of the painting and kitchen fitting that had been going on and there's been more of this recently. I've been getting the colour coats onto the walls upstairs but haven't managed to complete a room yet apart from the kitchen, but I'm generally pleased with the neutral colour choice. I say generally, though, because in the lounge, the different light in there makes the wall colour bring out the warm tones of the internal window frame finish which makes them look a slightly odd peach colour. It's not awful and I'm not going to change it now, but if we ever redecorate (hah!) it will be something I check before committing. For the more vertiginously challenged amongst you, you may wish to look away now, as here's a view from the top of my internal scaffold tower when I was putting the colour coat on up to the vaulted ceiling above the gable window in the guest bedroom. And here are the colour choices. The purple will be on one wall only. It looks a bit garish at the moment but once the room has its furniture and soft furnishings in, it should tone well and add a bit of life to the room. Cutting in and painting up to the high vault was a bit of a challenge, but I got there. I really didn't want to get any colour spatter onto the white ceiling so opted to use paint pads rather than a roller and I was pleased with the outcome. They give a good finish over the sprayed mist coat and are far less physically demanding than a roller. I was painting upstairs as the flooring guys were in downstairs putting in the karndean (same choice as upstairs) and it kept me productive but out of the way. Given all the work that went into making the dropped section of the ceiling in the lounge area, I wanted the floor to echo this but not in too obvious a fashion and so the team took a laser reference from the inner square of the lounge feature and reversed the direction of the planks, using a feature strip to create a subtle border. First, though, they had to screed the floor with a latex self levelling compound. In preparation for this, I needed to turn off the UFH a few days before they arrived to make sure the screed didn't go off too quickly due to the heat of the slab. I turned it off on a Friday afternoon and they started work on the following Tuesday and it was just about perfect. Once the screed was down, the floor was scraped to make sure it was completely level and then primed. After the priming, the planks were put down. Here is the snug - I went in the weekend before the flooring guys arrived to get the mist coats and ceiling painted as it's far easier to do when you only have to mask the windows and not worry about any other area. Here's the long view of the kitchen/lounge area: And here's a close up of the feature border underneath the ceiling feature: Moving on from the flooring and painting, my joiner, Harry has been busy at work on the kitchen. In particular, he was working on the large walnut work surface for the island. I decided months ago that I wanted solid walnut for the island but then, as I'm sure happens to many, I had a last minute dither and started looking at other materials instead. In the end, I decided that granite or other stones really didn't give the colour tones that I wanted and laminates weren't wide enough. I sourced the walnut from Worktop Express as they were very competitively priced for what I wanted, and delivery was quick. I looked at using their online template service, but it was just too tricky to get the different profiles right and, in the end, decided to get Harry to make up the island top on site. It was absolutely the right choice as he's done a lovely job on it. Here's a photo of the finished top with the induction hob surface mounted into it. A word on the hob. You can recess the work surface so that the hob is flush, but I preferred it to be surface mounted, sitting proud of the walnut, purely from a cleaning point of view and so I don't have to spend ages digging out crumbs and bits of food debris from around a flush recess. These are the two worktops as they arrived from the supplier, waiting to be joined together. Harry routed along their length, used a biscuit join and then glued and clamped. The worktops being clamped. They look and, indeed, are lighter in shade than the first photo as they come treated with one coat of Danish oil. Harry put a further two coats on once he had sanded the finished surface. The area where there appears to be a base unit missing and where the surface projects beyond is intended as a breakfast bar area. There will be a supporting leg on the near right hand corner. Because the kitchen and island are large, I didn't want anything to be too matchy-matchy and wanted to break up any monotonous areas. Also, I didn't fancy walnut as the worksurface leading off the sink as I think that's asking for trouble in the long run. So, I went hunting through laminate choices. Way back when I was first considering the kitchen, I had been thinking about using large format tiles with a metallic type finish as the splashback, but it was proving to be a gruelling and not very fruitful search. When I eventually revisited this part of the kitchen a couple of months ago, I came across some laminates with exactly that type of finish, nice long runs (I need a 4m run for the back work surface) and with matching splashbacks. I also wanted to line the recessed area under the island with the same material to make it more durable and give a contrast in materials and textures. I sourced the laminates from a firm called Rearo and dealt with their Newport branch. They were lovely to deal with and very helpful. Here's the splashback applied to the breakfast bar recess. Harry beefed it up and packed it out with some ply and then put the laminate edging onto the ends to give a substantial look. Whilst we were away on holiday, my splendid general builder and neighbour, Drew, got on with putting the rainwater goods up. I'd ordered in soffits and fascias from Fascia.com as they had the width I needed in anthracite grey to match the slates and windows, as well as vented soffits, which save a lot of bother and look much neater. The guttering is all deepflow and was mounted onto black fascia board. I looked at other colours of guttering, but none of them were quite right and black guttering is so ubiquitous that the eye kind of slides past it. Having it mounted on the fascia board also reduces the visual impact of the brackets that can look a bit clunky. Whilst he was up there, Drew also mounted our swift boxes and bat boxes. We were required as part of our bat licence conditions to put a bat box somewhere on site, but this is something that we had planned to do all along. Also, there has been a dramatic loss of habitat for swifts that migrate to the UK to breed in the summer and we wanted to make provision for these too, in the hope that we're lucky enough to attract them to our site. These fabulous birds migrate 6,000 miles to reach their summer breeding grounds and are the fastest birds in level flight. Once they have fledged, the only time they ever land again is to sleep and recover from their migration flight and to feed their young. They are the most fabulous birds and I would urge anyone to make provision for them wherever possible. If anyone wants details of where to buy some brilliant swift boxes, PM me and I'll send you the details. Here are the boxes, all sited on the western corner of the north facing wall. Finally, today marked a milestone in the house progress - the scaffolding is coming down. Our foul and surface water drainage works start on Wednesday and the site needs to be clear to allow access for that. Any remaining work at height can be done from ladders apart from the cladding, but I will hire a separate mobile tower of some sort for that work once I've had a chance to identify what will be most suitable. The stone cladding arrived a couple of weeks ago, ready to go up once the drainage work is done, more details of which will follow in the next post. Here's the south face gradually being revealed. The crates to the right of the picture are the stone cladding. Here's the east face slowly coming into view. And another view of the same. Work planned for this week is more plastering, more painting (if I get the chance as I'm the plasterer's labourer this week), groundworks and starting to move some young trees to the site that we've been nursing in pots at home for 12 months. Next week, the en-suite bathroom will be started, the kitchen finished and the utility room kitted out. Plenty to do yet. TTFN.
  9. 14 points
    Well, finally an update. We won the appeal. The inspector pretty much confirmed what we were saying all along about "overdevelopment" and visibility ("intent observer" wouldn't be able to compare the houses in the row due to vegetation) and the neighbour's houses not being the limit the plot can take. Happy days. Big thanks to everybody for the support and advice during this process. On the back of a recent post by @Big Jimbo and following a quick conversation with Mr Luxton at one of the shows I am seriously considering putting in another application that utilises space behind the existing attached garage to form a gym (ground floor only). I do want to bully the bastards who pretty much stole a year of our time - if I can. More questions to follow :-)
  10. 14 points
    We have just finished a self-build and as we went along I made notes of the things I had learnt during the process. What follows are those notes and I hope they will be of some use to people who are just starting out on their projects. I must of course add the caveat that all that follows is only my personal opinion. Although I now have some experience I am no expert and it is of course up to everyone building their own home to seek professional advice about their project. RED'S ADVICE FOR SELF-BUILDERS 9th September 2018 GENERAL 1. Try to work with everyone on your project via email as much as possible so that you have an audit trail of what has been said to people. If you must have a meeting, confirm everything in writing, right from the start. 2. You are about to be on the receiving end of a lot of documents, mostly in electronic form. I kept all ours and it amounted to 1,132 files (in 169 folders) consuming 2.8 Gb of data. Decide early on how and where you are going to store your documentation (electronic and paper) and stick to whatever system you are using. DESIGN 3. Make sure the house is of a specification that is appropriate to the size/type of home you are building. A big expensive house must have a high specification or else you may find its value is disproportionately affected when you come to sell it. 4. Check the local vernacular for design ideas – it can be nice to reflect local building techniques or features and you will get fewer objections from the local community and council. Imposing your personal taste on an area is unlikely to make your life easier. 5. Keep basement walls as simple as possible – they don’t have to exactly reflect the above-ground level walls. Angles and corners increase cost, sometimes unnecessarily. 6. From the design phase onwards, ask that ALL drawings of plans and elevations include a metre scale so that when measuring things you can see how big they are. Sounds obvious but they were not included on ours. 7. Drainage issues can present huge problems in the future if you’re not careful. Look at your plans and see how close your sinks, baths, showers and toilets are going to be away from the soil and vent pipes (probably in the perimeter walls). The longer the distance the more difficult things get and the more likely you are to be plagued by blocked drains in the future. Additionally, be aware that the higher the volume of water, the steeper the gradient of the pipe and the larger its diameter should be. Otherwise you can end up with gurgling sounds, low water exit flow and blockages. This is all in BS5572 and is not that difficult to understand. In short, if you possibly can, keep plugs close to soil and vent pipes and make sure you can access/rod the pipework when it gets blocked! 8. Think twice before selecting fancy plug fittings for sinks. Ask yourself “How is anyone going to be able to fix this when it’s installed and covered in limescale/dirt/etc?" 9. With all fittings/equipment that may need servicing at some point in the future, will you know who the manufacturer was and will you be able to get spares? 10. Decide early on what type of cupboards you are going to have – don’t leave it until later on in the build. Ikea do a great range of cupboard carcases. If you want to go for these cheaper, pre-made type then the rooms can be sized to accommodate the standard sizes these units come in. 11. Be prepared for the fact that contractors involved in the building process rarely have any visibility of or interest in innovation. You may hear them say that that have been in the business for x years and have a wealth of experience but the problem is that what they actually have is a lot of experience doing the same thing over and over again – they tend not to be interested in new products, techniques or materials. Although it’s boring, the more standard your design is the easier your build will be. 12. In your design pay attention to the direction doors open and the positioning of light switches. 13. Ask how your architect/designer/builder wants you to provide information on the locations for items in rooms, e.g. sockets, switches, lights, etc. What symbol scheme should you use? 14. Check that the sanitary ware works together properly. Our toilet flush buttons are (annoyingly) hidden by the seat when it’s up. 15. A good rule for exterior tile and brick colours is ‘dark at the top, lighter at the bottom’. 16. Don’t use small stones on the driveway – it gets picked up on shoes and taken into the house. 17. Wood-effect porcelain floor tiles are very good – very hard-wearing and they look realistic. 18. If you're running water supply pipes some distance from the road, pay a bit extra and have the largest diameter fitted (63mm outside diameter?). Whilst static pressure may not be affected by narrow pipes when the water is not flowing, the pressure may drop substantially once flow starts. Trying to fix poor water pressure is expensive - fitting a large diameter pipe is cheap. Note that the connection to the main at the road will be a 'standard' size and will certainly be smaller than 63mm! PLANNING PERMISSION 19. The planning process is not nearly as hard as it sounds. Consider doing it yourself – don’t pay someone to do it if you feel you can. 20. If there are any trees that need to be cut down for your development, do it before you apply for planning permission but of course ensure that there are no Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) or other restrictions in place. 21. Check that there are no restrictive covenants covering your property. You can check this to some degree of certainty by ordering the electronics deeds to your property (you can download them from the web for a few pounds). You can get restrictive covenant protection insurance just in case someone surprises you! It is reasonably cheap. All covenants are for the benefit of someone – and it is these people who can make a claim against you if you break the terms of the covenant. 22. Try to work with your local planning department rather than against them. Their aim is to build as many houses as possible (to meet government targets). Believe it or not they are on your side but they have the local residents at their throats trying to stop any building in their area. Give them reasons to allow your development. 23. Make your design a little bigger than you want and negotiate down. 24. During the planning process, all the documents that you submit to the council are likely to be published on their website. This in turn will be indexed by Google and other search engines. If you have submitted electronic copies this will mean that details such as your name and address will be instantly retrievable by anyone in the world. Therefore, if you want to retain some degree of privacy, always try to submit paper, hand-written copies of all documentation. 25. Keep records of everything that appears on the Council website – particularly the letters written by local residents. They will probably get deleted after a few months but having them in your possession can be extremely useful. 26. Planning departments express opinions on planning decisions to be made by councillors based on local and national policy. Highways departments do not have opinions – they have rules which allow them to provide planners with information about the way that a scheme will or will not meet Highways requirements. However, note that planners are allowed to ignore this guidance if they wish. 27. Back up everything you agree in person or on the phone with the planners with an email. PROJECT PRICE 28. Your project is going to cost you a lot more than you thought. There are several reasons for this: - Your contractors will not be motivated to watch your costs as closely as their own and so will find that things are more expensive than they thought they would be; - Contractors are not necessarily perfect at planning – they may be genuinely unaware of costs that emerge during the build and this ends up costing you money; - Prices tend to rise rather than fall; - You can’t remember everything and there will be things that you decide you want that you hadn’t budgeted for. 29. We found that ‘PC Sums’ (see Explanatory Note below), i.e. the non-fixed sums that amount to whatever the builder has to pay, were nearly always over the estimate, between 20-60% (and that’s without any extravagance!). If you decide that you want a more expensive option than a ‘normal’ item which would represent ‘par’ for the project then it is fair that you should pay more. However, on a fixed-price job, make sure you agree that PC sums are not allowed to escalate when you only want the ‘standard’ level of item. My recommendation here is: - Try to get rid of as many PC sums as possible. - Obtain some sort of agreement that the PC sums will remain within control. It is very important that they have some focus on giving you a REALISTIC idea of what your costs are likely to be rather than just minimum figures. Note that it not in their interests: -- to price up to a reasonable amount for PC sums (because it reduces the chance of getting the contract) -- to expend work to reduce over-spends on PC sums. - Set default prices for items of the most basic specification which could be installed for the PC sum if you have run out of money. For example, ask for a price for a specific fireplace that you would be happy with if you were running out of money. - Make a rule with your builder that whenever an item is quoted for against a ‘Prime Cost’ (or PC) sum item, that the PC sum is also given, otherwise you end up being asked “Is x thousand pounds ok to pay for item y?” when you don’t know how much the PC cost was for that item. 30. For an expensive product which is relatively easy to specify, get lots of quotes. This is more difficult with a custom-designed object like a staircase – you are really buying into the company that will design and make it for you and this may be a long process. 31. Ask your builder if they intend to charge an additional sum for some amount they have to pay to the builders’ association or something similar. This can occur if you ask them for a more expensive item, e.g. a better roof, and the cost of installing it is higher than you expect because the builder has to pay a premium to an association based on costs. 32. A significant cost will be the various charges and levies that the council will make against your project. Planning permission will be granted subject to the council receiving this money. 33. Check to make sure that ALL the costs are included in the price. We had to pay thousands of pounds extra for things like fitting a new gas connection, air circulation system and digging up the road for the water main. Make sure there are no (predictable) hidden costs. 34. Ask what the contractors will add on for anything that they buy (often 10%). You might be able to save money by ordering some things yourself. ARCHITECTS 35. Undoubtedly architects can assist a self-builder but we didn’t use one. There were several reasons for this: - We knew pretty much exactly what design of house we wanted - Architects are generally VERY expensive - They often have their own vision of the house which they try to impose on the client. A frequent complaint from clients is that they feel that they have had to persuade their architect to give them what they want! - By having a contractor and a separate architect you run the risk of being caught in the middle of disputes between the two. If there is only one contractor then everything is down to them. In hindsight I am very pleased we didn’t use an architect (we created our own drawings and an architectural technician drew them up for us ready for the structural engineers). SELECTING CONTRACTORS 36. When selecting a builder, ask them to bring all the process documents and templates that you would be expected to be involved in or provided with to a meeting. If they bluster and make excuses about ‘working on an individual basis with each customer’ you know that they don’t have any processes. This is NOT good and it means they will probably repeat all the mistakes they made on the last job on yours. 37. Have your house built on the basis of a contract with your builders for which they are responsible for EVERYTHING. If you allow a situation to arise where a builder can blame someone you hired then you are heading for problems. 38. If you are planning to specify a particular company to perform a special task in the build, make sure right from the outset that they are prepared to meet any associated contractors on site and go through the plan, stating who will do what and when. Make sure that the overall project manager will take responsibility for co-ordinating the various parties. 39. Make sure that concrete form-worker contractors are chosen with care and ensure you know exactly what they are promising in terms of quality before you start. 40. Avoid situations where two or more contractors are responsible to you for the delivery of an item. 41. Above all, when you build a house, the selection of the main contractor will create a relationship where you have to place a lot of trust in them so you must convince yourself that they are worth that trust. I think we were very lucky to have our builders. BEFORE THE BUILD 42. Satisfy yourselves that you understand who is liable if something goes wrong with your house. For example, if an architect specifies some material to cover a wall, what happens if it falls off? The architect may blame the builder for not using the correct adhesive, the builder may then claim that he did or that he wasn’t told. In cases like this, who pays to have it fixed? What happens if a foundation shifts due to ground movement? Whose responsibility is it to fix it and pay for it? 43. Before the build starts state explicitly what trees, etc. that you don’t want damaged. Digger drivers must be briefed on what to avoid. Sensitive areas MUST be taped off at least. If it can possibly be damaged it will be – watch Grand Designs! 44. Agree a length of time that you must be given to make a decision from first hearing about it. You don’t want to walk on site one day and be asked how big the window sills have got to be with an answer to be given within hours. 45. Agree a process for dealing with serious issues. Note that an issue which is serious to you may not seem serious to your builder and vice versa. This could lead to accusations of either over- or under-reacting to a perceived problem. If you agree a process before you start the build this should not be a problem. 46. There are guides for good practice in the building industry. For example, the LABC have an excellent manual and there are British Standards such as BS5572 (Code of Practice for Sanitary Pipework). The problem is that the British Standards documents can be expensive to buy (e.g. over £200) but they are often available for free on the Internet as PDFs. Ask to see the standards to which the tradesmen are working. Seek assurance that a) the tradesmen have a copy of the relevant standards and b) will stick to them. If you have a copy of the standards it isn’t difficult to go around and check simple things. 47. Make sure that your contractors agree that any concrete surfaces or steps will have a slight slope on them so that water will run off them and that they will fix any which don’t, no matter how difficult. 48. Ask your builders (in writing) if they have any interests in/relationships with any suppliers. This is not necessarily a bad thing – it may work to your advantage. Anyway, it’s worth knowing what the relationships are. 49. Agree what happens to materials that leave the site, e.g. waste wood. Will it be sold? 50. Ask yourself where you are going to store the things you buy for your house along the way, e.g. taps, electrical equipment, etc. Consider buying a small, secure container and putting it on site for the duration of the build (you can easily sell it again on eBay) or ask your builder if they can provide you with storage. 51. If your builder hires a contractor such as a painter or architect to work on your build then (unless they provide a transferable guarantee of some kind) they are not answerable to you at all – they are only responsible to the builder. Keep this in mind in terms of your agreement with your builder and any guarantees or indemnity that you may in future rely on. 52. Regarding stage payments, it would be good to agree that if faults are found in a stage that has already been paid for, then an amount from the next stage payment is withheld until the problem is fixed. If you don’t do this, there is no real incentive to fix problems when they arise. 53. Agree in writing with your builder that they will tell you if an item that you are deciding upon has any criticalities – e.g. will the flooring have to be less than a certain thickness, does a fireplace have to be of a certain type, etc.? Also agree that they will not allow you to drift into a situation where you get the blame for something like this. 54. Plan for the fact that concrete screed can take months to dry to the point where wooden flooring can safely be laid on top. 55. Make sure the builders are signed up to pay for any heating and electricity that they use prior to you moving in. Our bills for electricity and gas came to nearly £1,000! If they won’t agree to this, make them agree to cap the spend at a fixed amount. 56. Tell your contractor that you want all of the documentation for every item that is installed into your house. It is best to get it as you go along – when the house is finished all the people working on it will evaporate and the last thing on their priority list will be finding the paperwork that came with your shower mixers. DURING THE BUILD 57. Builders are not always right. Keep checking what they are doing! 58. Watch for quality issues involving techniques that your builders aren’t experts in. This will be anything that is slightly out of the ordinary. With us it was (surprisingly) the concrete basement. They didn’t know what to look for in good concrete or what standard to demand from the concrete suppliers. I was surprised to see unmixed concrete coming out of the lorry so I videoed it. Our supplier denied that there was a problem until they saw the evidence. In the end, several areas of bad concrete had to be hammered out of the walls and redone. Keep an eye out for this sort of thing if you can. Incidentally, the reason the concrete wasn’t mixed very well was probably because the concrete plant was only a couple of miles from our site and the materials hadn’t had enough 'spinning' on the journey to properly mix them. 59. If you have valuable items of your own on site, make sure there is adequate security and that rules for the site are established and adhered to, e.g. keeping gates locked. In my experience builders are not very good at shutting gates. 60. Be prepared to make decisions. I know this sounds obvious but there will be thousands. Ask for a decision schedule and stay ahead of it. Work hardest on the big decisions – floors, bricks, windows, tiles. Don’t get overwhelmed – just start working your way through it and you’ll get there in the end. 61. One often hears builders complain that the client doesn’t know what they want or that they won’t make a decision. However, this isn’t always the whole story and knowing what you want isn’t always enough. If the contractors shrug their shoulders and say that they’ve no experience of some product or technique that you want they may not show much interest in finding out. This can make choosing features/fixtures difficult. 62. Keep looking – or have someone you trust with an engineering background to look – at the important parts of the structure and be satisfied that they ‘look right’. Amongst several serious faults that we noticed we averted an extremely dangerous, possibly fatal structural error when we discovered that a load-bearing element had been mounted on a non-load-bearing support. This was a genuine mistake but it showed that another set of eyes can reveal all sorts of things that the builders may have missed. I was also amazed (and very thankful) for what others spotted that we missed. 63. It is possible (for reasons that are not foreseeable) that a change may be necessary to the design/spec of the building and that new prices will have to be obtained. For example, if electric garage doors were specified but these cannot be fitted for some reason and ordinary garage doors have to be fitted instead. A quote will have to be obtained for the ordinary garage doors and the difference between that cost and the cost of the (more expensive) electric ones should be removed from the amount you will be paying for. You should agree with your builder that prior to obtaining the quote for the new doors, that the actual cost for the original ones is disclosed so that you are sure to get a proper rebate. 64. Be prepared for the fact that the suppliers of building materials have not moved with the times when it comes to quality control. In fact in some cases, technologies that have been with us since before Roman times seem to have advanced little! Take for example bricks – you cannot pick brick colours from a board of brick ‘slip’ samples and then expect to get the same colours delivered. Ask any bricklayer. The only way to guarantee colours is to go down to the brick yard, select the ones you want and take them away with you. The same applies to exterior tiles. The quality control is nowhere near the standard applied to other areas of modern production (e.g. farm produce at supermarkets). The quality of concrete is incredibly variable in both consistency and mix. If you are looking for ‘fair-faced’ concrete surfaces, i.e. ones that are good enough to be visible, it may be a good idea to have a back-up plan in case it goes wrong. Note that the choice of concrete is often limited to those plants that are nearby – your builders may have little choice on which one they can use. 65. If you are working from samples then keep the samples of the things that you used to make choices and make it clear that the colours shown are the ones you expect to see delivered. If the supplier can’t guarantee that then pick another supplier. 66. Take lots of photographs of everything, no matter how boring. When the structure is finished and you need to know what’s behind a wall you’ll be grateful. Particularly useful is where pipes and other services are running behind walls and under floors. 67. Make sure that you decide and say where you need wood behind the plasterboard to support pictures, curtain rails and televisions, cupboards, etc. and then take photographs of where it is before the plasterboard is put on. 68. Keep a VERY close eye on what you are paying out. It’s a very good idea to create a spreadsheet which documents all the costs and then when they have been paid. AND FINALLY SOME OTHER NOTES… 69. In my experience professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Engineers are only there to protect their members, not the public. In my experience they will always maintain that their members are right and you are wrong – the member is the one paying them – not you. Always have in the back of your mind that you cannot rely on any professional body to protect you from their members. 70. Don’t expect the Local Government Ombudsman to uphold any complaint you make against the local authority. In my experience they rarely take any complaint seriously. Take a look at their website and try to find a dispute that has ended up in the resident’s favour. Even those labelled as ‘upheld’ often don’t force the local authority to do anything to rectify the matter. 71. If you are using a home automation system which controls the lights, make sure you put an ordinary light switch in the cupboard/room where system is. If it goes wrong you’ll need some light to fix it! Also, think carefully before using mechanical retractive light switches. For a simple on/off they should be fine but for special uses (e.g. double tapping for switching a light scene off) they are not very easy to use. Consider the touch-sensitive (capacitative) type - they are far easier to use. 72. Don't allow things which will need replacement or servicing to be boxed in with decorative panels, etc. Make sure it is easily accessible. 73. If you're building a basement in impermeable ground (e.g. clay) remember that basements can easily 'float out', i.e. rainwater can flow down the sides of the concrete, collect under it and then cause the basement to float. Yes, it sounds incredible and yes, basements are very heavy but so are battleships and the Archimedes' principle holds true for both of them. Make certain that a) that your builders have spoken to the engineer about this and fully understand and will mitigate the risks, b) that there is adequate drainage from the bottom of the basement during the build to prevent water collecting around the concrete 'ship' and c) obtain written confirmation from your engineer, backed up by his professional insurance, to confirm that the weight of the house's structure above will be sufficient to keep the house firmly in the ground when the project is finished. 74. I started with this but I’ll say it again – get all decisions in writing. If you make a decision verbally with anyone, back it up with an email. Explanatory Note: A PC Sum (Prime Cost Sum) is an allowance made by an architect or a builder in the price for a specialist contractor or specialist supplier. In most cases a PC Sum is allowed for electrics, plumbing, heating, kitchens, windows, etc. It is allowed on a lump sum provisional basis and the client is responsible for the actual end cost of the item plus a small percentage for the main contractor. It is in the contractor’s interest in the tender process to keep this figure as low as possible as it makes his overall figure lower even if it is well known that the provisional cost is insufficient.
  11. 14 points
    Hi all, Been a bit quiet here recently as been focussed on getting a temporary Habitation Certificate and ready to move in. We moved in yesterday - and what a gorgeous day for it. Building Control visited two weeks ago for the final drains pressure test, something i was dreading - I could get it up to pressure but it didn't hold for long enough. I filled the system to floor level and the water never budged, so there was no obvious leak - maybe an AAV or trap somewhere? I explained this to the BCO and he was fine with the water level test and suggested maybe air is leaking up through a trap under pressure. I had a problem with the bath trap - a shallow one but actually, doesn't function as a trap at all, so I'm currently trying to find one I can retrofit as access is limited. There's a bit of a story to that (to make @pocsterfeel better) but that's for another thread. We have one bathroom to finish (planning doing that next week), some carpets and flooring to go down and lots of small internal bits to finish. Then over summer lots of external details need completed (window trims, reveals, proper downpipes, coping etc etc), the garage finished and driveway put in. First night way lovely apart from a minor disaster that I've only just recovered. Can't wait to enjoy the house over the summer, watch the wildlife come and go, hopefully get some honey from our bees (they survived the winter), start working on my cars again once I get my ramp and just enjoying the finer things a bit more. It's been a great experience, and one we both agree we would do again at some point. Not as big as this one tho, but this is likely to be our forever home. We've been building pretty much for three years non stop, it all seems a bit odd now as we recount all the different stages. Needless to say, we would have struggled a lot without this forum - thank you everyone - there is such a wealth of information here that almost every question can be answered, or nearly, and if not, it's only a few button presses and hours away, so thank you everyone - more often than not it's the basic questions that have been most useful. Back to work for me next Monday - I finished in December to focus on the house so back to Mon-Fri 9-5!
  12. 13 points
    Well folks 11 months of living in this house with hellish low humidity not to mention other problems caused by poor mvhr set up finally seem to be sorted. A week on from the change to enthalpy exchanger and rebalancing the system to the guildlines from you guys in here the house feels good to live in for me for the first time since moving in last April. Humidity in living areas running at 39-40 and bedroom at about 42. Temps pretty constant at 22.5- 23. Co2 levels up to between 500-600 as now not overventilating (I never knew there was such a thing!) The house feels much warmer and ufh is not kicking on as much. We are running on my system Level 2 (absent) which is 70% building regs and using Level 3 (living) which is 100% building regs, as bathroom boost. Level 4 blow your socks off rate is now not used. For the first time I now get what you all have been talking about with the MVHR benefit. Got the same people coming back in a few weeks to help sort out the UFH which has never been set up properly. Thank you lovely people I’m grateful for your help.
  13. 13 points
    Had the air tightness test & EPC done this week. Not really ready but had to do it to meet the deadline for the FIT. House nowhere near finished, just plastered, have 2nd fix to do & MVHR not on yet. Air test result was 0.41 & EPC A rated at 99. (Of course if I fit solar thermal at a cost of £4000 it could score 101 & save £64 a year. What nonsense.) Huge relief. My husband would have been so chuffed.
  14. 13 points
    So the floors in and it’s time to start putting up this icf stuff now there’s many ways to build stuff and I chose to build the icf up from the footing blocks and incorporate the block n beam floor in the process, thus locking the ends of the beams in place this first course of blocks would then get filled with concrete up to finished floor level. With the height difference between the foundation blocks and my block n beam floor, this meant I had to cut the first row of blocks with a step in them, the inner face half the height of the outer face. OMFGG. What a shit choice that was, I think I am possibly the worlds expert on icf cutting, what I thought would be a couple of days work took 6. Cutting leveling, plumbing up, more cutting the static generated by cutting the blocks is ridiculous, the little bits stick to your face arms, hands anything that it fancies. This is a pic of the stepped block, inner leaf cut smaller than outer to allow next course to come up level from that. So 6 days of cutting the bloody stuff and it’s all the way around the footprint,fill it with concrete and that’s another bit done. The random spacing on the reinforcement bar relates to pillars that will be between openings we have a lot of openings and not a lot of wall between them we also have some very substantial reinforcement over the windows to compensate for the lack of wall structure around the openings Tadar that’s that done. So anybody going to start an icf build with block beam floor let me know and I will tell you exactly how to do it. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES FOLLOW THESE PICTURES. unless you want 6 days of frustration. 🤪🤪🤪🤪 Bugger me we thought we where down sizing.
  15. 13 points
    Just accepted an offer for £285K, cash buyer, no chain, no mortgage, can complete the purchase in around 6 weeks. Looks like our strategy of pricing low and asking for offers in excess of the minimum price achieved a sale price that I suspect is higher than we'd have got by asking for a higher price and negotiating down. Just off to open a bottle of wine...
  16. 13 points
    One final push today saw all the furniture and curtains put in place- a big group effort with much input from the in-laws. I'm very fortunate to have a MiL who is an ace seamstress and who has a bit of a thing about Harris Tweed. To say I'm chuffed is a bit of an understatement. It's been over four years since the concept of this project first appeared, and three years since work began in earnest. Today we finally saw the culmination of all that effort as the building site was transformed into a home. It's exactly what I imagined: cosy, welcoming, stylish. We'll be listing it on the booking websites tomorrow (most likely a combination of AirBnB and Booking.com) so that will give me the impetus needed to tackle the lengthy snagging list and major outstanding jobs, most of which are on the outside. Some of the cladding details (corners and window reveals) aren't finished yet, the soffets need to be completed, and the biggest job of all is the decking. There's also the creature comforts of WiFi and TV to sort out. I know people come to Skye to get away from it all, but I bet the first thing they will ask for is a WiFi password Once again, huge thanks to everyone in the BuildHub community who has held my hand throughout this whole project. It's a lot smaller than many other builds, but it's been exceptionally hands on with me personally tackling almost every trade, from drafting the plans to building the kit; I even got an excuse to do some digger driving a couple of weeks ago.
  17. 13 points
    Woke up this morning in our new home! Now sat on the sofa watching tv in my new home, waiting for a full day of rugby TV to start so I can sit and sip cold beers in my new home! Can you tell I’m pleased?! Facts and Figures 1 year, 1 month, 14 days (Breaking Ground to Moving in) 4 Double Bedrooms 3 Ensuite 1 Family Bathroom 1 WC Open plan lounge kitchen diner Utility Room Double Garage Workshop Land: £120k Build Cost: £200k Size: 300m2 Cost per m2: £666/m2 (This figure is slightly off as a large part of my ground floor is garage / workshop space so can’t really be counted as fully costed m2. However I’ve also got a £30k retaining wall in the ground floor section that wouldn’t usually form part of the cost per m2. Either way I think I can happily say I’ve built for approximately £800/m2 which I’m very pleased with) Photos below of all the finished areas. Garage and outside space an ongoing project!
  18. 13 points
    Here are some photos of the finished house.
  19. 12 points
    Sorry for the delay since the last blog. Things have been very hectic keeping a track of everything that is going on with the build and holding a job down ! As we approach end of January and move into February there are lots of things going on simultaneously on site including battening the roof in preparation for the roofers, finishing of fitting the smartply in preparation for blowing in the insulation and fitting the windows and doors. The first window goes in on 30th January. Many of the side reveals to the windows have splays to help spread the light from the window. We are using Green Building Store Progressions windows and Green Building Store Ultra doors. The Progression windows are expensive, but the narrow sight-lines give a lovely contemporary look and very little of the frame is visible outside, so it should be as maintenance free as you can get and seems like a good investment. The Ultra doors look very similar to the Progression doors and are of a similar thermal performance but are more cost effective to purchase. From the 12th - 15th February, the Warmcell insulation is blown into the frame. I hadn't realised, but you can do this before all of the windows are fitted, as long as the boarding out is completed inside and out. By 21st February all windows and doors are fitted. A lot of time has gone into ensuring the windows are fitted properly and are as airtight as possible. In parallel, the brick plinth is built. Whilst you won't see all of this once the ground levels are built up, I am really pleased with the quality of the job. Next job is and fitting the Aquapanel in preparation for the rendering. The roofer we had lined up pulled out at the last minute, but we are able to get a local firm with a good reputation to take their place at short notice. We took a lot of trouble selecting the roof tiles and we are particularly looking forward to seeing the tiles laid. The roofers are on site beginning of March after a small delay due to rain to do the counter-battening and lay the tiles. The roof is a pretty simple shape so the roofers make quick progress. We are using plain clay smooth machine-made tiles made by Dreadnought tiles and supplied by Ashbrook Roofing. We found out about them at a self build show we attended and have had great support from both Dreadnought and Ashbrook. We are using two colours - 70% staffordshire blue and 30% blue brindle mixed randomly. Before you know it, the roof is in place. Big Day on 8th March as it is our first Air Test. We'd put 0.3 air changes per hour (ach) @ 50pa into phpp so we were hoping for something similar or better. Results were: 0.08 ach @ 50 pa 0.11 m3/hr/m2 @50 pa Absolutely delighted with the results. Given building regs are 10 m3/hr/m2 @50 pa and Passivhaus standard is 0.6 ach @ 50 pa, this is over 90 times better than building regs and over 7 times better than Passivhaus standards and a great testament to the attention to detail shown by the build team. Flashings between the wood cladding and the render are fitted. These were made by a Herefordshire based fabricator. Work continues fitting the cladding. We are using Douglas Fir, supplied by Ransford which is literally 5 minutes down the road. Once the roof has been laid and the weather allows, the rendering starts. We are using the Weber system, with a base coat applied first followed by a thin silicon based top coat which will be sprayed on. The roof and detailing around the dormer window are completed Once the cladding is complete and before the scaffolding comes down, we need to treat the cladding. The gable ends need a fireproof coating due the proximity of other houses, so it's one coat of primer, two of Envirograf and two of Osmo. The front and back of the house get one coat primer and two of Osmo. It's one of those jobs that costs more and takes longer than expected. We hadn't planned on having to to apply so many coats of product and in my naiveity I thought it would be a layer or two of fireproof coating on each gable. The wood looks a little orange at the moment but that is typical when new and it does weather down nicely which is what I plan to allow the wood to do. Hopefully to osmo will help even out the weathering but I have no plans to keep on applying it. The guttering is attached whilst the scaffolding is still up (Lindab galvanised) The scaffolding on the house comes down and goes up on the garage to allow the roof to be completed on the garage. The second coat of render is sprayed on and the shell of the house is now complete.
  20. 12 points
    We have just finished the drive 410 mtrs of paving 30 ton of sand My wife has pulled most of the paving on her little truck A monumental effort considering she is on 9 stone wet through
  21. 12 points
    So after a month or so in the house, the time has provided us with an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved and what if anything, we would change or could have done differently. In truth there is very little if anything that we would change. The rooms flow, the doors open in the right direction and the lights can be switched on and off in the appropriate places. Even the WBS has proven to be a worry that wasn't worth worrying about, as it's position within the hearth is no longer an issue due to it being vented through the back as opposed to the top. Some jobs have been completed such as the down pipes and a few jobs remain outstanding but nothing that has an impact upon our daily lives. One such job is the porch that needs to be slated. Thankfully I still have some financial leverage over those various trades so I know they will return. Our satisfaction I suppose, has to be routed in the preparation work, the research and being a member of this superb forum. None of these elements should be underestimated. Therefore I would like to sign off this blog with a heartfelt thanks to all those who have contributed, not only to my issues over the past couple of years, but to all the other threads, as they too are just as relevant / enlightening. I have also attached some images which complete the project, namely the WBS chimney installation and the erection of the much mentioned porch. For a final time, thanks for reading, and given the date, seasons greetings to you all. Paul.
  22. 12 points
    Like all Self builders we found we had a limited number of options for living accommodation during the build, given that we needed to demolish the bungalow to clear the plot for the build. The options were, rent locally or a caravan on site. Renting locally wasn’t an option due to the high rental costs, so we looked at the caravan option. The main problem was access, an 8 feet wide drive with a hairpin bend half way up, a dry stone wall, 80 feet tall trees and limestone outcrop put paid to that idea. A local crane company visited the site to look at the feasibility of craning the caravan over the trees, the narrowness of the road, a road closure and 4 mile diversionary routes for vehicles, a licence from the local authority soon put paid to that idea. Then a brief conversation with a neighbour and a lightbulb moment, we can up with the idea of a timber framed tiny house built in an orchard that formed part of the plot. The day before submission of the planning application a sketch of a small 7 x 5m cabin was added to one of the drawings. Thankfully we got planning approval. The construction of the cabin allowed us to practice our woodworking, insulation and other construction and trade skills. This is where we currently live. This what it looks like on a wet autumn day. Not the power cable over sailing the cabin. Happily the DNO installed taller poles to increase the clearance.
  23. 12 points
    So the piles are in, 29 steel tubes, smashed into the ground, down to a depth of 7.5 m, all filled with concrete so what’s next A RING BEAM. this is basically a steel reinforced beam that spans from pile to pile, so spreading the wall, floor, roof load down on to the piles. Piles in pic. So the ringbeam consists of a square of 450mm by 450mm reinforced concrete, the traditional method and one I have used in the past consists of cutting ply to the desired size and nailing and screwing for the next millennium until you have a mold in which to place you reinforcement and then concrete to form the beam. Whoo there boy, this is 2018, plywood is so last year so in 2018 what are we using. PLASTIC, BLOODY PLASTIC I have a love hate relationship with plastic, it is so clever, it can be extremely strong, but it also goes brittle and cracks, I find it very hard to recycle it so this is what the BLOODY PLASTIC looks like. To be perfectly honest it was terrific, all folded to the exact dimensions of the beam 450x450 it has a steel mesh core to keep it ridgid, it cuts nicely with a cordless grinder, i priced up to do it in ply and it was about ply £650 plastic fantastic £1100 but the labour saving was absolutely bloody huge, 2 of us had it all installed in 6 days, I think I possibly saved about 10 days in labour for 2 men so a massive saving. The plastic also stays in place after the concrete is poured, so a degree in waterproofing to the ring beam also. steel reinforcing, so over the years I have used more than a few tonne of this stuff, but I’ve never brought it in ready fabricated well blow me over what a breath of fresh air this is. All cages pre fabbed to your dimensions, a steel layout showing where it all goes, and a luggage label on everybit of steel. PERFECT the only Sod’s law bit to hit us yep you guessed it cage one is on the bottom of that bloody great pile of steel. This is the largest reinforcement project I have done on my own without a big bunch of lads as backup and it went so smoothly I had to do a little jig around the site. If anybody wants details of the suppliers pm me I would thoroughly recommend both companies. this is what it basically looks like, round pile poking up in middle of pic, steel reo sitting on top, plastic shutter to hold the concrete in place, back fill around the plastic to hold it in place CAREFULLY. this is is an example of a junction of 2 walls. So in this pic are 3 cages, 2 joined as a lap splice and one coming in from the side, all tied together and sitting on top of a pile. so 6 days of sweating, a minor amount of swearing we are ready for conc 24 cubic metres, one concrete pump, 3 lads, 28 degrees, all finished by 10.30am. 100 m of hessian soaked for 2 days in the water butt. That will do, off to Spain for a week to smash it up, give it large, and generally get drunk and fall about on the dance floor.
  24. 12 points
    When the sun is below the horizon and 450 divided by 2 = 250 it is time to quit for the day. My assistant setting-out surveyor and I had a minor domestic incident in the gathering gloom at a foundation profile where our joint mathematical error became apparent. The gloom was both visible and mental. We had no choice but to soldier on marking out the foundations because although it was 9:30pm, tomorrow was dig-day and the JCB would be onsite at 7:30am. I had seriously underestimated the time needed to set out the foundation plan for a main house and garage comprised of 5 interlocking rectangles and 4 internal supporting walls. As the clock counted down to dig-day some fag packet maths revealed I needed 35 profiles, 70 stakes for the profiles, the rock hard ground required that all profile stakes needed a pointed entry = 140 cuts with a saw and oh don’t forget the 140 screws. The elastic sail measuring tape in my toolbox had thrown out my initial schedule and meant the first setting out attempt was scrubbed because I could not get stable diagonals. A new 30 meter long £35 steel tape from Screwfix was the answer when paired with my proper surveyors grp tape. Three days after that trip to screwfix and after 3 days of punishing heat, we drove home defeated with an incomplete set of walls marked out. At 1am my mind was churning, should I cancel the dig and be branded in the locality as the hapless self builder who messed around the pro’s. Could we live with a trapezoid kitchen 25mm out of true, yes, but what about the stairs condemned by my arithmetic error to run up the supporting wall 25mm out. The alarm woke me at 3:15am, I was back onsite for sun rise and even the vocal sheep in the adjoining field seemed to be mocking me. Before Swmbo turned up at 5:30am dressed for the office I banged in the remaining profiles and we then marked out the missing walls in a new colour (those line marking paint cans gunge up quickly). The JCB arrived 40 minutes late which allowed me to walk the foundation plan with a superficial air of confidence that masked my inner fatigue. Mr Digger was not phased by the erroneous foundation line, he just rubbed out the bad line with his foot and said he would align the bucket edge to the good one. The sun was up, the sheep had shut up and it was a relief to hand over to the pro’s. The day just go better. Building Control arrived at 11am and decreed 1m trenches would suffice because ground conditions we so good, the clay looking stuff was actually silt. We could have got away with 225mm of concrete but I had ordered enough for 600mm foundations. Mr BC was in such a good mood he gave the assembled crew a quick lesson on how to distinguish nice silt from evil clay. Many visitors passed by and declared I had the best looking trenches seen in Lincolnshire for years.
  25. 12 points
    At last, most of our scaffolding is down, 5 months later than planned. In spite of all the trauma it has been worth it. Our views are lovely and the house is looking better than I had hoped. Guttering is arriving next week & a bit of finishing to the cedar & stonework & we are nearly there. Outside anyway.
  26. 12 points
    We are finally very close to being finished inside. We have been living in dust for two months. I have been trying really hard to avoid putting up pictures until it’s all done, but the stair is going in and looking beautiful. As there is another stair porn thread re glass balustrades I thought I’d join the party. Give it a few weeks and I’ll do a full photoshoot.
  27. 12 points
    I just thought I would resurrect this old thread to say finances have unlocked. I am still awaiting the small nest egg I was anticipating when I started this thread. That is still locked up in legal and technical bureaucracy and the sheer inefficiency and ineptitude of the solicitors dealing with that astounds me. I get the feeling a conclusion to that is still months away, and it pains me to think of the fees they will be charging for the "service" (sic) they have given. Anyway the unlocking comes from the fact a few days ago I attained the magic age of 55. That is the age you can unlock and start doing things with your pension money. So on my birthday I arranged for one small pension fund (the only defined contribution fund I have) to be transferred to a flexible drawdown account and I have taken the tax free 25% lump sum from that. The rest remains in my drawdown account to be drawn later as I need it, but will be taxable as income should I need to draw on it. That was not a particularly straightforward process as the provider the fund was with did not offer what I wanted so I had to first transfer it to a different provider, a process I started in January to ensure everything was in place to action it on my birthday. I always thought this was going to be the last source of funding to be unlocked and it still irks me that I had to wait until a specific birthday to access my own money. Ar least now we can start spending again (actually we started spending in February trusting nothing would go wrong and we would have the funds to settle the bills later this month)
  28. 11 points
    This may be of use to some people and of interest to others. Certainly I could not find much information before I embarked on our build and it was a bit of a leap in the dark. We designed our house with a swimming pool. It is quite an extravagance but my daughter and I really enjoy swimming and messing about in the pool and it is a luxury I have always fancied. The pool has now been up and running for the past couple of months and I am extremely pleased with it. The installers did a very professional job. As always I tried to make sure that there was as little maintenance as possible required. The filtration system by a company called DA-Gen is all automatic. In the last two months all I have had to do is put a pool cleaning robot like a Roomba in the pool every week and it polishes it up. Other than that there has been abolsutely zero maintenance. The installer told me that historically they would visit a pool once a month. They will probably visit mine three times in the first year and then less after that. The main job will be changing over the chemicals, and just checking everything is working. The pool automatically tests the pH level and adjusts as necessary. The pH is set at 7.2. The chlorine is set at 0.5 ppm which is the same as the local drinking water. The pool creates chlorine from salt when necessary and there is no chlorine smell or taste. The pool is from a company called Niveko. It is a one piece polycarbonate pool and came as a single piece on the back of a truck from the Czech Republic. The pool is 8.9m long, 3.4m wide and 1.3m deep. Thus it contains around 40,000 litres of water. I spent some time at the pool in the gym and reading advice from owners in America on what size to buy. Traditionally pools are twice as long as they are wide, but I wanted a pool that was long enough to swim lengths. Having tested out the gym pool I reckoned I needed at least 8m. If I could not get permission for this much floor space I would have investigated an endless pool where you swim into a current. Depth wise people recommended that a deep end was pointless as it was impossible to stand and play games. we often stand and play water volleyball and the depth is working out perfectly. More depth would just be more water to heat and more ground to dig out. I would recommend 1.3-1.4m depending on your height. I read up on various kinds of pools. A discussion with one company that build traditional tiled/concrete pools suggested a cost of £200,000 which was ridiculous. You can also have a liner pool where you build a concrete shell then use a waterproof liner inside. This is cheaper but needs replacing every so often. I also investigated building a pool from ICF. Although this seems like a good idea, I could not find anyone with expertise in it. Eventually I came across these polycarbonate pools. I liked the design as it has EPS insulation around the outside. The pool could also incorporate a built in cover. Around one third of the heating cost of a pool is due to evaporation. This also keeps humidity down. Finally the smooth finish compared to a tiled pool makes the build up of bacteria much less likely and reduces the need for cleaning and chemicals. It also means no sharp edges on your feet. The total cost for the pool, dehumidifying equipment, filtration, ventilation etc was around £80,000. The real cost is the 80 square metres for the pool room, plant room and changing room. This probably added around £120-150,000 to the build cost of the house. The building work was not complicated much by this, a deeper area of foundations was dug and the pool sits on a concrete slab similar to the ground floor of the house. We did find once we dug down that there was some underground water and it had to be tanked. The pool and ventilation were then put in place below floor level and covered up whilst building work continued. The pool sits on top of 150mm of EPS with a further 50mm around the outside. Historically a pool was a big negative on a house in this area, making them almost impossible to sell. The reason was massive heating bills and maintenance costs. Also they made your house smell of chlorine and the humidity would destroy your house. One thing that prompted me to write this is that we have our heating now all working as it should. I noted on another thread that they had not insulated the circulating hot water system. This has been done now. I thought that this was causing unexpected high bills for heating hot water. However, I have since realised that perhaps the main reason was that the pool, hot water and UFH had all been connected in series to the boiler. Thus when any one of them called for hot water from the boiler all the pumps ran. This was pumping hot water to all 4 UFH manifold in the house every time the hot water or pool called for heat. By my calculation the loops contained towards 200l of water which was constantly being circulated and heated unnecessarily. We have now separated the circuits and gas use has dropped dramatically. Before building the pool i tried to use @JSHarris heating calculator to calculate the cost of heating the pool. After a bit of messing around I decided that a pool was not different to any other room. The reason that pols historically use a lot of heat is that they were often put in orangeries or cheap extensions. Effectively you are trying to heat a large (80sq metres in my case) room to 28c all year round. These rooms often had single or double glazing. My pool is in a room as well insulated as the rest of the house with triple glazed 0.7 U-value windows. The area below the pool has 0.1-0.15 U-value, the walls 0.14. The heat recovery system is 90% efficient. The calculation said that the pool would cost around £500 a year to heat. Frankly even at £1000 I would have been pleased. Anyway I have been on holiday this week and checking our gas usage now that everything works as it should. We have been using 7-9 units a day depending on how much the pool is being used. We have been using 75-100 kWh of gas per day or around £2-2.75 a day in gas. Hot water is around £1 a day, so the pool seems to be coming in close to my calculation. I am very pleasantly surprised. This is heating the pool to 28C and the room to 24C when the pool is closed and 29C when it is open. The outside temperature has really dropped to around 15C. The humidity is kept to around 60% when the pool is closed and 65-70% when it is open. All in all it is a big extravagance but one I am very pleased with. It was great in the hot weather a few weeks ago, my daughter and her friends are loving it and hopefully I will get many years of enjoyment from it. In terms of things I would have done differently. We were a bit tight on the plant room and stuff just fits. The changing room door is quite close to the pool and the frame gets wet. We should have sloped the tiles back towards the pool so that when the kids jump in the water would run back naturally. I bought a squeegee to push excess water back in. Everything is pretty much finished, just some mastic around the room edges required. Heating costs may fall a little as the bottom edges of the windows have not yet been sealed to the floor and had compriband insulation outside, so we are probably leaking a bit of air. Pictures - Concrete pad awaiting the pool. Pool and ventilation below ground level. Plant room. These are the filters and chemicals, the dehumidifier/heater is behind the door. Changing room. We came up with the idea of building the bench out of wood effect tiles so it won't be affected by water. Changing room shower. Pool today after the kids were playing in it. Cleaning robot. The pool has two large colour changing LEDs that provide a great effect at night.
  29. 11 points
    Scaffold down and windows in...big dose of euphoria....feels like a real milestone. We can now get a sense of the completed project. With the scaffold removed the house now looks far more suited to the plot and we hope our neighbours will be as relieved as we are. The window install went well. Our windows are Velfac and we opted to use an approved installer as it extended the warrantee to six years. It cost a bit more but the standard of install was good with great care being taken. A few grubby hand prints on the render but nothing we could not clean of with soapy water. One aspect of doing your own build that we had not considered, is the fact you start out with something perfect and new. It will slowly age and degrade. It’s akin to the feeling of the first mark on a new car. Pat and I have restored a couple of cars in the past and avoided going the whole hog of a concourse restore as it can spoil your willingness to use and enjoy the car. We just need to keep the same mind set with the build. With a house we can lock, our intention is to let the dust settle. We’ll come back to the project with fresh enthusiasm in October.
  30. 11 points
    Four days in and the front part of our drive is done Myself and my good lady have worked hard in the heat Better than rain Just about
  31. 11 points
    So, I know I promised tales of cladding and roofing in the last instalment, but I have reviewed my photo stream and in fact realised that the window install was the next thing. At the end of November (as we all know, winter is prime building time), we finally retrieved our bargain basement windows from storage and brought them to site. Ah, the bargain basement windows, a tale of joy, horror, stress, fury, confusion and eventual revenge all in one. I should explain. When we had secured the plot and had initial drawings from the architect and were waiting for engineering/calcs/building control drawings/services/everything else, we passed the time by getting hilariously large quotes for every aspect of the design. It kept us amused. So, after reading a lot on fabric first design and passive homes, off we trotted to our local Internorm dealer. Lovely showroom, excellent coffee, charming, if slightly oily salesperson. There was much discussion about our options - I asked about passive standard 3G timber aluclad. After a while, a large figure was mentioned. A very large figure. So large, in fact, that I actually was convinced that the salesperson was having a little joke with me. He wasn't. No further coffee was offered. We gathered our coats, emptied the complimentary biscuits into my handbag and prepared to leave shamefacedly, and preferably without admitting that we were FAR TOO POOR to afford these lovely windows. On the way out, the salesman commented off handedly and rather insincerely "Sorry we couldn't help you today. Unless you want to buy the ones in the basement, ha ha ha." Reader, I have little-to-no shame when it comes to sniffing out a bargain. I cannot be humiliated. So, I was accompanied to the basement of the showroom, whereupon I was greeted with a £100,000 wonderland of window-related (expletive deleted)-ups. Results of inaccurate measuring, bankruptcy of developers, incorrect specifying, just general inefficiency. Of absolutely (expletive deleted)-all use to anyone, of course. Apart from someone who had not fully finalised their house plans. And a salesperson who is uncommonly keen on crystallising some value from said (expletive deleted)-ups. It was a partnership written in the stars. Details of hard-nosed negotiating aside (and there was someone in the room close to tears, and it wasn't me), we came away with 15 brand new windows (including 3 large sliders), a fully biometric ex display front door with side lights, a utility door, and a large panel of glass. All pretty much passive standard, some with built in blinds, some alu-clad timber, some Alu clad UPVC. For not much money. At all. A very satisfyingly small amount of money. The architect was somewhat perturbed by this moderately unconventional approach of designing the house around already purchased windows, to say the least. For a while, I had a Quooker tap and approx £80,000 of windows as my only purchases for the house. However, he came up trumps and designed the house in such a way as you would never know that he had any design restrictions at all. The man is a quiet genius. We had cherry picked the best stuff - so all our sliders for the bedrooms are approximately (but not quite) the same size, they vary by about 30mm here and there, but they are all on different elevations of the house so you never see them right next to each other. We wanted to use one particular window in the bathroom as it had built in blinds, but it was a little too big, so we sank the bath into the floor to allow the window to have opening clearance. It looks amazing and like an intended "design feature". So, we purchased the bargain basement windows, and following our cynical, but realistic architects advice - we got a trailer and got them the hell out of that warehouse. They stayed wrapped up and palletised for approx 2 years until that fateful day in November. Now, what we should have done was quit while we were ahead, taken note of the surpassingly large number of (expletive deleted)-ups and run like the wind away from that warehouse. You will not be surprised to learn that this did not happen. We still needed our large feature window - a 5m wide, 2.7m high alu clad timber lift and slide window and matching fixed panels above. This was not cheap. Very very not cheap. But it was lovely. We decided that as we'd saved so much money with the rest of the windows, we could justify this lovely thing. We got a good, although still bloody expensive price on it, paid a 50% deposit, and were instructed to let them know when we were ready to have the window produced - as we hadn't been through building control fully yet, so didn't want to press "Go" just then. So, all well. We got on with what we needed to do, engineering, building control, life etc and gave no more thought to it. We get our building warrant. We phone up the showroom to say "yay! please make our very highly priced window!". Only, there's a disconnected tone. Odd, we think - must have misdialled. We try again, same thing. We google. Website down, emails bounce. A light sweat breaks out. The insufferable shits went bust. No one told us. It may or may not be directly related to the basement of (expletive deleted)-ups. Internorm had never heard of our order and had not received our deposit, so couldn't help. Now, thank christ that I am naturally untrusting of salespeople and INSISTED on paying £101 of the VERY LARGE deposit on a credit card. Section 75, how I love thee. We got the whole lot back. Eventually. After a lot of paperwork and phonecalls. But now we have a load of second hand windows, some with bits missing and no-one to fit them. And no-one to order our lovely slider from Help was on the way from an unexpected quarter though. Our house build is being filmed for TV, and we happened to have a filming day a couple of weeks later. Someone on the crew gave us the details of a helpful person within Internorm, who passed us on to another dealer who honoured the original price for the sliders, came up from England to fit the windows, supplied all our missing bits and were generally wonderful. So, we come to November. There are two access points to our site - one at the rear, which we can just about fit an articulated lorry up, and one at the front, on the extremely busy main street, that is cobbled and 2cm narrower than a transit with the wing mirrors folded, and only just as tall. The Internorm dealer had already made a site visit to review the access and made many sucky-teeth noises, but said "it's ok, we'll get a robot handler up from Leeds that can hold the window at 45 degrees while we drive it up." "Ooooh", we think, "A robot! Technology will save this whole scenario". The day started relatively badly when it transpired that the artic driver, instead of turning right when he should have, so he could drive straight down the street and have the windows on the correct side for unloading, had in fact, turned left and was now in the middle of fully reversing down a medieval street so long that it takes approx 8 minutes to walk from one end to the other. At 9am. Also, he was (I think) Romanian, with no English, and there were no Romanian speakers amongst the installation crew. So, when he finally arrived, after monumentally pissing off approximately 14 million local residents, the windows were on the wrong side and no room to turn. So we had to unload the rest of his lorry, stack it up on the street, taking up virtually every parking space in the place and drive the telehandler across the street, blocking all the traffic to get the window off. It is massive. Securing it on the tele handler is not a quick process. There was a lot of shouting. Also, did I mention I'm 6 months pregnant at this point? So, once unloaded, we look around eagerly for the promised technology laden robot. Looking a bit sheepish, the install crew confessed that it hadn't been available, but "don't worry, we brought something else". Great, I think! No problemo. The "something else" appeared, to my untrained eye, to be a couple of skateboards. So, we ended up with our massive window being rolled up the close on a couple of skateboards, being held at 45 degrees by a telehandler and 10 or so guys not all of whom shared a common language. To be honest, it went better than it should have done. The only hairy moment was when the tyre of the telehandler hit a drainpipe and it cracked with a noise EXACTLY like breaking glass. I was at the street end and couldn't see the window, just heard the cracking noise and a lot of a shouting. I was pretty convinced I was about to HAVE the baby. Terrifying. But, all in all ... TADAHHH! Over the next couple of days, all the windows were fitted and we were (nearly) watertight. Exciting progress.
  32. 11 points
    Well, it’s been a month since my last blog update. We've witnessed out first concrete pour and now have floor joists so we are all set to build the next floor. The bracing plan we have from JUB looks like we have the potential to pour the second floor and gables in a single pour. This is a decision I'm only too happy to leave to the builders who continue to impress us with their ability to get on with a job regardless. In my last blog we had got on really quickly and had the ground floor pretty much ready for a concrete pour. We needed to wait as there was no rebar on site for the cantilever lintels for the first floor. Our structural engineers had provided a revised structural plan toward the end of February, but it did not have a bar schedule. One was requested and sent through quickly. So far so good, we had the second lot of blocks scheduled for delivery on the 24th March. The original schedule allowed the pour and joists to be in place prior to the block delivery. At the same time as this was progressing the pricing for the next phase was finalised and we gave agreement to proceed. A hiccup with the joist delivery delayed work on site. On a small site the second block delivery pretty much took up all the available space. ICF blocks and a cramped working site are not good news. The ICF is pretty dense but it’s easily damaged when it gets in the way. We ended up playing shuffle the blocks to get the remaining work done and for the first pour. Our builders did a splendid job and just took it all in their stride they were careful with the blocks and didn't complain about the site restrictions once. We had been warned that pours are not for the feint hearted, thankfully in the end ours went pretty well. The only real surprise was the bottom courses of blocks on one side of the build started to move outward on the raft. Fortunately it was spotted and the pour was suspended while Mike and the other lads added some more shuttering. With the new shuttering in place the pour continued and was completed without incident. Apparently it's unusual for the bottom row of blocks to move, but given they are not keyed into the raft and are subject to the greatest concrete pressure it's not entirely surprising. The blocks on the second floor will be keyed into the existing blocks so they should not suffer. With the pour done it was time to get the ledger beams in place to take the first floor joists. Our structural plans had the ledger beams fixed by bolts at 500 centres with the joists at 400 centres. Sounds OK but in practice it’s not ideal as it means you get clashes of beams and bolts, so the plan was revised and the bolts put in at 400 centres so they would not clash with the joist. Ledger beams in place the joist went in pretty quickly, transforming the house. Once you get past the ground floor you need to get scaffold in place for an ICF, not to build from but to prevent possible accidents if someone were to fall through the blocks from the inside. Our builder wanted us to arrange the scaffold, not sure if this is the norm, I suspect it’s liability related. We have used a local firm ROM Scaffold. Their guys arrived on Wednesday and pretty much had completed their work on the Thursday. The scaffold will also allow for our window installation and rendering. Looking forward to getting the next floor up and starting work on the roof.
  33. 11 points
    With the 2019 season now here, I've spent the last couple of weekends doing a bit of tarting up around the outside of the wee house. Little things that you don't think really matter, but the end result looks far more 'finished'. I was never very sure how to complete the gable ends of the house- whether to box them in or not- but eventually decided to kill two birds with one stone and use the space for a log store. I think it looks pretty good, and it's tempting to do the same on every side of the house, although those elevations do see a lot more wind and rain. My current obsession with processing my log pile is all down to a fantastic book I was given: 'Norwegian Wood- chopping, stacking, and drying wood the Scandinavian way'. Highly recommended, and an absorbing read even if you never intend to ever light a fire. The other bit of work has been to create a gravel path around the side of the house, and so properly edge the gravel area underneath the house. The only downside of all this work is that it makes the lumpy lawn look even worse than it did before
  34. 11 points
    It seems that quite a few of us have had our turf laid this week. My wife loves it, it is so nice looking out on grass and not mud. The guys have done a lovely job. There are just a couple of snagging points left to do and we are done. We also need to have the garden walls rendered and copes put on. We also had a local company round to put various granite and marble shelves on, I was reticent as I thought it would be a pain to organise, but they were a pleasure to deal with. Finally this means that my built in barbecue is in, very excited for barbecue season, actually it is very nice today, we could probably have had one. Front of house Front coming in the driveway Back of house, looking towards pool Terrace off the kitchen Built in barbecue(Still a bit dusty) They used a Dekton top as they said this is the most heat resistant material Marble around Optimyst fire Back of house looking out from kitchen Front looking from kitchen Dressing room Furniture finally delivered for our bedroom, just waiting on a new bed now Decided to frame the hole in the wall fire as it looked too plain just sitting in the wall on its own
  35. 11 points
    The Timber Frame company arrived on site on a very wet mid-January morning. Very quickly wagon loads of components started to arrive and before long every space around the slab and up the drive was dotted with Ikea style flat packs, assorted timber and steelwork. The first job was to floor out over the basement to form a flat working platform for the main house erection. The original specification called for pre-stressed concrete floor panels, these were changed to Posi-joist, as this gave us space within the joist to locate services, ducting, electrics and waste etc. With the basement floor in place, the sole plate was positioned, levelled and fixed ready to attach the wall panels. With every panel, piece of timber, beam and noggin precut in the factory and numbered and with a full set of drawings, the house started to take shape quickly. Four weeks later and the roof timbers were in place and the next job is to fit the roof.
  36. 11 points
    It's 3 weeks since my last blog entry and, as usual, things have been moving at a pace. The difference with the most recent round of work, though, it that the building is starting to look like a liveable house rather than a construction site. This is largely due to the glory coats of plaster and paint, but far more than that has been keeping everyone busy. The boarding started in earnest before Christmas and so the plasterers were in bright and early in the new year. We've got through an astonishing amount of board of various types - I thought I'd calculated reasonably well and had a mahooosive delivery of the stuff a while back, but it all seemed to disappear and the building was hungry for more. I bought all the board from Sydenhams as I found their price to be competitive. I've used standard 12.5mm plasterboard on all external walls, 15mm acoustic on all ceilings and internal walls, moisture board for bath/wet rooms, and pink fire board for the garage walls and ceiling. The garage is attached and so building regs require a fire door (FD30, sourced from Enfield Doors, though I've since found cheaper suppliers when looking at other stuff) and fire board throughout the garage, but only a single layer as there is no habitable space above it. I've had a board lifter on hire as it really helps the team position the boards up onto the ceilings without dropping anything on themselves or damaging either themselves or the boards. Here is the board going up on the lounge/dining area towards the kitchen area. The orange frame is the plaster board lifter. The black thing outside the window is my sewage treatment plant tank, which will be installed in a couple of weeks(ish). Looking in the opposite direction towards the lounge area: There have been plenty of plasterboard offcuts and so we have followed @JSHarris's tip of stuffing as much of this into the stud walls before boarding over. Double bubble - increasing the heat retaining ability of the house and no paying expensive disposal fees on waste plasterboard. As well as the boarding and plastering, Nick has been working away on first fix, getting all the wiring, sockets and switch positions in and running vast amounts of cable through the building for all sorts of stuff. It's not just a case of chucking the cable in, he's done a great job of working out the flow of the building and the people in it, and how the building's circuitry should function best to suit them. It's a pity that it isn't more visual, but suffice it to say that at the last count, something like 2.9km of cable has gone into the building. It's in there somewhere! The room that forms the greater part of the ground floor is the kitchen/dining/lounge area and it's a very large space. From the outset, I've wanted to achieve some form of visual separation of the living area but without putting physical barriers in the way. It seems a waste to have gone to such great effort to create a lovely large space like that to then chop it up and close it in. I had inspiration for the solution from a couple of sources, the first of which is a tiny, crappy image on Pinterest when I was browsing cinema rooms. The second came about from chatting to another BH member, @Dreadnaught and a suggestion someone made to him to vary the heights of the ceiling throughout his proposed build. From this, I decided that I wanted a dropped section, like a frame, on the ceiling above the lounge area, with lighting recessed into the inner lip of the dropped section. Everyone pulled together really well to meet the challenge, and worked out what was needed from the carpentry, boarding, plastering and electrics contingents. The full ceiling was boarded out first, then the studwork frame put over it. The electrics were run through, then the frame was boarded and eventually plastered. Here's the completed framework and the first of the plasterboard going up. They're a cheerful bunch in their work! One thing I haven't skimped on is hire equipment to make the job of the plasterers and others easier. I figure it's a false economy to not get equipment like platforms and board lifters in as it will just cost me extra labour as the guys won't be able to work efficiently and possibly, not as well either. We had scaffold towers upstairs in the bedrooms for plastering and downstairs, we had a really big platform. I wouldn't do it any other way as the quality of the boarding and plastering is second to none. Once the studwork was boarded out, the inner ceiling section was plastered. The inner lip of the frame had an upstand added to it to make it appear more substantial (thanks for the idea, Nick) and to hide the rows of LED lights behind them. We're going for a range of lighting intensity here, achieved by increasing amounts of lights, rather than dimmers. There will be 3 rows of LED lights hidden up there and we've used a car headlight analogy for want of better descriptions - the selection is dipped lights, main beam and rally lights. These are the only ceiling lights in this area as we plan to have floor lamps for specific task or reading lighting. Once the inner ceiling was plastered, the framework itself was done the following day. This photo is some way on from that, as you can see. By this stage, the whole of the downstairs main room has been done and recesses formed for the spotlights at the other end of the room. Not too long after this, the kitchen arrived from DIY Kitchens. Lovely quality units and everything is going together well. It did mean, though, that I had to get on with the painting up the kitchen end so that a start could be made on installation. A paragraph or two on painting is appropriate here. I put a brief post into the main decorating section here on BH regarding spray painting, but it deserves repetition. I've planned from the outset to do the painting myself. I'm competent and it's nice to get some hands on involvement in the build. But, and it really is a big one, there is a vast surface area to cover in this house, and the vaulted ceilings upstairs are really quite intimidating for a vertically challenged person such as myself. Mind you, I think a vault of 4.7m would make most people ponder their method of attack. I decided that by far the most effective approach for me was to spray the mist coats to seal the plaster and continue with white for the ceilings. I wasn't sure at that stage whether I would also apply the colour coats by spraying, so adopted a 'wait and see' approach. First off, masking takes ages, even with a relatively empty house, as that spray will get everywhere and anywhere. Once the masking is done and you've familiarised yourself with the sprayer itself, though, the speed of coverage is astonishing. I was able to comfortably do one large room per day - both mist coats and a couple of extra ones on the ceiling to get it opaque and full white. It was messy. Really messy! Especially as when I first got going I had the spray pressure a little too high, the mad angles of the vaulted ceilings meant that my nozzle was never going to be held at a constant 90 degrees to the surface, and it's just a messy process regardless. In addition, there is a vast amount of moisture in the air, particularly as we had plaster drying at the same time. I hired a commercial dehumidifier for a couple of weeks to help with this and it was very effective. I bought all my paint from Brewer's Decorator Centre, who are mainly based along the south coast of England. I opened a trade account with them and got 20% off the entirety of my first order, so I put everything I could think of onto that, including my antinox floor protection mats. Very useful they were, too. I used their contract matt white for the mist coat and ceilings. It's white, but not brilliant white and it's lovely. Very chalky, easy to sand and gives a nice highly matt finish. Also cheap as chips. Here's one of the bedrooms, masked up and sprayed. Here's another bedroom with that ceiling. My scaffold tower came into its own for reaching up to those heights. Then, finally, the kitchen area with its mist coat. The sprayer is the little beastie sitting on the plasterboard. I popped over on a weekend to also put the first colour coat on over at the kitchen area, whilst I could still get in easily before the kitchen started going in. I'm having splashbacks between the wall and base units, hence the odd looking finish level with the paint. These were all the kitchen units as they arrived, prior to painting. Everything was really well packaged and came with the doors on and drawers in. The delivery crew were pleasant and efficient, so all in all, a good experience. Moving away from painting and plastering, Nick marked up the ceiling plan for the lights, speakers and smoke detectors on the floor before the boards went on so that there was no guesswork involved in what was running where. Here's his marking plan: This is what the kitchen units look like at the moment. I made a cock up in ordering, purely out of ignorance, and I'm waiting for a few end deco panels to arrive. These didn't even occur to me as they will go between units and appliances to give a better appearance from face on. It made perfect sense when it was pointed out to me, so things have halted temporarily until those and my worktops arrive shortly. In the meantime, it's looking good: We also now have spotlights in place: Finally, for the curious, this is what karndean flooring looks like. It has been laid upstairs and the downstairs will be finished in a couple of weeks. Upstairs, it was all laid on ply that was feathered in at the edges and downstairs will have a latex feathering coat to level the floor and provide an even base. Next up is more of the same. The final session of boarding and plastering, lots more painting, the end of first fix and moving onto second fix. Outside, we need to get cracking on the rainwater goods, perimeter drain and exterior cladding. The cladding is due to arrive next week, so it will be interesting to see that and figure out the system. I hope to be able to report back on over height doors soon, as well, and my endeavours to find these at a reasonable price, but that's all for now. There's painting to be done.
  37. 11 points
    Yesterday was air tightness test day and MBC's final day on site getting everything prepped for the final test and then finishing off a few details. For those not so familiar with this kind of thing, a few details of the process follow. Our house isn't a passive house as it hasn't been designed with that in mind - it was the design first and then build to passive standards, so no accreditation or anything like that. That said, I wanted a low energy house and hence the choice of the passive system offered by MBC. Part of this system is that as well as the building and foundation being highly insulated, it also leaks very little air, as this is one of the major sources of heat loss in buildings and houses. The leakiness of a house is measured in terms of the number of times the volume of air contained by the building passes out of all the various gaps in one hour. As mentioned on this forum elsewhere, a modern well-built house without any special air tight measures would probably change its volume of air between 3 and 5 times per hour. The final part of MBC's construction method is to tape over anywhere there is likely to be a gap and make the building as air tight as possible; the target is to have 0.6 or less air changes per hour. One exterior door into the house is chosen as the point of measurement and this is where all the kit goes. Note that the air tight test is testing the quality of MBC's work and whilst it will highlight gaps elsewhere, it's not MBC's remit to correct leaks caused by others, only themselves. The point of measurement for my house is the door between the garage and the utility room, where the FD30 rated door was recently installed. The door is sealed up with a membrane that's supported and held in place by an adjustable frame: The hands are those of Steve, of Melin Consultants, who carry out most of MBC's air tests. This is the frame/shield being put in place in the doorway. I really did try and get a photo without builder's/air tester's bum, but to no avail. Those with delicate sensibilities should look away now and skip the next photo. After the frame, the fan is put into the hole in the shield, drawn tight and any gaps between the frame and door frame are temporarily sealed up. The rate of air flow into and out of the building is altered by both the speed of the fan and the number of vents that are opened up on the fan. The building is de-pressurised first, then re-pressurised and the readings taken. Because of environmental factors such as wind, this is done 10 times to get a data set and the average is taken for the final result. When this test was done yesterday, it was a windy day with the wind coming from the north east, the direction that the garage door faces. As the test progressed, it became clear that the house is well sealed and so it needed a smaller fan. The red shield was swapped over and the smaller fan put in place. The rest of the readings were taken and we got our final reading. Darren and his MBC crew aced it - with a target of 0.6 ac/h it came in at 0.25. Brilliant. Darren is a calm chap under all sorts of pressures but the air test was about the only time I've seen him display (slight) signs of nerves. He was equally understated in his satisfaction with the result even though it turns out that this is one of the lowest numbers they've had in 7 years. Well done, Darren and crew. If you're wondering what all that foam is doing on the floor, that's left over from Nick doing the foul wastes over the weekend and foaming them in before putting air tight tape around them to make sure he didn't do anything detrimental to the air test result. We have a few very minor leaks, mostly gaps between the panels in the windows that have several sections. No surprise and these are due to be siliconed once we've finished most of the pretty stuff. There is also a bit of air flow through the keyholes but I've been advised that a good coating of vaseline on the key and in and out of the lock a few times should seal it up well enough. I daresay that would seal most things. The gaps were temporarily sealed up with a bit of low tack plastic for the air test, so the result assumes this has been done. All the battens are in now and the downstairs was finished off yesterday, and concrete was put into the remaining recess that had been formed for the lift and slide doors to get a level threshold. I am, of course, delighted with the air tight result and really pleased for MBC as well, as they have worked really hard and whenever there has been a problem, come up with solutions. I know that others have had varied experiences but for my own, I have found MBC to be a pleasure to work with right from the start. At the design stage, David worked his socks off liaising with my architect to get all the details right and to work out how to build the design using their system, and this has been the case with any third parties I've asked them to speak with directly. The communication from Trish has been great - I've always know what was going to happen and when and been kept informed when timings have had to change. The guys on the ground have worked like machines; I'm astonished at how hard they work, to be frank, and throughout the whole time I've never heard any rows or arguments. That's not to say that there haven't been any, but if there have, they didn't take place in front of me. For me, this has been a really good experience. What next? There's still plenty to do but the next main contractor is Nick from Total Energy Systems who is largely doing all of the internal systems, plumbing and wiring. He's done a reasonable amount already in terms of the MVHR ducting and manifolds but will kick off in earnest on 3rd December once the cellulose has been blown in upstairs. The cellulose is arriving on Friday 30th, along with Gordon, who will put it into the walls and ceiling. All 520 bags of it! Before then, my Ryterna garage door is due to be installed next week so I'll report back on that. That's being supplied and installed by Joe from Dorset Garage Doors Ltd, just up the road from me in Lydlinch. There's a lot of work to be done outside, too, but I'll be thinking through that today and get my plan of action together. Whatever else happens, Nick is going to get some gentle heat into the slab this week, using a couple of Willis heaters. It's getting pretty chilly on site now and it will be nice to get the house drying out properly and check that side of things is working properly. A good week and, hopefully, more to come.
  38. 11 points
    Scaffold finally down and new window fitted although windows still not finished.
  39. 11 points
    Moving on to day 2 of the timber frame erection, I make no apologies for this photo-heavy post as the pictures speak far more eloquently than I can on the subject matter. Especially as I don't know the right words for much of it. It rained overnight here in Dorset, but nothing disastrous and it was all gone by a couple of hours into the morning. Here's how I left the team yesterday evening: This morning, another day, another crane. This one, I think, was even bigger, but it hurt my neck to keep looking that high, so I can't swear to it. Along with the crane was the next lot of timber frame components, but also the steels for the ground floor ceiling/first floor. There's a lot of steel in my building and whilst being very good for the structural integrity of the building, it's pretty rubbish if you want to stick an MVHR duct through it. At the production stage, my MVHR guy liaised with MBC to request penetrations through the steels for the ducting so that we didn't have to try and deal with this after the event. Here's one such steel with the right holes in the right places. Again, the crane did its thing and shifted all the posi joists into the interior the building and helped position the internal stud walls. All the steels were craned into position as well. The posi joists were man-handled up onto the steels: This is the run of the posi joists, looking from the eastwards from the west facing window. This is looking from the end of the living/dining area towards the kitchen and utility. This is looking back towards the building from the field. The silver box is the attached garage which will not be part of the thermal envelope; we haven't yet decided whether to put any insulation into this, but that can come later. The interior of the garage looking out to the field: A shot taken from the scaffolding. I'm standing at the west side of the living room (where the field is) looking over the lane and the fields beyond. For those of you who know north Dorset, that's Hambledon Hill near Blandford Forum in the distance. And finally, this was resting on the joists upstairs. It pleases me greatly.
  40. 11 points
    Kitchen finished today. It took me about a week to put the kitchen together and plumb in the sink and dishwasher. The worktop under the window is a cheap temporary laminate one to get the kitchen functioning quickly. Later on that will be replaced with a stone worktop and that one will be moved to the utility room, which is why it has been left over length for now as that's how long it will be in the utility. I then had to wait for Gus the joiner to machine the oak breakfast bar worktop. Sometimes even when self building, it is worth employing a good tradesman when you know they can do a better job of something than you can. It was then 2 days to varnish it, and finally today it was dry so I could fit it and plumb in the hob. Next to the fridge, where the clock is for now, will eventually be partitioned off to form a pantry. Sunday dinner will be cooked and eaten in the house tomorrow. A little more and a couple more pictures on the blog at http://www.willowburn.net/ look for the entry "Kitchen Finished"
  41. 11 points
    Building a house is easy. It's like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire and you're on fire and everything is on fire and you're in hell.
  42. 11 points
    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?” “Yes” “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”. “………….really?” “Yes” “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. Thunderstorms. 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.
  43. 11 points
    My parents in law have a number of wealthy friends - sold their businesses for £10-30 million type of well-off (after years of raking in hundreds of thousands of quid per annum from these businesses). All are retired with huge houses, expensive cars every couple of years, large holiday houses in France, trips all over the world. Yet to a person, all they seem to care about is foreigners, benefits cheats, regulations inconveniencing them ("health and safety gone mad!") and the amount of tax the government "steals" from them. I have a lot of difficulty sitting in the same room hearing them talk about how hard they worked to get where they are, as if every poor person just needed to a work a bit harder to get everything they've had. Oh, and it seems they all read the Daily Wail! I think the problem is that selfishness makes you unhappy. All the research shows that true happiness comes from giving, not getting. If these people spent a bit less time (and money) trying to fill the voids in their own lives with "stuff", and a bit more time trying to make the lives of others better, I'm sure they'd be happier. Not really a conversation you can have with them of course!
  44. 11 points
    Well, went to visit Cumbrian Nicks build yesterday. Straight out of Beatrix Potter, site to die for, so secluded I couldn't find it when I was a few hundred yards away, innovative design, more cabling than a Google Data Centre, and within walking distance of a hidden gem of a village. The kind of place where every winter you'd fervently wish to get snowed in. It was a real treat. Thanks Nick. ===================================================== The deed is done, we parted company with the builder on Friday on good if not cordial terms. I went straight out and bought £300 worth of safety gear: harnesses , strops, carabiners. I feel so much better for having done that. Watching the builders waltzing nonchalantly waltzing around on the scaffolding with an unprotected 30 foot drop on one side made my fingertips sizzle. I did point it out several times, but got laughed at. I'm mulling over getting a safety net or two. Durisol Rep is coming on Tuesday, plus one of his mates, and we are pouring at 11. O'Reilly's pump is arriving at 10. I'm busy today making a 'Flush-Pond' for the excess concrete from the next two pours. At least then, we'll have a nice hard temporary working surface for the rest of the build. Builder's mate today? Debbie . Prettier than all the others.
  45. 11 points
    So yesterday I went to Toolstation to pick up a 10 pack of 3m 50mm waste pipe. Bloke dumped it on counter and bogged off. I picked it up, chucked it on my shoulder, swang round towards the exit and wiped the entire contents of the counter onto the floor with the end of the pipes. Monitor, keyboard, pdq machine the lot. The lady behind the counter on the next till position looked like she was going to poo herself! Oooops!!
  46. 10 points
    All the lighting circuits are on, the thermal store is hot. The kitchens in, bathrooms tiled. Glass for the stairs has been delivered and there is only the chimney to plaster. Dare i I dream that the end is actually in sight?
  47. 10 points
    July September Beautiful it isn't, but once it's clad with some nice wood (any skips round by yours?)..... Now lets get a roof on and a first floor. Ian
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