Simon R

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About Simon R

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  • About Me
    Retired form the computer industry. Like getting involved in projects, between my wife and I we have restored cars, built a boat, a done limited house renovation, new electrics, central heating and plumbing.
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    Lee on Solent - Hampshire

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  1. Simon R

    Schedules...what schedules?

    Lies, damn lies and building schedules! Where does the time go! it's been a month since the roof was started a process that should have taken a week...and we're only just ready to put the standing seam roof panels on a month later. More on the standing seam roof in my next blog. At the time of my entry we were trying to find a roofing team to finish the work. The team drafted into build the roof had had to return to Glasgow to meet other commitments requiring our builder to find another team to pick up and complete the work. Much to our surprise we ended up with a choice of two, a local builder who had done work for us in the past and a local roofing company ICF Homes had used in the past. Our builder decided they would call in a favour from a roofer they had used in the past. There was inevitably a few days delay. To add to the entertainment we had two large roof lights 1200 x 2400 each weighing 220kg scheduled for delivery on the 3rd and the roof was not ready for them. Some last minute calls to Roof Maker and we managed to get the windows rescheduled for the 8th. With the roof far from ready we needed to get the area for the roof lights completed. Our builder put in two guys to do the required preparation to take the windows. This probably created as much work as accomplished as they were not chippies or roofers, but with some corrective work from the new roofers it was enough to prepare for the roof lights installation. To get the windows onto the roof we made use of Terry Peach and his show hiab again. The day of the window delivery arrived and true to form it was just about the windiest day we had had in a long while. Wind, cranes and large fragile objects are not a good combination and we thought we would need to call off the installation and try again on a more settled day. In any event we decided to give it a go and the windows were gingerly lifted up to roof height on the sheltered side of the roof and gently eased over the ridge into the gale...with a couple of restraining ropes and guiding hands on the roof they where successfully lowered into place with a sigh of relief from Pat and I . With the windows in place the roofing crew continued to work on our roof. They could only do a couple of days a week due to other commitments and work progressed rather slowly. By the 18th the roof was still not finished, and our roofers departed. Fortunately the remaining work was neither skilled or structural so Pat and I stepped in and completed the boarding, papered and battened the roof. We also boxed in the eaves ready for the spray foam insulation of the roof. The delay in completing the roof also meant we had lost our slot with the spray foam insulation company. They had been rebooked by our builder but just failed to turn up, no phone call, no email, not a good way to operate. In exasperation we agreed with our builder we would get it organised ourselves. Back to our schedule... all our windows from Velfac were due for delivery imminently. In our initial planning we had allowed some contingency time for build delays, but not nearly enough. Our original delivery date, the first week in April was arrived at after discussion with our builder. We realised some while back that it was unrealistic and delayed to mid May which seemed like a safe option, oh how wrong you can be! It's a curious detail with the Velfac design that you have to have your window apertures rendered prior to window installation. Our render work finally started on June 2nd with an anticipated completion date of the 21st. The work got off to a good start and it looked set for an early completion. We opted to go with JUB for our render as they are our ICF supplier . With us being their first build in the UK they have been very good to us providing render materials at cost. In general the ICF block work was clean and true, just perfect for rendering. Of course there were areas that were not good enough to just render and required remedial work. On our first concrete pour the cantilever beam supporting the first floor was not braced correctly. The beam had twisted deflecting the first floor wall 10-15mm. Regrettably it did not got spotted at the time of the pour and the beam was set. To correct the problem the course of blocks added to the beam was adapted to straighten the first floor wall. This worked out reasonably well and the remainder of the wall is straight an true, but it left a step in the ICF wall face that needed to be fixed before rendering could be done. We did this by building up the wall with cut block and shaving it back, a lot of work. We also discovered another wall bow, not anything like as major but still another task to get fixed prior to rendering. With some help from Velfac we had managed to get the delivery delayed a further week, but after that they would be charging us £50 a week for each pallet and we have five pallets. With the budget already groaning we decided to take delivery on the 17th June and to store the windows in the house ready for installation once rendering completed. We have some big windows and getting them into the house without damage is going to take a lot of care. We talked to the company doing the window install and they kindly agreed to split the install and to assist in the window unload. When our scaffold was installed we had a loading bay added on the first floor specifically to get the windows into the house. We also have organised a hiab delivery vehicle. Even so it's bit nerve racking, fingers crossed all will be well. Last but not least we have water and gas utilities connected, just electricity to go.
  2. Simon R

    Putting the lid on

    With our final concrete pour over last Friday, we breathed a sigh of relief. The worst of the messy work was done and it we could start work on the roof. It was a heck of a week and loads got done, on a very busy and noisy site. Good for us but not for our neighbours. It’s a problem every build faces, maybe worse for a self build where you have known your neighbours for years and been on good terms. We’ve done what we can to keep noise down and not to work antisocial hours, but sometimes you just can’t avoid it. Our last concrete pour should have started at 11am, the concrete lorry didn’t turn up until 3:30pm and as a consequence we were still working on site at 8pm. Then two days of incessant hammer drilling didn’t help. When you already feel like you’ve been put through a mangle, being confronted by an angry neighbour telling you they are at their wits end and that you’ve got to stop is not a good feeling. I think we are now past the worst of the noise but there is plenty of sheet to be cut and nailed down before we return to relative peace. Our plan for the week was for two experienced roofers to start work on Monday and have the roof done by Friday. As always it didn’t quite work out the way. First problem, the steel purlins (the beams that span the roof to support the rafters) were not in place. The sockets for these should be cut in the nice soft ICF and shuttered prior to the last pour, in our case this did not happen as the builders ran out of time preparing for the pour. With the concrete being new and not fully hardened we were told it would be a straight forward process to cut the purlin sockets. Good news as the lifting gear to place them was scheduled for Tuesday. At the same time as the purlin sockets were being cut work was being done to get the pole plates in place to take the floor joist for the loft. Getting the floor in place would make working on the roof much simpler and safer just by reducing the working height. To their credit the roofing team Jimmy and Sam did not sit around but worked with our other builders to get the flooring down on the first floor. To do this all the bracing from the pour needed to come down and the temporary 9mm OSB floor removed along with all the shuttering bits from the pour. Lifting the beams into place on our site is awkward, the front of the house is less than 5M from the pavement making reaching into the site difficult. We had thought we would need a crane to cover the angle and distance rather than a tele handler. Cranes are expensive, over double the cost of a tele handler even if you have an unsupervised lift. After a bit of phoning around we found a HIAB lorry with a massive reach. This turned out to be a very good option, far less disruptive than a crane as it did not block the road. Our beams are all less than 150kg so well within the full reach capability of the lorry. The lorry turned up on time mid day Tuesday, and what a lorry it was. It turned out to be a show vehicle with stunning paint work, apparently it’s been on TV on multiple occasions. There were still two purlin sockets to cut. While work continued on those, the HIAB lifted in the other three beams into place. We only hired the HIAB for half a day and we were running out of time. After a bit of discussion the remaining two beams were lifted onto the gable walls by their sockets, so they could be manhandled into the sockets later. With the purlins in their sockets it was pretty obvious that they needed packing to bring them to the correct levels and set them straight. It had already taken a day and a half to cut them out, so still more work. Our lesson from this is that while it seemed reasonable to cut the sockets after the pour it really is NOT. The sockets are much rougher and cutting their depth with a hammer drill is far from precise, noisy and time consuming. It’s quite surprising just how quickly the concrete hardens of. By close of day on Wednesday we had the floors done ready to start work on the roof. With just two days before the lads headed back north it was agreed they would also work Saturday morning. Just to add to the entertainment we had two very large 2400 x 1200 roof lights each weighing around 200kg scheduled for delivery on Friday. The roof lights sit on OSB sheeting on the rafters not a complex fit but the roof aperture needed to be constructed. Our builder wanted to stick to the schedule, but by late Thursday there was still a lot to be done and we decided to postpone to the next Wednesday. By then we should have a decent chance of being ready and have hired the HIAB again so we can get them into place safely. Work on the roof progressed at a pace and by 11am Saturday we had most of the rafters in place, just one complete section untouched. Our builder does not have any joiners or roofers, so we are now scrambling to find help to finish the roof next week.
  3. A couple of photos added as requested. It's a really clean solution, hopefully won't cause any problems when it comes to putting the windows in.
  4. Very little support form the UK as all the technical knowledge is in the factory in Slovenia. We dealt directly with the technical team who could not have given better service. They were very proactive and quick to answer our questions. We supplied them with our plans from planning approval. JUB then produced a block plan, at the same time we had our structural calculations done. This was a bit of an iterative process as some practical implementation issues resulted in changes to the house design. As an example our planning drawings had some windows running directly into the roof with no lintels. If we were going to do it again the one thing we would do is start with the JUB ICF design guide, this would give you the opportunity to reduce the complexity of the block plan. In particular to avoid the 75mm blocks as they break the brick internal webbing pattern. Ours is the first build in the UK using their block system so I can't guarantee that it would be the same for all customers.
  5. Gary Peacey - gary@jub.org.uk is the UK ICF man
  6. Good point, they don't mention it, rather than say you should not!
  7. It's a good question. JUB our block manufacturers don't recommend glueing. The blocks have strong nylon webbing so it would be relatively easy to have put battens to tie sets of blocks together to minimise lateral movement. Movement in pillars would be a little more difficult to manage. The walls are quite flexible before the concrete is added and it's only once they have concrete that the bracing is adjusted to make the walls true. Our builders ICF-homes have a lot of experience, so we left it to them.
  8. ah, more by luck than judgement I fear. I've just read WillBish's tale of woe with Logix and can't help feeling we just got lucky. Simon
  9. We've just finished the ICF work using the JUB block system. This post is to let others know how we got on with the system and hopefully help when comparing the various block systems. Before getting into the detail, we selected the JUB block as it was the only ICF system we found that does not require cutting on site. The house plans get optimised for the block which can mean the structure dimensions change by up to 75mm. At planning submission time we didn't know which building system we would use, yet alone the ICF block type. Ideally you would select the block type and then design to minimise cutting. As a result our block plan was more complex than it needed to be. Pro's Accuracy of build. As it's a kit manufactured at the factory the blocks are cnc'd to the precise dimensions required. All cuts are square and smooth. We have found that the pour process does result in block movement, for example some of our window opening are approximately 10mm wider than they should be. Over a 3M window it's an acceptable level of accuracy and I doubt it would be better with any other block system. More attention to detail when bracing and shuttering would almost certainly reduce the movement. Less mess on site. Not having to cut blocks has a positive effect on the site mess. It does mean that you have to be very careful with the blocks as if you break it you may have to order another. JUB provided us with a set of spare blocks to help with just this kind of problem. We didn't need them to recover from damage, but we did use some to make up a lintel that was not on our original block plan. Little use of foam. The blocks key into each other meaning that very little foam gets used. For a real self build where you are putting the blocks together yourself it would be a blessing as the foam gets everywhere and ruins clothing. Clean openings. All the window and door openings are fully enclosed by the ICF. Fitting out. The blocks have a strong nylon webbing at 75mm intervals that allows battens to be firmly screwed to the ICF without having to drill into the concrete core. Con's Locating the correct block. With so many blocks involved in our build it can take a while to locate the special block you are after. The blocks come on pallets, each with their own manifest so in theory it should just be a case of locating the block on the a manifest, going to that pallet and retrieving the block. But life's not like that the block you want will be buried at the bottom of the pallet. On a small site this can be quite a problem. It does improves with every block you use and in practice takes a lot less time than cutting blocks. Inflexible once you're on site. The kit approach means it's much more difficult to change details, you can't just change windows dimensions or move doors at will. Delivery to site. JUB will only ship on pallets so you need to have a means of offloading the lorry when it gets to site. From our experience with the JUB system, we would certainly use it again. It may involve a lot more up front work in the planning stage but that pays dividends on site. We only built one gable ourselves but based on that it's a good system for the self builder as it's a straight forward assembly. In an ideal world we would have preferred to build the blocks ourselves and hire in help for the pours. From the point of view of minimising risk, having the structure done by and experience ICF builder was probably the smart thing to do. 646-2018 WALL - Assembly plan 1of2 A1.pdf 646-2018 WALL - Assembly plan 2of2 A2.pdf 646-2018 WALL - Cut elements - First floor.pdf 646-2018 WALL - Cut elements - Ground floor.pdf 646-2018 WALL - Bracing plan A2.pdf
  10. Simon R

    Three pours down..none to go - thank goodness

    Hmm, theory and practice don't quite align for me. We have the shuttered box, but getting it used is another matter. The guys doing the ICF build for us are good and generally keep things under control, however at pours they are preoccupied and can't always keep and eye on the concrete pump. Having a small crowded site does not help. On our first pour we were completely unprepared for the pump dump, for the second and third pours we made a box from scaffold board. Not sure why but we've had a lot more than 1/3 cubic meter from our pumps, you can see from the photo the box is pretty full from just two pumps.
  11. Simon R

    Three pours down..none to go - thank goodness

    No, we've used a volumetric cement lorry, so only taken what we need. It appears to be a rather unpleasant feature of the boom pumps.
  12. We’ve just done our final concrete pour, in fact two pours in one week. From ground floor to gables in two weeks with Easter in the middle is quick, a little too quick to enjoy. We can now get a real sense of how the house will look. Next week we are ready to start work on the roof. Before building the first floor, a temporary floor was laid around the room perimeters using 12mm OSB. This was done to provide a working area to build the blocks from and allow bracing to be put in place without damaging the final floor. 12mm board seemed awfully thin to walk on! . With our builders now familiar with the wall plans the blocks went up very quickly indeed. In practice it takes longer to do the bracing and shuttering than to do the building. Not having to cut blocks on site is a major advantage, not just from an accuracy point of view but it also makes the site much cleaner. Some ICF sites look as though it’s been snowing with polystyrene. As mentioned in out last blog entry we had the option to do a single pour combining the first floor and gables. We’re really glad it was done in two stages, attempting it in one pour would almost certainly caused major bracing issues and risked the block work due to the higher pressures resulting from the depth of concrete. Never thought I would be happy to shell out £1000 on a pump. Having no experience of other build methods it’s not easy to evaluate the pro’s and con’s of each system. For us, the need to use concrete pumps has to be the worst aspect of ICF. It just seems like you’re never quite ready and there’s another dozen details to attend to before it starts. With multiple companies involved for boom pumps and concrete delivery, it’s both expensive and difficult to get people to turn up when you asked for them. Our last pour was scheduled for 11am and the concrete lory finally arrived a 3:30pm...To add to the entertainment the pump has to be vented after use. This involves a set of guys you probably won’t see again and want to be elsewhere dumping large volumes of concrete on your site. After three pours we have somewhere in the region of three tons of set concrete to break up and pay to dispose of. Some of the last lot got dumped on next doors newly block paved drive. Lots and lots of cleaning up. It’s not too much of a surprise that the builders don’t include this in there list of responsibilities. Definitely the Achilles heel of the ICF build method. Enough moaning, it’s been a long couple of weeks with many disturbed nights worrying irrationally about being a lego brick short at the end of the build. We now have a house, no roof, but hey we have to do something next week.
  13. 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.
  14. Simon R

    Blocks delivered and we're up to the first floor

    I finally got to the bottom of the wall layout numbering... the stock block are numbers from 1 to 21, all other blocks are cut or cut and glued in the production plant, the numbers are from the block used as the base component. There is far more work in producing the kit than I would have thought. The results are a very dimensionally accurate build. It makes DIY build somewhat more predictable and a lot less messy. I've opted to have our contractor put up the ICF, if we were to do it again I think we would be happy to do most of the work and get help for the concrete pours. A good deal more risk but more satisfying.
  15. It's been a week of mixed emotions, we've made good progress on site but hit our first major budget overrun. First the good stuff, blocks got delivered on Monday. JUB will only ship them on pallets which sounds OK but in practice, but causes several problems on site. For a start we didn't have a fork lift on site and fork lifts don't tend to do well on soft ground. In the end we got in a tele-handler for which a single days hire is a significant cost. It should have been a small unit, but in the end the hire company delivered an 8 ton far too heavy and large for our site. It was so heavy it ended up damaging the new dropped kerb work done for the build. Besides unloading the blocks, other problems with having them on pallets soon became apparent. It's a small site with limited space for storing materials we needed to store the pallets on the raft leaving room for bracing to be put in place once the walls are built. Each pallet had a manifest of the blocks loaded onto it. No cutting is required so it should just be a case of selecting the blocks and putting them in place. JUB provide a nice block plan for the build giving a cross reference of block type and location. 646-2018 WALL - Assembly plan 1of2 A1.pdf It quickly became apparent that finding the right blocks would be a challenge. There are a fair number of types, some quite small, all carry an identifier in the form nnn-tt-nnn but it's not that easy to read, so we thought it would be a good idea to use a marker to add wall position. Not such a good idea as the same block has multiple wall position numbers which further complicates finding blocks as a no 5 is in fact just the same a no 11. I've now looked at the wall assembly plans a couple of times and the logic for the labelling escapes me. It would be a lot simpler on site if each unique block type was allocated a single number for a given kit and the number was used consistently throughout the kit assembly plans. This is a first for JUB in the UK so I expect the kit process will get refined. In any event the block assembly went very well and by Wednesday the blocks were up to the first floor and the bracing was in place. First impressions of the JUB systemare very favourable. One other item completed was the connection and testing of the sewer pump station. The pump has to be connected with “class C” 63mm MDPE pipe which is designed to withstand the pressures associated with a pump. The pipe is referred to as flexible but it's anything but especially over short distances. The result was that making a connection required the use of an angled connector, just a single 45 degree, but we would have preferred no connections. The 63mm run is very short less than 1M and has good access from the pump meaning it can be easily rodded. Now the less pleasant news, budget overrun. In hind site this is a self inflicted wound and I should be old enough and wise enough to have avoid it. Back when we started our project we had a budget offer from our shell builders Intelligent Building System. The budget included the raft and associated concrete and steel but not the ground works. From various items on the build hub and other web sources I had come up with a figure in region of £15K for the ground works. I didn't verify this with the builder or get a phase 1 statement of works prior to the work starting. Sounds a very basic error and I still wonder just how I ended up in this position, my only excuse is that I got carried away in the practical aspects of the build. The phase 1 works came in at 34K added to this was 4.4K for the insulated raft which I had to purchase directly from JUB, so 38.4K total. The original budget offer was 14.3K a figure which included an insulated Isodom raft, assuming this would be about the as the JUB raft brings the figure down to 10K. Some analysis of the costings showed the labour had changed from around 5K in the initial offering to 15K in the costings. There were also additional materials costs which are much easier to understand, we also added items like a very big hole for the rain water harvesting tank and soak away . I had discussions with our builder over this but they are adamant it's correct. My own fault for not getting the work properly defined before starting. I'm still on talking terms with the builder, whom I'm generally very happy with and would recommend to other self builders. They have been very proactive and helped considerably with getting JUB to engage with the build and many other items.