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Found 14 results

  1. Yesterday afternoon, we found out that the funding for our project was cancelled. For over two years we thought (were repeatedly assured) we had our build financed but we were wrong. The nitty gritty doesn't matter: in fact to describe how and why it happened would be inappropriate. The money isn't there. It's not as if we weren't warned by Aesop: The Milkmaid and Her Pail Welcome, therefore, to the full-on-self-build-experience. Oh Kevin McCloud , where are you when there's a true bit of drama? My trite Army-learned 'Can't take a joke, shouldn'a started ' doesn't even begin to cut it. Whisky, tears, drunken babbling, sleeplessness, listlessness, anger. The pair of us red-eyed, swearing and staring at spreadsheets lead to the following conclusions; Sell our cottage in good order next Spring - divert current funds to that end With minimal help, do lots of jobs myself Where possible and safe, cut corners: focus on good quality infrastructure: extend the term of the full build Sell the digger I'm really not sure I can take much more sleeplessness. Been catching up from the last disaster in July. And we were so ecstatic after our final pour on Friday. The shell of the house is up and safe. Scaffolding on its way down. And still many people would give their eye teeth to have the opportunity we have been given. Especially neighbours. It's the Do Lots Of Jobs Myself bit that scares me. I'm not asking for sympathy, just understanding when I post how-to-do-this-really-cheaply-and-on-my-own questions. More to follow tomorrow. Ian
  2. I know the answer is ours and ours alone to make. Testing my thinking is what this post is about. Am I too involved; missing the wood for the trees, too cross to make a sensible judgement? And if I am minded to go it alone, can I follow through? Writing about it will help me think too. Our builder is being evasive. Over promising. Disorganised or absent paper work. Withholding vital information until a few seconds before disappearing from the site. Some aspects of the work have been excellent, others not. He struggles to retain staff. Some are oafs. (Oaves?) Others the opposite: accurate workers, polite, funny, interesting. We've had some meteorological bad luck. But that hiccup has been overcome to the extent that the replacement blocks are here. Calm analysis and talking to the loss adjuster has been reassuring. I have (until now) had a misplaced faith in the value of a promise. I had a verbal agreement to pay, and did so when I said I would. I accepted that detailed invoices to substantiate the charges would follow. They haven't. In simple terms, we've paid a good deal on account. We are now at least a month behind schedule. "... We'll be down towards the end of the week..." Right. That's been said so often now, it's hollow. I know enough about Durisol to - with the help of this community - to build the shell myself. On my own. Very often there's a gale at the beginning of September. And I do not want the rest of the 'unpoured blocks' on the floor. That's the real driver Do I sack them and get on with it? In an instant I would if I could get one reliable, thoughtful, fit building partner. I'd be pushing it on my own. But it can be done. Just. What needs to be done? Blocks laid to just above first floor: skill level - very easy And then poured. (tricky, but I've seen it done three times now and I am not stupid) Rest of the blocks laid and poured : skill level easy to tricky (trimming the gable will be interesting), but not impossible. If I do it slowly and carefully its well within my fitness and competence level If I do that I will have taken this mess by the scruff of the neck and got on with it. Yes, it's our decision. But poke my thinking, ask uncomfortable questions. My deep instinct is to get on with it, while seeing if I can recruit someone to work with me - for safety as much as anything.
  3. Looking for a new project

    Hi everyone, My name is Nathan and I currently work as a Project Engineer/ Manager for a engineering company operating in the nuclear industry. I am currently considering going self-employed as a Project Manager working for self-builders, charities and small businesses who have construction projects. I started my working career as a Trainee Architectural Technician with an Architects firm, then after 4 years moved to a Timber Frame Manufacturer where I worked as a Timber Frame and Roof Truss Designer and Estimator. The skills I developed in estimating then led me to a job as a estimator at the engineering company where I've progressed to the role of Project Engineer / Project Manager. I also have formal qualifications: ONC in Civil Engineering, HNC in Construction and the Built Environment and an APM Intro Certificate in Project Management. Skills: Very proficient in using Microsoft Project (planning software) and AutoCAD as well as 3D design software. Experienced in using Total Stations (precision engineering projects and topographical surveys) Familiar with working to contracts (currently work on NEC3 contract on a daily basis) Understand costing and estimating processes My question is: Is there a market for self-build project managers? If so, does anybody have any advice for starting a career in this field? Thanks Nathan
  4. A friend Allan) has just called to talk through a problem he's having with his builder. Basically the builder completed the first week on site, building a large lounge, kitchen and dinning room extension. As agreed the first invoice was submitted on Thursday via email, but it arrived without any of the supporting materials invoices as had been agreed in the contract. So Allan emailed the builder pointing this out and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing a new invoice with the supporting paperwork was submitted for a lower amount late on Thursday night. Allan then goes to London on business early on Friday, anyway during he day he gets an email and two voice messages on his personal phone (switched off because he's with a client all day) wanting to know where the invoice payment is? He only gets these messages when he turns on his personal phone on 6.27pm train home. He emailed the builder saying he'll deal with it over the weekend. He then gets a call on Saturday from the builder saying that there is a problem with a delivery of materials booked for Monday morning, from a local builders merchants. Apparently the BM have just been taken over (true) and have cut his business credit limit. Allan is a senior project manager, so has done all the due diligence on his shortlisted builders, before appointing this one. He's now worried about the builders liquidity. Any suggestions as to the best way forward that will protect Alan's position?
  5. Things have slowed down a bit for various reasons too boring to relate. So, I've decided to finish the Piggery myself, and let the main builder finish the house (when he decides to come back on site). In @Construction Channel's words, "How hard can it be?" The main aim is to rebuild the piggery to look (outwardly) exactly the same as it looked before, but to turn it into a useful storage and utility space. This is what the piggery used to look like but now it looks like this Just in case anyone thinks that a forum Admin is an expert, let's be clear, I haven't built anything in my life before. (Failed Woodwork at school, got thrown out of Metalwork too). But I did spend years watching my dad build bridges. (M5, M50) There are a series of challenges here Design and build the roof Make the connections for water and sparks Clad it Build and fit the doors Connect the Piggery to the house (water and sparks) Fit it out: washing machine, storage racking, sink I have never done any of this before. So, I'd be glad of your help. I'll try and keep a detailed record of what I plan to do and then compare it with what really happens. I would not have considered doing this without the experience of the generosity of BuildHub. The aim of this post is to give something back, especially to all those who do not post, to those who worry that by posting, they will be making a fool of themselves , or who are maybe a bit shy about 'getting-it-wrong'. For me and many others that's normal. Starting on the roof today. Sorting out the gables.
  6. If I hadn't been there.....

    A small in-build redesign means that part of the temporary window frame has to be taken out to enable someone to reach underneath it and take out the insulation. It is to be replaced by concrete. Simple job : two hours. That was agreed in late June. Here we are early July, contractors back on site, and two hours after they'd started, I noticed that they weren't taking the frames out to get at the insulation. A quiet word later and it's being done. Frames on their way back in. If I hadn't been there, it would have cost us an arm and a leg to remediate that one. It's taken three years to get the stage where I say TGIF. I can't say you all didn't warn me.
  7. Making a sensible guess at what it might cost We already know from the previous Blog Post that , at the moment, Stone Columns is the preferred method. So, it's straight to SPONS for a look-see. Here's a link to the book, it's expensive, but it's saved me more money than I care to count - and here's the twist - it's increased my level of confidence no end. Because I know what a reasonable price is likely to be. Here's the link to a post I made about it recently - goes into more detail than I do here (I don't want to repeat myself, people get bored so I'm told). This blog post will illustrate how useful the book can be: or how useful it is to me. SPONS - the hardback book has a few pages on piling (Chapter 7 p.238 et seq), and when you buy it you also get the licence for an online version - and that allows you to search for 'piling' across the whole book. Suddenly you are aware of all sorts of things to do with piling, as well as the charges directly attributable to piling. So, for example I find that a CFA team consists of 3 blokes (sorry 'people'), their rates of pay and so on. Very absorbing. And that's useful because it begins to redress the 'expert' , 'customer' imbalance. Fuller information promotes partnership and engagement. I accept that some may not want that, but I do. Many piling methods need a piling mat. Some don't (Surefoot for example) See also my previous blog post So the key for me at the moment is how to sort out the piling mat. The Basics There are two elements to piling: the piles themselves and the piling and the area which needs to be prepared for the rig. It's called a ' Piling Mat' A piling mat is simple: its a level area about 2 meters wider than the plot so that the piling rig can strut its stuff. (I'll post the exact specification later) So in our case that's about 14 meters by 14 meters. That needs to be costed. Here goes: area affected - (10 by 10 plus two meters each side for wriggle room , that makes 14 by 14), say 200 sq m, lets keep it easy for those of us who only just passed maths O Level. The SI report makes it clear that we have at least 2m of made ground everywhere. What's the spec for a Piling Mat? Well, if you pay £45:00 you can find out. BRE (2004) Working Platforms for Tracked Plant: good practice guide to the design, (etc.) For costing purposes we can have a look at SPONS now (page 163) '...excavate to form piling mat; supply and lay imported hardcore – recycled brick and similar to form piling mat...' Spon's Architect's and Builders' Price Book 2016. CRC Press Assuming the site needs to be dug over to a depth of 1 m and then compacted, I need a price for 200m cubed . That translates to a price of £1600 to £2000. First quote £11,000. Yeah, right. The piling itself: The SE will tell the piling company what they need to support, and the SE needs the Soil Investigation and the Topographical survey To Be Continued
  8. The self-builders guide to the construction phase. Thought I'd start a thread where we can comment on any books we have found of use. Kicking it off, I've just finished The Self-builder's guide to the construction phase by Vince Holden. I found it a good read and it has addressed to a degree something I've struggled to find elsewhere - namely a detailed breakdown of the order to do things on site - like scaffold lifts and avoiding unnecessary changes (and thus cost), who does what after who and so on. Certainly for someone of my knowledge level this is helpful and for some reason seems to be skirted around in other self build books I've read, who allude to it, but are short on the detail, which always stuck me as odd given how important it is if you do not know. This book definitely gives you a handle on that issue. It also deals nicely with some of what the various trades will want from you and from each other and who you need to have a 3 way conversation with if managing the build yourself. I've really enjoyed the read, and also available by Holden is his guide to project management, although I have not read that. The one down I have is that this paperback book is 294 pages, can be read in a day, but costs £24.95 at the time of writing. You can look at this one of two ways - either he's split what should be one book (600 pages would not be unreasonable at that price for a specialist subject) into two, meaning just short of £50 for both, or since you will save far more than £24.95 from even utilising one bit of the advice he gives, then it's good value.
  9. Great Crested Newts. Bless them, and bless the planners one and all. Here we all are a year -closer to two- years later than planned and winter's on its way. The question is simple: buy the expensive stuff now and store, or wait until Spring? Key things to source: Durisol building blocks (a form of ICF) Windows German (yeah, yeah, right) plumbing bits and bobs Here's the RICS on the subject for September Storage is a bit of an issue, and with windows it is an issue - maybe I'll be able to buy now for delivery next year..... I feel an OUCH! coming on. I'm really scratching my head over this one. I'd appreciate a non-political focus on this one please.
  10. Why Piles? Because we are on a spoil heap. Our house will be built on the spoil heap of what was a clay and sandstone quarry. We are here The ridge of trees 50m to the south stand on the top of what was the old quarry face. We had a soil survey done (have a look at it here) The bore hole location map is on page 47 and the profiles are detailed on the next pages. Here's how much it cost to get this done. (Feb 2015; desk study and geophysics). Our house will stand on the site of the old chicken shack. Debbie (SWMBO and @MrsRA), bless her heart, had the foresight to buy this piece of land in 1985. And I had to mow it. Win some, lose some. Sold the mower the other day - paid for the survey. Won that one. The desk study and and ground investigation report were supported by a proper site survey (see page 47 here - the bore holes are the green smudges) The full site survey is an A1 sheet which I've had printed and attached to the wall of the kitchen for reference. There'll also be a copy in the container office. It is a key bit of paper (vinyl). Our Structural Engineers are simply brilliant (PM me for details if you like). They took the details above and turned them into a plan for our piling. They needed all the above details - cost of all the above about £3500 if you take everything into account. Result of that expenditure is reasonable confidence that we aren't making a significant error in design. Here's a copy of the piling design, together with a table of the loads for each pile PilingCalculationsInsulatedFoundation.pdf I prepared a simple zipped briefing pack for each piling contractor: contents: Soil Survey, SE's Piling design and plan, Architects Plans, Photos of the site, Site surveyor's report, United Utilities Underground Services report, Screen Grab from Google maps, overhead and Street View. I googled 'Screw Piling' site: .uk, and contacted the first three or four attaching the site briefing pack. I also googled ' piling Lancashire ' and rang up a few local companies. "What, you've 'ad a site survey done, mate? What, how moooch did that costcha? ....'OW MOOCH? Hmmm, we'd a dun that fo ya fer nowt maaate" "Thanks, I'll be in touch". Pity that. I'd love to spend the money locally. Next problem. How to compare like with like when -if- the quotes come in? How can anyone compare quotes fairly? It isn't easy. Hence this blog. So, I've decided to expose the process as fully as is sensible (protecting suppliers' confidentiality, and removing all names and contact details) Come along with me - pick the process to bits for yourself, and maybe make the process easier for yourself.
  11. Budgets and spreadsheets go together like [...........insert your own idiom here..............] And so do errors: errors of fact and errors in formulae. Realising that, recently, every time it rains, I'm in the office trying hard to avoid checking our spreadsheet. Errors of fact Not a great lot to be done here. My only suggestion is to get a mate to check with you. @MrsRA is better at this process than I am, but we still manage to avoid the issue because it's so hard (for that read time-consuming) to do something which 'should' be easy. It isn't. Errors in Formulae Is there anything that can help the hard, detailed, mind-numbing, eye-watering, annoying slog Yes Here is a simple search for all versions of the term 'formula auditing' (because there are so many versions of spreadsheets out there) And here is one website's summary of several approaches to checking formulae in the most common (I think) spreadsheet of all. Just sayin'. Guess what I'm doing this morning.
  12. How big are your piles, then?

    Well, whatever size they end up, my eyes are going to water. That much is certain. Here's the thing: our SE has given us a comprehensively specified pile design. More than good enough as the basis for a tender. And slowly, the piling companies are coming round to visit the site, and then submit their tenders. But each company has specified piles of differing specifications; In terms of diameter ; one company suggests 220 mm, the next some 150 mm, and the rest 168 mm Is it simply a case of the bigger the diameter of the pile, the shallower the 'drive' is likely to be?
  13. Ah, heart-in-mouth stuff this. The phone goes - new number - no half second when you can adjust to the person you know is on the other end because the name flashes up on the screen. Starting a phone conversation with a technical expert, but hoping for an emotionally literate, customer-focused, technically easy to understand response is not a pleasant feeling. Add to that a mobile phone with a hiccup and a slightly distracting tomcat (Sid) who fastens himself to my leg in mid-sentence, a recipe for miscommunication. Semi-Undaunted because I've done a bit of homework. I prepared a Briefing Pack for the Piling Contractors. They've got all the information I have got in front of them and I've asked for an initial chat. Important this: first impressions and all that. Imagine then my delight when I hear a man's voice says, you don't need [This Company X] because .............. and it would be better for you to use a different piling system because............ Customer Focus. Yippee! (PM me for the details of who and which company). And he proceeds to give me the low down on why screw piles are likely not the best system. Our Soil Investigation makes it clear that our land is not suitable for piling with screw piles. He's just saved me a lot of money. A lot. And I'm grateful. And they do MVHR and this and that and the other for new-builds. Who am I going to contact and ask for a quote for MVHR, this that and the other? Right. No brainer. Interesting then that another company [ Company Y] has already submitted a quote '... based on the information [ I ] have provided...' (which was exactly the same as to the former company) amounting to £23,000. Company Y manufacture the piles and licence an installer to do the work for them. In this case I would need to be really sure who takes appropriate professional responsibility for using screw piles - and be able to explain why they were not using another system instead. And in dealing with one quote which involves two companies, I'm asking myself where's the potential for conflict of interest? This sentence in their quote set my teeth on edge... '...As you are no doubt aware, some piling schemes are installed to a ‘set’. This means that the actual works and final costs can invariably increase on the day of installation...' 'Can' and 'invariably increase' written next to one another. The best I can say is that the sentence wasn't drafted with care. The Plot Thickens One contractor (PM for details) rings up and says. " Your piling requirement is for about 200Kn, so it can't be done with a mini piling system. So for the spec you have it'll need CFA (Continuous Flight Auger) piles - or some other system. Mind if we pop round to have a look at the site? I've had a look at the briefing pack you sent us, looked at Street View on Google Earth and I'm a bit concerned about access to your site. I just need to have a quick look. Will Wednesday morning be OK?" Customer focus writ large. Before the guy arrives (this is written on Tuesday, the day before he comes) I am well disposed to his company approach. He's told me that the two quotes I already have need to be re-read in the light of the access issue - and that one of them - the company that wants to use mini piles - probably hasn't read my briefing pack well enough. So that's why I changed the title of this post to [...], not so clueless of Lancaster So now I'm wondering whether the TAF (Temporary Amphibian Fence) forced on us by our blessed newts (I love them really) have screwed up access to the site. And in any case, this exercise has taught me that access needs to be considered for every large delivery. That is bigger than a 7.5 tonner. Hmm, how to do that efficiently? Ideas on a postcard please..... (06:00) Tuesday 08:10: See this comment by CalvinMiddle, and his further reference to this document...... (here). Bottom line; do your basic research. Interesting day ahead. Oh dear another over-long day ahead. Fun this retirement lark!
  14. Piling: makes me nervous so.....

    We need some piles. Into every life a little rain must fall. I know nowt about piles. So, onto YooChube, onto the architect, onto the SE, and I have some outline advice. Use screw piles. Why? Here OK, so now what? I know the cost will be significant, and when my bank balance is about to get hit, I get cautious. So, I've decided to blog about it in a good deal of detail. Because there's one process that makes me more jangled than anything: how does anyone compare like with like? Reducing risk is the key thing I think, but I still feel damn nervous about it. And one way of reducing that horrible feeling that grips at 5 in the morning - what the Hell have I missed out now ? - is by turning that fear (yes fear) into some sort of creative, positive action. Hence the blog and this post. So, I'm putting all of the information on line (suitably edited - no emails, no phone numbers, no company names, no addresses) so you can all have a look and comment Please come with me, linger, lurk, laugh, look, learn with me. And comment, poke, challenge, ask. Please!