Part 1 of the Build Blog can be seen here

To read in chronological order please scroll to the bottom and work up ....

Sunday 18 May 2014

Definitely, probably the last entry on the blog!

A view of the front of the completed dwelling .................

......... and from a different view point
......... and then the rear
..... and, finally a side elevation
Monday 20 Jan 2014


Just got around to making the final update to the costs page. Towards the end we decided to do some additional work including an edged gravel path around the dwelling and part of the garage/workshop. Fitting cupboard units in the workshop and installing a floor to the roof space over the workshop for storage.

In addition we now have two patio areas, one on the south side and a larger patio on the north side. The latter will be in the shade if we ever have too much sun in summer. Thus the total cost, with the additions was £278,151.62.

We have also committed to replacing the existing stock proof fencing (posts and wire) at a cost of some £2,800 following which the garden area will be graded, stones removed and turf supplied and laid. The latter will cost £2,225. So, if these two final costs are included the final bill will come to £283,176.62.

Thus, as expected, we have overspent on the original budget of £250k by £33,176.62, which is about 13.27%. However, of the £33k about £17k was the unforeseen costs of restoring the electricity supply to the site courtesy of Western Power Distribution.

However, all in all, that still seems to us to be a lot better than most of the "Grand Designs" participants we have watched - who seem to be able to overspend their budget by hundreds of thousands of pounds .... and still find the cash from somewhere!

When these final external works have been completed and we have discovered how to convert raw files to jpeg (photoshop no longer has the facility) we will post a couple of photographs in the gallery. This will be the last blog entry save for a notice when the images have been posted.

We close with a big "thank you" to our main contractor, Neil Harris of RM Caldicotts & Sons of Leominster, for all his patience, good will, expertise, ideas, "Can Do" attitude, and for being a thoroughly, all round good guy! ...... but, particularly for looking after our build budget and making the money fit the job.

He comes highly recommended but make sure you have a lock on the chocolate biscuit tin when he visits!

Friday 4 Oct 2013

Better do a quick catchup after all it's only been 3 months! OK .. still not completely finished but Jack and Taylor are now on the last leg fitting out the three wardrobes, then there is the final bit of drive, (16+ tons of gravel later) and the tarmac to do then the last bit will be the landscaping.

The pressure pump in the rain water harvester decided to trip all the electrics about 2 months ago, then it sorted itself only to start tripping again 3 weeks ago. We now have a new pump and so far it's been OK.

The multi-room audio / visual system has also been a real pain, however, fortunately Ian from English Audio has sorted most of the problems and identified a duff speaker (not good at over £200 a pair) and we still have not managed to get the ir signal recognised by the source equipment when sent from the various rooms but Ian has a dodge for that.

You will have noticed that we have dropped the build days now, not least because the builders have not been here more days than they have so it's become rather meaningless and anyway the place was just about finish when we moved in back in June.

The great news is that after seven months of waiting, hundreds of phone calls, emails, numerous visits, false promises and missed appointments not to mention cancellations of orders and accounts (not necessarily at the same time) two different exchanges, three different engineers and three different phone numbers we eventually had a working phone with narrowband installed on 4 Sep. Then they cut off BT Sport without so much as a by your leave ... and it's still off! Anyway we are now back in the real world again and thus we have the ability to update the blog.

We are currently negotiating with BT following our letter of complaint to the Chairman which is now being dealt with at executive level would you believe. The only difference seems to be that they now call us rather than us calling them and talking to some poor soul somewhere in India.

When time permits we will update the costs page and upload a few later images.

Sunday 7 July 2013

We've moved in! The transplant happened on the 24th June in order that the long suffering tenants in waiting could finally move into our old place!

The new place is habitable but not totally finished thus the delay in updating the site due to the absence of an internet connection (you will recall the BT story) and no TV either although we have a promise for next Wednesday.

Add to that the fact that we have just spent a holiday in the rain and drizzle on the West Coast of Scotland on the Kingairloch Estate looking in vein for otters! We are now staying for a few days with friends and fellow self builders Robbie and Shirley in Fassock (not far from Inverness) thus we are able to do a brief update on-line. Photos to follow at some point.

Hopefully Neil, Ken and John will have been working on the driveway in our absence and the plumbers will have sorted the few outstanding jobs.

Never expected to see so much junk and rubbish emerge from store so it looks as if the charity shops in town will be receiving some new stock before too long.

If we had any idea of when a BT line is likely to be installed then we could identify when the next likely update may be, but hey ho ..........

Saturday 15 June 2013

Build Day 254

With D-Day fast approaching the weather has turned against us yet again to delay the rendering resulting in a wasted journey from Coventry for all the lads on Thursday. Hopefully, next week will be dry and a bit warmer!

They did manage to get part of the final coat on the south elevation as you can see...........
and John and Ken have also been doing more on the to be patio area and the path.

Inside, Taylor has been doing stirling work keeping the rest in order as well as staining oak, keeping the place ship shape (hopeless task) and painting bits and pieces just to show Ian how it should be done!

Master craftsman Jack has just about finished the kitchen and the handles on drawers and cupboards being almost the final touch ... nice work!
As you will see Pat the electrician has very sensibly decided to leave fitting the breakfast bar pendant lights until the last minute due to the fragile nature of the shades. However, we now have lights in most areas, even though some are "on" when they should be "off" according to the switch and vice versa. Easily resolved and not Pat's work. Although he admits that fitting the led dimmers was a learning curve!

Hopefully, Monday next will see kinder weather and the presence of plumber Ashley (son of Leaky) and sparky Pat to get to terms with fitting the ESP Classic 13.5 Kw air source heat pump, which, as you can see is a bit of a brute ...............
and if all that fails then at least we now have the results of Gareth's handy work in fitting the wood burner. The slight kink in the flue that may be apparent from some angles was necessary in order to get the flue pipe between the glulam beams supporting the roof as it passes through the roof space. Regular readers will be surprised to learn that Lord Lucan appeared on time (nearly) and has promised to return for one last time to seal the various domes, pipes and vents that breach the roof at various points.
In addition, both wet rooms are almost fully fitted with just final connections, testing and shower screens to be fitted. This last week will, hopefully see the heating and hot water commissioned, door thresholds fitted, final painting of walls and repairs to holes in ceilings that were either, not actually required or not in the correct place!

Saturday 8 June 2013

Build Day 249

Well, that was a long break! Apologies, but there has been so much going on that updating the blog has been a low priority. Some days we have had up to 12 professionals as well as a couple of amateurs on site thus progress has been fast moving. Electricians, carpenters, renderers, yes, renderers, ground workers, plumbers, decorators, a tiler, wood burning stove installer and various others have pitched in with the sole intention of getting inches of dust over everything that Taylor had just spent hours cleaning! In fact, he is there this very morning (Saturday ... sorry Tay!) sorting the place out for the return of the decorators on Monday.

The catalyst for this frantic activity has been the fact that on 24th we hand the flat over to our new tenants thus we have started moving our few belonging from the flat. This will be followed by a truck load from store on 19th. So, we had the temerity to ask the builders for "our garage back please". Thus, we have been able to take the car out of storage and this is soon to be followed by our worldly goods. All of which we have been separated from for the past 30 months .... at considerable cost! It will be interested to see just how much of the stuff we have paid a fortune to store will be "dumped" when we finally get to see what we thought was worth saving nearly 3 years ago!

So, we have reached the point where the new place now looks like an absolute tip but, the floors have been completed, as have the walls and the shadow gap save for final "touch-up" decoration. The two wet rooms and the wc have been tiled and almost all the fittings installed except for shower screens. The kitchen and utility units and appliances have all been installed and the entire place now awaits the final mains electrical and water connections to see whether it all works!

When it came to the final analysis of heating requirements we decided to invest a couple of hundred quid in some professional Heat Loss calculations. The upshot of which is that we have now decided to install a 13.5kw Earth Save Products (ESP), air source heat pump providing hot water to a buffer tank and in turn to the under floor heating system.

This will be supported by an ESP Eco Cent domestic hot water system that also operates on the air pump principle. Thus we have decided, that when it reaches -15c outside in a force 6 wind, we are not going to be reliant on one ashp to provide both heating and hot water at the same time. We figured that the extra cost at this stage would be a saving over finding out later that we had under estimated the heating requirements.

The ASHP is a bit of a monster so the concrete pads constructed by Neil (only time he has got his hands dirty apparently!) had to be modified. This pad will be backfilled with gravel to allow the water drain off when defrosting and then dissipate into the ground through the gravel rather than form treacherous patches of ice on the path ..... hopefully!

The previous, reasonably sized, utility room has diminished somewhat with the fitting of the buffer tank and the Eco Cent. The over riding principal has been to minimise the pipe runs from the ASHP to the buffer tank in order to reduce heat loss.

Neil's handy work ..................
So, a few images to prove a few points! First, the lads all the way from Coventry to apply the synthetic render to the polystyrene. So, welcome to representatives from Gaffney and Guinan (Renderers) specifically, Darren, Dave, Anthony (aka Basil) Robert, Michael, Sean and Ben.

I've not yet had the full story from Neil (our builder / project manager), however, it seems identifying a company to undertake this work has been something of a nightmare .. I'll tell you ..... if he ever tells me!

Here we have some initial base coat render in place around the edges and two workers being supervised applying masking to the patio door frame ..................
Also evident is the start that has been made on some basic landscaping with the scalpings (the light grey bits) indicating the area for one of the patio's.

Below, is the base coat starting to dry out. The outline of the Polysteel blocks under the render coat can still be seen because the render is thicker over the joins thus it takes more time to dry out. Simples!
and then (below) a shot of the base coat after it has "gawn orf!"
So, allowing a few more days in the sun for it to cure then the team will be back early next week to apply the off-white top coat of Sto synthetic render and then it should start to look a bit more respectable!

Also anticipating, one day next week, the return of Gareth to fit the wood stove and the flue up through the steel roof. however, that will also require the attendance of Lord Lucan (Glyn the roofer) to cut the holes in the steel roof and seal both the flue and the soil stack.

Latest acquisition has been a £38 Bosch screwdriver in anticipation of much flat pack to be assembled for the study. The best fun was the "managers" chairs we bought on-line. They required assembly that included arms that had to be bolted in place under "tension" being fitted between the seat and the chair back. Now, imagine a chair on six rollers on a hard wood floor and a single handed attempt to get the arm under tension, lined up, and the bolt through the arm into the seat back and then tightened!! Either the chair shot off across the room, or the arm did, or I did, or the bolt did, or the allen key and more than once we all did!

The best bit was that the original chairs we ordered, were apparently "out of stock and discontinued" but we were only informed after they had taken payment. We were offered 2 other types of chair (more expensive), after much thought, and reluctantly, believing it was a "con trick" we accepted one of the alternatives. When the chairs arrived it was apparent that they were, in fact, the very chairs originally ordered but allegedly "out of stock". Needless to say we received a refund of the difference!

Finally, for those who have expressed an interest in progress ... there is still no BT connection!

Costs page update at 1230 hrs on 9 Jun 13.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Build Day 230

The kitchen!
Been a bit of a gap since our last blog entry mainly because paint drying, assembling kitchen units and sticking tiles on walls don't make for interesting pictures.

Lets get the disasters out of the way first. We ordered 116 led down lighters plus 12 IP65 (Bathroom) led down lighters. When the electrician opened the sealed boxes we had 116 for the bathroom and 12 of the other type!

Now, you may have thought that some bright spark in the stock room (packer code E) would have thought “ Wow!…... this is some big bathroom this guy's got here …...”, but no chance – who cares just send them anyway! Any fool can see the bathroom isn't large ...........
Then there was a little problem with a few light switches. Some idiot had got his “ways” and “poles” mixed up but I understand it all now and have managed to get the right switches on site. Sadly, the "Leakies" have disappeared off again somewhere near Bristol to install a biomass boiler for elephants.

Remember the tiles we bought last June (2012) well, when we unsealed the pallet we found we had 32 boxes of gloss wall tiles but no sign of the 15 boxes of matt tiles for the floors. Didn't expect much sympathy from B&Q given it's almost a year since they delivered the pallet, but fair play, all the undelivered items were replaced the same day which we think is exceptional customer service.

Any advert on Ebay for 15 boxes of matt tiles are nothing to do with us!

Then we had a house full of kitchen carcases, pelmets, drawers, sinks, and “Mr everything square and level” has assembled the carcases into something resembling a kitchen. Now he's just got the utility to do! All was well until it was established that we had received the wrong hob and that the “innards” for the store cupboard were missing.

Other arrivals on site include all the wood flooring, wood burner and flue (another £2,700 gone up in smoke!) some “unexpected” dining room furniture, the bath and supporting sanitary ware and Rich the tiler who has proved to be as precise in his work as Jack.

This is some of Jack's floor laying .....
We even started measuring windows and patio doors for the window coverings – that was fun!

Update on the phone non-installation. Open Reach have abandoned negotiations with the neighbour and decided it will be easier and less hassle to dig up about 20 meters of the highway to get the cable past the neighbours drive. After that the trench will come through the hedge and the lovely lady that owns the field surrounding us has agreed to a trench along the hedge inside the field to bring the cable to the property. No further comment necessary.

Somebody mentioned recently that it was about time the costs page was updated so it will be done soon.

Friday 19 Apr 13

Build Day 214

Jack's off today to celebrate his 30th .. Congratulations Jack hope you have a good day!

We now have internal doors hanging ..... perfectly "chippied" by Jack. The past week has seen plumber "Leaky" Robin fitting the frames for wall hung toilets and cisterns and a lot of second fix for dishwasher, washing machine as well as the complicated "Rain detector in a box" that controls the rain water harvester. Here we have Jack squeezing into the depths with Taylor controlling the umbilical cord ..........
and here is Jack all 6ft, or so, of him standing inside the tank .....................
and cutting quite a dash in his chest high fishing waders pulling pipework through from the utility and attaching the various filters and floats. Note the bucket used for "bailing out" at his feet.

The question is .... just how did, so much, mud get into the collar and into the bottom of the tank? Now, someone, guess who, has to go down there and clean out all the red Herefordshire soil and red coloured water that is lying on the bottom.

Somehow, red water in the toilet bowl may just cause guests some concern, particularly if they we in a hurry and didn't notice it on taking up residence!

Lord Lucan put in an appearance on Thursday and completed a few jobs on the roof including one end cap that was missing. Still a few jobs such as soil pipes and woodburner flue to be brought through the roof, so he'll be back again - if we are ever able to find him.

Farmer Phillip brought the new lambs back to the field a few days ago. A bit later than last year but it proves the point that we have been at this build for over a year now. This little chap had lost his Mum and was giving me an earfull. Despite the impression he wasn't all alone now, where's the mint sauce?
Then today the sun came out, the wind dropped and Mick returned with small digger to finish the soakaway for the RWH and lay the ducting for the BT phone line that still seems as far away from being installed as ever! Neighbours!!

The decorators have also been on site since Tuesday and will have finished all the ceilings and walls by next early next week. All in all there has been a lot of progress this week not least thanks to ace foreman Taylor who has been quietly working away in the background keeping the lot of them in order and making a fantastic job of staining the oak window boards and doors and the like. That's not to mention the brilliant cleanup job he performs constantly. Everybody should have a Taylor.

Sunday 14 Apr 13

Build Day 209

The internal doors have arrived, the plumber is calling for the toilet frames and wash basins and Neil is talking about the return of Lord Lucan (aka Glyn the Roofer), and the arrival of the decorators and the renderers. So we are now cooking on gas! Just as well because we have to be out of our second home by mid June!

The key event last week was the appearance of Brian and son who managed to get 20 ton of semi-dry screed down in two days and, more impressively, without any damage to door frames from the heavily laiden wheelbarrow.
The view above from the end of the lounge towards the hall, and below from the other direction. All in all it loooks a lot fidderent from the images posted on build day 203.
The decorators arrive on Tuesday and Jack is due to start hanging the doors and fitting the hardware. Also expected is an early return by plumbers Robin and Ashley while we await the results of the heat loss calculations, necessary, or so we are assured, to make sure we specify an appropriately sized Air Source Heat Pump.

The screed has now "gawn-off" sufficiently to walk on provided you walk on flat feet and don't dig you heels in, though it has caused a lot of condensation on the glazing and door handles as the moisture has dried out.

Also managed to resolve the slight mess yours truly made by ordering the wrong light switches. Double pole double throw and master and slave switches is just too confusing anyway, we got there in the end and we now appear to have what we need and a refund to boot.

Seems like Ikea is going to be next on the list to start enjoying the few remaining quids from our build budget with a study to fit out and the need for storage space in the lounge area they seem to provide the most cost effective option.

Thursday 4 Apr 13

Build Day 203

Easter was very enjoyable not least because Sandy's God daughter, Stephanie (currently reading Geography at Oxford - smart a--e) presented me with a handwritten note addressed to me, personally, from Katie Melua and if you don't know who she is just .... well ... just forget it! I was chuffed I can tell you!

Add to that the fact that The Bulls won 5-2 at home on Easter Monday, and we only conceded the two goals after the Boss had made three substitutions, so ......... I was a very Happy Bunny.
So, now back to work, or rather not as is the case in point. Apparently, it is tradition that Neil (our project manager / builder) gives his workforce the remainder of the week off following Easter thus you will see we are still on build day 203. I'm beginning to think that Neil makes up the odd "tradition" as, and when, he needs one!

Nevertheless, this week has been quite momentous with the return of the lads from Ecohaus Internorm in the form of Darren and (tbc) complete with smart new Ecohaus liveried van. This was something of a relief as there was no requirement for a "push-start" this time. Their return was to finish a few outstanding jobs that had, of necessity, been delayed.

The delay has been due to the non-availability of mains power on site required in order to commission the "magic" remote front door opener. They also commissioned the electric remote garage doors which seemed to take forever due to the failure of the manufacturers instructions to indicate that one tiny (dip) switch setting had to be changed. So, until that was done the safety protection wouldn't operate! They were exceptionally patient and got there in the end.

Fortunately, they were also able to rectify a slight "misalignment" of one of the rather large patio doors. This was the result of some over exuberant (or possibly frustrated) attempts to close the door one Saturday afternoon - probably when the pub was calling!

So, all that remains now is for Ecohaus to fit the final pieces of window sills to the study windows - seems it's a bit difficult to measure accurately probably due to the shape!

They also came armed with and fitted the correctly size house name (in the glazing) over the front door and we think it looks much better than attempt number 2 which was a bigger disaster even than the original. No fault of Ecohaus but the people doing the sandblasting had a series of bad hair days!

Wednesday we had a brief return to site by the plumbers to pressure test the under floor heating and in the absence of any report to the contrary there is good reason to believe that leaks, or is it leeks, one is a vegetable that's for sure, were absent. To be pedantic both leaks and leeks were absent.

There have been a number of deliveries, including 12 x 6m lengths of conduit for the BT cables; 116 led downlighters, (with 50 bulbs missing of course!), boxes of switches and sockets four of which were totally incorrect because of the failure of one idiot to appreciate the difference between 2 gang 1 way and 2 gang 2 way and how that "outdated" designation translates into "master" and "slave" remote dimmer switches for led bulbs. However, I'll get it right next time! For anyone interested these are the offending switches we are using.

Today there was a brief lunchtime guided tour for Sandy's immediate work colleagues and it was good to see the girls all 'tip toeing' over the exposed ufh pipes and trying to avoid the force 8 coming in from the North.

Finally, much time has again been spent on the internet looking for various items and if anyone is looking for a rug, of a particular shape, design or colour then this site is worth a visit because you can, in effect, design your own rug and change all the colours. It's brilliant!

Thursday 28 Mar 13

Build Day 203

Alright! Alright! stop going on ... you wanted an update so here it is!

Last week Dave finished the plastering and disappeared sharpish only to be replaced on Tuesday by Ashley and Robin from ABC Alternative Heating Solutions who managed to fit 300m of under floor heating cable in under two days and that includes the manifolds and the pipe trays (the matting on the floor) that the pipes clip (or are supposed to clip) into.

As you can see it is a veritable spaghetti junction where the pipes leave the manifold and emerge under the utility room door - so many in fact that they decided to drill through the concrete wall rather than "double deck" them through the doorway.
Then we have the lounge / dining area which again is a vast amount of pipework ....................
As we will be using an air source heat pump (ashp) to heat the water for the ufh system and as ashp's produce water at about 40 - 50 degrees (much lower than a gas or oil boiler) then a higher density of pipes per m2 are required to ensure sufficient heat.

We could also use the ashp to provide domestic hot water as well as heating, which during the mild / warmer weather would be no problem but at -10 degrees and below, it just could be a problem, so we have decided to separate the domestic hot water from the heating.

For the domestic hot water we will be using an Earth Save Products Ecocent which is basically a small heat pump fitted ontop of a 200 litre tank of water. It takes the latent heat out of the surrounding air and the resulting exhausted air is very cool and can be used as a form of air conditioning in summer if it is plumbed into the ventilation system.

It only requires 800 watts when operating (a lot less than an immersion heater) so should prove to be a cost efficient way of heating water. Well, that's the sales pitch anyway!

Not completely decided on the make of ashp at the moment but leaning heavily towards Earth Save Products own make which is more than competitive on price even to start with and they have offered a deal on a twin compressor model that should more than cope with our exposed position with a strong north wind bearing down. So, whilst there are many others available such as Mitsubishi, Dimplex, Fujitsu, Hitachi, TEV, to name but a few of the well known brands we are probably going to risk ESP's own version at half the price.

It's still very cold on site as can be seen from Jack's attire. At least they weren't skimpy with the ufh pipework, the left over bits can be seen leaning against the kitchen wall in the back of the shot! So, next Tuesday Ashley and Robin will return to pressure test the ufh pipes ready for the concrete screed to go down on top of the pipes.

The system we are using was designed and supplied (at a very competitive price) by Wundafloor Heating of Crick near Newport - the one in Wales.

Jack and Taylor are off all week next week so, hopefully, as soon as the ufh has been pressured up then the concrete screed can go down and that will almost have gone off by the time the real builders are due to be back at work.

Meanwhile we have been trying to do deals with various companies over 116 LED downlighters we require, and some "flash" dimmer switches for the LED lights. As a point of interest - if all 116 LED downlighters were on at the same time they would still use less energy than the halogen lights in just our current lounge!

We have also been locating various switches and loads of wall sockets, re-designing the kitchen for goodness knows how many times and negotiating over the price of a Zip tap that provides both boiled and chilled water for .00000000002 p a day or some such similar claim.

The need for said Zip tap is that experience has shown the principal disadvantage to open plan living such as we will be enjoying is that the noise of an electric kettle getting slowly to the boil does nothing for the enjoyment of a good TV programme because you can't hear it! This way we will have boiling or chilled water on tap that is almost instant and silent. We shall see if it lives up to the reputation. As with all things we have found that if you have time on your side and you say the right things there is always a good discount to be had and this was a case in point.

Finally, the quartz worktops are proving to be a bit of a problem with the first price coming in at nearly £5k so, that will need a rethink and / or a lot of negotiating!

So, after a considerable gap in updates on the blog, due mainly to the fact that it was just boring old plastering going on, we are now back in harness and there will be more frequent updates as things start to happen after Easter.

We wish our reader a very Happy Easter and look forward to some warmer weather!

Wednesday 13 Mar 13

Build Day 192

As a result of the joy expressed by our follower with notification of the alleged fitting of an electricity meter, and for his benefit and to corroborate the fact for a few verbal doubters here is the magic box in point ....................
reading 00000 but note the illuminated red light! We think WPD cut the mains cable a bit short thus the cutout has been fitted at an angle rather than flush against the back of the box which is where we believe it should be! It's the rectangular bit at the bottom that the black cable that emerges from the round pipe is fixed into with the live (brown) neutral (blue) and earth cables at the top.

Should have known that even laying a mains cable would bring it's own problems! Can only assume these guys had never laid a cable to one of these boxes before!

Anyway, spent sometime today in amazement watching a skilled plasterer at work. I just know I couldn't do it. How Dave manages to get an even overall skim of plaster of about 3mm using just his eye and whatever the thing is called he puts the plaster mix on with is beyond me. So, here we have a real artist at work, and people talk about Monet! .........................
Please note - this was an action shot as you can see from the fact that Dave is in focus but note the right hand "speed blur"! Jack is filling up the water butt for Dave ......... under protest! This scene was captured in the guest bedroom if it help with the internal geography.

Monday 11 Mar 13

Build Day 190

Well, after 12 months of hassle with various utility providers, the worst being BT, followed by Npower, and then Western Power Distribution, congratulations are now due to E-ON who
1. Answered the phone
2. Issued a meter fixing date over the phone in 3 minutes flat, and
3. Installed the meter on the due date!

Deep joy! So, we now have mains power on site and it will be useable as soon as Pat the "sparky" gets his bum into gear.

Sunday 10 Mar 13

Build Day 189

Great point for the lads away at Luton yesterday! We deserved all 3 points and their equaliser was off-side. OK, I admit it was the other end of the pitch from us, but happy to take the managers word for it!

On site the garage / workshop has been plastered (welcome on-board "Dave") and Taylor has been hard at it cleaning up after Dave, however, we are amazed at how little mess Dave actually made putting the skim coat on. Nice one! Just two images to break up the text as walls are just walls and not the most entertaining or informative to look at ad infinitum.

This is looking from the kitchen to the dining / lounge area ..... note the oak door linings, stops, architraves and window boards awaiting fitting.
Jack has spent most of the week fitting door linings with our oak "upgrade" timber. Glyn paid a visit to part fit the sun tubes into the three rooms so that we can get on with plastering the ceilings, hopefully this coming week, so now at least, we have some daylight in previously dark spaces.

A view (below) from the opposite direction i.e. front the lounge looking out past the kitchen area to the hallway and front door.
The BT saga continues. Friday last was connection day and we had an 8am - 1pm appointment with the proviso that the engineer may be an hour late "at this time of the year".

Admittedly we were not on site at 8am but Jack was there at 8-15 but by 2pm it was a "no show" so, no surprise there!

By the time I actually managed to speak to someone at BT I had been listening to recorded messages, music and selecting menu options for 13m and 45 secs. I declined the customer satisfaction survey again!

Then I managed to speak to an Indian lady (I think) who told me she couldn't give me any information as the engineer had 24 hours to report back and that I should call tomorrow.

When I enquired, as politely as I could, which of us was the customer, me or BT she did then commit to calling me with an update the next day.

Still waiting which is also no surprise. In all I was on the phone 29 mins and 40 secs for what was a very simple enquiry ... what happened to the b...... engineer?

Electricity meter is due to be fitted on Monday so that will be interesting as well!

Also been asked to meet the architect with potential customers on site on Monday for them to have a look see and to give them our views of the architects and builder Neil, we think, but not sure quite what they want anyway that should prove interesting and we are wondering whether we can wangle a discount out of it! Unlikely, and in all honesty we are really happy with Neil and the gang.

Thursday 28 Feb 13

Build Day 183

You just couldn't make this up! This time it's an electricity supply company. You will be aware by now that Western Power Distribution provide the main cable to the meter box then one of the "registered electricity suppliers" has to provide and fit the meter box.

OK. So, we tried Npower (and found "new connections" after a bit of hassle) provided all the details and were told we would receive a "compliance certificate" for the 1st fix electrician to sign and this had to be returned.

This was signed and returned within 48 hours. Then we were told to call on Monday 25th to get a date for the installation. Called on Monday only to be told

NP "Very sorry sir, we had a new computer system installed about 3 months ago and it isn't working properly and hasn't been for some weeks so I'm afraid I can't give you a date at the moment."

Me "So when will you be able to give me a date?"

NP "Well, it may be a day or a week or a month, I don't know but we are very sorry and it is being worked on I can assure you of that."

Me "So, you can't give me any indication of a date so I'm now left with contractors already booked to do various jobs in the next couple of weeks which is going to cost me a lot of money and you're telling me I can't have a meter, so I can't have the power they require - is that the case?

NP "I'm afraid so, but we are working on it."

Me "So I've wasted nearly 2 weeks waiting for a date from Npower ... what do I do now?"

NP "I'm sorry I don't know!"

Me "Well, can you tell me just what the problem is?"

NP "Well, we have entered your details and your M Pan number for registration into the data base and I've just put your details in now and it hasn't come out. That tells me you are one of the applicants who is affected."

Me "So, why wasn't I informed of these problems when I told you I wanted to register through Npower two weeks ago?"

NP "Well, not every applicatiion is affected. I'm very sorry."

Me "So are you telling me that rather than advise people of the problem you take their registration and just hope that when you do a search their name will pop out of the system?"

NP "Well, we don't know whether people are affected until after we have entered the data."

Me "It sounds very fishy to me ... are you sure Npower just don't want the hassle of fitting meters because of the costs involved?"

NP "No, I can assure you that is not the case! Would you like to register a complaint?"

Me "I certainly would!"

At this point the phone went dead and eventually a lady in Npower complaints answered.

The position was explained and I was asked to wait while she spoke to new connections.

Complaints "Sorry to keep you ... yes we have a computer problem, I'm really very sorry."

Me "So what do I do now ... can I register with someone else for a meter to be fitted?"

Complaints "I'll just check whether your contract has been processed".

Another wait

Complaints "No, apparently your contract has not been registered because we can't do it on the system at the monent so you are free to register with another supplier."

Me "So, are you sure that I'm not going to have a problem given Npower have already entered my M pan number onto some national electricity data base?"

Complaints "No, I wouldn't think so. I don't think you will have a problem."

Me "Thank you, then I'll do that."

Called E-ON, provided the details and in less than 3 minutes I was given 11 Mar 13, as a meter fitting date.

There's a moral there somewhere but I'm not sure what it is!

Monday 18 Feb 13

Build Day 175

Update on Fridays post. Long time friends Robbie and Shirley (them with the Alpaca's shown elsewhere in this blog) have just built a fantastic house outside Inverness. They contacted us after learning of our encounter with BT (see Post for Friday 15th) to say they experienced exactly the same problems. However, to add salt, during the phone calls they were attacked by an automated request to take part in a telephone "Customer Satisfaction" survey.
Well it wasn't included in Friday's post but we had exactly the same request during our epic battle to get a phone. I think Robbie gave them a piece of his mind and you can make up your own mind about whether "us lot" down south bothered, and if we did ... what we said!

Friday 15 Feb 13

Build Day 174

It's been a frustrating few days as you will see below ..... but on a brighter note whilst plaster board takes a long time to cut and fix ... much longer than we thought, it's also boring so it explains the absence of any posts since last Thursday. It's also a dusty and messy job particularly if you are as fastidious as Jack has been about getting every piece level and square

Pat the electrician has also been to site again to complete the 1st fix electrics in the garage.

The end of the plaster bit is now insight, with the last of the reveals being completed before the oak window board and door linings are delivered ready for fixing. Applying the "ha'peth of tar to ship" principle we decided to upgrade from softwood to oak for the window boards and door linings as the softwood just didn't "look" right, particularly with oak floors and doors on the way.

After the window boards and door linings are fitted the plasterers can start skimming the walls and ceilings. Meanwhile, Jack will move on to fixing the plasterboard in the garage and workshop. The reveals around the picture window in the lounge end wall can be seen below
and an action shot of Jack mixing adhesive and Taylor cleaning up in the lounge / dining / kitchen area. The scaffolding is still in place at the rear of the building but now it has been removed from the front so the sun fair streams through the glazing. That's something we've not seen for an awful long time on this build!
Western Power Distribution (those with a licence to print money) are due to connect us to the grid on 26th Feb. They connect to the mains underground then pull the cable through ducting that we have already put in place, to a point near the meter box.

We now have to select a registered electricity supplier to get a meter fitted. The downside is that not all suppliers are able to do the work so choice is restricted for the first 12 months of supply.

This last bit has been a bit of a nightmare due to the fact that about 15 months ago we changed the name of the property. Western Power still use the old name but the new name is registered on the "ecoes" system (don't ask) so we reached stale mate immediately.

The first attempt by Western Power to change the address didn't work because having got the name right they omitted the name of the village so that was also unacceptable. Family name, house name, location and post code were all correct but the village name was missing so it was a No Go! Pedantic or what? At the present time we are having another attempt and waiting for the overnight upload of data to see whether we are allowed to move forward.

Update - seems the first chap was a real "jobsworth" it's now been sorted following the second overnight update. Second chap I spoke to said he would have accepted it!

However, that saga pales into complete insignificance compared to trying to get a phone line installed. It's just too involved and complicated to go through the entire nightmare, suffice it to say that what follows is a synopsis of the highlights ........ honestly!

First, I tried to apply for a "New Line" via the BT website but after entering much data it kicked me out and dumped everything.

Second attempt was just as successful after which I gave up. Then I looked on the BT web site for an appropriate phone number .... no chance ..... most unhelpful was "Try our FAQs". I did ...... and it was useless.

There was one phone number available which then gave me 5 options - none were really appropriate so I gave it my best guess and succeeded in getting another 4 or 5 options all of which were equally inappropriate.

When I eventually got to speak to a human I was eventually put through to "New connections" ............ great!

Well, not really, because we ended up with raised voices over the phone simply because BT's definition of "the installation of a new line" is not the same as mine! Or probably yours! "New" seems to mean a returning customer who had the audacity to try another provider and discovered the error of his ways. It most certainly is not installing a phone line into a new house.

I was then unceremoniously directed to Open Reach via an 0800 phone number kindly provided before the receiver was slammed down.

He probably uttered the same expletive!

With hope in my heart I called Open Reach but as soon as the chap answered the phone I knew we had problems. He was in Bedfordshire when I'm on the Welsh Borders so that didn't seem to me like a good start. Nevertheless, he was willing to assist ..... initially.

So, I gave him all the details followed by a three minute wait while he booted up some programme and looked for the address on his screen. Then, as we are in a rural location, he asked me to guide him to the site over the phone. Interesting!

OR "I've got the post code ... do you know "The Steps"?

Me "No sorry, I don't live there yet. What are you looking at, a map or a screen with houses identified or what? This is a new build so it's unlikely to be identified on any map."

OR "I can't see that address on here!"

Me "Well, I don't know what you are looking at but it's a single track road ...... so can you see the the A465 - Hereford to Bromyard road?"

OR "Which way is that?"

Me "Well, as it's a single track road try both directions."

OR "Do you know the pub?"

Me "Yes, yes ... do I know the pub ... is there water in the River Wye? Right .... now you've found the Three Horseshoes - keep it on your right and follow the road ....."

OR "It's called "The White Horse" which way do I go now?"

Me "There's only one pub and it's called the Three Horseshoes and it has been for some years"

OR "No it's not, it's "The White Horse"

Me "Well, there's only one pub so let's assume your information is out of date and it's the same place - so keep it on the right and follow the road and tell me what you see ....."

OR "Do you know "The Steps"?

Me "I refer the gentlemen to my previous answer, sorry, no I don't know The bloody Steps."

OR "Which way should I go now?"

Me "This may assist. We have two telephone exchanges serving the village. One is Pencombe the other is Burley Gate - Pencome serves the far end away from my place and the property directly opposite my place is connected to Burley Gate exchange. Does that help?

OR "Yes, that will help me to pin point where you are, hang on I'll look it up. How do you spell it?"

Me "Pencombe ... P E N

OR "No, I can spell that - but how do you spell Burley Gate?"

Me "B U R L E Y new word G A T E"

OR "Hang on ..................... no mate there's no exchange called Burley Gate"

Me "I can assure you there is. It's got the name over the exchange door and I pass it every day and most days there are BT and Open Reach vehicles parked outside.

OR "There is no exchange of that name!"

Me "Well, can you find Pencombe then?"

OR "Yes, I've got Pencombe exchange - 01885 numbers?"

Me "Spot on 01885 it is. What now?"

OR "How far is it from your house?"

Me "A few miles"

OR "Oh! Hang on a minute .............. "

there followed a long intermission

OR "It's all one word that's why I couldn't find it!"

Me "What ... Burley Gate?"

OR "Yes, it's all one word mate that's why it didn't come up on my screen!"

Me "Well, it's isn't all one word I can assure you. It's two words on the village sign and everywhere else in the village and on maps."

OR "It's definately all one word not two.

Me "Well it may be on your system but that is not correct. Anyway, it's irrelevant, so can you now ............

OR "It's all one word ..... I'm telling you it's all one word ... not two."

Me "OK - but does it help resolve the problem of locating my place?

OR "I'll have a look .... right do you know this address?" (Address provided)

Me "Yes, ..... that's directly opposite my place where I want the phone installed."

OR "There's nothing there!"

Me "Well, I'm not surprised, it's a new build that's why I want a phone installed! you can probably see the outline of a small rectangle of land opposite (the address)"

OR "Yes that's right."

Me "Well, that rectangle is where my new house is now standing ... and I'd like a phone line please."

OR "Has you builder registered the development site with us?"

Me "It's just a one off development - not a site of 20 or 30 houses, and no he hasn't registered it, which is why I'm calling now."

OR "Oh Dear". You've got a real problem. You need to register with us at least 3 months before you want the installation. We've got a lot of work to do and we can't just jump for everyone who wants a new line. There is a large backlog of work so it may be ages ......

Me "Right, well can you put me on the list please?"

OR "Well, I can take the details, hang on a minute (pause) ..... right, mate, I suggest you try a provider like BT?

Me "I've just spent ages on the phone to BT and eventually they referred me to you and gave me your number."

OR "Well, your going to have to wait at least three months with us. (Pause) I tell you what. Go to the BT web site and order a phone connection "on line" - they are obliged by law to do it so do it that way. Don't mention new build and when it asks for your account number just ignore it and carry on.

So, in the end, after some two hours between Sky, BT and Open Reach that's what I did. Ridiculous!

The phone will be installed on 8th March.

You couldn't make it up!

.......... and finally, Taylor has also been masked up and crawling around on joists laying insulation in the roof space ....................
Thursday 31 Jan 13

Build Day 168

Yipee! Tuesday saw the scaffolders return to remove part of the scaffolding on the lower sides of the house. As soon as the roof flashings on the "high" side have been done and the
render has been applied then the rest of the scaffolding can be removed. The stuff in front of the garages will be the next to go in a few days. This means we can arrange for mains electricity to be connected and the next obstacle will be trying to get someone to provide us with a phone service!

So, here (below) we have the elevation that faces the roadside (west), and it has to be said it looks particularly exciting in the natural grey polystyrene finish, hopefully the off-white render will brighten it up a little, well, hopefully a lot!
then as seen from the south ................
however, no point in images from the other side as the scaffolding is still in place.

Progress inside continues with just a few bits of ceiling and the master en-suit remaining to be completed. Photo - Jack admiring his handy work.
Plasterers will be the next to work inside skimming the walls and ceilings then outside to do the render. Then the floor insulation, followed by heating and the second fix services.
July it'll be then!

Thursday 24 Jan 12

Build Day 163

A bit of a thaw set in today but it's still really cold on site. Stalwarts Jack and Taylor in attendance again today and still on with cleaning and plaster board work.

As if you need evidence of the cold .......
or that we are still putting plaster board in place ......................
This shows the kitchen area with pipework to the sink taps in place. I always like to have a window in front of the sink as I spend a lot of time standing at it!

Then we have the study or one we did earlier .............
That's it ..... still recovering from the shock of updating the costs page yesterday!

Wednesday 23 Jan 12

Build Day 162

Costs page updated after it was suddenly realised that the large deposit payment for the triple glazed windows had been omitted! Pity we didn't forget to pay it as well!
Like everyone else we are still over ankle deep in snow but Jack and Taylor have battled through to continue fitting plaster boards. Below is part of the master bedroom. Doorway to the en suite can be seen in the left corner.
Taylor has been doing a fantastic job cleaning up the place of so much concrete rubble, grated polystyrene, off cuts of timber, bits of electrical wire, plumbing stuff like bits of pipes and other left overs, clips, nails, large screws, small screws, broken tools, including about 15 cast off hand saws, newspapers, food wrappers, broken mugs and fag ends! Nice one Taylor, the place looks better and a lot safer now.

Monday 21 Jan 13

Build Day 160

Below freezing and snow 150mm deep but Jack has been on site every day and pressed on with the plaster boarding. So, as it turns out, the much bemoaned removal of his trusty van which has been replaced, if only temporarily, by a 4x4 pick-up truck seems to have happened at an opportune time. The old van would not have made it here in this snow that's for sure. A new van is awaited and Neil promises he is scouring the internet 24/7 and he maybe looking for a van as well.

It's certainly warmer inside the building than out but that's not saying a lot, so Jack has resorted to constructing a "bubble wrap" door across one of the rooms to retain the heat from the gas heater while he dried his shoes and eats his lunch. Not two activities you would normally regard as ideal bed fellows. So, a brief look at the local weather with photographs courtesy of Neil Harris.
and the approach road which clearly demonstrates that you don't get any gritting or snow clearance for your council tax in this part of the world!
The extension tubes for the Lightways have now arrived on site and are awaiting Glyn's pleasure! It might be a bit of a wait because he dosen't get any pleasure if his hands are cold!

We also now have 4 x led reading lights for the bedrooms and 3 new televisions including a new 46" Samsung for the lounge. Always essential to get your hands on the really important bits in a build before the cash runs out! We will, of course, have to try the new telly out here for a few months before we move .... if we ever actually move!

and ...... just incase you don't now what bare plasterboard looks like .......................
the missing panel is to allow for "the lad" to disappear inside where he can crawl around with a face mask fitting the insulation that is to be laid over the ceiling area at some point. Good job we don't need a chimney!

Then the view from the other direction
and (below) an indication of some of the electrical wiring in the utility. The white plastic pipe crossing the hallway is part of the built-in vacuum cleaner system and connects to the power unit with dust collection bag in the garage. No noise and no dust coming back into the house! Well, not from the vacuum anyway.
Finally, as at 4pm today the walls in the master bedroom have been completed and much of the master ensuite has been done as well. Dedicated work force!

Monday 14 Jan 13

Build Day 155

Images of the Lightway 400 albeit the installation has not been finished 100%. First as seen from the roof, with closest of the three domes to camera being the master ensuite, followed by the guest ensuite and finally the wc.

There is still Triflex sealant to be applied to the flashing around the light.
Next a shot from the roof space under the light tubes to illustrate the level of illumination provided - it was sunny this afternoon as can be seen from the final image below.
We are now awaiting extension tubes to fit to the ends of the existing tubes (in shot) and the extension pieces will end with a diffuser, similar in appearance to a large flat circular light, in the appropriate ceiling. It will certainly be an improvement over a complete absence of natural light in two of the three rooms as would otherwise have been the case.

Penultimate image is the tubes as seen at eye level from the roadside ...................
and, finally, looking at the building from the south the tubes can just been seen on the extreme left of the image. Please note the welcome but unexpected late afternoon sun on a January afternoon!
Friday 11 Jan 2013

Build Day 154

The first working week of 2013 has seen Jack and Paul (the Chippies) cutting and fixing plaster board to the stud walls and Glyn completing a lot of the flashings to garage and dwelling. The Chippies nipped off now and again to give Glyn a hand fitting the three "Lightway 400" sun tubes. We only decided late on to fit them to the ceilings of the toilet and both wet rooms to let in some natural light.
We didn't include them in the planning application, however, as they only protrude above the roof by about 30 cms we through the change was insignificant. Thus, we applied for a non-material amendment and this was approved as was our full application for a satellite dish. To explain, the nature of the site and the increase in size we achieved over the original permission resulted in all our permitted development rights being removed when we were granted planning. So, not even a dish is permitted without specific permission!

At least the rain has stopped during most of the daylight hours and a couple of times this week the sun has been out and that certainly lifted spirits on site.

Plumber Robin has been on site completing the 1st fix plumbing, including fitting the concealed pipework for the showers. Aa a result it looks a mess everywhere, with cables, wires and pipes hanging from ceilings and walls, bits of masonry and off cuts of timber and plaster board in every room.

On Tuesday we had a visit from the Internorm fitters to complete a few exchanges and repairs and they will be back again on 25th to complete the work including the sills on the problematic study window.

Will try to get a couple of photos posted over the weekend.

Monday 31 Dec 2012
Build Day 149

Work resumes on site on Mon 7 Jan 2013.

Happy New Year!

Friday 21 Dec 12

Build Day 149

Here we are at the end of the 2012 "building" year and what a year it has been. It was not only the Queens Diamond Jubilee year, but London hosted the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games an event that involved a slightly bigger build project than ours!

On 12 Mar 12, we cut (metaphorically speaking) the first "sod" for our new and equally important build project. In spite of almost incessant rain, the principal reason for the delays so far, everything has gone pretty well to plan (touch wood!). There have not been any major hic-cups and more importantly no site injuries. Except that is for Jack's ankle (injured in their yard not ours) and Paul's back.

At the risk of appearing sycophantic, yet again we have to compliment our project manager Neil on the manner in which he has continued to cope admirably with us and the numerous "trades" in the course of the build. More importantly, Neil has kept us within budget and anyone who has been following our progress will know how vitally important that is!

As things have progressed we have added or improved a few items, such as insulation and amended a few small details. All of which will, of course, result in extra costs but the main stream costs have been "spot on" totally in line with Neil's final quote which is something we really do appreciate.

It was also his idea to change part of the flashings from steel to cedar and that was a brain wave we will appreciate visually for many years to come. Hopefully!

A couple of days ago we received planning permission to fit three sun tubes so we can now introduce natural light into the two en-suite wet rooms and the cloakroom. The addition of the tubes was classed as a "non-material amendment", however, as our permitted development rights were removed with the grant of the original permission we also had to submit a separate application just for the Sky dish. Now have to wait while this application of a satellite dish is heard by the full Planning Committee in January! At a cost of another £170! That's probably the most important planning application of the lot!

So, this is where we are at at the end of 2012 ..............
In closing the Blog for 2012, we would like to wish all our loyal Blog followers a very Happy Christmas and a happy, prosperous but more importantly healthy New Year, including (in no particular order ..... as most of them also follow the blog)

Neil, Jack, Paul, John and Ken (RM Caldicotts of Leominster);

Mick, Don, Sheldon and Brian (from David Lowe);

Antony Bartlam (Structural Engineer)

Ashley and Robin (Plumbers);

Glyn and the team (Wyvern Roofing);

Mike Fleming (Glosford)

Chris, Pat and Ian (Chris Cole Electricians)

Steve and Tom (Polysteel);

Darren and his team as well as Steve, Craig, Dave, Oliver and Stuart, (Ecohaus);

Neil Prophet (Building Inspector BBS Building Control)

Mark and Tim (RRA Architects);

and finally to all those residents of Little Cowarne who have accepted road blockages without complaint and also extended friendship and given support and encouragement through the year.

We'll be back "Blogging" again in the New Year when hopefully our images will be a bit more interesting than just scaffolding on a grey day with a few grey wires hanging down a grey wall!

Saturday 15 Dec 2012

Build Day 146

Just a catch-up on the roof flashings with a comparison before and after shot. The finished article is on the right and the glavanised guttering without flashings on the left ..........
then the finished roofline along the front (sans render) ..................
the cedar cladding certainly softens the appearance and we think it will be an improvement on the original design which was to use metal sheeting to match the flashings. The cedar is maintenance free, breaks up what would have been an expanse of grey metal and adds some warmth and visual interest. Good decision by Neil and Glynn particularly as it was neutral cost wise.

Thursday 13 Dec 2012

Build Day 145

Seems a long time since the Blog was updated and most of the blame rests with Hereford United Football Club and the irritation of a couple of work commitments.

The financial power of TV (well ESPN) who pay big money to broadcast live football on TV, saw yet another of our Saturday games moved with the result that we were away on Monday night at Cheltenham in the FA Cup. Great game and a big effort from the lads resulted in a 1 -1 draw which was pleasing against higher league opposition. The best bit was nearly £70k in the bank and a replay at Edgar St on Tuesday 11th with the bait of a home draw against premiership side Everton in the next round with another £135k for the TV broadcast and a big gate.

Then Tuesday and Wednesday we had a "works" team meeting at ......... you've guessed it .... Hereford United Football Club which helped to make a few more £'s for the cause when all 12 of us opted for the excellent "all day" breakfast that resident Chef Richard produces. Just have to hope the players don't have that too often!

However, in between then and now we also had a long trek north-west to an away game at Barrow in the BSQ Premier League and .... TV wanted that as well! So, yet another Saturday game was changed. This time the game was brought forward to the Friday night. We had already decided to make a weekend of the fixture and so we booked into the fantastic Hampsfell House Hotel a family hotel at Grange-over-Sands for Thursday to Sunday morning. We took advantage of their 3 for 2 nights deal which we enjoyed with excellent food and wine, and we felt very welcome. We are very happy to recommend the hotel.

Then on Monday we had a site visit from old friends (as in ..... known them over 20 years) Jeremy who was without his lovely wife (hope you feel better soon Rita) and Katie. Very enjoyable lunch at the pub (our local to be) followed by a tour of Meadow End before the light defeated us. Not quite sure what they made of our unusual design or the polystyrene blocks full of concrete but they were very polite as usual .... and it was good to see them!

Tuesday evening was our replay against Cheltenham or "The Robins" or Cheltenscum as some of our less charitable fans refer to our neighbours. We lost 1-2 after extra time after striker Ryan Bowman was nobbled and went off injured after about 10 minutes. So we really do have a mountain of injury worries.

Now, we don't like to complain about referees but to be honest and unbiased as possible the referee, Dean Whitehead, was awful. Absolutely awful throughout! This assessment is compounded by the fact that he awarded The Robbins a penalty almost on half-time for what was a blatant dive by their nippy winger McGlashan. The resulting goal changed the game without doubt. Then there was the "so called" fouls that resulted in four of our lads being given yellow cards ... yet the foul count was 14 by us and 21 by them ..... but, would you believe it, not one of the Robins got a yellow! Anyway .. we don't want to be bad loosers and the lads put in a good shift and gave every ounce of energy they had but it wasn't to be. You can't ask for more than that. So, "Come on Everton!"

So, with all this going on you will understand why site visits over the past 14 days have been few and far between and the absence of the "bloody client" probably accounts for the fact that there has been considerable progress. Last Monday was "London Bus" day with Glyn the roofer, Jack the carpenter, Neil the main contractor / PM and Pat the electrician all on site. So, we now have some plaster board in place as the images show. The first is looking from the study cross the hall into the guest bedroom ...................
the second is the reverse (inside the guest bed to the study). Also evident is some of the wiring on the rear of the plaster board ..................
and again wiring for the downlighters over the ceiling rafters in the guest bedroom. Not particularly interesting but, sorry, it's the best there is at the moment!
Poor old Glyn (the roofer) is having to grind down the galvanised guttering slightly to make a good fit of the flashings which, when you see them fitted, are now really starting to pull the whole roof thingy together!

When the flashing are in place, the scaffolding on the lower sides can be removed leaving just the higher walls for the plasterers to use when it is warm enough to start rendering. Can't wait!

Sunday 2 Dec 2012

Build Day 136

Monday and Tuesday this week were marked with Ecohaus installing all the external doors including the garage roller doors. There has been a lot of improvement in the security and fit of garage doors since 1993! No gap where doors meet floor, tight fit at the sides and an anti burglar security system to prevent the roller doors being levered open from the bottom.

There are still a few minor points of the installation to be completed mainly due to the absence of mains power but these will be completed in the next few weeks.
Apart from the Ecohaus fitters installing doors Jack has been working single handed on the cedar cladding under the garage roof and his skills can be seen in the shots ... can't wait for the scaffolding to be removed and the rubbish to be cleared.
Above is a view of the south elevation with all windows and doors in place. The utility door is clear glazed and the bit missing to the right of the door is for the electricity meter box.

Finally, the front door set, however, the opaque panel in the door is only a temporary measure for security. This will eventually be replaced with clear glazing.
So, now we can secure the building we can move towards 1st fix electrics this week. Hopefully, Glyn will be back from France to complete all the flashings and install some temporary down pipes to capture a few drops of rain. That will see the roof finished. The rendering can then start ... that's the worrying job because it's a messy process and a lot of masking will be required to protect the very expensive windows!

Saturday 24 Nov 2012

Build Day 131

The dearth of updates is a result of the lack of progress over the past 3 weeks, principally, as a result of a delay in fitting the doors so we can secure the building. The mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system has been installed, so too first fix plumbing but without security we can not start first fix electrics.

Fortunately, and we are as sure as we can be, the remaining doors will be installed on Monday and Tuesday next after which, hopefully, there will be some progress worthy of a few images.

The only things that seems to have continued without a break are the bills arriving on the door mat and the diminishing credit in the bank accounts!

Of course, this past week has been wet, wet and wetter so the actual build days have been few and far between with just Jack finishing the cedar cladding under the eves on one roof and starting on the other. We await the return of Glyn to fix the flashings to the hidden guttering and connect the down pipes to the harvester and the rate that the rain is falling the tank will be full in a few hours.

Things will look a lot different when the doors are in place and the scaffolding has been removed from the low side (the front). It will be required for a few more weeks at the rear until the rendering has been completed on the high sides.

Our planning permission granted in Jun 11, was to replace the original design approved for the site. We managed to secure a slight increase in size over the original as well as a double garage and workshop. Application for a garage had been refused twice during the period 2000 to 2009. However, all the permitted development rights were removed with our permission thus we have just had to submit two further planning applications. One for a non-material amendment to fit three sun tubes to the ceiling of rooms that would otherwise have no natural light and for the flue for the woodburner. This is becuase all four items protrude a few cms above the roof line. We have also had to submit a separate application to fit a satellite dish. So, be warned, the removal of permitted development rights is a real pain!

Costs page updated.

Thursday 1 Nov 2012

Build Day 124

Weather and training interrupted work today so not a full day. Here is a slightly deceptive view of the front - it dosen't actually slope downwards from left to right as it appears here!

The big opening is the where the entrance door will be with study to the right, guest bed to the left and the tall window is in the main wet room.
Plenty of mud around the front now due to the fact that whilst we have roofing and guttering connected there are no down pipes so the collected rain water cascades in a good old spurt onto the ground at the front thus the mud seen in the foreground. If only it was going into the rwh system!

Wednesday 31 Oct 2012

Build Day 123

Site meeting today with Stuart from Ecohaus, PM Neil and "the client" for Stuart to check on the fitting of the Internorm windows / patio doors and to resolve a few small issues with the utility and garage doors that are awaited. Small issues, well not really, we want to use highly insulated composite doors but the minimum width they can manufacture a door and frame is 845mm. Our available space is about 820mm. Ummmm!

Also on site today "Welcome both!" was Dad Robin and son Ashley "our plumbers" who started on the first fix pipework and to our delight they have decided to use plastic pipework where it won't be visible. Ashley is the heat pump expert and he has confirmed the merits of some products we first looked at about two years ago, particularly the domestic hot water producing "EcoCent" supplied by Earth Save Products near Oxford.

Jack and Paul are still working away on the cedar cladding which is looking brilliant as they start on wall three. We are sure it is going to prove to be a better solution than our original plan which was to use metal sheeting.

Yesterday, Glyn (Wyvern Roofing) was back to complete the galvanised guttering and fit the junctions for the downpipes. Glyn will be back to fit the flashings when the Chippies have finished the cedar as the former overlaps the latter.

No photos again today, you can only look at pictures of the build taken through scaffolding a few thousand times before it starts to play tricks with the eyes.

So, following the meeting with Stuart we have decided that we need to enlarge the utility and garage door openings slightly. All well and good but hiding behind the soft and cuddly polystyrene is a wall of solid concrete. Incidentally, it took a pneumatic drill and a fork lift to breakup just the "washings" from the concrete pump lorry so, goodness knows, what it would take to make any impression on the walls.

The cunning plan is to remove part of the v-buck supports (only required when the concrete is poured) from around the doors. This will increase the aperture for each door by a total of 80mm )40mm both sides) which should be sufficient to overcome the 25mm deficit.

That's another job to go on the list for "tomorrow!"

Costs page also update.

Monday 29 Oct 2012

Build Day 121

Ecohaus technicians on site again today to complete the fitting of the large area of glazing (the largest piece) under the "flying corner" (pictures soon). The Internorm products seems to be increasingly popular given the demand for the fitters services. They were in one part of the country last Friday, with us today and are off to Winchester for a few days on Wednesday. Their attention to detail with respect to levels, both horizontals and verticals, as well as all the joins, and the seals around the frames is exceptional. Thus the very pleasing final appearance of the glazing is, in part, a reflection of their professionalism. Another area where we think Internorm score is with the internal finish (of the aluminium / wood option) so, in our view, the choice of internal wood colour is as important as the external colour. The operation, movement and solidity of these windows is something else. We opted for the Varion 4 style (since renamed) the 4 denotes internal blinds in some windows. however, and this is the clever bit, it is possible to gain access to the blinds so any future malfunction can be repaired as opposed to breaking into the sealed unit for access which really would be very expensive. We opted for blackout blinds for the bedrooms and venetial blinds in the study, kitchen and wet rooms. all very effective and neat in appearance.

Jack and Paul were able to work in relative comfort following the excellent work done by the new scaffolders (Neil and me) last Friday. Those steel poles are heavy and my arms are still aching! We managed to reduce the height of the walkway on the two high sides so the Chippies can now walk rather than crawl along the scaffolding planks.

Apparently Glyn will be back tomorrow to complete the guttering and Jack and Paul are continuing their excellent work cutting and fitting the t&g cedar wood strips ready for the roof flashings.

Late in the afternoon some of the sills were fitted to the windows which completely transformed their appearance. Here is the kitchen window complete with sill ..........................
if only we didn't need the scaffolding everywhere life would be a lot easier but it will be needed for the rendering work on the higher sides.

We are just awaiting delivery and fitting of the main and garage doors and when that has been completed we will be able to move forward inside with 1st fix plumbing and electrics.

Thursday 25 Oct 2012

Build Day 119

Today was a repeat of yesterday except that Neil and I sloped off to the pub for a bite at lunchtime due to the bitter north wind that poor Glyn, Chris and Matt had to contend with again today. Two days of a north wind has convinced us that the Internorm triple glazing will turn out to be money well spent. So, first up (X Factor) today, is Glyn who has all but completed the main roof. To prove it, here is a moment of celebration (just look at the joy on their faces) as Matt and Chris dutifully watch Glyn formally place the last piece in the roof jigsaw! Deep Joy!
Apologies to Clare (Glyn's wife who knows about these things) I do know the foreground is out of focus but the wind was really strong! Honest!

Darren and the Ecohaus Internorm team were flat out again today man handling some incredibly heavy patio door sets around, then lifting and fitting into place. They couldn't bring them all today due to the weight on the side of the van (the final large door arrives on Monday) and they could only get one extra return journey done today.

Really impressed with the quality of the Internorm windows in all respects. Attention to detail, mechanical operation like silk, beautifully made and finished and the team fitting them have taken great care over what has, at times been a really heavy yet delicate job and fitting such large areas of glass in a howling north wind ... well you can imagine!

This will give you an impression of what the final appearance will be ...... and yes Clare, I know the sky is over exposed! Sorry didn't have time to fix it!
So, there we are. Approaching the end of a memorable week in the build. Great progress thanks to Glyn and team and Internorm and team and, of course, my main man Neil who has been a brick throughout the past 2 years of trying to get this project to where it is today.

Wednesday 24 Oct 2012

Build Day 118

Probably one of the biggest steps forward today with 10 on site at one point! Three from Ecohaus Internorm, three from Wyvern Roofing, Jack and Paul the chippies, project manager Neil and a chap who was hanging around, getting in the way, contributing absolutely nothing to the cause and who was generally referred to as "the bloody client!"

Actually, there were four from Wyvern if you include "little Sam" as well as "Big Chris". Little Sam is the chap who seals the seams - as in Corus standing seam. We could also do with his
distant cousin "Dusty Bin" on site to help out as well. And here he is - the main man
Mr Wyvern himself. Nice smile Glyn!

To be serious, while Glyn and his crew were braving the howling wind on the roof in the relative calm of indoors the Ecohaus fitters were taking great care fitting our expensive Internorm windows. Well pleased with the results so far, below is the study corner window.
and below on the left the main ensuite and the other is the guest bedroom. Pity about the scaffolding, pallets, tool boxes and planks that add nothing to the shot.
Award of the day, however, goes to unsung heroes Jack and Paul who spent the entire day cramped up on top of the scaffolding, way up under the eves fitting the cedar cladding. They were so cramped they were on their knees all day and appeared only for lunch. This will give you an idea of what the finished cladding will look like. You can also see the limited space they have been working in!

Really nice job and please note the subtle change of angles!
So, that's it! The "big" windows were too big for the vehicle today so they will arrive tomorrow and that'll be great fun to see that lot being lifted into place! Now we feel that we are getting somewhere at last though Jack is now off for 2 days fishing! Today was dismal, dark and dank but at least, for a change, it wasn't actually raining.

Tuesday 23 Oct 2012

Build Day 117

Yesterday we had a repeat performance of road blocking as all the guttering and flashings arrived on another articulated lorry, but, and to great relief, so did the missing fixing clips from last Friday. Obviously, it was all unloaded manually and some of it was really heavy! Especially the galvanised guttering, some of the 3m lengths of which can be seen here stacked readly for lifting onto the scaffolding.
It was noted that roofers Glyn and Josh, knowing the roofing items were arriving on site yesterday remained for the entire day completely conspicious by their absence! It was also noted that I was left to drag most of the stuff over the scaffolding into the garage and stack it ... single handed!

All is forgiven, however, as Glyn was back today and made a good fist of fitting the guttering. The image below shows the guttering in place fixed over the breather membrane covering the ply sheeting and awaiting the steel roof covering.
The complete system comprises, the galvanised guttering (the channel above), the standing seam roof covering (in the foreground under the blue sheet) and the flashing (not in shot). The flashings will clip to the front of the guttering and follow the shape of the guttering down the front, then fold back underneath towards the wall.

Visually, the end of the roof will be below the leading edge of the flashings covering the guttering and therefore the guttering will be hidden when viewed from directly end-on or from below.

Here is another shot taken from below. The wooden beams seen here supporting the roof will be covered in t&g cedar wood strips and the flashings will fold right round the gutter finishing on top of and just past the end of the cedar so that any water is thrown away from the cedar and the (to be) rendered walls.
All will (hopefully) become clear when the cedar and flashings are in place.

Also delivered today was the first consignment of Internorm windows. Tomorrow will see another delivery and a fitting crew to start on the final job of making the place watertight. We will have to wait until early November for the garage doors and the front door and surround.

As you will see from todays images the weather was absolutely miserable but it didn't deter the members of the local hunt who tally ho'd their way around the nearby fields and frightened all the wildlife better known as chippies Jack and Paul!

Friday 19 Oct 12

Build Day 115

Well, that was a short lived burst of euphoria we had yesterday! After the highs of the roof (get it?) it was down to earth today with a bang. Fantastic progress made by Glyn and Josh on the second part of the roof until lunchtime today when they suddenly realised that roofing suppliers EuroTrash had not provided any where near sufficient fixings. Not any old fixings but special fixings to allow for expansion and contraction with changes in temperature! Great! A re-supply has been promised on site for Monday so it's a good job the windows aren't now arriving on site until Tuesday.

I mean, so many fixings per meter (A) x so many meters supplied (B) = (C) the total fixings required plus a few for spares. Neil wasn't happy when he found out that's for sure. Why or why can we never get anything right in this country? Service, customer care, common sence not available here with any degree of certainty. Anyway, Glyn and Josh managed to fit the breather membrane to the rest of the roof, then they had to haul the tarpaulins back up to cover it all. One day it will be finished!

Jack and Paul (in the absence of Tony) manoeuvred the Vent Axia heat exchanger up into the roof space over the utility ready for Tony's return tomorrow (Saturday) to finish off the 1st fix installation. Here is the exchanger that has travelled many miles around the Herefordshire countryside during the past three days!
Hopefully there will be better news on Monday!

Thursday 18 Oct 12

Build Day 114

Yes ....... Yes ........ Yes!! At long last we are starting to get a roof and in our case it seems the weather couldn't have been better ............ if only for testing purposes, as you can see.
Glyn and son Josh (Wyvern Roofing - that's Josh in the foreground) had a good day before it really started to pour down. They managed to get over half of the left side covered before the deluge. A very neat job they have done too!
This gives a better impression of the overall roof. Yet to be fitted is the guttering, which will be hidden from view, and the flashings. There can be no doubt that as soon as we have guttering and down pipes connected to the rain water harvesting system then the rain that has been falling freely since 16 Mar will stop, probably for months and months.

Tony pressed on with the ducting for the vacuum and eventually, in true RAF fashion and with the aid of a two way mobile phone communication system he managed to "talk-down" to a safe landing a very elusive but large, green and yellow, City Link delivery van and driver complete with the much sought after heat exchanger unit. Hooray!

All in all, albeit a bit wet ........ no sorry, a lot wet - today was a good day!

Wednesday 17 Oct 12
Build Day 113

Roofing arrived .... on an enormous articulated lorry that caused chaos while it was being unloaded on our unclassified single track road! Most of the unloading was done by hand would you believe, because the Manatou fork lift hired for the purpose just wasn't up to the job!

Tony has been completing the mvhr ducting and the vacuum pipework while he awaits delivery of the heat exchanger ..... should have been here yesterday and seen sailing past but now promised for tomorrow! Jack and Paul have been finishing the profiles on the roof beams ready for roofer Glyn tomorrow.

Tuesday 16 Oct 12

Build Day 112

This is now really begining to look like quite a significant week in the Meadow End build. Most of the morning was spent on the mobile trying to direct three different delivery / courier drivers to the site. This required a high level of inguinity, a sense of humour and the ability to demonstrate restraint. Excuses included, "wrong address mate" then there was "I called there at a minute to nine, there was no one there so left a card in the box (Jack was there and we don't have a box - and finally), "Couldn't find it - sorry!" So, the good news is that currently, there is only one delivery that we are aware of, that remains adrift.

Added to all that excitement we have the fact that we are expecting the roofing material to arrive tomorrow. Today we also had a new face in the form of Tony arrive on site to start fitting the mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system for VacandVent who are supplying both this system and the central vacuum unit. Some of his kit arrived today and as you already know other bits are still in a van somewhere. The ventilation will be via rigid ducting and a neat job Tony is making of the installation as can be seen ......
this shows the extract ducting to the two wet room and the wc and the feed for the fresh warmed supply to the two bedrooms. Jack and Paul were on hand with the core drill to cut through the block wall which was a bit of a job! If the heat exchanger had arrived he would have had that in place as well.

The other news of the day is the possibility that Ecohaus will actually start fitting the glazing next Tuesday provided the roofer has finished the roof and the front opening is large enough to get the patio doors through. If so, then the glazing can be fitted from inside, not ideal but the exterior scaffolding will be required for completion of the flashings as well as the rendering process so there isn't any option. Other than more delay! We just hope there is sufficient space for the necessary work to be done on the outside.

Thursday 11 Oct 12

Build Day 109

At last some news on the roofing. First, the cedar for the cladding has arrived on site (see pile of wood in the image below) and we have been promised the Corus standing seam roofing for delivery next Wednesday. Glynn the roofer will appear on Thursday and hopes to have the house covered by the following Monday. Work will then start on the garage. Yipeee! If it happens ..... Jack is finishing off the interior stud work ready for plaster boarding and has just about completed the dividing wall in the garage. After that there are just a few hatches and porch ceiling bits to finish off. Great work!

Heavy rain on site again today and most of it seems to have found its way past the acres of sheeting and tarpaulin through the joints into the garage. A fair drop has also got into the house but nowhere near as much as the garage.
Jack proudly announced that he had cleaned up the rubbish in the house, so here is a shot of the t&g cedar (just delivered) to prove the point. It will be noted that it's been "cleared" up, in the sense that the rubbish is now in just one corner of the kitchen, not removed, which you have to say is just slightly preferable to being spread everywhere!

Friday 5 Oct 12

Build Day 105

Work still progressing on the difficult and intricate task of forming the stud work for the ceiling plaster boards. Intricate because, whilst it may not be apparent in this image, the ceiling is at an angle and it will continue around the kitchen canopy and follow the angle round the corner and along the hall to the master bed. To add to his problem there has to be a flat and level 15 - 20 cms border along the window edge so that, if and when we are ever able to afford blings or curtains there will need to be a level base to affix the runners otherwise whatever we use will hang at an angle in towards the wall.
The angle of the slope is difficult to see in this shot but whilst it is taking time Jack is making a fantastic job of it and his work will be reflected in the final finish.

Next week we have a visit from the electrician and hopefully some movement on the roof and possibly even a date for the first fix for the MVHR system and the vacuum.

Finally, for this week, just thought you may like to see this blessed dog that seems to have taken a shine to Jack or is it the other way round? I think the "eyes" give away who thinks most of the other .... obviously, the dog is more interested in Paul who we believe was the photographer!
The costs pages has also been updated today.

Thursday 4 Oct 12

Build Day 104

Well, as you can see the stud work for the ceiling over the lounge is almost finished leaving just the difficult fiddly bit along the hall and hall corridor to complete the job. In the interests of scale the lounge - dining area which is the room shown below measures 5.75m wall to wall or wall to hole to be more accurate!
So, more great work by Jack (bottom right cutting his thumb off) and Paul on the high board. Please also note Caldicotts "anti-theft" fluorescent pink paint on the equipment! Very fetching but it seems to work ..... which is more ...... no - don't go there!

I'm assured by Neil that the roof supplies are nearly within touching distance and Glynn will be on site when needed so, hopefully, there will be a roof before too long, followed by windows, doors and the rest of the 1st fix jobs.

Lost Pet Update!

After many weeks Cathy (see 4 Sep 12) reappeared yesterday and spent the morning with the lads. At lunch time Jack's woke her up to administer the command "stay!". On return from lunch he was amazed to find that she had gone and, unsurprisingly, has not been seen since. According to Paul it's a reoccuring problem Jack seems to encounter! Doggone it!

Tuesday 2 Oct 12

Build Day 103

It has been some weeks since the last update due in part to slow progress and a weeks holiday in mid Wales. The latter was very enjoyable and we managed to work around the rain!

We returned to site after 10 days to see that we now have the structure for the canopy ceiling over the kitchen area but little else has changed since the last entry on 11 Sep.

It has not, however, all been plain sailing! Last week project manager and builder Neil raised an issue with regard to the roof "flashings". This was following a visit to the Corus steel supplier with Glyn the roofer. Both were concerned on two points. First, that the appearance of the flashings (it's the bit that will cover the underside of the roof overhang from the hidden guttering to the rendered wall) would not be as we anticipated. The original intention was that the flashings would be finished in the same material as the roof covering. However, Neil and Glyn were conerned that the nature of the material was such that it would be difficult if not impossible to achieve a good level taught appearance to the flashings using the roofing metal which, in any event, would require a lot of fixings resulting in a finished appearance akin to the rivets on a battle ship. Even then it may not be possible to achieve a visually acceptable "taught" finish.

Secondly, he brought to our attention his concerns about two specific aspects of using Vieozinc. It seems that it only has the benefit of a 15 year guarantee as opposed to the steel roof which has a 40 year guarantee, and the Vieozinc shows handling marks in the form of dark blotches made by hand prints and other forms of contact. This was demonstrated very clearly with a sample of Vieozinc Neil had managed to acquire!

So, taking all into consideration we decided to revert from Vieo to Corus standing seam steel, which was our original choice. However, as the same fitting problem also affects the steel as far as the flashings are concerned we have opted for cedar wood as a replacement for the flashings. Zero maintenance anyway which is important.

So, apparently the materials have now been ordered but we have no idea when they will arrive or when the roofing work will start which is a bit disappointing as the ply covering on the roof has been covered in numerous ill fitting plastic sheets that, for the past two months, have been making a poor job of providing protection from the rain.

So, to move on to a few more positive aspects .... here is the support structure for the kitchen canopy in a building of many ceiling heights which has made the ducting design for the mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system somewhat complicated to say the least!
Recent purchases have included another 7 (to add to the 3 we already had) wall mounted soap / skin moisturiser / shampoo / conditioner dispensers! No soap dishes in this place!

Also to hand and ready for installation we have the Opus 300 multi room entertainment system supplied by UK Automation and the 5 CCTV cameras and recorder supplied by DDS.

Both suppliers are recommended. We were impressed with the quality of the advice we were given and the deals we managed to negotiate. Delivery was next day and DDS in particular offer a well regarded telephone support system for getting the system up and running and for smart phone interrogation. We will see about that in due course!

Bit disappointed with B&Q though. Called in there one Friday evening about 3 weeks ago to look at potential border tiles (the little ones you used to break up a vast slab of plain tiles) which seem to us to be very expensive for what they are anyway!

Incidentally, they now have a completely new range of tiles in the modern idiom.

Anyway, spotted some 300 x 300 tiles comprising some 144 small square tiles on a hessian backing and in the right colour mix - so me thinks, "cut through the hessian making it into 4 strips of 3 tiles x 300 mm and we have a nice border." In fact, some 1200 mm of border for just £9.98 being the price of one tile. As opposed to paying about £5+ for just one standard border tile of about 100mm length - equivilent cost 12 x £5 = £60 less £9.98 for the tile = a saving of about £50 over just 1.2m of border.

Well, that was the theory! Went back to make a purchase of 14 tiles on the next Monday only to find that the price had been increased from £9.98 to £12.98 per tile. A whopping £3 increase!! Disaster! Apparently, they were on "special offer" but there were no signs to that effect on the Friday. Thus, I complained and managed to squeeze 10% off the new price - so all in all the moral is "strike while the iron is hot!" Here is a link to the offending product. Just hope my money saving idea of cutting the tile into strips works! No doubt the tiler will complain ... they always do!

Tuesday 11 Sep 12

Build Day 101

Today is our wedding anniversary! Just back from our celebrations that included a 5-2 hammering by Hyde FC in Manchester on Saturday, then Para Olympics (7 aside footy final) on Sunday and Monday in the "Big City" taking photos and visiting the museum of Childhood at Bethnel Green. Really enjoyed the few days.

Work on site has continued but is not very conducive to photos as it consists of the construction and fitting of rafters for the ceiling and yet more roof insulation. so, for now it's just a couple of shots from our trip. Starting with the stadium ......
then some action from the event with a save by the Ukraine 'keeper playing against the Russian Federation, (still not sure about the blue "grass"!
followed by the wonderful Velodrome
and finally a panoramic shot taken from the tower of Westminster Cathedral, sadly, due to the limits on size it dosen't do the view justice - the print at 100% would be 8ft x 9ins long.

Thursday 6 Sep 12

Build Day 98

Much remedial work has been undertaken by John to sort out issues with the vaccum pipework and repositioning an errant soil pipe. Between searching for Cathy Jack has produced a lot of stud walling and started on the hall ceiling. It's not an easy job because of the numerous different ceiling heights in different parts of the dwelling so he has to keep his wits about him. Shown here is the view into the guest bedroom through into the main ensuite.
on the right is what we call the downstairs toilet (about 1.3m2) which is a bit odd when there is only one floor!

Then another view (below) centre right of the image is the doorway into the wc and to the right the hallway to the master bedroom.
So, progress in now clearly obvious and some of the stud work for the ceiling can be seen top right.

Tuesday 4 Sep 12

Build Day 96

Much the same as yesterday with the stud walls continuing to move forward. Paul is getting in some target practice with the foam gun in an attempt to seal every little gap and crevice and John has started to demolish the block work he has spent hours building up. This is because of the need to make space below the finished floor level for the ufh pipes to run through under the doorways and also, to correct the slight placement error with regard to one of the pipes to the septic tank. He was getting excited about having some pneumatic equipment tomorrow to demolish something else but the details got lost in translation.

Jack was exceptionally happy today! It seems that he has been adopted by some brown terrier like mut that just appeared on site and refused to leave. The dog now answers, quite readily, to the name of "Cathy" ... no idea where Jack got that from but the two seem to be inseparable! Could be tears from one of them at close of play today.
More stud work today (to the right of the image). Out of shot is the joke of the day. Seems the prop under the "flying" corner was removed today but they decided not to tell me and to wait and see how long it would be before I noticed. After half an hour John could contain himself no longer and spilt the beans ... I doubt I would have noticed it for days. Anyway Neil has decided that John has to remove some of the scaffolding in that area tomorrow - so far it hasn't dropped a mm! We'll see what happens tomorrow when the rest of the support is taken away .......... and I'd rather John than me!!

Did some successful negotiating over the supply of a high res, 5 camera, day and night, CCTV set up today (with remote access via iphone) and hard drive.

Also need to get down to some serious words over the audio-visual system price so we can have the ability to listen / watch any TV programme, DVD, CD, radio station or the CCTV in any room and all operated by remote control. The Opus 300 seems to be the most cost effective means of achieving it thought it's not a system for Hi-Fi buffs. Anyway, failing that it'll be back to a tranny on the window ledge.

Monday 3Sep 12

Build Day 95

Went to Ecohaus Internorm today to finalise the specifications for the doors and for a preview of the windows that arrived 2 weeks ago. The windows are stored in an amazing warehouse in a secret airfield not far from the showroom somewhere in remote rural Gloucestershire! We were "buzzed" by gliders and model aircraft as we skirted the airfield. Great!

The glazing is well protected and secure. Not only is it a bomb proof building but all the glazing is safe in an outer wooden transit frame so it was difficult, ........ no impossible to see the finished product properly but they kindly removed the protective covering from one of the smaller windows for me to have a better look (sorry about the shadow cast across the image). Anyway you'll get the impression of the appearance.
On site there has been more progress during what has been a lovely late summer day. John is now nearing the end of the structural block work, Paul has done the roof insulation over the utility and Jack has two stud walls in place around the ensuite / master bedroom.
The bit inside the "cage" is the ensuite to the master bedroom. Then we had a panic about the wardrobes in the master bedroom because of the space they will occupy but we are hopeful it will work but it is going to be tight for space. Then again we always knew it wasn't going to be big! Costs page update.

Friday 31 Aug 12

Build Day 94

Now we're cooking on gas! Arrived on site to find John working away on the stub walls ready for Jack to make a start on the internal timber stud wall next Monday. John has put down the hall/guest bed wall, corridor, guest ensuite and master bed with just the wall between the master ensuite and the guest bed to be finalised. Should be done by now!

Now we can start to see how the internal layout will look ... always thought it was small ... and it is but it will suit our need admirably. I think!

The stub walls have revealed, however, that in spite of the best efforts of the ground workers back last March, seems yonks ago, there is one sewage pipe, from the wc to the septic tank that will have to be relocated about 6 cms which is a bit of a pain. If we had more space to play with we could probably have moved the wall slightly, however, the guest ensuite is small enough already so it's not an option. Didn't have the camera with me so no images

Thursday 30 Aug 12

Build Day 93

Is it really a week since the last post on here? Oh well never mind! Just back from a fantastic few days with long time friends Robbie and Shirley as well as their 8 "boys" and Pansy Potter the cat, at their super home not far from Inverness. Wonderful hosts ... thanks guys!

Really interesting visit as they too are deep into a self build (timber frame in a more conventional style) so there was plenty to talk about, particularly the merits of different types of septic tanks ............ over dinner even!

Back home in Herefordshire and John is now nearing the top of the block walls ...................
as seen here looking back from the lounge / dining area towards the kitchen. Neil has decided to include a lintel on top of the wall where it abuts the steel to ensure any "load" is evenly spread ... if there is any!!

Meanwhile, Jack and Paul have been cutting and fixing the insulation between the glulam beams under the roof and filling every little gap with expanding foam. Bit of a boring job and not even half way yet!
This is only the outer insulation, there will be another 200mm "rockwool" type insulation on top of all the ceilings as well as batton type insulation in all the internal stud walls. It's all intended to try to keep the electricity costs down.

And finally, today, a shot of one of Robbie and Shirley's "boys" just to keep the record straight .............................
the magnificent "Faro" and for the uninitiated Faro is an Alpaca.

Thursday 23 Aug 12

Build Day 90 (as Tuesday and Wednesday)

Wednesday 22 Aug 12

Build Day 90 (as Monday)

You've guessed ..... no sun, no rain and no wind and , of course, no workers ..... again! The good news of the day, however, is that Neil has been working on the costings for the Vieozinc roof covering and flashings (quite expensive for the metal involved and the labour) and he seems to be getting somewhere subject to a check measure early next week. The bonus, is that based on his preliminary estimate of the material required, they have sufficient in stock for the entire job and it could be available in 7 to 10 days with the work likely to be about 3 weeks. So, whereas, we were looking at something like a 6 week lead time after ordering the material it now seems that the roof could be nearing completion within six weeks which would be a real help to the schedule.

The costs page has also been updated today having just finalised the order for the sanitary ware.

Tuesday 21 Aug 12

Build Day 90 (as Yesterday!)

Hooray! Sun shine today - all day! No rain! No wind and .......... would you believe it ... no workers!!! What in the world is going on Neil ..... was there something more important?

It's not as if we aren't far enough behind schedule already. So, apologies to our avid reader but the only thing we can suggest is that you scroll down to image 2 on Build Day 87 and try to imaging another 4 rows of blocks on top of those shown there! Better than that we can not do sadly.

Now another thing! Turning our attention to the Austrian workforce at Internorm Glazing who have been charged with the incredible responsibility of producing some £34k of triple glazing for us. You will know from "smart arse" Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs that the glazing is always late arriving on site - usually weeks if not months (also see Tip 10 - "order glazing early") well, with typical teutonic efficiency all our glazing arrived in Gloucestershire last Friday and is now safely stored in the warehouse awaiting our convenience! Get in there!

Sunday 19 Aug 12

Day of Rest

Following yesterdays trip to Alfreton and a 0-3 win for the Bulls (now 2nd in the table) Sandy decided we would lunch al fresco on site or, to put it another way, enjoy our first meal at what will be our new home. It was dry for a change and warm with no wind so off we went.

On the menu was a starter of prawns with garlic mayonaise, best lamb, avocado, salad, and potatoes all served with a fab sauce and the obligatory mint sauce followed by bananas filled with chocolate and cooked and all washed down with a bottle of red.

Fortunately, we now have the means to cook on site as you can see ................
Points to note, first the lovely laminate wood flooring on which the cooker and dining table stand. Although to be honest a bit of work is still required with the floor levels! Second, the latest in mini cookers and, from our own resources and ingenuity, disposable saucepans made from bacofoil. The cooker may look small but it did the job with energy to spare. It was delicious. Note also the latest "Roy Cropper style" use of the napkin by one of the diners!

Thursday 16 Aug 12

Build Day 89

After the downpours of yesterday supported by unbelievably high winds the journey out to site was somewhat worrying. The tarpaulins and "make do" bits of sheeting had probably parted company with the ply on the roof. Having experienced the power of the wind on the sheeting at the weekend (it was like trying to hold the sail of one of the tall ships in a force 8) there could be little doubt the surrounding hedges would be adorned with the stuff.

Fortunately, apart from a few patches the covering held up well. About 90 minutes work to shore up some parts and hammer home a few nails into flapping sheets and it was good as ever. This is really quite sad as the objective was to improve it!

Bit of a mess really isn't it ......
Work is now very slow due to absence on holiday of chippies and brickie John can only lay four courses a day because of the weight of the blocks. This is progress so far .....................
this is the view from the lounge looking back towards the kitchen. The blockwork will house the kitchen units. Just for something different the following is a view of the south facing side ........
for identification from left to right, corner window is study, then door to utility - note the space on the left of the door for the air source heat pump, meter box on the right, then kitchen window followed by the opening for the 3m sliding glass doors. The latter is an attempt to capture some solar gain. Total length from end to end is just 16m.

The elegant boarding on the right is to deter neighbouring sheep from getting under the fence into the site .. only because we don't want then getting out onto the road where they could be hit by traffic ... then again .... don't we?

Friday 10 Aug 12

Build Day 87

Carpenters Jack and Paul have now disappeared for a well earned holiday having managed to finish the garage roof in record time (must have been the approaching holiday) and fixed the ply sheeting that is now covered by more tarpaulin of various colours. Enjoy your fishing Jack! So, we are now ready to measure the roof for the steel covering and flashings all designed by Neil. Depending on the amount required there may be a 6 week lead time to ensure uniformity of colour.
The inside of the garage now looks quite small in this shot which is looking across the two car bays into the workshop. The blue pipe on the right is for the vacuum motor and debris collector that will be mounted on the wall above the pipe which, at the other end connects the motor to the three inlets in the dwelling into which the hose is connected.

So, that just leaves John on his own beavering away building the load bearing block walls for the study / utility / kitchen. The other internal walls will be built as conventional stud walls when Jack returns from fishing.
From right to left - the over exposed bit is the opening for the front door and glass surround, then the study with the corner window, then the utility with the door opening thru which John can be seen. Then to the left of the wall John is working on is the kitchen area opening out to the dining area and lounge.

The finished floor level will be on a level with the blocks visible at the foot of the door openings and the dpc on the left. Where, incidentally, you will see the prop (with the pink band) is still in place under the "flying" corner. This is because nobody has yet plucked up the courage to remove it for fear of the consequences!

There's an awful lot of concrete up there and that means we've put a lot of faith in the fact that the Structural Engineer knows his stuff ... or does he?

Wednesday 8 Aug 12

Build Day 85

Sun today! All garage rafters in place and being shaped - sadly, forgot to reduce the ISO on the camera so images very poor. Spent a warm 90 minutes fighting to remove 200m of barbed wire from the stock proof fence - not an easy job with cuts and bruises to prove it! However, it now looks a lot less like Colditz. Some seem to think it is an outpost of MI6 because of the sinister grey colour of the icf walls, these are apparently designed to resist cyber attack and evestropping. Add to that the fact that it's in a field, the structure is an unusual shape and apparently that's all the evidence that is required!!

Today we also had our own 2012 Olympics with Jack and Paul taking a Gold in the synchronised sawing, as this action shot proves .........................
and finally today ... to try to put the site in context this is a shot taken from just over the ridge looking back up towards the site. This shows that it's quite a steep drop down into the valley so hopefully reducing the flood risk!
Tuesday 7 Aug 12

Build Day 84

The morning was dry at least and that enabled Jack and Paul to start fitting the glulam rafters to the garage wall plate as you can see ............
then, of course, from about mid afternoon it rained and rained continuously for the rest of the day.

CCTV and intruder alarm systems are now on the shopping list. Local firm quoted £2k+ for a 4 camera system and burglar alarm. On-line firm DDS at Huntingdon can provide a 4 camera IR kit with recorder (access via TV and iphone) and cable etc. for £775. The Friedland SL6 (wireless, 4 x pir and 2 x door magnets trips with solar siren and remote) is £279 – total for the two £1,054 and a few hours to fit the pair saving over £1k and the cameras and recorder are much better quality to boot.

Monday 6 Aug 12

Build Day 83

Torrential downpours again today to welcome John back to site after his holiday. Jack and Paul have finished the ply cladding on the dwelling and the wall plates for the roof have now been bedded in cement on the garage walls. John has set the stub walls for the study and kitchen in block as these walls will support the cantilever principal of the steel cross member. The timber for all the remaining internal walls is now inside in the dry and tomorrow will see the start of fitting the glulam rafters to the garage. If the weather is in our favour the garage could be covered in ply by the end of the week.

Seems there is a lead time of about six weeks for delivery of the Vieo zinc roof covering. This is due to the amount we require because to ensure the colour is maintained throughout it has to come from the same production batch. However, until the roof detail was complete we couldn't obtain an accurate measurement for the flashings so this has delayed ordering.

Wednesday 1 Aug 12

Build Day 80

Just to break the monotomy of 000s of images of the roof under construction this is a view from the north looking south. To aid identification, on the left is the living area then at right angle the sleeping area then the garage.
Then, because the building inspector liked all this stuff the locating pieces inset in the beam to locate and secure the glulam rafters .................
and finally, the ply sheeting being fixed in position and regular visitors will note that Jack has still got the same old problem with the shorts! Given the weather the ply has to be covered with tarpaulin every night and if the wind is performing then it can take a while!
Tuesday 31 Jul 12

Build Day 79

Costs page corrected and updated but the colour highlighter seems to have failed!

Another wet day today in the Shire but only passing clouds so at long last the ply is now being fitted to the beams. The eves have been filled with Kingspan insulation and the joints sealed with low expansion foam to keep it all airtight around the joint of the wall and roof.

After a long search for bathroom floor and wall tiles we had a bit of luck. Cost is always an issue and the amount allowed in the budget was £22.50 per m2.

We were stuck for choice between two Illusion tiles at B&Q, the Emperador was too dark and Mocca too light. We visited just before closing one night and found just what we wanted Mocca marble effect and both floor and wall tiles on sale at £10 m2. Now that was a bit of luck!

Received a few more emails from various self builders who have come across the Blog - it's good to hear from like minded people and to know it has helped a few who are embarking on a self buld project.

Monday 29 July 12

Build Day 78

I'm getting as fed up are you are with pictures of the roof! Jack and Paul have been working away on the fine detail work and hopefully tomorrow will see the start of some ply sheeting ready for the steel. They have made an excellent job on what is a one off design so it has been trial and error and because Jack is a good chippie it's been more trial than error.

The Building Inspector apparently complimented the lads on their work. It seems he was impressed with each glulam beam being birdmouthed over the wall plate and fixed with diagonal screws as well as galvanised hangers. It appears he's "not seen workmanship like it for some years," but the question is whether that's good or bad?

Boss man Neil has been keeping a low profile since his two weeks in Spain then another few days off for his 50th not sure whether it's his "recovery" time or whether to pay for it all he's got a bill he's frightened to give me?

Monday 23 July 12

Build Day 73

Boss man Neil was back in harness today following his holiday in Spain. I think he was reasonably pleased with progress in his absence with due allowance for stoppages due to foul weather the week he went away.

The next few days are going to involve Jack and 'chippie' Paul (John has disappeared into his new flat for a week) in the intricitate task of finally levelling, shaping and securing the glulam beams in position. Then the lads will have to find a way to haul onto the roof quite a few sheets of ply (and they are going to be heavy) ready for fixing ontop of the beams. Here's hoping they can get the ply in place and protected from the elements before the weather changes!

Friday 20 Jul 12

Build Day 72

You will notice that we have only managed four working days out of a possible 6 due to the rain! However, between showers Jack and John have been toiling away to try to get the rafters in place on the roof and by close of play today they have nearly made it! Here is some neat work by Jack on what has been the very intricate job of cutting the glulam beams into the structural steel - each of the angled pieces had to be tailor made ......................
and a view from below just to complete the picture
and a second to put it all in context .......................
So, that's the uptodate picture. Boss man Neil is back from his holiday in Spain on Monday, so we can expect some fireworks next week!

In their defence "it was the rain what delayed everything, honest" and John couldn't do the blockwork because he was needed to labour for Jack and anyway the block walls would have been in the way of the tower they were working from! Well, that's what John told me to say! And, hopefully, before too long Jack will stop complaining about the publicity his underpants have received ( see 5th July entry) following a phone call from "Nuts" who also seem to have got hold of the pictures!

Thursday 12 Jul 12

Build Day 68

Got back about 2am from a few days in Algorfa on Spain's Costa Blanca where the 2012 Fiesta was in full swing and day time temperatures were 34.7and rising ...... so it would be true to say we noticed the difference! It was great to see the sun and chill generally, followed by a bit of sight seeing, swimming, drinking beer and eating lots of Tapas while being entertained by music, dancing, fireworks and processions through the town square.

Meanwhile, back on site and still battling through the wind and rain Jack and John have managed to cut and locate all the straight glulam beam rafters and are now working on the angled beams that fit into the steel beam and span to the walls ..... bit of a tricky task and as with most "one off" projects it is a bit of a trial and error job but the beams look fine as you can see. (This is really for Neil because whilst he will deny it he's bound to go on-line and see what his colleagues are up to in his absence!)
The tricky bit is cutting the angled beams correctly ...... measure twice and cut once is the age old carpenters maxim!
and finally, an inside shot of the beams in place over the "Swimming pool".
Thursday 5 Jul 12

Build Day 63

Well, would you believe it? A rain free day (maybe not this evening though) and not only that but a strange object could be seen tracking slowly across the sky from east to west, unbelievable!

and ... more good news the ill fated wall plate is now in place as you can see
and for the uninitiated it's the strip of wood with the bolts coming through in the middle!

Thus we have been able to move forward and carpenter Jack has started the heavy job of getting the glulam rafter beams into place ready for fixing to the wall plates as seen below. Note the natty line in underpants.
the space between each of the beams will be filled with insulation, capped off with ply sheeting, breather membrane, roofing felt and the vieozinc roof with integral gutter and flashings.
John, in the sun! setting out the internal walls and still playing with that lazer thingy and bits of string trying to get the blocks into a straight line!

Boss man Neil has dropped the bombshell that he is off on holiday to Spain for a couple of weeks starting Saturday - a 50th Birthday present / surprise from his dearly beloved ....... just wait until I get to meet her! It's like having your right arm (or left in my case) cut off!

Tuesday 3 Jul 12

Build Day 61

Jack and John "bedded-in" the wall plate along one side yesterday before being forced to adandon ship (sic) late morning due to heavy rain. An inspection this morning showed that the rain damage to yesterdays efforts was such that the lot had to be replaced!

So, a bit better progress today even with intermittent rain showers that eventually fused into one continuous downfall.

Here we have John (close to camera) and Jack, enjoying a break in the rain to level the same offending wall plate with the lazer thingy ........
But .... this time we have been clever and covered the wall plate with a shredded tarpaulin held in place by an ingenious cantilever arrangement of ply, scaffolding boards and odds and ends balanced so as not to add weight to the plate which would affect the levels while the cement is still wet.

Friday 29 Jun 12

Build Day 59

Welcome back Jack! ..... the limp is hardy noticeable! A hospital visit (at girlfriends insistence) diagnosed the ankle damage to be a torn ligament in the foot. Ice, pills and wrapped up with loads of strapping and hey presto!

Wall plate well on the way to completion. The concrete has been drilled and even larger bolts inserted and chemically .... something or other ... "fixed" in the concrete ..... ready for the beam to be bolted into position next week. Neil assures me it's stronger than "No More Nails!"

Spent hours sweeping loose aggregate off the scaffolding, trimming excess foam from joints and dpc and washing dirty looking "cementy" water off the blocks.

No images today - the scaffolding spoils it.

Decided yesterday to install an additional "Lightway 400" solar tube in the wc to supplement the two planned for the wet rooms - didn't like the idea of a room, even a very small wc, without any natural daylight at all. Added bonus was that we managed to get three tubes for almost the price of two. Result!

Wednesday 27 Jun 12

Build Day 58

Would you believe it! After the rain delays of yesterday, the steel arrives on site first thing (as promised) but then Carpenter Jack goes and sprains his ankle quite badly and obviously can't continue to work climbing up and down ladders to scaffolding. It really looked painful so, get the frozen peas out of the freezer and we hope you "Get well soon" Jack! See you tomorrow?

And Jack, don't forget you promised to sign to say you actually did your ankle first thing in Neil's yard not on our site! Good man .. you know it makes sense!

Anyway, this is the wall plate Jack has been (and would have been) working on had he been here!
So, this is the main steel spanning from the study windows to the internal corner but there will soon be a load bearing wall directly under part of the steel so it will act to cantilever between the two sides of the roof taking the weight of the roof off the corners.
..... and the same steel from a different view point.
.... and finally, a view of the fixing by which it will be bolted to the concrete walls - same both ends, obviously!
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