Week off

I decided to take a week off this week. Partly as I had some holiday to use and partly because the jobs that needed doing before the boarding starts were mounting up. We also have ground workers onsite, the first trade I don’t really know so wanted to be about to try and keep an eye on them.

If I am honest the week didn’t start particularly well. I seem to have spent about a day moving things around the site again as everything was in the way. The good news is that it meant we were finally able to get rid of the skip that has been full for about 6 weeks but we couldn’t get off the site. The bad news is that I think things will need moving again!

The ground works team duly arrived on Monday morning and things already look a lot better. They have quite a list of jobs on their hands, and unsurprisingly there is a bill to match.

  • Foul water drainage
  • Rainwater drainage, including installing the harvesting tank and soak-away
  • Digging out the driveway
  • Retaining wall down the side of the property
  • Installing all of the service trenches including water, electricity and gas

A good start has already been made the driveway has been graded to the garage including all of the mess at the to the side. The path down the side has been levelled ready to be dug for drainage and retaining walls.

Whilst all of this has been going on Georgina and I have been taking advantage of both the children now being at school and are starting to tick of many of the jobs. I have finally put the bat boxes in place and they are ready hopefully never to be occupied. We did choose a slightly garish carpet to put them off. All the ceilings upstairs have had the vapour control layer fixed and we have been using up some of the OSB boarding by boarding some of the walls to add a bit mor sound insulation to some rooms.

Evidence of bat boxes in place

I have also started to wire the data points for the network and wireless. Something that isn’t as easy as I hoped it would be.

The first fix plumbing is now all finished and the electrics are pretty close.

Finally we had the arrival of the talking point of the week today.

George thinks it will make a good piece of modern art. Suggestion such as children’s climbing frame have also been made. The reality is that it’s a 5000 Litre water tank for capturing rainwater from the roof of the house. This will then be pumped to a tank in the loft and used to flush the toilets and wash clothes. First off it needs to be buried in the front garden. Thankfully I don’t have to dig that hole by hand.

With a decent amount of progress being made I’ll try and update the blog again at the end of the week.

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Dinner with a friend!

I have been out with a friend or two tonight. He is off to travel the world and doesn’t have a care in live, but he did tell me I have been shit at updating the blog and he wanted to know what was happening!

The reality is very little and also a lot. First fix is almost completed and we will be plaster boarding upstairs on the 17th September. I have some jobs to do but have a weeks holiday to do them next week. This times well with Austin starting school and Poppy-Ann going into Juniors.

We have had a chippie in who has put a slightly lowered ceiling into the master bedroom. There may have been a slight communication error between Georgina and myself but I think we have got over it. They have also built our extra walls and put the loft hatch and ladder in. The main job they have done is the roof bracing. It looks great and very happy with the work.

Colin has been back and built some more walls, but not enough!

We have appointed ground workers to do the retaining wall, put in all the drainage and trenches and the rain water harvesting! They start next week.

I asked what I thought wan an innocent question about sizing the soakaway. I find that it isn’t so easy and I need a percolation test at the cost of…yes you guessed it that magic £1000. We are on chalk so I see little issue. I hope!

Finally the roofers have pretty much finished and the scaffold is down from the single storey section. We still have to render it but that may have to wait. Inside is the most important.

Photo text in order as struggling to dedicate it in between the pictures:

1. Lots of lighting cables

2. Same again

3. First fix plumbing and MVHR

4. Out side scaffold down

5. Master bedroom window

6,7,8 Various internal and external

Visible progress

Finally some visible progress over the last couple of weeks – something we can see internally and something that can be seen from the outside – in answer to all those questions – yes we are still proceeding – no we haven’t run out of money – well not entirely (see later in the blog)!

Yes the windows are in – well most of them are. Amar and the team at Pure Glazing Solutions (http://www.pureglazingsolutions.com) have done a sterling job fitting the windows into the timber frame. We haven’t made their life easy, selecting a colour which wasn’t part of the standard pallet – Slate Grey – RAL7015 – or one number out as it has become to be know by us and the window team. (Anthracite grey is an off the shelf colour and has a RAL number of 7016). We decided this was too dark and much prefer the slate grey. Their attention to detail as a company has been great – even to the extent that the end caps for the external cills (which only come in stock colours) have been sent to the local paint shop to be silicon sprayed the same colour as the windows!

I also spent 2 days externally insulating the single storey roof section of the house. This has now been counter battened and the fixings will be finished this weekend ready for the roofers to return next week. Finally the builder is back to build the next section of the external walls in 2 weeks time. This will allow us to have the glass roof and rear window measured and fitted. Meaning we will finally be watertight. (except for the front door but that is a different matter.

Meanwhile things have been moving on inside the build. First fix plumbing and heating is well underway – there have been far more questions than I would care to answer for what you would think would be relatively standard items – what height do you want shower valves, what height do you want the basins…ongoing all of the time. Who knew how many decisions would need to be made. I don’t mind making design decisions but surely there is a standard basin height in this country – otherwise how do pedestals fit!

The kitchen design is pretty much finalised, we are just waiting for the final renders from Pat at Tara Neil (www.taraneil.com) which should allow us to sign off and move forwards with the process.

As a self builder one of the things we have found is how difficult it is to find people to pick up certain trades – insulating being one of the main ones it isn’t particularly clear who does this as a trade so a lot of it has been done by me which is fine but time is limited and I don’t want to hold things up. I think it will get to the point at which the builder needs to pick some of these items up but he has walls to build first.

We have managed to overcome some issues – we have finally managed to have a steel designed which will allow us to remove a wall on the inside of the building and give us a small alcove in the kitchen.

The external wall vapour control layer has been pretty much completed. Still the ceilings to do. George and I spent an hour or 2 last week finishing some of it off whilst the kids sat having a picnic in the lounge and then playing card games it has to be said they have generally been great and are excited but I think there are times they wish it was finished and they had their bedrooms in place. There is some battening which still needs to take place – another job for this week once the roof is finished.

Next week sees multiple trades back on site which is great as that is when things start to happen. The plumbers are onsite finishing the first fix, the electricians back to finish first fix and the roofers are in to complete the single storey roofs.

I am actually hoping that come the end of August we will be able to start boarding the upstairs space and creating rooms rather than being able to walk through walls. However there are still a few things that need to be done, including that insulating and vapour control layer. Downstairs will need to wait a little while until the glass roof is in place. We have also decided to go back to a ground works contractor to for the drainage and a few other things – hoping that they will be able to crack on with that whilst the builder builds walls!

The week hasn’t been without its issues however 3 onsite and 1 financial.

Skips – the skip company can’t pick up the skip as the timber frame company moved it so we now have 2 skips, we don’t even have room for one! Apparently we need to move some blocks so they can turn the skip lorry onsite. Another job for the weekend.

Toilets – the heights have been measured from the existing floor level not a finished floor level – they all need to be changed, and we are a bit concerned about the height of the flush plates – they seem very low but this means new frames! Something else to sort out.

Windows – the back door and window which is our only access to the rear garden at the moment has been fitted when it was agreed it shouldn’t be. It now needs to be removed!

Financial – we have hit the limit of our lending based on the value of the land. Our mortgage product is a self build mortgage, Ecology Building Society have an innovative product that should you own the land outright (which we did) they will loan you 80% of the value of the land. In theory they agreed to our whole mortgage then valued the land then said we could have 80% of that. We have used up that 80% and therefore we need another valuation to show the increased value of the property. However the surveyor is on holiday and it cannot be done until the 15th August. In the mean time there are bills to pay (and some big ones). Thankfully Ecology have been great and with no fuss, no forms and no fees they have increased our LTV to 90% temporarily just in case we need it before the valuation is done, hopefully we wont but its good to know its their if we do.

If you got this far we’ll done more soon!

Whoops nearly a month

I just looked back and I realised it had been a long time but nearly a month. Whoops!! ( I could have sworn I posted this a week ago but have just found it in my drafts)

There have been 2 reasons for this, firstly progress slowed a bit whilst we were waiting for certain things to happen and trades to become available and therefore we didn’t have many updates. The other reason was there have been things for us to do and I have spent many spare moments doing that.

Finally we were waiting on a combination of trades in a simple run so that scaffolding could be removed from the single storey elements of the house. Finally this has happened so we can now roof the rest, once I am back from Saudi that is (hopefully on the last trip for a while – Coventry beckons instead) and have managed to insulate the roof with my new labourer.

So what’s happened over the last month

  • Main roof finished (bar the fat man singing)
  • MVHR system first fix done
  • Water tight areas lined with Vapour Control Layer and battened
  • Electrical first fix started
  • Decisions made on bathrooms
  • Kitchen design 90% finalised
  • Plumbing design completed
  • Started insulating the vaulted ceiling
  • Made the Ground floor velux hole bigger
  • Added facias to the single story elements
  • I have had a combination of help from Georgina, Dad and Dom (a local lad who is helping me with some labouring) to complete some tasks that need two hands. Mainly the VCL around the timber frame.

Now having found this in my drafts I can no longer remember what else I wrote, or which pictures I put where so here are the photos from the last few weeks.

Roofing

I haven’t posted for a week or so as there really has been little to shout about. Things have gone relatively smoothly with the lads from Sargent Roofing doing a great job on the roof. The main part of the house is now fully tiled and we are really pleased with the result. The single storey section is next but we need to finish the side wall and have the scaffold removed before that is done.

I have also made a bit more progress in the garden by starting the next part of the retaining wall. Now the hard bit is done the blocks are dry laid and back filled as the wall is built. I still need to get the blocks into the back garden but I do have a plan for that.

That’s about it for now. Hoping to get a couple of days on site this week to do some internals in the house. We shall see what happens!

Building a house through the eyes of a 7 and 4 year old

It is probably fair to say that whilst the children are not that excited about the process of building the house, they are excited about the end outcome. On site the other day whilst Georgina and I had decisions to make and some clearing up to do we decided to entertain them by letting them take their own photos. So here they are – unedited!

I should probably add that the Media Album of the site has more photos in it than I put on the blog posts.

Lots of site meetings, and waste!

Things start to get real when you start meeting more exciting trades on site. I’m not saying that the block work isn’t exciting but it is more a means to an end on this build as it doesn’t actually do anything other than hold the render.

At one point we had 5 trades on site at the same time.

Windows, MVHR system and plumbers have all now visited. I think the scary bit was when they plumbers asked if we had chosen our sanitary ware…erm no! So that’s a job to finalise this weekend. Out of all of these the MVHR company have been the easiest to deal with. They just got on with it without intervention.

Slightly annoyingly all these things mean deposits are needed and that means it’s unlikely that we will actually be in a situation to be watertight with our initial mortgage release. I was hoping that if were were watertight they would release the full remainder of our loan. I don’t know if they will now, however we will have to see. Whatever it means we have to organise a valuation. The hope is they now realise the full potential of the mortgage value.

I have been amazed about the amount of waste that is created on site. We have piles of wood in particulate and the first skip is almost full whilst you do your best to capture waste and sort it in reality it’s very difficult unless you are there every day.

P1050759

Now to electricians and smart home installation, the two become combined in the world of modern technology, it’s an expense but I think it will be worth it and I look forward to never touching a light switch again.

Anyway for the time being this back to reality as the roof is going on.

In the mean time the works in the garden have progressed. I have actually had time to backfill the retaining wall at last, made simpler by the crane lifting 18 bags of type 1 into the back garden. I then hired a builders conveyor which made shifting the 9 tonnes needed simpler. I have still to work out how to get the remaining retaining wall blocks up into the back garden. I’m thinking of a site rule, no one is to walk past the blocks without picking it up and carrying it to the back garden.

That’s about it for now, I’ll be back with another update sometime. In the mean time if anyone knows any of the following trades please shout:

Plasterer

Border

Someone willing to put insulation in the house