Red Kite

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  1. Progress on site has been a bit slow so we have combined the last two weeks together, and also the guys packed up early on Friday for their long and well earned Christmas break. Over the last two weeks you can see them taking down the last of the shuttering and getting it off site. So that is the end of the poured concrete for us which is a big milestone and you can now see the full extent of the basement / foundations. The next step was to put a fillet of mortar all around the outside of the kicker to get a smooth edge for the membrane, and then prime the outside of the concrete in black. Then they have started to put on the external tanking membrane which has been a real challenge in the wet and cold. At one point they resorted to putting the membrane in the digger cab and running the heater to get it flexible and warm. They managed to get the left hand side wall completed and the first job next year will be to put the French drain around that side and backfill with clean stone so they can get around to the back and continue the tanking. They then need to build the internal walls out of blockwork and then the beam and block floor ready for the Timber Frame. So given a really wet autumn progress is pretty good; the guys have worked really hard and though it has taken longer than we thought, we are pretty happy. Now it all depends on the weather in January! The waterproofing guys inspected the concrete and declared it 'near perfect' so looking good for the warranty. Also the BCO and Structural Warranty folks all seem happy so that is comforting. They seem impressed, as we are, with the quality of the work and the attention to detail - which, given the weather, is a huge credit to the guys on site. And whatever the weather they are cheerful and work really hard. Are there any convention out there on how you treat your contractors? - we make sure to drop off cake or cookies to them about once a week, and even mince pies for Christmas! It also looks like we have finally got some drawings to sign off from the TF company so just waiting on our SE to agree and we can push the button to get it into production - so likely to see it in Feb. Similarly with the windows - we have a complete schedule that looks good and though it has taken ages the window supplier, the TF supplier and our Architect all see to be in agreement - fingers crossed they all fit!!!! And they are on 12 - 14 weeks lead time so likely in March! So wishing all of you following our build a Happy Christmas and we are looking forward to further progress and an exciting New Year! On the video front see for the weekly videos (Week 12 & Week 13 just added - but not too exciting). And as an extra special Christmas treat the entire 13 weeks of 2019 Groundworks videos are compacted down to a 3 minute video summary named 2019 ( ) Its much too quick to capture the detail but it give a really rapid view of the progress we have made this year - starting after the demolition in October. So still a way to go - but moving forward is so much better than having your soul ever so slowly destroyed by the Planning process! So From This To This
  2. The weather was really cold this week but the guys cracked on and removed the shuttering from the first pour of the walls and moved it ready for the second pour. Luckily the weather warmed up and they were able to pour the final structural walls on Friday so this should be the last of the waterproof concrete. As you can see where the shuttering has come off we are left with really neat concrete with just the shutter panel marks. The waterproofing guy inspected these and was really happy: in his words 'near perfect'! He will do a detailed inspection when all the shuttering is off and if there are any cracks (and he couldn't see any so far) they will get filled and sealed with some sort of waterproof compound. The next step will be to remove all the shuttering and then we will see the real space for the basement and houses . Its odd how sometimes the space seems huge and at other times it gets much smaller. Following the clean-up its external tanking/waterproofing and backfill and internal masonry walls. Also you can see the opening for the garage window which has been pre-cast, its the only opening we can actually measure before we order the windows which is a scary thought! Sadly the temperature really went down with one of our main suppliers this week. Firstly they missed some details in their quote and the (agreed price) contract,and came back with an extra price to fix this. This is really annoying since we pointed out several time at the quote stage that there was a really odd detail in the Architects plans and were they OK with it; we were assured that this was OK so we went forward on that basis, only now do we find that they missed the complexity and extra work it will take. They have had the drawings for this detail, which has never changed, for at least 6 months and we released final Architects drawing to them about 3 months ago - so its taken them a very long time to figure this out, though they do apologise and acknowledge its their cock up. From our point of view, and we are confident from a contractual standpoint, we are in the right and its their cost, obviously they have their view on it which is somewhat different. Eventually they did come down 30% but they refused to meet us half way. So what do you do at this point? They are adamant that without the extra payment they are not prepared to do the work. We could take it to arbitration and we are reasonably confident we would win, or at least end up at the 50/50 point we were reluctantly prepared to go to. However if were to go down that route then its pretty certain they would stop work and we would be facing a huge delay, and certainly it would be very difficult to work with them going forward. To some extent we can see their point of view - its extra work and materials they hadn't costed and it does need to be done. Annoyingly though, if we had know about this when we were negotiating Non Material Amendments with Planning we might have been able to design it out and go to their zero cost standard detail - but going back to Planning at this stage is not really an option (or one fraught with risk and delay, and a huge history!). We had not quite decided what to do, but seemed to be between a rock and a hard place when they came back with some more elements they had missed and wanted to reduce window sizes, add more steel, take out the Pocket Doors and charge us more money. At this point I have to say I lost it a bit and voiced my dissatisfaction! Things have improved a bit and they looked at the design with some more care and it seems they can solve most of the problems and all we need to do is compromise some room sizes to accommodate them. If this had happened when they first got the drawings, or when we gave them 'final' Architect drawings we would have been much happier, but really this is very late in the day to uncover issues like this. The really worrying bit is what else is there that they have not found yet! So with the relationship temperature still below freezing we seem to have little choice but to carry on - but we are still really unhappy and as its a major reputable supplier it make our position really difficult. Perhaps we are being unreasonable, or naive, in our expectations, but its probably a lesson learnt - regardless of the contract when you reach a certain point going back becomes an almost impossible option and your supplier has you in a corner (to put it politely!). See for the weekly videos.
  3. Pre-cast is probably less labour and possibly cheaper materials, but I was not able to find a waterproof version so I never costed it out. If I had gone this way then I would have had to put external tanking (as I am doing now) and also an internal tanking / drainage membrane. You need two of three, forms of waterproofing in habitable basements (external tanking, waterproof concrete, internal tanking/drainage). I have a real aversion to internal drainage as it seems like an admission of failure if you let the water in and then pump it out. The other two options were Glathaar (German offsite precast) that are eye wateringly expensive, plus they dont do the dig - just the panels. Or ICF which would have worked out well, but we have a very odd insulation setup that would have made it tricky. Plus I wanted to use our contractors and they are singularly unimpressed by ICF - though they are never very clear on why. The waterproof concrete on its own in likely sufficient, especially as we are out of the ground at the front so have low hydrostatic pressure, and the external membrane is just another of those 'belt and braces' features to keep the BCO happy and give us a 20 year warranty.
  4. I think the SE would specify 12 x 4 glulam! (but he might just upsize it to be sure - or hell, costs no issue so lets just go with a monster steel). Given my time again and the huge cost of engineered foundations I would interview several SEs on the basis of 'value engineering' and 'timeliness' . I would pay the best two for a single days work to come up with their draft scheme and cost these up and base my choice of SE on build cost (and timeliness), and not on professional fees. It might be a bit expensive to run a competition but the scope for savings is huge. I am convinced we are into the 12 x 4 glulam design where the 6 x 2 would have been fine. Once you have an SE on board and he specifies 12 x 4 you are pretty much stuck with it. Though I am also convinced that our basement is 'bomb proof' and I have no worries about its integrity or longevity, which is no bad thing. And humble apologies to any SE's on the board - nothing personal, and our SE is great and very professional; I just feel if it was his own money going into the ground he might have slightly different ideas. And I do know they are constrained by a bunch of legislation and PII issues so its not an easy task.
  5. As you can see in the video this week they built up the shuttering in layers; first the outside, then the steel in the middle of the sandwich and finally the internal shutter. Also along the bottom they cleaned out the kicker and laid in a waterbar / waterstop (that brown bar in one of the photos) in a pre-formed channel, this forms a seal and prevents any water coming through the joint between the walls and the floor. They bolt the two halves of the shuttering together with steel threaded bars inside a foam sleeve so that they can get the right thickness and hold the shuttering against the weight of wet concrete. The steel bars come out when they strike the shuttering and they waterproof the holes. As you can see they didn't pour all the walls in one go but built alternating sections and will do the infill next, I think this is partly down to cost of shuttering hire, and partly down to the sheer weight of concrete. The steel shuttering is really solid and well braced so there is no risk of collapse or burst and wet concrete spilling out everywhere like you sometimes see on GD's. It was a bit of a wet week but they pushed on because the waterproof concrete and pump was booked for Friday, and they had extra manpower on site as my contractors brought in a couple of guys from the shuttering hire company who really do know how to put up shuttering fast! Sometimes it pays to get in the experts who do just one job really well. I had an interesting discussion that groundworks like this is often seen as a pure manual labour job rather than a skilled trade like sparks, brickies or chippies. In fact, at the level our guys work at, it is really a highly skilled trade and they are working to really fine detail and tolerance, plus you only ever get one shot at poured concrete! We have nothing but admiration for them - they are doing an amazing job in some pretty dreadful weather. Next week they will take down the shuttering so we can really see the exact size and scale of the walls which will be great. Then they will rebuild the shuttering to make the remaining retaining walls and expect to pour these in about 10 days and this will be the last of the poured waterproof concrete - it will be great to get that done before it gets really cold as the waterproof needs at least 2 deg. Progress on the other elements is crawling along; MBC seem to be taking an age to produce drawings, and Internorm should have the survey complete next week (so about 4 weeks) and are now saying 12 - 15 weeks for delivery - so March-ish. We could say that delays getting MBC drawings make this easier - MBC have not given an estimate of when we will have a frame on site but I am expecting its now into February-ish. And this will give the groundworkers plenty of time to complete the substructure if the weather turns really bad. After 5 years of delays with PP you tend to get a bit blasé about the odd few weeks and we have never had a rigid timescale but it is a bit frustrating how long some of these things take, and how little control you have! Almost certainly their relaxed attitude to timescales will not extend to payment terms! See for the weekly videos. The weather for the pour of the walls was dry and sunny, but very high humidity give it that ghostly misty look - will try to get the next pour a bit clearer - I think the presence of a concrete pump upsets the camera somehow!
  6. And this is part of my bar bending schedule - its totally meaningless to me and just specifies an expensive pile of rusty steel! It was included in our SE's work - and I can't see how an SE can design and warrant a design without specifying the steel he decides is needed - but I am not a Structural Engineer. However being an SE he seems to have built in several layers of 'contingency' - i.e. a huge amount of steel and concrete, where less might have been perfectly adequate. This seems to be the result of our litigious society! 01 Bar Bending 11.12 Rev B.pdf
  7. Moonshine - PM'd you on the drawings. The sheet piles are as you say temporary and will come out after they back fill. They are there so the driveway above doesn't fall in the hole, or on the contractors. If you have the space you can slope the ground back (which they have done in most places) to avoid the need for expensive sheet piling, technically called 'battering back'. We have about one meter from the RC wall to the piling which is what they need to work in - but that space needs to be safe. Working at that kind of depth with any risk of collapse is REALLY dangerous. The SE didn't specify them the contractor did, and the BCO would have not allowed work without them.
  8. I would reckon leaving it exposed will be fine as long as the UFH pipes are not full of water and might freeze and split. Also making sure you keep as much water (rain and ground) under control as possible would be a good idea (you dont want the insulation to float up) - can you set up a pump? Insulation and steel are often left out on site for weeks at a time - not much to degrade really if its EPS or similar. Concrete for the slab in Jan will probably be OK unless it gets really cold - and slabs are usually not too bad as they are a large volume sat on insulation so they dont suffer from frost damage as they set - but check with your concrete supplier. I would pressure test the UFH pipes before you pour just in case - you cant fix them easily after the concrete goes down!
  9. Russ , its one slab for both houses, one retaining wall around both and then block walls in between both houses . Did you see my message about Herras?
  10. Actually it didn't pour and it was really great weather on Monday for the main slab pour which was a real help for the guys. They poured the 300mm thick slab - all 79m3 of it - all in one go, so it was a long day and the kicker took a lot of time as it was levelled with a trowel. It caused a few traffic problems when the first lorry was a long 8 wheeler and blocked the road, but after that 6 wheelers meant that cars could get past. As it is waterproof concrete and is covered by a 20 year warranty the waterproof guys had one person in the concrete plant mixing in the chemicals (dont ask - certainly not green in any way), and a second person on site monitoring the pour and checking it went in OK. As it turned out - perfect! Our contractors on site worked really hard and kept up with the deliveries and apart from not getting a break until 2:00pm (we brought them well deserved doughnuts!) it was all done and tamped down by about 4:00pm. They were able to walk on it the next morning and then proceeded to remove all the shuttering and timber formwork and started to build the shuttering for the walls that will get filled with yet more steel and more concrete. We can really start to see it taking shape and get a sense of the height of the walls. Also there is a really good solid base to work from and with the pump running the water is much more manageable. In the picture where they are pouring the last of the concrete you can see all the water that was on the membrane floats and gets pushed to the last corner where they have to bail it out so the concrete doesn't get too wet. The upside of doing a pour like this is, oddly enough, the cold and wet; doing it in the summer heat and dry means the concrete can go off really quickly and be difficult to work quickly enough. There was some mud on the road as a result but in comparison with the local farmer cutting his maize its nothing - the rest of the road by his fields is a real mess, and I dont think he has any intention of clearing it up like we will. So just some pics this time as the camera batteries had a funny five minutes and we failed to catch the epic pour on video - we joked that we might ask them to do it again - they said if we paid for more concrete - so photos it is!
  11. Week 8 was a short week on site as they finished all the prep for the slab pour on Thursday and went off to another job - or to hide from the weather. The big pour for the main slab is all set for Monday and because of the quantity of concrete and the waterproofing they booked it a week in advance. The slab gets poured in one go so its going to be a busy and exciting day! If you look (sorry the video is not very exciting this week) you can see them tying in the last of the L-bar / starter bar steel and then building the wooden formwork for the 'kicker': the small upstand that forms the first part of the walls. Its a pretty skilled job as getting this wrong will mean the walls are all out of alignment - but they seem to have done a very neat job. The early part of the week was good and we actually had some sunshine, but Thursday morning it snowed - not much but it was vile. Luckily there was only a little left to be done so they packed up early. Happily the forecast for Monday looks dry and the site is also pretty dry now we have the pump running 24/7. Our BCO came out and was really impressed by the quality of the job, and also impressed by the quantity of steel! He has signed it off and is happy, and even though he doesn't need to may come over on Monday with his graduates to see some of the pour. We also had our LABC surveyor out and he was equally happy, which is great because the window for changing anything in the slab has passed and this is the last we will ever see of this pile of steel. We did wonder about a 'time capsule' in the slab but couldn't think of any great ideas on what to put in there. We could easily put one in the walls so if there are any bright suggestions then let us know. See for the weekly videos
  12. Colin, I would play hard ball and turn the tables with something like "I do not agree to any extension of time, but if a decision is not made within this period I will assume you have no objections. After <decision date> I will proceed on the basis that you agree that permission has been granted by default (unless you contact me within 14 days)". I would quote the NPPF being in favour of sustainable development and since the original permission established this principle then you are confident that the Appeal Inspectorate will uphold this application. Go ahead with implementing the NMA and then if they serve an enforcement notice go for retrospective on the basis that they agreed to it by default. I wouldn't bother with an Appeal on Non-Determination (though its a good bargaining chip). I would however make sure that any communication is signed for and you have proof! I would write off the fee - unless you want to prove a point. Though it depends if your NMA is trying to 'fly under the radar' in any way - in which case I would keep very quiet! I am saying nothing about my own NMA - radar? what radar?
  13. Yes this is a fixed price Groundworks plus drainage contract with a specialist contractor. We have been talking to the contractor for over 5 years, at that point we were going to go with Weber Haus (the Euro put paid to that idea!) and he does a lot of the GW for all the German OSM's. Weber Haus have used him for 10 years plus and would not use anyone else. He is happy and able to work to the tolerance the Germans ask for (about 5mm!) and comes highly recommended. This for him is not a big job - hate to see bigger. So yes we are paying top dollar, and I am sure we could have gone cheaper (or DIY!!!! ) but the quality and knowledge is absolutely top notch. I heard some advice at one of the shows that was 'work with the best possible people you can afford' - we can just about afford this and so far he is proving to be the best. As a fixed price contract, as long as you dont have hard deadlines, it doesn't matter if there are weather delays, but as you can see they are cracking on. Also worth considering that we would likely have been on really deep trench fill foundations (or piles and ringbeam) for a more traditional foundation design; expensive and a pile of unknown risk. Raft foundations btw dont work well on sloped sites! (for some reason MBC declined to offer their brilliant raft foundation solution). Building the way we have adds some cost but takes a lot of the risk out (if you dig that deep!!!) and gives us two houses on the plot and lots of additional basement space. The rule of thumb is that the basement floor space will cost you per m2 'about the same' as the upper floors - but you get the foundations as a bi product. So then its down to how much space you want and can afford. Given we had a height restriction of no more than the existing bungalow we couldn't go upwards, which left outwards or downwards. Outwards wouldn't have allowed two houses on the plot easily due to planning and site restrictions (we tried!). So we went downwards, which works well with the sloped site. Certainly not the route for everyone, or for a cost sensitive DIY build (I couldn't imagine doing this as a DIY or even PM + Subcontract project like so many brave souls on this board seem to do), but as with all self-build you get to choose exactly what route you want to go down (or 'choose your brand of insanity'). Though were that route takes you is a different story........As they say 'its a journey'.
  14. Yup, muckaway costs what it costs, same as everything. Question is what do you need to allow for and what things to factor in that are part and parcel of the dig. Based on our somewhat massive dig (see the blog) it aint as simple as it seems. These are non-expert observations and based only on what we have seen - your mileage may vary. Ours was approx 600m3 - 'as dug' or 'in the ground' gets a bit immaterial at that point - its just really big and expensive! Firstly you need to understand what the ground is like - to the depth you plan to dig (plus some), and over the whole site. Our clay was relatively easy to dig out but was potentially very messy and sticky. Also we know it was pretty consistent over the site but we did hit a patch of gravel in the clay that meant more sheet piling we had not accounted for. Not picked up on our soil survey btw. Then you need to calculate just what volume to dig (the obvious bit) - you will need at least 1m all round the outside of the slab to allow access, and then you need to batter back (i.e. create a slope to ground level) so it doesn't all fall back in (or sheet pile if you dont have the room). The batter angle (or technically the angle of repose ) depends on the ground conditions so you need to check with your SE on what is a safe angle. You also need to dig deeper than the slab as you will need a sub-base (Type 1), some blinding layer, insulation somewhere, the slab itself, screed, floor covering etc/ So work from FFL downwards and add the extras to the muckaway. BTW dont dig any more than you have to - you can't un-dig and any dug areas you dont need will probably need to be backfilled with brought in materials not your muckaway. As you say the 'in the ground' volume is not the same as the 'as dug' since it 'fluffs up'. I think this depends on the soil type - there are calculators that help (eg determine volume and weights. Weight is also important as our lorries measured weight load and beeped when they were up to weight - even if there was space to get a few more bucketfuls in you stop at a weight limit. Wet clay is very heavy in winter - summer might have been better - or if you can dig and leave it for a few months to dry before carting it away I am told this helps reduce the cost/weight. I suspect that if you talk to muckaway contractors they will work that out for you - but it might 'fluff up' in the process. Drainage of the site, both when digging and afterwards, are really important - when you dig a big hole it typically fills with water. Our guys very early on dug a temporary French drain - a trench filled with gravel - round the slab. This then goes into a temporary sump and is pumped out and keeps the site dry-ish or manageable. You need to have somewhere to pump to btw. We will get a proper drain later but this temporary one is all extra cost - more digging and gravel in that you probably dont think about. You need to think about the logistics - our site looked huge but when it comes to digging and muckway its really tight. You need to have somewhere to stand the lorries to load them, and you need to make sure they dont get stuck in the mud - or leave half your site on the highway. Our guys dug an off road area, filled it with type 1 and then compacted it, just for the lorries. Hardly a drop of clay on the road - but more muckaway and costs - but a great base for our new driveway. Also there seems like there is a huge amount of skill in digging: first some digging, loading some, moving the digger, making sure you dont dig yourself into a corner and generally thinking a bit before going wild with a big digger. Our biggest time constraint while digging was getting enough lorries in a day - but we were close to the point of not being able to fill them fast enough. If you want to keep some topsoil for landscaping then you need somewhere to store it - or it goes into muckaway and then you buy it back! And you will need some storage area on site - so that might just be where you were planning to store the topsoil! So to summarise the simple steps - get a topo and soil survey so you know where you stand. Then you will need an SE to design the foundations / basement and he (or she) will probably have the biggest cost impact on your whole project cost (if I knew then what I know now!), plus a drainage engineer in our case. Then you work backwards from this and the Architects designs to the hole, how big it is etc etc. Then you can figure just how much it is likely to cost, and how the logistics might work. In our case our GW contractor wasn't able to price the job until the SE had spec'd the concrete and produced the steel bending schedule so it was unknown for a very long and worrying time! So good luck with the project, and hopefully all the above was just a recap for you - I would say that muckaway is the bottom of the iceberg!
  15. Hi, we are looking for a patent glazing solution for a flat-ish lightwell about 1.3m x 6m. It sits at about ground level so needs to be safe toughened / laminated and can 'flat' or up to about 15 deg pitch. There seems to be some on going joke on the board about walk-on glass that I dont understand but this could be walk on, but doesn't need to be. It needs to be thermally efficient since it sits in the thermal envelope of a 'close to PH' house - so triple glazed panels and some form of thermally broken framework. It abuts a vertical wall on one side and sits atop the basement wall at the other. We were envisaging some form of 'patent glazing' i.e. cross beams separating the 6m length into bays that get glazing panels. Has anyone done anything similar - any thoughts? and suppliers? Thx