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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bang on schedule the raft components arrived on Monday morning. We knew it would be quite a big volume of material on a small site and getting it unloaded and put somewhere it would not get damaged or need moving was s little tricky. JUB insisted on sending the raft on pallets. Our builder was not that impressed with this as unloading the lory requires a folk lift which is something we don't have on site. So we had to hire a set of folks for the digger. With the raft safely stored at the back of the plot the work to prepare the site progressed. The drainage had been marked in the site setting out exercise along with electrical and water ducting. Trying to keep raft punctures to a minimum but also allow for future needs was a concern. In the end we kept it to a minimum with electrical conduit for the rain and foul water pumps and two for water. Along with the raft we received a letter from our neighbours complaining that I had put our water meter box on their garden wall. In retrospect a valid complaint, it was one of those decisions made in expediency without enough thought. Our water supplier Portsmouth Water will now only make new connection when an above ground water meter box is installed. I duly bought the one box they permit (so much for choice), water pipe and water conduit. Not having a house on which to mount the box, I made the required connections and left the box mobile so it could be put in place in due course. At which point I called in the Portsmouth Water, regrettably they said they could not make the connection until the box was in situ. Having explained our situation and the need to get water on the site it was suggested I could mount the box on the wall by our property. At this stage I should have thought about it rather than simply get on with it, my mistake entirely. The wall it outside my boundary, by millimetres true , but still NOT ours. Our neighbours were not impressed so Monday was spent moving the box and apologising to my neighbours. I shuttered and cast concrete into the wall footings and backfilled with type 1 MOT to repair the wall. Having done this I then putting in two concrete posts 200mm inside our boundary and mounting the water meter box on them. This is what I should have done in the first place. Slightly different subject, the Groundbreaker Water box, this is the only box that Portsmouth Water will connect to. At around the £150 mark it's a pretty hideous piece of kit both aesthetically and in product design terms for installation. Given their current monopoly and the fact that all new connections will require one it made me consider looking into producing an alternative. A swift kicking from the boss and I was reminded to get on with the house...maybe later once the house is done. . With the drainage in place the MOT type 1 sub base was spread over the raft area, levelled and compacted. Our builders ICF-homes did this with considerable care and we ended up with a good surface to spread the sand layer which was again compacted before putting down the membrane. Our structural engineers had specified a Radon barrier, we ended up using a standard plastic DPM as Radon is not a problem in our area. The DPM gets glued to the side of the raft sealing it and providing some additional protection for the polystyrene. . With the membrane down the work of setting out the raft. The perimeter is all keyed together It took a while to get the corners located precisely but once this was done the raft slotted together very well with a really solid interlock. The raft was then completed by adding the rebar, four layers around the perimeter. All in all a lot of steel, Pat and I spent most of Saturday morning helping get the rebar in place and wire tying it to make is solid before the concrete pour. Our raft is now complete and this week the surface water drainage will go in. Along with the problem with the water meter box our neighbours also bought up the "Party Wall act". Doing a self build is nothing if not educational. The act came into law following problems with basement excavations in London. It dictates that excavations in close proximity to your neighbours 0-6M have to be notified and agreed. In our case we were within notifiable distance, but fortunately were not excavating to a notifiable depth. Our builders were not familiar with the act and no mention had been made by building controls. The act did effect our other neighbours and I contacted them letting them know what work has been done. Fortunately all the excavations were made and backfilled without incident. Hoping for a less eventful week to allow us to regroup before our first block delivery next Monday. As this is the first build for JUB in the UK the factory are sending someone on site to assist with the build and wall bracing. It's very positive to see the house taking shape, we have our EPC which suggests we should require in the region of 68wats/K to heat the house which is great, but we still only come out as a "B" energy rating! the rating system is bonkers.
  5. Simon R

    And we're off

    Well, I'm new to all this so at this and can't provide any authoritative advice and found your post very useful, thank you for a good piece of work. The soil was removed in preparation for the raft so is in effect footings rather than site clearance. I had an online chat session with HMRC which I've saved. Our muckaway got split down two routes, one using our builder, so through their accounts and the residual with a local grab lorry firm. I must say I find the whole VAT business rather intimidating and am trying to make sure I keep good records and don't fall foul of any rules.
  6. Simon R

    And we're off

    It's site clearance on a new build. There is a good section on VAT on the build hub
  7. Simon R

    And we're off

    The firework instruction phrase "light the blue touch paper and retire to a safe distance" comes to mind. It's been a real baptism of fire, however our builder says it's the worst time and it should settle down now. All in all it's been a productive week and almost all work has moved us forward. The digger arrived to dig out the raft area at 8am as requested and work got under way. We had muck lorries scheduled for Tuesday and it quickly became apparent that we did not have enough space on site to build a significant spoil heap. After a bit of phoning around found a local company who could supply vehicles. Our builder had asked us to take care of paying for the muck lorries which was fine by us, getting the lorry company to accept that it should be a zero rated VAT service was more difficult. Contacted HMRC and had a discussion and they were adamant that it should be zero rated and that if VAT was charged I could not reclaim it as it would have been at the wrong rate... Managed to resolve the problem in the end. Now we had lorries arriving and clearing the soil we were able to make real progress. Tuesday the rainwater harvesting tank arrived, we knew it was big and boy was it big! The tank needed to get dug in just 2.5M deep and 4M long, a very big hole. Fortunately the ground conditions were good and a nice clean hole was achieved without the need to grade the sides. By Wednesday we were ready for site setting out. An interesting activity and an example of technology being used because it's there rather than essential. Making sure the house position is millimetre perfect seems a bit over the top when string and triangulation would get it positioned within 10mm. Where it really does help is positioning services and getting drainage levels set. A second visit on Thursday had all the levels set and perimeters marked, by the time the guy left the site I had changed my opinion and consider it money well spent. More and more lorries to take muck away, the tally now sits at twelve loads and we are mostly done thank goodness as at £240 a 12 ton load for the clay it was making a bit of a whole in the budget, a quick calculation of the volumes validated the figures, so it really should not have been a surprise. In hindsight I'm surprised our builder didn't ask me to organise in more lories in the first place. If I do this again I'll order the lorries in advance rather than madly phoning round for spare capacity so that work can continue. The foul water pump arrived on Wednesday, having the levels all sorted from the site setting out I was able to cut the input to the tank, so it's all ready to get dropped into a hole once it's been dug and a concrete base is in place. The next task was to get all the drainage runs under the raft in place. With the raft due Monday and the builder having to go to another job on Friday to supervise another ICF concrete pour we were running out of time. Hopefully resolved the problem by getting a crew in on Saturday to get the drainage done. Stone for the raft substrate should star arriving first thing Monday, so fingers crossed we should have the raft ready for concrete which is booked for Thursday...we shall see.
  8. Simon R

    Almost ready to start

    Not what I wanted to hear. Only went down this route as we could not satisfy the 5m soak away regulation and connection to the surface water sewer was prohibitive. The tank we are going to be using has a filtration system built in and the water drains have a coarse scotchbrite filters. I'll put in two supplies to the washing machine so that if the water tank supply proves a problem I can switch it to mains. All a bit of a complication I could do without especially as RWH systems are not carbon neutral.
  9. Simon R

    Almost ready to start

    We did look at connecting to the surface water sewer and the foul sewer. Because they are under the road we had to find contractors with the relevant licences, the costs were eye watering to say the least. We are connecting the foul sewer to an existing inspection chamber which required we put in a pumped solution, not ideal but affordable. For surface water we had a similar problem, and as the site is small the 5M separation for a soak away was not achievable. We've had discussions with building controls about how too handle the tank overflow and it looks as though they are prepared to accept a 3M separation for the soak away.
  10. Simon R

    Almost ready to start

    Had to laugh, expanding foam is a nightmare, gets stuck to everything and comes off nothing! The JUB system should mean we use very little foam during the block assembly as they are all pre-cut at the factory and interlock rather than having to be foam glued. How true this turn out to be we are about to find out.
  11. Simon R

    Almost ready to start

    We are going to try running it without chemicals initially. A bit of background reading on the sustainable sites suggests you can achieve this with good management of the tank. We'll give it a go and keep our fingers crossed.
  12. Simon R

    Almost ready to start

    Hopefully it will all get used for flushing toilets and running the washing machine. The rain water tank sizing calculator I used predicted a tick size of 3000ltr and we've gone for 4600 to give us additional margin. We also have a tank gauge display in the house so can monitor the tank level. I guess the problem is that you have to look at a worse case scenario where the house is not occupied. The site is too small to get teh required 5m separation of house and soak away, so it looks like surface water sewer is the way we will have to go if we can't get agreement to a soak away closer to the house.
  13. Simon R

    Almost ready to start

    Well with just days before we start we have our house block plan. All the bricks have ID's so all we have to do its put them in the right places. The blocks are coming loaded on pallets, each with it's own manifest. The scale of the kit is a bit daunting and having done my bit of Lego with the kids in the past I can't help remembering the fun of looking for that special brick that seems so illusive. Fingers crossed we don't end up with one left over after the last concrete poor. With site works just about to commence some of the details we thought were sorted are coming unravelled. Our rain water harvesting tank (RWH) which was nicely located on the edge of the property has had to be moved as the builder is concerned over the size of the hole next to the public highway. At 2.5M deep and 3.2M long. I can only agree, just a pity it didn't get mentioned until the week before we start digging. The tank is being moved to the rear garden along with all the associated changes to surface water collection drainage. While sorting this out it was spotted that the tank overflow was connected to the sewer, the sewer company takes a dim view of the idea of connecting surface water the sewer system. The fact that the tank capacity is very over specified and the overflow will probably never see any water is irrelevant. One of the main reasons we are an RWH was to take care of surface water as our plot is small and we could not get the 5 metre separation required by the building regs. There is a surface water drain in the road outside the plot but it's very deep which will make connecting to it prohibitively expensive. Just another detail to sort out that we would rather have handled before we started. Still no ones hurt so it's not serious... An 8 ton digger is scheduled for delivery first thing Monday and site setting out scheduled for Tuesday faternoon. Lots of lorries for waste and MOT. With the raft components being delivered the following Monday it's going to be a busy week. Hopefully we'll find no bodies on the site...
  14. The Rhino frames are thermally broken but even so are pretty poor in terms of U value, the profile is U2.9 which is OK on the larger windows but not so good as the ration of glass to frame diminishes. The profile supplier is AluK, very nice high quality product range. We are also going to look at Reynaer which look almost identical to the Aluk product but have a larger thermal break and will take triple glazed. Not a firm we had come across, so thanks I'll take a look. We did look at UPVC but found the frames rather bulky and we are trying get as low profile as we can. UPVC does represent the best performance value of any windows we have looked at though.