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.


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:



Someone willing to put insulation in the house

Timber frame woes

Having once again forgotten the site hopefully there will be a few updates over the next couple of days. I’m back to commuting to London for a couple of days.

It seems that ours was the project that was meant to go wrong for the frame company as well. This was meant to be the stress free part. The bit that someone else worried about and to be fair it was mostly like that, however the second crane not turning up became a bit of an ongoing Joke.

I felt for the erectors, they worked hard to catch up after lost time from the first crane delay, and did so. The second crane not turning up put them back another week and for 2 days nothing happened on site.

I was enable to negotiate some extra work on their side to make up for the delay and bring the builder back a bit earlier to build some walls.

Once complete it transpired that the roof, which should have been redesigned wasn’t. This also meant extra work before the roofers could start, and of course extra money.

Anyway the timber frame is complete and the house is now effectively built. It’s been inspected by Building Control and I have had no feedback from them with regards the structure, I have learnt that assumptions should never be made in building and will follow up with them to make sure.

We signed off the timber frames on Friday, about 30 minutes later it transpired that one of the holes for the Velux was the wrong size. We decided on a bigger window rather than reduce the hole size but that’s a 3 week order as it’s a special product!

The complexities of building still seem to evade me, 100 years ago we built houses and the majority are still standing and people live in them without ill effect. We used to do just that. They had no cavities, no plastic in them, ventilation was because windows didn’t fit properly etc. Now we build houses, they have cavities, so that means I need cavity trays and weep holes in case some moisture gets through the 15mm of waterproof acrylic render and 100m of solid concrete block. Because windows don’t leak air anymore that means I either need to put vents in them or put in a whole house ventilation system.

The issues with the roof design were never really cleared up, I just decided in the end that the cost of insulating it, and then ventilating it because it was insulated and may cause moisture was too much.

Three and a half days

Only three and a half days after starting the ground floor of was finished and approximately a third of the first floor had been boarded ready for the second floor. Including all the joists.

Progress was incredibly quick with the panels and the steel fitting together like a jigsaw. We have found only one error in the frame and a couple of silly design things that were not clear and hadn’t been picked up by us, we can fix them with plasterboard though!!

The landing window is huge and we are pleased with it, the only downside being that we don’t think it will be as close to the half landing floor as we wanted but we will have so see what we can do with the staircase construction! Sadly due to its location it will also be obscure glazed. We will need to pick the obscure glass very carefully.

This week the construction has continued. Today (Tuesday) was a busy day on site with the framers continuing and the scaffolders working on the second lift so they can reach the top of the walls.

Tomorrow the crane returns to offload the third lorry as well as lift a large number of materials into the back garden over the house. (18 Bags of Type 1, 1 Bag of Gravel, 4 packs of retaining wall blocks and 20 Oak Sleepers. The scaffolders then return Thursday to finish the final lift.

Money has also been continued to be spent. The roofing materials have all been ordered, the smart home solution quote agreed and signed up to, the MVHR solution surveyor appointed and progress being made on finding people to do the rendering and floor screed.

The next stages are mainly lined up, with the builder due back to start the exterior block work on the sections that are needed to complete the single story roofing elements the same day the roofer starts. If only he would speak to his brother the about actually coming to construct the single storey sections of roof!!

The Crane arrived!

Well it is really just a small crane compared to some of them but on our site it is a pretty tight fit and there isn’t much room for anything else.


So today’s the day it finally started to go up, a slight delay this morning due to the frame being stuck on the M4. We don’t even know why it was on the M4 as it was coming from Preston!











Anyway it’s here and it’s started being put up. With 2 external walls complete by the time we saw it at 3pm and the garage opening just going in.

There is a lot of wood, but it seems this thing is just like a big jigsaw. The ground floor should be finished today! Hopefully the weather will stay dry and the wind will stay down and they can really crack on over the next few days.

The telephone lines are incredibly close, so there is a man who’s sole responsibility is to make sure the crane doesn’t hit the lines. So far he seems to be doing a reasonable job and no one has been disconnected!

It came, it went again…

Good news and bad news for today’s update, which I am aiming to be more frequent so they are easier to do.

The good news is that the sole plate for the timber frame went down with complete success yesterday. The frame erectors said “Best foundation work ever!” Well done Colin and Matt Bark, assisted by Aaron. The tireless effort was worth it.

The next good news is that the half the frame and steel work arrived as planned today.*

The bad news is that the crane didn’t. Something that can only be described as an admin cock up at the crane company meant they cancelled our crane rather than one for another site.

Here’s a stressed site manger trying to find a crane…*

Even this little man couldn’t sort it out…

So the house (or half of it) is back off to Preston again for the weekend and will be back on Monday. Hopefully it will be joined by a Crane which means it can stay where it’s meant to be.

*Photo Credits to the Hunters!

Oh and Thames Water have dug a hole to disconnect the old water supply. Not sure they have done anything else, but the hole is progress, we have only been waiting 4 months!

Block and Beam, Retaining Walls, Damp proof Membranes and money!

It’s been a while since I have posted I know, time runs away with you. Especially when I’m working 12 hour days in Saudi and trying to manage the build a 7 hour flight away!

The foundations were finished the block and beam floor installed. A little more forward planning by the builder could have ensured this process had gone a bit smoother, but I think that’s the case with builders, they don’t really do forward planning.

The concrete lorries are quite amazing. They mix exactly what’s needed onsite instantly. The waste is non existent and you only pay for what you use. It’s a shame the same couldn’t be said for the bloke who operated the concrete pump. Why when he was told exactly how much he need to pump into the wall he added another cubic meter and pumped it straight onto the floor is beyond my comprehension!

The whole process has taken about a week longer than we wanted it to although it has gone relatively smoothly. There was a single major hiccup when the building inspector turned up 2 days late and informed us of a fairly major problem with the fact there wasn’t a DPM installed under the beams. This meant about 2 days of rework and pain. Thankfully with a car jack we were able to jack the beams up enough to slide the DPM underneath without removing all the infill blocks. However it was still painful to see all of that work undone. It did however mean I got involved as I helped out for 2 days. I can now truly say I built some of my own house. Who was to blame, well you can spend ages analysing these things but I think it was a combination of a few people. Building Inspector being late (had he been on time then we wouldn’t have had the work to undo), me for not checking with the beam company when asked, the builder for not asking before he put the beams in place(he asked afterwards and I then looked at all the drawings and couldn’t see any DPM). Lack of clear instruction from the Block and Beam supplier. Anyway it’s all resolved now.

Pictures of work being undone and DPM being inserted under beams!!!

The scaffold has also been erected and is ready for the first lift of the timber frame and I continue to pour money out of the bank account on a regular basis.

In the mean time I have also managed to complete the retaining wall at the back of the garden (the neighbours were getting a bit stressed about their being nothing supporting their garden from falling down the hill). The Stepoc product was easily to assemble. Although it did take a day as each layer had to be tied in using rebar. And each 22kg block had to be lifted over my head in order to slot over the rebar. It was then pumped full of concrete. This needs 7 to 10 days to cure and it can then be backfilled. When the crane is onsite for the timber frame they are going to lift all of the back fill for me up the slope so that we don’t have to barrow it. I have already taken half a tonne of pea shingle up for the drainage and that was quite enough.

So we now have a solid base ready to take the timber frame. In a weeks time we will be able to walk around the ground floor of the house and in 2 weeks it we we will have an upstairs. Followed very quickly by a roof. Progress over the next 3 weeks is going to be exciting.

Finally some pictures of a pretty much finished base with the scaffold erected. Poppy-Ann is stood in the Utility Room and Austin in the Family area of the open plan.

Both stood in the kitchen area. Colin the Builder working in the dining room.