**See wildlife images and a few bits and pieces in "other stuff" **

Blog on our Herefordshire selfbuild!


This Blog starts almost at the bottom (95% down) - marked (START HERE) above the entry for 20 Jan 11, (then please scroll down) and continue to the bottom of the page. Then return (up) back to the entry for Tue 19 Apr 11, (just above the START HERE point and the entries are then chronological to the top (up). Sorry!

Part 1 of the Blog covers the period 20 Jan 11, to 27 Jun 12, to continue please see Blog 2 in the main pages.

Tuesday 26 Jun 12
Build Day 57

It certainly seems to have been a stagnant few days! Due, in the main to the need to dismantle all the icf bracing and ply sheeting most of which Danny (allegedly a cage fighter in his spare time) had used all his strength to secure permanently, and ..... with extra large screws! Thanks Danny! The other delaying element has been rain, rain and more rain. The site seems to defy most of the weather forecasts because even when the rest of Herefordshire is enjoying a glimpse of sun it seems to be raining on site.

Jack the carpenter started cutting and fitting the wall plate on Monday but within an hour there was an torrential down pour that lasted forever as a result he couldn't work and was called off site.

Anyway, after the rain, we loaded up and Tom and Steve and the final consignment of icf equipment left site at 5pm with most of us ankle deep in mud, totally cream crackered but starting to dry out! Thanks to Steve, Tom and all the icf build crew for their work, help and assistance in spite of the rain and, at times, working in what must have seemed like a swimming pool!

There is a rumour that the fabricated support steel for the roof is due on site tomorrow - now that should be fun!

Friday 22 Jun 12

So, just take a look at 2 months in the life of these chaps ... remember they were the stars of the blog entry on 19 Apr ...........

and just two months and three days later this is what Herefordshire grass does for you ...

well, I was impressed anyway!

Today saw the retun of Ken and John (Neil's men) to prepare for next week. The glulam beams arrived on site today together with thermal blocks for the stub walls (base for the stud walls below dpc) and concrete blocks for the structural wall.

Now, would you believe it, by a stroke of ill luck I arrived on site just before the beams arrived so then there were just four of us to manually unload about 4 tonnes of timber from the lorry into the garage. Which begs the question "Where was the fork lift Neil promised us 9 months ago?'

Then, true to form and with just 3 beams remaining on the lorry Neil turned up. Typical!
Then a little bird told us that he was spotted "parked up" a mile away waiting for us to finish!

The rest of the day was assisting Tom (Simplyicf) dismantling all the bracing and supports and joiners and V-Bucks and V-braces that had all contributed to the successful pour. The number of screws that the team used to fix the supports to all the walls is incredible - must have been thousands in total. We have been using cordless drills with screw attachments to remove these fixings and, so far, each of the 3 or 4 power packs available have been recharged at least 3 times and there are still a few to go.

Have to say, there is continuing mirth about everyone's reluctance to believe the eventual removal of the acroprop currently supporting the "flying corner" that comprises a great weight of concrete, currently "floating" 3m up in the air, will result in the corner staying put!

The beauty of using an innovative and forward thinking architect is not only the beauty of "flying corners" but also the added features they incorporate into their designs but don't tell you about.

It then comes as a really pleasant surprise to discover that your lounge and dining area doubles as a swimming pool ..................

......... complete with diving board, but by a design flaw ..... at the shallow end!

Next week we start work on fitting the glulam beams to carry the roof and the internal structural wall.

Wednesday 20 Jun 12

Well didn't expect to see Poly Steve on site today but there he was with Tom removing all the ply sheets and bracing and corner squares and "aggro" props, sorry "acrow" lucky I Googled it in the end! A lot of general clearing up and some of it really heavy stuff and the van was loaded so well when it left I noticed it had low profile tyres that weren't on it when it arrived!

There is an incredible amount of work involved in dismantling, in fact, very easy to under estimate just how much. Anyway they were still at it at 8pm and will be returning sometime tomorrow to finish up. Probably wouldn't have been necessary if Tom hadn't spent all afternoon searching for his hammer and a small spanner.

In fairness and credit to them they had also managed to get all the icf off-cuts from the Mt Everest look alike pile at the back of the garage into a skip and away in the space of a couple of hours. So, more thanks to Steve and Tom for a job well done!

Expecting the glulam beams, wall plate and blocks for the stub walls to be delivered to site on Friday. That should co-incide with the delivery of the foul weather that's heading this way again. Then we need the large steel that's being fabricated to cantilever over the central block wall to support the roof over the pillarless internal corner. It's odd to see a corner supporting its self 3.6m up in the air! The glazing people from Internorm are totally convinced that with the weight of concrete involved it will come crashing down when the props are eventually removed ... they were so sure I'm beginning to worry myself. Don't think a hard hat would be much good!

Tuesday 19 Jun 12

No building work actually taking place today but, with the full scaffolding now completed around the buildings Tim from Glosford arrived to measure the wall plate for the glulam beams that will support the roof so we are hopeful the beams will be on-site later this week.

Jack the carpenter (Hi Jack) was also on site with Neil to plan the wall plate that will be bolted to the concrete walls to carry the beams. Think we will be seeing a lot of Jack from now on. This part of the roof construction is all a bit "work it out as we go along" but it'll be fine! Neil told me!

My valuable time over the past couple of days has been spent picking up litter, moving off cuts of icf forms and V-buck material together with loads of other debris onto the ever increasing rubbish tip that's now held firmly in place by numerous pallets.

Builders ..... do they always discard everything just where they stand? So far, I've collected, chicken bones, orange peel, half eaten sandwiches (cheese), chocolate wrappers, banana skin, crisp packets and numerous orange "power" drink bottles and tops - but the two were never in the same place!

Hardest job has been the unexpected swimming pool we now have in the lounge and study areas - my best efforts with a broom to move the water around resulted in wet feet and a broken brush but no reduction in the level of the water.

I also learned that a hard hat should always be worn as scaffold poles hurt when you don't see them coming for you at head height.

The ICF crew are due on site tomorrow to remove all the supports, patches, and other stuff used to keep the forms vertical and straight. They will also recover all the bracing and move off site. A milestone in the build.

Monday 18 Jun 12


In the excitement and relief of a successful concrete pour last Thursday I omitted to record a couple of very important facts about Polysteel. Our dealings have principally been with Steve Burgess who throughout has been very honest, obliging, approachable and understanding.

Steve appreciates just how big a step it is to go for a build method outside the boring main stream stuff like blocks, bricks and timber frame. He has a fantastic knowledge of the product and his confidence in the product is evident when he talks about Polysteel icf and the many benefits and advantages.

Everything Steve said and promised at our first meeting has come to fruition through the intervening months. From the "value for money" aspect; to his belief in the polystyrene withstanding the pressure of the concrete; to his promise of a personal service to us during all aspects of the icf build.

If it is still standing in 50 years time then it will have proved to be value for money, it did withstand the pressure of the concrete that, in places, was 3.6 meters high, and there wasn't so much a slight dribble anywhere let alone a "blow out". Pity Grand Designs weren't there, but then ............ they control the edit button!

Finally, what better proof of his personal service promise could there be than on pour day Steve was on-site from early morning until approaching 8pm - overseeing and checking that all went smoothly, and it did. So, a big thank you to Steve and good luck to the Saints back in the Premier League where they belong!

NB Unsolicited comments but, sadly, no additional discount was promised for a favourable review.

The next is the system, unique to Polysteel for dealing with openings in the walls - it's
called V-buck, sorry no idea why! The V-Buck is the cream moulding that spans the opening
and forms a lip over both in and out side of the poly walls. This is then braced with the 90 degree V-Brace (white and later removed), to keep the opening square. The problem is that under the window openings the concrete tends to "peak" on either side when poured from above which is not good. Here, a smiling John is cutting a hole in the V-buck to allow concrete to be pumped into the area directly below the window.

Most icf systems use tonge and grove and adhesive expanding foam to fix the forms (the
poly blocks) together. Of course, our build was not designed around 1200mm x 600mm
blocks thus many forms had to be cut when forming doors and windows and getting walls
to the correct length.

When a block is cut then the "tonge and grove" fixing is lost so to prevent a "blow out"
at that point when under pressure from concrete it is necessary to span the cut joint
with a plywood support that's fixed with self tapping screws into the metal strips that
run inside the forms. (See entry on Build Day 46). A number of these supports can be
seen below - one just below the ready mix lorry and two more in the corner
directly above the "hard hat" and close to the top of the wall. The other longer strips
of ply are to spread the load of the bracing bars that can be seen at regular intervals
along the wall.

It has been surprising how many people, local authority employees included, who say they
have never heard of this method of construction before. Kevin and "Grand Designs" love
icf builds because of the possibility of disaster when the concrete "blows!"

ICF (insulating concrete forms) result in a very strong build (when cured the concrete is
about 50 newton) and, if you're interested it's an idea to search "You Tube" for "icf build and tornadoes"!

We don't anticipate too many of those, however, other benefits of icf are that it is easy to
make the property air tight, which in recent time has been identified as a key component in energy efficiency. In addition the U values of the walls are excellent, the blocks are large
and light to handle, thus erection is speedy, particularly if you plan the design around the block size.

With careful negotiation you can build in icf at a cost very close to a traditional brick and block cavity wall. The idea of insulation on the outside also seems sensible (prevent the wall getting too cold) as opposed to letting the cold in half way then trying to stop it! Are we right, have we made the right decision going for icf ... only time will tell!

Thursday 14 Jun 12
Build Day 55

A successsful concrete pour today thanks to the combined efforts of Neil, Tom, Steve, Ray, Danny, John and a very patient pump driver / operator. Thankfully, none of the much heralded "blow outs" where the pressure of the concrete blows out through the polystyrene. The Polysteel system is probably the strongest there is, so proper bracing and support minimises the risk of a disaster.

The concrete pump is a massive bit of kit seen here unfolding its 38m pump arm. The entire operation is controlled remotely (like a model aircraft) by the operator who stands close to the point where the concrete is being pumped into the forms. Note the lorry is raised by enormous legs - it has to be level so that the concrete is available for the pump. The ready mix lorries empty their contents slowly into the hopper on the pump lorry.

This is an action shot of the pour operation. Each form is 600mm high and each round of the buildings with the pump filled about 1.5 forms, thus 4 rounds in all to complete.

Below the pour has reached the top of the garage walls, the "hoodie" is the pump operator working with the remote control which is why it appears his arms have been cut off at the elbow!

Finally, the captive bolts embedded in the concrete and these will be used to secure the wall plate ready for the roof supports.

Tuesday 12 Jun 12
Build Day 53

Finally the rain has abated and work has moved closer to the pour.
With the scaffolding "incident" of last Wednesday the result was no work on Thursday or Friday. Monday it absolutely poured down all day and whilst Ray and Danny battled through, it really was very unpleasant working conditions. Today is cold and dull but dry so the final piece, the bridge over the corner glazing has been completed ready for concrete ... on Thursday!

Wednesday 6 Jun 12
Build Day 51.5

So much for the The Queens Diamond Jubilee Celebrations! As requested, Neil arranged for external scaffolding to be erected for the icf build crew before return to work on Wednesday. Only to be told it was insufficient. A clear case of a break down in communications. So, we now have a delay until Monday next week by which time, hopefully, the continual rain and strong winds will have passed and we can get concrete poured.

Friday 1 Jun 12
Build Day 51

Looking Back for a minute ..........

Seems to me today is a good time to reflect on the build so far. The site looks little different from yesterday as Ray, Mark and Danny continue to work on bracing and reinforcing ready for concrete, so, there seems little point in more images of the same thing.

With our first build back in 1993-4, (for us pre internet and emails) I took on the project managers role, as well as that of secretary, accountant, plumber, tiler and heating engineer at the same time I had a full time job and was also running a small company and compiling and editing a monthly magazine. That's not to mention living in a mobile home over winter with frequently frozen pipes and an open window (every night) for Spike, our faithful cat, to come and go!

It's hard to remember just how time consuming and frustrating it was, back then, writing letters seeking quotes and then waiting weeks, even months, for replies, which invariably still left outstanding issues to be resolved. Email and the web has transformed everything - for sure!

My efforts as PM achieved the principal objective of cutting costs but it was definately at the expense of time and finish quality. The professionals would have done it much quicker and an awful lot better.

So, with this build one stipulation was that we engage a PM (a la The Apprentice!) The lucky man is Neil Harris who was introduced earlier in the Blog - see the entry for 8 Mar 12). Neil (Director of RW Caldicott and Sons of Leominster pronounced "Lemster" for those who are not Herefordians) has turned out to be a life saver. Neil is a top builder (recommended by the Architects) so he deals with the various trades rather than them having to explain to me all the precise technical terms and the decisions they need. All that happened before was that they actually made the "decision for me" but based on what they wanted the outcome to be!

The other stipulation was that at no time would I be imitating a plumber, carpenter, tiler, bricklayer or anything else. My principle reponsibility would be "not to worry" and to worry about how I would manage to do it!

On a personal level Neil understands what we are trying to achieve and he knows what is important to us as far as the build and the house is concerned and during our daily dealings over the past 6 weeks he has been absolutely brilliant. More importantly he is fully aware of the budget limitations and makes no complaint about it. His philosophy is that there are no problems only solutions - which makes a refreshing change.

The beauty of a PM is that he selects the various local tradesmen on the basis of workmanship based on his past experience. He arranges the build schedule and ensure everything we need is where we need it when we need it and the same goes for the things we didn't even know we needed. It is hard to describe the pressure he absorbs from the build process but he goes above and beyond for sure.

However, the icing is that we usually have a really good laugh and he's always two steps ahead with planning. He may seem very relaxed and almost laid-back but he misses nothing. He is on site every day, sometimes two or three times, all the trades can contact him anytime, and if we don't meet on site he calls us daily (at least) with an update.

So, if you aren't a builder, carpenter, tiler, plumber or heating engineer and you're thinking about a self build project try to find a bit in your budget for a project manager, and a good one, but you'll be very lucky to find anyone like Neil !

Having said all that, what's the betting we have an almighty fall out next week! The real test will be to see what we are saying about him at the end of the build ...... and, of course, what he is saying about us!

More next Wednesday ................

Thursday 31 May 12
Build Day 50

With the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations to look forward to over the extended weekend it looks like concrete pour day will be Wednesday or Thursday next week. The
team are nearing the end of the icf build and starting to concentrate on bracing and reinforcing any potential weak points ready to contain the incredible weight and
pressure of the concrete that, in places, will be standing 3.7 m high .... frightening!

So, these images show progress as at 4pm today. First, the long view from the south

Second the view from the north east ...............
and finally, from the north.

Tomorrow morning the Internorm experts (Steve and Stuart) are coming to undertake a preliminary measure of all the apertures so the factory in Austria can get the job onto
their production schedule.

More about that and Ecohaus internorm near Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, when Craig is
back from his trip to Australia and his holiday in Portugal .... he must be selling lots of glass!

Tuesday 29 May 12
Build Day 48

Just a few catch up shots from today. The first a wider angle general view from the north east

then a similar shot from the north
followed by the garage and worskshop / ken's shed / studio / model room

and the steel reinforcing bars laid in the icf forms the steels are needed to strengthen
the concrete that will be cast in-situ over the large areas of glazing and there's more to
go in there yet! Some of the longer peices can be seen on the floor to the right.

Monday 28 May 12
Build Day 47

Today was a day for dealing with the fiddley bits .... first off the bits that form the roof profile on the gable wall

then the same thing from the inside, this time the end wall of the lounge. The finished
floor level will be at the top of the black radon barrier that can be seen at the far end

and more than half of the garage has now been assembled in less than a day, there are
still two more rows to go up at the front and three at the back.

Friday 25 May 12
Build Day 46

Most of the dwelling now has 5 courses of icf forms (5 x 60cms = 3m high) so this is now the final level of the eaves at the front - this shows (far right tall study window, then entrance followed by the guest bed window and the tall narrow main ensuite wet room window.

at the back they are still working on the difficult bridges over the corners on top of the glazed area - difficult because there are no icf forms at floor level to take a level from as the glazing starts at finished floor level.

and, finally, just for those who may have an interest, the image (below) is the form work for the corner window in the study. It shows a sectional view through an icf form. The galvanized steel mesh is used to fix spring clips that hold one icf form to another both in the horizontal and vertical plains. It bridges the void that will eventually be filled with concrete from floor to roof plate. In addition the mesh finishes in steel strips that run inside the polystyrene into which good screw fixings can be made. The position of each strip is denoted by the pairs of parallel lines that can be seen running through the date (15/05/12) on the middle form to the right. More next week ....... off to Mary and Brian's for the weekend!

Thursday 24 May 12
Build Day 45

Just for a change a shot of the Olympic Torch entering Hereford .....
Now a few shots of todays work in progress. We are up to level four out of five of the icf forms at the front but there will be six at the back where the tall glazing is positioned. The
opening is where the front door/porch will be with guest bedroom window to the left.
This is the build as viewed from the start of the descent into the valley - far left is the

barn and far right is the bungalow behind and across the road. This view will look a lot different when the V-Buck formers for the glazing are in place next to the two already positioned (the tall things) and all the bridges have been built over the top of the openings.

Wednesday 23 May 12
Build Day 44

Just a few more pictures as the icf build moved into day 2. The first shows the living area where the picture window is being formed to the right of the tall bracing board and pole which also doubles as scaffolding. There will be a lot of bracing in this build!

Below is the wing that will house the two main bedrooms with ensuite wet rooms and
the cut out for the main bedroom window can be seen at the end of the wall on the right.
More bracing/scaffolding on the left (front) wall.

Now look, we told you it was only going to be a small place.

Now here's the best bit ..................................

still no joy searching for the missing 27mm of oversite. It's not as bad as it looks because the grey polystyrene is only a former for the concrete which is pumped into the core so the structural part (the concrete) is well back inside the polystyrene insulation shown here slightly overhanging the slab. So the integrity of the structure is not affected and in the heat of the moment it was decided it was better to have the overhang rather than lose 27mm off the length .... if you'll excuse the expression!

PM Neil, who, incidentally, is not to blame for this little error, has assured that whilst it may not look very pretty at this stage it will be resolved later and everything will be alright on the night! Now, fortunately, I have every faith in Neil so everything's fine!

Tuesday 22 May 12
Build Day 43

Left home at 7-30 am and was well and truly frazzled onsite by the sun on the first day of scorching summer weather. Didn't take a hat! Got back about 6pm then went for a drink .......

The erection crew of main man Dean, supported by lead man Ray (a Rhodesian) with experience of icf in many places including The Bahamas, assisted by Danny and John were alreay on site when I arrived. Then five minutes later Dean left for a job in Cardiff! Work was hindered slightly due to the absence of ply which was on it's way from Cheltenham. Meanwhile the various forms were set into rough position on site ........

then work got underway and here is Danny (right) and John working on positioning a key corner piece icf form at the left side of the front door

it was soon after this image was recorded that we discovered a discrepancy! Is seems some 27mm has disappeared from the slab and that's caused a few headaches for the lads working with the Polysteel icf forms!

Then another visitor to site in the form of Neil Profitt the Building Inspector (here talking to Project Manager Neil) and as you can see from their body language the two Neils are not very concerned about my missing 27mm.

The first day is always a bit slow as the team familiarise themselves with the plans, particularly the position and height of windows and the location of doors. Then any discrepancies in levels and measurements come to light and have to be overcome. Following that blocks need to be cut and joined, then braced. They will probably spend more time bracing than building but that is the nature of pumping concrete into polystyrene because as you can imagine it creates a considerable level of pressure standing 3m high.

When the first row of blocks has been set correctly and are level then the following rows, five in all, can continue apace. More to come as things progress.

Friday 18 May 12
Build Day 41

Spot on time the first lorry load of icf forms arrived on site. John had been sent to collect the fork lift from Leominster but didn't expect the monster truck he was given. From Leominster to site at 15 mph max speed - took an hour! To add to his woes John's recovering from a badly sprained ankle and the monster had a fearsome clutch and a very responsive footbrake. If you add to that the fact that he is tall and the cab was small then you can imagine he was limping a little at the end.

To get the first pallet off the lorry took about half an hour of continual, "forwards, left a bit, back a bit, forwards, lower, left lock, back, back more, swearing, right lock, forwards, slowly, down a bit, right lock ... NO! ... right lock, down a bit ... the problem was that for every inch he moved towards the pallet on the lorry, unfortunately, the incline of the drive caused the forks to lift by the corresponding amount! Then, add to that the fact that there were four people shouting in his ear (all of the above) but, fair play, he persevered and eventually he cracked it. Thereafter, he fair nipped the Monster around in a very tight space and the two lorries were unloaded in about an hour and a half and the forms stacked on the garage slab. Well done John! ..... Oh! - except for the gate post! No, sorry that was Ken with the lorry!

Now, below, we have the debut appearance of Tom (a football referee so he isn't all good!) Tom works with Polysteel and also by some setup nobody seems to really understand he also has his own company called Simply ICF (Insulating concrete forms).

We bought the forms from Polysteel (£28.50 each) and through Tom and Simply ICF we have engaged a team of experienced ICF builders to start the erection next Tuesday. It's vital to have advance notice of when it will happen ... it's an age thing!

Excellent pose and a very nice smile from Tom. It will be noted he appears not to wear glasses though a few have suggested he should. Polysteel will be impressed with the fact that he is pointing out the company logo or maybe trying to hide it?

When I think back at the amount of polystyrene packing from white goods, TV's, furniture and loads of other things that we have hidden in the bin or taken to the dump and here we are paying £000's to bring it all back again.

.... and finally, this is just about all the forms needed to construct the exterior walls of the house and garage. It will be 3m high at the front and 3.7m at the rear. So, hopefully from Tuesday next week we should start to see what we are dealing with and at least the images on this blog will be a bit more interesting than has been the case to date.

Today had the potential to cause a few headaches, narrow single track road, sharp bend, the neighbours precious roadside grass to protect, 2 x large lorries partially blocking the road whilst unloading, monster fork lift racing around a small site, driver with a dodgey ankle, we really could have had a few problems - so is has been noted in the black book that Project Manager Neil didn't put in an appearance, not once!

Thursday 17 May 12
Build Day 40

Call from Neil to say that 2 lorry loads of icf forms will be delivered to site tomorrow morning and construction of the walls will start on Tue next 22nd May. Roll on!

and the fact that he thinks a spirit level is something to do with ghosts!

Then there is senior partner Ken who is invaluable! By way of example, Ken (below) can be seen applying the "Bucket handle" (teccy term) to give the finishing touch to the joints in the brick work. Minutes before that he was covering the brickwork against the elements, before that mixing muck as well as carrying bricks (for John) who claimed his back was aching due to being employed on "nose bleed" work (i.e. head down and back bent all day) and Ken had also been doing something with concrete to Phil McCaverty!

Finally, this is what we have been waiting to do - finish the oversite ready for the walls
........... still think it would have looked better if they had known what a spirit level was!

Thursday 3 May 12
Build Day 33

This is now getting a little tedious. It's over a week since we managed to do any work on site as the rain continues to hamper progress towards the final couple of days work required to complete the oversite ready for the walls.
Looking at the forecast for next week it looks as if we can expect little improvement. Still, they say time spent in research is time well spent so the broadband connection is just about worn out with searches for blinds, rugs, recirculating cooker hoods, lights, switches and sockets and millions of other things!
Met with Neil on Tuesday for some four hours during which we discussed many details, including the slab insulation and the detail surrounding the point where the icf walls meet the roof. The key aspect is to maintain a consistent level of insulation around (floors, walls, glazing and roof) and to ensure that we also maintain an airtight seal - particularly at the all important wall plate / roof junction.
Saturday brings our last footy match of the season and probably in the league. Magnificent performance from the lads at Creepy Crawley last week to come away with a 0-3 win and 3 points. Sadly, relegation battle rivals Barnet also won so it's no longer within our control. Bottom line is we have to win at home against promotion hopefuls Torquay on Saturday and Burton (with nothing to gain or lose by the result) have to win at home to Barnet or at least hold them to a draw. Failing that we are a Conference side again. Ironic that it coincides with the week they announce the club have been granted a 250 year lease on the ground which will, hopefully, be the invitation commercial interests need to invest in the redevelopment of the two ends. Fingers crossed for a bit of luck ............ we haven't had much this season.

Friday 27 Apr 12
Build Day 33

Nothing to report other than to say "If only the roof was on and the rainwater harvester connected to the guttering" - it would have saved a fortune!

Wednesday 25 Apr 12
Build Day 33

Cor Blimey! It never rains but it pours and boy has it rained today. There's been no work on site, well, almost no work. The "lads" did receive a load of bricks then scuttled off, tails between legs, with the justification that it was too wet to mix "muck" (another teccy term) and lay these bricks. However, the truth seems to be that the bricks were wet, the ground was wet, it was raining, it was going to rain all day, it was cold, it was windy and they wanted to be somewhere warm and dry where Sheldon could get on the phone to resolve his blown turbo problems! (If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen!)

To be fair, works have been ongoing for nearly 6 weeks now, the two slabs have been completed (almost) to oversite, the septic and rain harvesting tanks are installed and connected as is the rest of the drainage and the ground has been cleared and levelled ....... well, levelled if you're not too critical! More importantly (deep joy) all the money is still in the bank which gives one a warm feeling inside when all this work has been done.

Then, before lunch computer problems struck the trusty iMac and it seemed likely the blog would not be updated today. It was clear that the computer was trying to download an email from Neil (project manager) from Caldicotts. Now, warning bells should have been ringing very loud and very crystal clear because it is a well recognised fact that Neil works very hard to avoid even replying to an email let alone originating one. If you want to see a Neil Harris email have a look on Ebay because that's where they change hands - look under "collectors items." Then it became apparent the email was not from Neil but Jane in the office! Which was reassuring ..... anyway, it took ages to download and when it finally arrived the cause of the problem was obvious! It wasn't the size of the email - it was the size of the invoice is was dragging along with it. For some inexplicable reason on a wet, windy and cold Wednesday they decided to make the day more miserable by demanding we hand over good money for a bit of concrete and a few tanks and pipes we can't even see now.

Now this invoice is very cleverly composed and is presented in as complicated a format as possible to fool dimwits .......... and it succeeded! Four hours later the consensus is that it is based on estimated amounts, the percentage completed, a retention element and "preliminaries". These all defy any possible comprehension let alone verification and to think Neil has been here loads of times drinking tea and devouring chocolate biscuits. After much deliberation as to what to do - it became quite obvious there was an easy way out ... pay it! So, if you are not of a nervous disposition have a look at the bottom of the costs page to see why today was not so good!

Tuesday 24 Apr 12
Build Day 32

This is what we have been waiting for ...............

the power floated concrete finish to the garage slab. It seems Mick and Sheldon were led a merry dance by the weather yesterday with covers on then off (courtesy of the wind) then back on again and this was repeated for much of the afternoon.
Tomorrow should see the start of brick laying to make up the outside wall of the slab ready for the icf walls; installation of the top cover on the water harvester and a general finalisation of levels around the site. Next week could well see the start of the icf walls.
However, we are off to the big city to see Warhorse on stage on Thursday then Friday to the south coast for the Bulls final away game of the season against promotion contenders Crawley. We just have to go as relegation from the league beckons! So there could be a slight intermission with blog posts until next week.
Today, in spite of numerous frantic phone calls from both Tom of Polysteel and Neil (project manager) and numerous messages left on my voicemail I missed a site meeting this afternoon to discuss details of the icf build. The moral of the story being "if you put your mobile on silent then remember to return it normal or your phone won't ring and you will miss calls!
Finally, given the walls are probably going up soon the time factor has put an end to the TV programme as they wanted to film pre commitment interviews and do some "before" filming on site and there just isn't time ... no bad thing in my view at least the rest of the country won't see me making a plonker of myself ...... again!

Monday 23 Apr 12
Build Day 31

Great News! The lads have managed to get the garage oversite finished inspite of the weather. Onwards and upwards! Also had a surprise call from a lady called Sally doing a series of new build programmes for Channel 4 and wanted to know if we were interested in taking part - not sure because it's all too easy to make a real prat of yourself on't telly!
Other great news is that best friends Robbie and Shirley up in the Heelands of Scotland broke ground today with their new self build (that they kept a secret from us for months the rotters). Anyway "Good Luck" you two we hope it all goes well and on budget and keep the news coming.

Friday 20 Apr 12
Build Day 28

The weather continues to defeat attempts to lay the garage slab. Meanwhile, there has been much moving around of sub and top soil following the burial of the water tank. So deep, in fact, that we now await the arrival of an extender tube so that the inspection cover will be somewhere close to the finished ground level. Thus, as a result, no exciting images again today and unlikely to be so until we get a couple of days dry weather for the slab. After that we should have some polystyrene walls, so that's guaranteed to bring strong winds!

Just for the record we now have a reasonably level site.

Thursday 19 Apr 12
Build Day 27

Been prohibited from taking any more photos of builder Sheldon due to the fact that his diligent search for the 1p he lost seems to have resulted in much ribbing from his colleagues. So I've now been restricted to landscapes. This shows the orientation of the plot in relation to the single track road and the landscape looking from the south. It's an elevated position with the land falling away into the valley on the east side.

The major achievement since yesterday has been the burial of the 3,750 litre rain water
harvesting tank and connection of the associated pipework. It was a deep hole! The
ground has now been levelled over almost the entire site which makes it look quite different to
when we (Royal) started work five weeks ago.

and here are a few Sunday roasts, particularly the twins now known affectionately as 25a
and 25b ............ if only we had a chest freezer!

Wednesday 18 Apr 12
Build Day 26

Ground work to install the rainwater tank and associated pipework has continued prior to installation of the tank underground. The incredible aspect has been the amount of brickwork that has been uncovered in the course of excavating down to 1.4 m for the trenches across the front of the site. There were quite obviously some substantial features on the site at some time in the past but goodness knows what they were.
Progress with the garage oversite has been delayed due to night frosts and intermittent heavy "April" showers. The garage floor will be finished on a slight gradient and with a power float finish (at an extra £150 of course!) thus the need for a reliable forecast of good weather.
Once we get the rainwater plumbing and the garage oversite finished then we will be able to start the Lego polystyrene block part of the build which should, hopefully be in a week or so.

Thursday 12 April 12
Build Day 22

Today was a beautiful day on site, no doubt, because today is Sandy's birthday. So, to celebrate here's a panoramic shot (5 images stitched together in Photoshot) showing the view from the site.

The sheep with lovely new lambs were returned to the surrounding field by Farmer Philip today so we don't have to worry about keeping the grass cut on our 35 acre lawn!
In spite of the fact that we had a spot of lunch with Mick and Sheldon today, construction work has continued with trenches and pipes in place across the site for mains electricity and water and the ground outside the garage oversite has been made up so it is close to finished levels. Due to the threat of heavy rain and frost the concrete for the oversite has been delayed until Monday next.

Wednesday 11 Apr 12
Build Day 21

This week saw the return of our "prodical son" Sheldon now back in harness with Mick after a weeks holiday working for the real "Boss". Mick handles that bucket on his digger with the dexterity of an arthritic pianist but between them they are doing a really neat job. (I was told to put that in because apparently their work colleagues at David Lowe's are now reading this blog .. sad or what?
Anyway as you can see (below) Mick is just going or just back from yet another tea break and Sheldon is still searching for the 1p piece he dropped in the garage footings the week before last.

Thursday 5 Apr 12
Build Day 19

Yesterday was concrete pour day for the garage footings so, of course, it was freezing cold and raining - so we did the best thing and left the experts with a free hand by staying in the warm! Today was a bit better by lunchtime but still very cold, nevertheless, the site visit was rewarded by a good sighting of our near neighbour out getting lunch for his good lady. So, we will, hopefully, have one good neighbour at least ..... and with luck these Red Kites may stay around for many years.

This image is a welcome change from trenches, hardcore, concrete and machinery. Pity I didn't have the 500mm lens with me ... always the wrong lens on the camera - it's the story of my life!

Our intrepid hero builders, (Brian replaced Sheldon today, who replaced Don last week) so now it's Mick and Brian, not Mick and Sheldon or Mick and Don or Sheldon and Don - no, it's defo Mick and Brian today working in the face of a howling bitter wind and they are now (techy expression) "well on" with the garage footings and have started the oversite. It's uncanny how these works apparently change in size as work progresses. First it seems very small, then big (this build is never going to be big) then the walls go up and it changes again, so it will be interesting to see just what the room sizes seem like at that stage.

Back to concrete and blocks with this image. Double garage closest to the camera with the entry doors on the right with the storeroom (Ken's shed) at the far end.

Tuesday 3 Apr 12
Build Day 17

Having avoided the temptation to post on 1st April, which could just have backfired, sufficient time has now elapsed so, hopefully, it's safe to start updating the blog again.

Last week, after returning from a week off (decorating) Sheldon replaced Don as No 1 mate to Mick and work on site has pressed ahead. The ground has been excavated for the connecting pipework into the biodigester and the outfall pipework has been completed and some rather smart square hard plastic "person" covers (just to be pc) have also been installed. This is a complete contrast to our first build when, to save on cost, the ground worker used covers made of something resembling "kitchen foil" that lasted less than 12 months!

Tons of excavated soil has now been relocated (one of the problems of a small site) to allow work on the garage and storeroom footings .............

Below - the German U boat thingy in the picture is the 3,750 litre rain water harvesting tank that Mick and Sheldon have assembled (in arrived in two halves) it joins around the middle with clips and is just about ready to be installed underground. That could be fun!

Friday 31 Mar 12
Build Day 15

The oversite for the dwelling is now just about finished as shown below. The bio-digester is in place with just the connecting pipework to be completed. Next week will see the start of the footings for the garage and finally the excavation and pipework for the rain water harvest system.

Friday 23 Mar 12
Build Day 10

A different view point showing the development so far and the neighbouring property across the single track road.

Thursday 22 Mar 12
Build Day 9

Our two experienced construction engneers Mick and Don have been hard at work laying the drains and building up the oversite this week. May not look a lot different from the last image but not all the work is visible.

Friday 16 Mar 12
Build Day 5

With the concrete now "gawnoff" (technical term) Mick and Don have already started the blockwork for the oversite so now we have some idea of the width of the lounge (6m). This is marked by the two courses of blockwork at the far end of the image. The returns mark the inside of the walls. There will be a 1.8m picture window in that wall principally because it overlooks one of the most important landmarks in Herefordshire - the fantastic Wye Valley Brewery. It can just be seen on the left edge of the trees in the lighter area in the middle distance.

Due to the limited space for manoeuvering large diggers and equipment the plan is to do the dwelling first. Then install the septic tank and outfall pipework followed by the footings for the garage and then the rainwater harvesting tank.

The biodigester was collected from Allan today and is also now on site ready for installation.

Thursdsay 15 Mar 12
Build Day 4

Foggy, cold, dank and miserable for working with concrete, remind me why we want to live out here!

Wednesday 14 Mar 12
Build Day 3

Mick and Don finished the trenches for the footings ready for a 4pm visit from Building Inspector Neil Proffitt who passed their efforts and the ground as "fit for concrete" thus we have an early start tomorrow with the first lorry load arriving at 8 am. The question is do I take a spade to move concrete or the camera to take pictures? You've guessed right yet again!

Below is a final image of trenches I have to admit they are not the most exciting things, however, there is a lot of money riding on the conditions underground which can lead to financial success or otherwise. Thus, it is impossible to be sure you can stay "on budget" until the project is out of the ground and by tomorrow evening we will be!

Looks to me like it's getting smaller and smaller all the time - lounge, dining area, kitchen, utility, study, hall, two bedrooms and two wet rooms inside those trenches ... impossible!
Good news! The portaloo arrived on site today to everyones relief. The "costs page" has also been updated today.

Tuesday 13 Mar 12
Build Day 2

Work moves ahead apace. Tree stump and old hedging removed. We now have protective fencing and a very impressive site notice board, a store shed but as yet, and to the dismay of some - no toilet facilities. Tomorrow honest lads. We do, however, have a large heap of rubbish and rubble and and equally large pile of very nice looking top soil. Note the impressive secure storage to the immediate right of the tree on the left of the photo! (The green shed)

Then below are the trenches for the footings for the kitchen-dining area-lounge part. It's only a small property but the angle of the photo makes it look even smaller! The bedrooms and ensuite wet rooms will be off to the left of the picture.

Monday 12 Mar 12
Build Day 1

Momentous day! After months of searching, followed by lots more time mulling over designs to try to maximise the planning restrictions, fighting with utility companies, then sorting the details of the layout, getting the application past the planning committee, negotiating building regs, resolving planning conditions, levels surveys and energy efficiency assessments, we eventually broke ground for the first time this morning.

Why didn't we do something sensible like most people do and just buy a new house "off the peg" or should it be plans? Anyway, it's started and the evidence is now clear for all to see .........

Ground work contractor Dave Lowe's men are on site with some powerful equipment and some space age Lazer kit though Neil claimed it was a dummy just there to impress as most of the setting out and setting ground levels is done with sticks and string! First jobs are to remove the old hedge some of which can be seen in the dumper truck, followed by the old tree stump and then levelling the whole site. Looks like we can't pull out now! The aim is to have it finished within about 7 months ... we shall see!

8 Mar 12

Today was a good day! Sandy and I met Neil Harris for lunch. Neil is our project manager and building contractor and is a director of RW Caldicott and Sons Ltd., of Leominster. We decided to have lunch at what will be our local "The Three Horseshoes". We arrived only to be very concerned by the presence of a very smart Aston Martin in the car park. The thought crossed our minds that quite obviously we had agreed to pay too much! Then, soon after, and much to our relief Neil arrived in his trusty truck.

Star item on the menu was "Pensioners Pie" (I was entitled) Neil not so, but we both had it with Treacle tart for pudding while Sandy was abstemious and contented herself with a Mushroom Risotto. It was all both excellent quality and value.

and .... as you can see Neil looks quite happy about it! So, after that it was a bit more "chit chat" and discussions following which the contract was finally signed and we've a feeling it won't be referred to again .. we'd like to hope so anyway.

Work starts on Monday, so here, is the last "before" image. From now on it will all be "afters".

26 Feb 12

With permissions and everything else apparently in place we are hoping to start the ground works on or about 12 Mar. Ignoring supply failures, contractors holidays and the "Kevin McCoud" unknown factors the build schedule should look something like

Date Weeks

12 Mar 1 - 4 Ground clearance, levelling, install septic and RWH tank

footings to oversite slab

9 Apr 5 - 6 Erect ICF superstructure for house and garage

23 Apr 7 - 8 Roofing joinery and covering to house and garage

7 May 9 - 10 1st fix carpentry, electrics and plumbing

28 May 11 Floor screed

4 Jun 12 - 13 Fit Glazing and external doors

18 Jun 14 - 15 Plasterboard and external render

2 Jul 16 - 17 2nd fix carpentry, electrics and plumbing

16 Jul 18 - 22 Internal decoration and landscaping

1 Sep 23 - 24 Snagging

It will be interesting to see how much time over run we encounter in the build process. There is a "catch-up" period in May when the only scheduled work is screeding the floors. This is because we are not going to risk making expensive errors by ordering the glazing by scaling off plan measurements. The window and door openings will be formed in the ICF walls before the concrete pour so measurements will be taken after the concrete pour has hardened. The order to delivery time from our glazing supplier (Internorm) is about 8 weeks thus the inbuilt delay between early April and early May. The weather at the time may allow some additional internal works to continue.

15 Feb 12

So, that's it then! With confirmation of Building Regs we now have the all clear and work can start. Sadly, so will the dreaded decision making process. Such as, what sewage, plumbing and other pipework do we need in the foundation slab. Where do we need to make provision for apertures in the icf walls - so that we don't have to start drilling or cutting 150mm of solid concrete in a few weeks or months time. The position of all electrical switches, fittings and outlets and that means everything from exterior lights to power for the cooker hood from tv positions to computer locations and telephone points. Then there's the position of all sanitary ware, kitchen layout, appliances and the colour of the walls all to be decided. It never stops and from past experience when we get to 1st fix then every day there will be some detail that has escaped our attention.
We have a meeting planned with Neil, our project manager / main builder later this week when hopefully, we will be able to work out final details and set an exact start date with a full week by week programme for the complete build from ground clearance to 1st opening of the front door! At least when the work starts we will be able to brighten and lighten up this Blog with the odd image or two.
Talk about "lighten up" and OK a promise was made that this wouldn't be all about "The Bulls" so, forgive me, but last nights game at Aldershot was the worst performance by the team for many years. It really was dreadful to the point that it made Aldershot look good! Not to worry Swindon at home next and we are both in 4th place ... trouble is, for us it's from the bottom yes, you've guessed it!

9 Feb 12

The penultimate hurdle was crossed today when we received our discharge of planning conditions. To this point we have been prevented from starting any development work whatsoever, but now, well ............... we can at least dig a hole if we want!
Made more progress on negotiations over the icf forms this week so we are edging towards a deal that, hopefully, will be signed and sealed (not literally) by the end of this week.
That just leaves Building Regs which should be resolved within the next 10 days and that should keep us on course for a start in March, weather permitting.

5 Feb 12

We started this web site in Jan 11, so it's now just over a year since we found our plot and started the process of finding an architect, working up the design, changing the planning permission, finding a cost effective builder, deciding on the method of construction and preparing the site. Then we had to involve a Structural Engineer, a SAPS assessor, and secure insurance and Bulding Regs approval as well as finding a 10 year warranty on the finished build. The latter is essential just incase we need to sell and the purchaser requires a mortgage as most lenders would require some evidence they were "investing" their money wisely. How the banks have changed!
As can be seen from the entry for 4 Jan 12, we have managed to dispose of some £33k in the process and the only change to the site so far has been the removal of one solitary electricity pole and the provision of water.
The encouraging news is that, so far, we are on course, subject to the imminent arrival of the Planning Consent Conditions Discharge Certificate, to start the ground works in March. We also think we have managed to secure a deal to buy the icf forms, (house and garage) concrete, concrete pump, scaffolding and supports and the other bits and pieces as well as all the labour for a competitive price almost in line with the costs of the original masonry blocks. Hope to get this bit of the jig saw finally sorted this coming week and, if it finally comes off, we will be well chuffed.

30 Jan 12

Now received a copy of the Accredited Construction Details - covers insulation continuity and air tightness along with a load of other stuff that we must adhere to during the build phase. Hope it's something builder Neil is familiar with, if not, then not sure what he'll make of it!

23 Jan 12

Had an interim report from Alan Anderson at Energycalcs the SAPS assessor who is working on estimating our proposed SAPS rating for the Building Regs application. From what we can make out it seems that by utilising the specification from the architects drawings, along with assumptions then at present the estimate is that we will achieve a Dwelling Emission Rate (DER) of 27.01.
A variance of -29.79% - SAP Band C – 73. The house achieves Code Level 4 under condition ENE 1 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Would like to try and get it a bit more energy efficient than that but likely to be difficult with the north facing glazing.

17 Jan 12

We are now looking at an alternative roof covering. Identical in appearance to the Corus steel standing seam system we think there is some merit in the Vieozinc system. This offers the benefits of zinc without the full blown cost as it's a zinc coating on an aluminium base. It's a natural grey colour that darkens a little with weathering. Just depends on whether it's cost effective. It will also enable us to satisfy the wishes of the planners who want us to "tone down" the contrast between the off white render of the exterior walls and the grey roof and window frames!

4 Jan 12

Having just updated the costs page it's interesting, worrying is probably a better word, to see just how fast money disappears and how little there is to show for it. So far, since last March and excluding the price of the land and anything at all in respect of the build process we have managed to spend the best part of £33,000 just on legal fees, planning charges, architects fees, building regs, and the utility infrastructure charges. However, if the astronomical costs of installation for the electricity supply are removed then the actual figure is closer to £15,000 which for an architect designed property with 10 year warranty is reasonable. That said, the first three bed semi bought in 1975 only cost £90k for the house and garage!

3 Jan 12

Happy New Year!
Thought we should just give a plug for Antony Bartlam of JTA Associates in Bromsgrove who did the structural calculations for us. He is very approachable, helpful, very familiar with ICF and he did what he said he would do, when he said he would do it and charged the price originally agreed. That's what we call good service.
We also hope to have the final building regs drawings from the architect early next week which means we can then apply for building regs approval. We have decided to use Build Zone who do the building regs approval, site inspections and provide a 10 year structural warranty for an inclusive price.

18 Dec 11

Having now sent out this years Christmas cards showing this website address we have noticed a few more visitors. So if your visit is as a result "Happy Christmas" and do pop by from time to time to see how we are getting on.

16 Dec 11

Received the calculations and design for the foundation and roof structure support from the Structural Engineer on time as promised. He has recommended one internal structural wall to simplify the structural support for the roof. This information is now with the architects for the building regs drawings to be finalised prior to submitting the application.
Interesting event. We met our Planning Officer at a party on Friday and she asked "How's the build going?" The reply "Waiting for you to discharge our conditions!" Silent night followed!

1 Dec 11

Submitted application to Herefordshire Council for the discharge of the planning conditions. Awaiting the design and structural information for the roof so that the structural engineer can do his bit prior to RRA finalising the drawings for building regulations approval.

25 Nov 11

Long meeting yesterday with the builder to discuss price revision "f" - quite an appropriate suffix! But, to be totally honest he has produced a very acceptable quote all aspects considered.
With our rejection of the Kingspan roof covering and the unavoidable return to the Corus standing seam (well they do say don't spoil the ship etc) the result of this was a price increase of £12,800. This was caused by the requirement for the roof to be supported by Glulam beams set at 400 mm centres (plus all the labour involved) as well as manufacturing a ply / polystyrene / ply insulation sandwich covered by a standing seam outer. The revised quote would have been about a 10% reduction had it not been for the change in specification. Nevertheless, we are now getting the roof we really wanted as well as a reduction on the previous price of about 4%. Happy with that so we have agreed the deal and Neil is now formally appointed as the Meadow End project manager.
So, at long last things are starting to move. Next week we will appply to discharge the planning conditions. When we have the roof construction details the Structural Engineer can do his calculations and we can finalise the Building Regs application drawings and apply for approval.
We will aim to start work next March but if February's weather is reasonable we will start early. It is anticipated the build will take about 8 months - but as we know there is always a delay with the glazing!

12 Nov 11

Having now received the Kingspan roofing samples (Zip, etc) it is back to Corus. Whilst the simplicity of the outer covering laminated to the insulation is attractive in terms of components and savings on labour, the appearance is really disappointing so, it looks like it will have to be our original choice - Corus system.

25 Oct 11

The search continues for the last piece in our build project jigsaw puzzle. Specifically, a suitable roofing system that, in appearance, is in keeping with the contemporary style we are trying to achieve, that also lends itself to solar (water) panels, is durable and will compliment the rainwater harvesting system ... and all at a sensible price.
Our original wish list included the Corus Urban colour coat standing seam steel roofing system, however, with roof trusses and labour the price of the Corus system for dwelling and garage was in excess of £40k. So, you've guessed correctly, we are currently seeking a more cost effective option and are now looking at the Kingspan Zip (standing seam) alternative and waiting to see how prices compare before we can move forward.

This is the final decision we need to make before we can instruct the Structural Engineer and apply to discharge the planning conditions. Only when we have the SE's calculations can we finalise the Building Regulations drawings and apply for approval. Then, when we have successfully discharged the planning conditions and received Building Regs approval, we can finally start work on site.

23 Sep 11

Interesting few days. Invited to watch a concrete pour (Polysteel ICF) on a small 3 dwelling development in Cheltenham which went very well - like clockwork in fact. No "blow outs" and a well organised and seamless operation with one lorry transporting 6 loads of cement pumped into the three sets of forms in about 6 hours. Impressive!

Part of the Site
Concrete pour

Then I was taken to see a new build (also Polysteel ICF) in a magnificient location just outside Cheltenham .......... and I thought we had beautiful views!
That view!

Incredibly, the ground level part of this project is so simlar in appearance to our design it is uncanny with both comprising an L shaped dwelling, mono pitch roof with large areas of glazing. My initial reaction was that we must both be using the same architect! If you take a look at our proposed floor plan and elevations in the gallery you will see the similarities.
Sadly, that's where the similarity ends!
The orientation on site is different in relation to the view and also this is a very large property on two levels and will be exquisitely fitted out.

Our "Big Brother" build!

Very hospitable project manager / owner gave me the guided tour which was "fantastic" and if ICF is good enough for this top spec build then ................. ! I look forward to seeing the finished product and it was fascinating to get some idea of what our build will look like in reality as opposed to on paper.

16 Sep 11 Update

This blog was started on 20 Jan 11, but currently the project is at a stand still. Consequent upon the £20k hit on the build budget for mains electricity we were forced into a rethink of
the budget. So, together with Neil, our builder, we are revising the specification and costs quite substantially.
Whilst we have decided to build the superstructure in ICF we have not yet decided whether to use Polysteel or QuadLock, however, it is not this decision affecting progress.
Before we can start work we need to discharge various planning conditions (levels survey, materials and landscaping). We are ready to submit the discharge application but are
yet to finalise details of the proposed exterior wall finish and the roof covering which we cannot do until we have the revised costs. When we are able to decide what is possible,
we will submit the application, make a final decision on ICF system and commission the Structural Engineer. His calculations will then enable the architects to finalise the building regs drawings.
We intend to use Build Zone for the build regs application, regular inspections and their 10 year build warranty in the expectation that their surveyors will be more familiar with ICF than, maybe, local authority inspectors.

2 Sep 11

Two significant events this morning. First Ed (excellent tree surgeon) felled and logged the old decrepid holly bush as you can see by the stump (before image can bee seen on the entry for 10 Aug). The stump will be removed by a JCB later.

and Welsh Water contractors came to connect the water. Not brilliant! First they arrived without a plan for the mains pipework so they removed a meter of the road surface about 1m deep .... unnecessarily, as the mains water pipe was later found to be lurking under the grass verge! So, no need to remove any of the road surface at all!
Then they departed leaving half of the road blocked by barriers protecting the offending hole! The question, "Aren't you going to fill it in and make good?" The reply, "No mate - that's someone else who will do that." Question "When?" Answer: "Monday or one day next week. Byee"

The white cylindrical part at the top of the image is the meter the blue pipe connects it to the black coloured mains pipe ......... followed by the generous but unnecessary road works! Well at least they are consistent see comments on the next entry.

26 Aug 11

What is it with the privately operated utilities in this country? Inefficient plain and simple! As if we didn't have enough problems and added costs with the electricity! 7 months ago we paid nearly £800 to Welsh Water for a new connection. Bascially, about 3m of pipe work from the roadside! The charter states they inspect the trench within 5 days of notification and (if it passes) connect within a further 14 days. Well, they didn't connect us at all!
Following numerous calls, some returned, some not, they claim we "slipped through the net" but we will now have a supply on 2 Sep. Honest!

19 Aug 11

This is the expensive transformer we had to pay for just to be "reconnected" to the mains ..... rip off!

10 Aug 11

Success! The offending poles have now been removed as you will see .............


and after

Works completed by 2pm and all neighbours reconnected.

9 Aug 11

Tomorrow (10th) Western Networks are due on-site to complete the electricity supply works and switch over to the new transformer ... we shall see!

8 Aug 11

A depressing and potentially serious few days starting with the wrong electric supply works (see 26 Jul 11) followed by another body blow to the build budget with the builders revised figures showing an increase of £40k over the initial quote. This is now for an L shape rather than the original rectangle, thus two additional walls and a slightly more involved roof. However, to compensate the footprint is reduced by some 6m2. So, we anticipated a small increase of about £15k less the reduced footprint (say build cost of £1k per m2 = £6k, so £15k - £6k = gives the anticipated increase of about £9 or £10k.

26 Jul 11

Work started today to re-instate the power supply, up-grade the transformer (apparently necessary at great cost) and remove the existing pole from the site. This has been a painfully expensive process (best part of £20k) for something that was there already! At least we can now see what all our money has been spent on!

This shot shows - the breakfast truck for 6 or 7 men; 1 x lorry for the pole (blocked the road) 1 x JCB; 1 x mini digger; 1 x Land Rover; and three other vehicles!! Today is only preparation for removal of the pole - the switchover will be completed on 10 Aug.

Went back on site later in the day to find that rather than lose one pole we have now gained another pole complete with frayed steel stay! No sign of any trench where there should be (across the field to the next pole) and not a workman or vehicle in sight ... and the project manager is on holiday! It could only happen in this country! Looks like breakfast was the only thing they got right.

and then there were three!

22 Jul 11

Met with our Builder Neil yesterday to discuss our "almost" final decision to build the property of polystyrene. No joke! Fortunately he is happy to tackle it and has some experience of the method albeit some years ago. The system offers various U values (we are going for .15) and an air tight dwelling which is important in trying to achieve an energy efficient home. It comprises large hollow polystyrene building blocks (each about the size of 9 concrete blocks) that lock together on all sides like Lego. The door and window openings are either filled with solid poly or shuttering and then concrete is pumped into the hollow space in the blocks. The result is a 150 or 200mm structural concrete core with external and internal insulation. If you want increased U value walls then the external polystyrene is increased in thickness. Having polystyrene on the inside gives a warm feel and plasterboard is either applied with "dabs" of plaster onto the poly, in which case a hot knife is used to remove ducts for electrics and plumbing, or fixed onto battens which allows space for services. Any finish can be used externally but we are going for render which can be applied straight onto the poly. Anyone who wants more info here are a few links

ICF Association



This system has been popular in North America (ICF buildings withstand hurricanes and tornados) and many other countries but is still something of a novelty here. Costs can vary considerably between suppliers and there are a number in the UK as Google will tell you. Also a lot of info on U Tube. It looks easy but it isn't a diy job without training and there are dangers such as concrete "blow-out" (as seen on Grand Designs) and the concrete pour not reaching into all of the void or air pockets forming.

18 Jul 11

Meeting with Install Automation who have designed a full home automation system for lighting, audio, visual, cctv and more if we could understand it all! Total cost over £30k. I only wanted to be able to watch tv in bed!

Think this will be on hold for a long time though it would be sensible to install the necessary Cat5e cabling at first fix. That way it would be possible to add items as funds were available.

17 Jul 11

Meeting about the land went well and we have come away with the belief that our neighbours are prepared to allow us to buy or have access to land for the pipes associated with the ground pump option. They will get back to us.

14 Jul 11
Now back after a great break near Inverness with our friends. Saw the Bulls win 5-0 in the seasons first friendly on Tuesday evening. Now urgently investigating quotes for both SIPS and CIF build systems. Both offer similar u values, airtightness but CIF scores on thermal mass. At the moment on cost basis alone the CIF system has achieved "preferred bidder status". Anyone like to offer any advice on either system?
Also have a similar problem with the renewable energy source - air or ground heat pump? We thought ground (better COP than air) was out due to lack of space but we have a meeting on Sunday with the person who owns the adjoining field so a possibility of access to some additional land either by purchase or a wayleave agreement may be on the cards - no chickens counted! Early days.
Meeting on Monday next with Andy from to discuss various options.

7 Jul 11

Nothing moving at the moment while we await the structural engineers calculations and the energy survey. Only then will we know the true extent of the structural work required for the large unsupported roof span and the energy requirements. Only then can Neil (builder) calculate the block build costs. Only when we have his costings can we look at the alternative build methods - timber frame - SIPs or ICF.
So, a lot of time has been spent trying to work out the most efficient and cost effective eco system combinations of heat pump, thermal store, ufh, solar panels, pv panels. Nightmare! Off to Kiltarlity (near Inverness) tomorrow for a couple of days with long standing good friends Robbie and Shirley and the boys (Alpacas) .

1 Jul 11

Call from a mobile phone.
"I've got a delivery for your place - Meadow End?"
"My sat nav has brought me down this single track lane that is gradually disappearing into a footpath - whereabouts are you?"
Driving to Bristol - where are you
"Not sure but I'm in a 6 wheeler and I can't go on or turn round"
Oh dear. Have you got a map so you can describe to me where you are?
Eventually, the underground conduits for the very expensive and diverted electricity supply were delivered to site.
Note: Don't rely on post codes in a sat nav as they can cover large areas of countryside.

28 Jun 11

The planning conditions included a site levels survey - got the quote today - only another £500!

27 Jun 11

Sunday last we visited the permanent National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon. Not many there which allowed us a lot of time to discuss eco features with regular eco expert David Hilton (project manager) so no ties to a manufacturer. We have learned to be careful with vested interests and it is a big problem trying to get free impartial advice on anything. Most important eco-nomical points that we came away with were

Air tightness is critical - particularly with mvhr - and is best achieved with SIPs or timber frame which also give best U values. Mechanical ventilation will create a low pressure in rooms and so, invite cold air through any holes or defects in the walls / insulation into the property. Not a good idea - so get it as air tight as possible!

Solar thermal panels to compliment heat pump - Not a good idea with current technology (contrary to previous advice from vested interest!) Why? Because it is difficult to know the best set up and timing when using the two in combination to heat water. Also requires large(r) water storage tank which is fine with good sun for the panels but, of course, you don't need lots of hot water or heating when there is lots of sun! So both have the ability to produce hot water cheaply when it is warm but you can only store so much hot water and for so long. But, in cold overcast weather (reduced sun) which we have in abundance, the heat pump would take hours to heat the water in the large(r) tank (thus expensive) and as heating would be required (using the heat pump) the result is excessive use of the back up immersion - expensive.
However, heat pump and solar can work well in a well specified system so if you are thinking along these lines make sure you get advice from an expert who has no financial interest in what you eventually buy.

The recommendation, having regard to the avaialble space and budget was to forget solar and fit pv panels to off set the running costs of the heat pump and to benefit from the attractive RHI feed-in tariff. (Due to be reduced in Mar 2012)

Performance of the ashp is affected by changes in outside temp (colder the air temp the harder it works) and from +10 down to freezing the COP falls dramatically but then levels off below freezing because the moisture has been removed from the atmosphere and so the pump stops freezing. However a gshp takes heat from below ground where the temp is fairly constant. So, fit gshp if possible (space and cost).
If not, only use an air source pump that has an inverter thus can ramp the output up and down to meet demand. i.e. Daikin, Dimplex, Hitachi and Mitsubishi to name a few. That way it will still cost more to run but at least it will meet the demand rather than not but still cost the earth!

We now have a few things to think about and and some changes to make.

15 Jun 11
Herefordshire Council Planning Committee unanimously approved the planning application at 1105 today.

13 Jun 11
Negotiations have moved on with Trade Plas to the point that the difference between the quotes have narrowed considerably. That was until a visit to Nordan at Quedegely to inspect their goods resulted in a price drop as well. So, we are almost back to where we were on Saturday. This is a really difficult call and making a decision is not going to be easy. At the end of the day we do want quality glazing at a competitive price the problem is that we have it from both potential suppliers.
Also had a meeting in Malvern with Steve Knowles from Ecoliving to discuss our requirements for ashp, mvhr unit, ufh, thermal store, solar pannels and wood burning stove. Too much information! Anyway we established our prioirities and he is going to prepare a quote ..... within our budget or so he claims!

11 Jun 11
Visited Trade Plas today and very impressed with the Internorm windows - difficult to believe that so much engineering can be incorporated into a window frame. The stock factory built window is "tilt and turn" design with triple glazing but the initial quote for about 48 m2 was £38k (including installation) which is almost £800 per m2. Negotiations continue with Trade Plas because their particularly strong points, in addition to the product, are that they are a local family firm, delivery dates are set by German (sorry Austrian) efficiency, on arrival in UK Trade Plas store the glazing until required on site and the company directly employ their own installation teams who deliver the windows to site as required for fitting. In a very close second place is Nordan who also produce excellent windows at a competitive price (£10,000 less than Internorm) but delivery is direct to site and they don't install - though the price differential above includes an estimated fitting charge based on the Trade Plas quote. The fitting aspect is a slight worry because in the event of a problem it is just possible that the fitter will blame the manufacturer and vice versa.

8 Jun 11
Spent a fair amount of time over the past few days on air source heat pumps and glazing, both talking to and emailing requests for quotes to a number of companies. Hopefull, that we can find one reputable supplier / installer for heat pump, thermal store, ufh and solar water panels not least because it seems logical that the more we are able to get from one supplier / installer the better price we are likely to achive. Glazing is an even bigger issue because it is part of the fabric of the building but there are so many styles and variations not to mention costs. Guess once we have these two principal aspects sorted it will be a weight off the shoulders not to mention a large chunk off the budget. Very impressed with the Internorm Fusion style triple glazed windows (Austrian company) and we are currently talking to a UK supplier - Craig at TradePlas in Stroud - big fears over the price though!

2 Jun 11
Met with the Architects (Mark and Tim) to discuss tactics for planning committee meeting on 15 Jun. They seemed confident that the application conforms to the various planning policies and the overall design is in keeping with the area. Hope they are right! Of course they are - they're professionals! The objections have put a bit of "cloud" over the process, at least we have the two local Parish Councils on our side. The Planning Officer's recommendation is key to the way forward. If the officers recommendation is refused by the elected member on 15th then we will go to appeal but a recommendation for refusal means back to the drawing board. It is actually quite a big deal. We already have a lot of money invested in the venture because the specific architectural design, finish and colour is something we really want and we can't see an acceptable compromise at the moment.
Also discussed the way forward with Building regs drawings and we have to make a couple of decisions in the next few days about moving a window and deciding ceiling detail in the living space. Also have to produce a list of relevant Bld Regs items for discussion going forward.

1 Jun 11
Unfortunately, nothing is moving forward at the moment. We are in that dead period awaiting the planning decision which is going to be sometime later this month. Rather than tempt fate by moving forward with things such as the drawings for the building regs application we are erring on the side of caution and fearing the worst. Thus we will just have to sit and wait until the matter is determined.

21 May 11
Heard today that the adjoining Parish Council are also in support of our planning application which is really good news. Hopefully, we now have the support of two local councils .. got a feeling we are going to need it!

19 May 11
Comments on the application closed last night. We understand that, so far, there have been three objectors to our plans. Not sure they were all in writing but one seems to object to the design and the white render. The other two also seem to be against the render, however, we understand they are objecting even though one is at least .5 km away and the other about 1km .... and on the other side of the wood with no direct line of sight. Oh well!

Attended RRA's 25th Anniversary party - guests included MP Jesse Norman and other local dignitaries with the Lady Mayor doing the cake cutting .. appropriately, with a silver trowel.

18 May 11
Just back from the Parish Council Meeting at which our application was discussed. Considerable support from the members present which was a very pleasant surprise. The view was expressed that our planned dwelling was what the site needed and they wished the project every success.

13 May 11

Received a phone call today from the utility company (Western Power Distribution) requesting that we take part in a customer satisfaction survey over the phone.
Needless to say we expressed complete satisfaction with the staff but critised the refusal to re-instate the supply in favour of a new supply and thus the extortionate charges raised by what is a company with a complete monopoly. It will make no difference either to us or any one else in future.

Seems like our application will now be determined on 15 Jun as the controversial windturbine application has just been put back to a later date thus additional time has been created on 15th.
Apparently the only aspect that has raised any interest with our application is the use of an off-white render. Which is surprising given that we identified at least 12 white rendered dwellings when we carried out a survey in the village.

This revealed

White render - 12 8 in village plus 4/5 visible from the site looking into the valley
Red render - 1
Red brick - 16
Stone - 4
brick/render - 2
stone/render - 1
brick / stone - 1
2 green metal farm building
1 wood clad farm building

Given that we are working to a 2011 contemporary design of a single storey dwelling with considerable glazing and a single pitch roof then the essence of the design is crisp clean lines complimented by the urban colourcoat raised seam roof in grey and co-ordinated by matching grey aluminium frames to all windows and other glazing. To maintain the intended appearance and design then the only appropriate finish to compliment the clean cut lines of the design is an off-white through colour render.

6 May 11
Contacted one of the Parish Councillors who said that he very much approved of, and would be supporting, our planning application and believed the other local Councillor would be of the same opinion. This is good news and more than we expected given the contemporary design.

4 May 11
Transferred the best part of £15k to the utility company today in payment for upgrading the electricity transformer, providing a domestic supply, removing one electricity pole and taking the supply from the penultimate pole (with tensioner attached) underground to both the site and reconnecting our neighbour to the supply.

28 Apr 11
Heard that the planners will be asking us to agree to a time extension due to the current number of determinations outstanding. Seems there is a rather controversial wind turbine application to be heard at the first meeting and that may not be a good time so we will agree. Looks like it will now be 30 Jun 11. The site notices are now displayed.

Fri 22 Apr (yes - Good Friday!)
Received the glazing quote from EWS for Rationel windows - same amount of glazing (50 m2) and this came in at as £22,500 inc site survey to measure up and installation - sadly they don't do tilt and turn windows but their stuff looks good.

Thu 21 Apr
Some light has now been shed on electricity (get it!) Our computer generated letter indicated that the additional bill (see 19 Apr) was for a wayleave variation agreement. It wasn't. There was an error at the original estimate stage.
The new "transformer" is mounted between poles not on a pole thus they have to survey the wires and poles on any span of over head wires over more than two poles before they can fit - ours in five. The cost should have been included in the original quote but wasn't.
So, that raised further alarm bells ... how much more will it cost if the poles and / or wires are found wanting? Fortunately, the person I spoke to assured me that the survey has actually been carried out and it's all OK! Guess it will just have to be paid so we can get on and get the work done.
Also received the first glazing quote today - this from NorDan. It is for very high spec glazing (0.7) and quite a lot of it - 3 x 3m x 2.4 m triple glazed sliding patio doors and loads of tilt and turn windows - £20k delivered but not fitted. Their slightly inferior stuff (1.2) came in about £17k. Now awaiting two other quotes from Rationel and Velfac after that it's back to Everest!
Think I upset the chap at NorDan when I asked how I could tell I was getting the quality of glass I was paying for ... well it seemed a reasonable question to me. The reply ... "trust me" and ... "It's an offence not to!" I told him that didn't carry a lot of weight .... after all, double glazing salesmen don't have the best of reputations!

Well, come on then ... how do I check? Their stuff looks good and well priced though!

Tue 19 Apr

Gutted! The bloody utility company that was Central Networks now called Western Power Distribution, have sent a bill for another £621.72 on top of the £400 odd we've already paid for wayleave agreements for each of the 2 jobs i.e. supply and diversion. So we've already paid over £900 for wayleaves and now they want another £621.72 just for a variation to some agreement. That's not to mention the substantive payments of £8,000 odd for the supply (which was already there anyway) and £8,800 odd for the pole diversion which only involves removal of the pole (shown in the foreground) and going underground from the penultimate pole. See the bloody pole!

They insist that the two jobs (supply and diversion) must be accepted and done together yet they send two different people out on the legal way leave aspects, at different times, so the same poor people are being bothered twice by different people for the same job.

Now this additional bill. There is no information about why or what is involved or why it was not foreseen just "Wayleave for a line survey", seems to me that if there is a line there already (which there is) surely there is a wayleave agreement in place or it shouldn't be there ... wherever, "there" is .......... because that's not specified either.

The big problem is that this private company basically has a monopoly over this work so it seems they can charge whatever they like. They claim all their costs are within the OFGEN agreement so there is little point in disputing their charges but it seems very unfair to me. Even worse is that confidence is now shot because the "quotes" are riddled with caveats which allows them to load on any (so called) extra costs or (ha ha!) refund any over charging. I'd love to hear from somebody who has had a refund - if there is anybody I bet it's was for some piddling amount. You may have guessed we are not at all happy!
above this point the entries are in ascending date order ......

START HERE and scroll down (sorry) .....

entry on 5 Feb 11. - "this blog won't all be about Hereford United ... honest!"

20 Jan 2011

Disaster – Lennie Lawrence who has been with our team for about 6 weeks and his presence has coincided with a dramatic improvement in the team performance because we are no longer 92nd in the league table … has just left us for Crystal Palace! Bugger!

21 Jan

Called our solicitor for an update on progress she was at lunch but I was promised a call back in the afternoon. Needless to say I didn't get a call back – disappointing! Meanwhile hours were spent trawling the internet looking for designs, trying to estimate costings, investigating roofing systems and gshps. Mind boggling! The prices are frightening now vat is 20% ... but we will get most of the vat back at the end..

Blimey, another footy disaster today! It's the January transfer window and Hereford United have sold our favourite French (and just about only) goal scorer (the Beast) Matthew Mansett to Reading for a club record fee (ours not theirs) … not a good few days for our team. What makes it worse is that father-in-law and brother-in-law and nephew Thomas are Reading supporters - still if he does well I guess we will still have the bragging rights .... and their cash!

We're a small club in League 2 with regular gates of around 2,000 so we are always going to be a "selling" not a "buying" club and we fans understand that but it's still a real blow when you are fighting for survival in the league and you have to sell your top goalscorer .. anyway we wish him well at Reading.

22 Jan

Yet another disaster we had driven half way to Accrington this morning before the game was postponed due to a frozen pitch. Particularly annoying as there was no suggestion by anyone that a pitch inspection was going to take place. Waste of very expensive diesel and no footy to boot! At least we will remain unbeaten this year for a bit longer.

23 Jan

Blimey .. what a pain. Spent all day trying to complete two applications for the electricity distribution company Network Central or Central Networks or something - one for a quote for a new supply, the other to get a quote to have the pole moved. Managed to do most of it but will need expert advice on a few bits. Each application required two copies each of location plan, site plan - which had to be drawn with imagination because at the moment there is no site plan - copy of planning permission ( used the old one) and Land Registry deeds.

Also did the Welsh Water application, seems like even a simple connection to the site with no roads or made up ground involved will be £380 plus an infrastructure charge (just incase they eventually, in the fullness of time, at some point in the future, may, repeat may, have to improve the mains supply pipe. That's another £298 making a total of £678 plus vat!

24 Jan

Spent the morning getting details for the utility applications and posted them off and sent an email to the solicitor chasing an update. Told that a letter with documents would be in the post tonight. I wonder.

25 Jan

Got the letter which was less than helpful and raised more questions than it answered anyway instructed the solicitor to go ahead ... and to get a blooming move on!

29 Jan

We were beaten 4-1 by Sheffield Wednesday so that's the end of the FA Cup for this year.

31 Jan

Met with architect and builder to discuss the site exploration and projected build costs. Impressed with the work Neill (the potential builder) had done in getting a bill of costs sorted. Have to keep in mind it is based on a simple design including garage and we decided it was a bit light in terms of the sum allocated for both glazing and the kitchen but in other respects it was pretty good. So it seems we can build a simple single storey contemporary home with a garage for about £200k.

1 Feb

First sign of trouble as the electricity supply people rang to query the figure of 1 amp starting up current for the ashp on the application. I need to check with the supplier to confirm and email back. Rang the supplier and confirmed it was 1 amp starting power he will send tech spec. Ahhhh! on checking tech spec I see he has given me the figures for the Hitachi ashp and I wanted the Nibe. So, tell the sparky that the Nibe is 17 amps for the 8Kw and 27 for the 11 Kw models respectively. He tells me that no matter whether we use the Hitachi or the Nibe the power supply transformer and line will need to be upgraded. This is a disaster and costs are spiralling before we start - however the quote should be ready in about 2 weeks rather than mid May as first quoted.

2 Feb

Written quote for the water supply from Welsh Water at £800 which is what we expected, too much for a very simple connection and a meter but at least not a shock. It includes almost £300 infrastructure charge ,,, just incase the need to upgrade the supply pile sometime never ... licence to print money!

3 Feb

Another meeting with prospective builder Neil. He is a really nice chap and very helpful .. nothing too much trouble and he is open minded and willing to embrace new technology not like my previous experiences with builders. I know he is well thought of by the architects we haven't engaged yet.

4 Feb

Met solicitor today. She raised a number of issues over the current planning permission the most significant of which is a condition she claims it is not possible to discharge. The highways insisted on a clear visibility splay for 60m each side of the access (which means no hedge over .6m high and no trees etc ... but we only own 18m each side so how can we ensure we supply. See tips 1, 2 and 3. The other issues we soon discounted but not this one. Spent hours on the phone discussing and was eventually reassured that this is a common problem and usually when examined it turns out that the distance and the angle of the splay mean that most of the splay is on highways land (the verge) anyway. Need to talk to the planners about this as it is their condition on the permission. Not now as worried as I was after the meeting so may sleep tonight.

We decided to commission RRA Architects in Hereford to do the design, planning, building regs and inspection and certification for us. So far they have been excellent and we like all of them so far involved in the project - which is a must.

5 Feb (Saturday)

9am - I'm naked, dripping wet and fully engaged cleaning the bath and shower when architect Mark rings from home - he spends 30 mins talking over the splay problem and puts my mind at ease even more - I tell him we have decided to appoint RRA and will sign up on Monday. Then he tells me he has been meaning to invite us to join RRA's hospitality suite for lunch and to see the Cheltenham v Hereford League 2 match next Saturday. Nice one, I was going to buy the tickets today - more cash saved by the architects!! In case you are wondering I was completely dry by the time the call ended! Thank goodness for ufh.

Hereford are at home to Lincoln today and Sandy is at a meeting of the Guide Council in London interviewing candidates to be Chief Guide.

We lost 0 - 1.

Monday 6 Feb

Started addressing the points raised by the solicitor and ended the day less stressed on the basis of advice from our unappointed architect and various others.

Thu 10 Feb

Been dealing with a very nice couple of people at Central Networks the electric supply people. Ian doing the design and Sarah doing the costs, in truth, both have been very helpful but the dreaded news arrived today in the form of part 1 of the quote. This is to provide a power supply to the site - just a normal single phase supply. however, it's so rural the local transformer is fully loaded and will have to be upgraded as will the power lines supplying our place and the neighbour. Part 2 is the relocation of the pole, but that won't be ready until next week. Total, so far is, a minimum of £23,000 of which I will be required to pay £8,512 and I am responsible for excavation and providing all ducting to their spec. Central Networks will pickup the remaining costs. Can't wait for next week, but we're hoping the next quote will be in the region of £2k.

Fri 11 Feb

Started addressing the solicitors points in writing in the hope that a comprehensive letter will illustrate the points she has indicated and thus obviate the necessity of her writing to us setting out her concerns and just adding to the legal costs. We wonder whether it will work.

Sat 12 Feb

Big day today. Mark our architect has invited us to join him in his hospitality suite at Cheltenham Town FC in the local derby against our Bulls today. Clearly we are paying (or will be paying) far too much to this young chap. Looking forward to lunch and the game though.

Update ..... really enjoyed the day. Good lunch and met some of Mark's trade contacts, builders and accountants and the like - all very friendly and interesting people. Lots of laughs sadly, most jokes involved architects fees in some way ... which made us think!

Met the Cheltenham Chairman who made the mistake of saying "We haven't beaten this lot recently".

So, I chirped in "this lot ...... Chairman you mean Hereford United not .... this lot!

A brief apology and he was gone ...... and the Bulls won three nil. Great!

Sun 13 Feb

Emailed a letter to the solicitor to say we have considered and investigated all points raised. These are our findings and our decision is to proceed. Please do so and acknowledge receipt.

Tue 15 Feb

1st diversion quote arrived from Central Networks - move pole about 18 meters and reconnect overhead cables etc - £8,700 odd. Total disaster. total for electricity and water is now iro £18k.

Formally appointed the architects today. Mark indicated that they would have some design ideas for us to see by a week Friday .. so that's the 25th.

No word from the solicitor even though I asked for my email to be acknowledged so called and got confirmation.

Thu 17 Feb

emailed solicitor for an update. Eventually got a reply to say will reply next week. Alarm bells are ringing because this is the 3rd time we have used this solicitor and for some reason this time it seems to be a very drawn out process.

Spoke to Nick at Hamer Associates (experts with utility diversions) he suggested I question the need for an upgraded transformer when there was a supply to the site previously and also said he could get the pole moved without charge (except for his fees of about £2.5k) but it would take 18 to 24 months. Looks like we're stuffed!

Fri 18 Feb

Updated Neil the builder on lack of progress and utility costs and told him that, if it ever gets off the ground, they would be our builders. He was pleased ... we think!

Tue 22 Feb

Today - at long last - we received the contracts to sign prior to exchange together with Land Registry and HMRC forms which were returned by hand to the solicitor at 3pm.

Central Networks are still investigating the electricity supply before providing a final quote.

Transferred the money from the bank to our solicitor to pay for the land - glad to see it go as it had generated no interest over the past two months which is annoying but we were unable to tie it up so had to take the hit.

Fri 25 Feb

Long meeting with the architects this pm to discuss three design options they had produced. First, the basic rectangle then a symmetrical trapezium and finally an L shape but orientated at an angle on site with garage in the same plain. We also looked at roof and roof light options but still very much in broad brush terms to try to get something in outline to discuss with the planners.

Sat 26 Feb

We spent a lot of time in discussion and experimentation with paper and pencil and made some progress.

Sun 27 Feb

Visit to the site to check a few measurements and how the various options would sit on the site. Sandy has been quite ill with pneumonia and pleurisy for the past 2 weeks so this was her first trip out. She is still very weak but the sun was out and the fresh air did her some good - though the north wind was a bit bracing so we didn't stay long. Finally reached the conclusion that we favoured the L shape with the garage in the same orientation but further detached from the dwelling. Fall back position is the boring rectangle but it has it's merits so we won't be too disappointed if the planners don't like the off set L shape. However, the slightly larger visual mass and position in site has raised a few issues that we emailed to the architects. (footnote - which they didn't get so it lost a day).

Tue 1 Mar

Nothing seems to have happened for ages but today is completion day. (Footnote - or should have been but apparently the vendors solicitor is away and the locum starts tomorrow .. so still nothing has happened.)

Wed 2 Mar

Result. We have completed at last. Call from the architect in relation to our last email and inviting us for a further chat in the morning. They don't miss a trick - the first bill for £2k arrived this morning .. blimey.

Thu 3 Mar

Visit to architects (3 mins walk) took revised floor plan suggestions and they are going to work on some refinements prior to arranging a planning meeting. Paid their bill.

Fri 4 Mar

Had a visit from Neil the builder (proposed) just to drop off some gorilla buckets (scrounged) for us to temporarily plant a few bare rooted fruit trees - excellent - albeit bright yellow! We discussed the proposed design and heat pumps and plumbers all very useful.

pm Had a call from lovely Sarah at Central Networks re electric supply and diversion. They have been working on the price for me and the supply cost is now down to £6,038.01 and to move the pole is £7,176.58 - with the second diversion quote - removing pole and going underground coming in at £9,266.01. Sarah offered to do another quote i.e. moving the pole somewhere else so have asked for a quote to move the pole on the boundary but further back out of line of site. I have to say, whilst the cost is frightening Sarah has been a real brick and done everything she can to help with costs. She's in line for a box of chocs.

So now we are waiting for design drawings to arrange a preliminary discussion with the planners with our L shaped off set design of 162 m₂ and detached garage of 9m x 6m which is another 54 m₂. Nothing ventured etc.

Fri 11 Mar

am had a meeting with the planners and as anticipated .... nothing gained! That said it was a friendly and productive meeting and we were given some outline guidance on what was and what was not acceptable. Clearly the single storey, mono pitch roof with garage is acceptable as is the L shaped design - where we didn't fit the bill was size (that's been said before) - we were looking for 162 and they only want something about 125 m2 which was what we anticipated. So, back at the architects they quickly did a few calculations and just shrinking the entire floor plan to reduce it to around 130 (well we have about 5m2 of eco stuff to house which the previous dwelling didn't) and it looks like we can find something that will be acceptable. Hope to have some drawing from RRA later today.

pm - went to the site and planted 5 soft fruit trees into large buckets and tied them to posts only problem out there is the current lack of a water supply so will have to find a large container to ferry water in the interim.

Mon 14 Mar

Architects sent new plan with footprint reduced to 130 m2 to the planners but received an "Out Of Office" reply - no worries I was away in North and South Uist all week anyway.

Mon 21 Mar

Reply from the planners that the reduced footprint seems to be acceptable but they would like sight of the elevation drawings as well - so it looks like it's now full steam ahead to get the planning application submitted - so that's another £335!

Wed 23 Mar

Not sure what the reference in the budget to "easing" planning restrictions may mean for us - judging by everything else in the budget I suspect the answer is "very little"!

Fri 25 Mar

We spent the entire day at the Nat Housebuilding Show at the NEC. Fantastic - couldn't believe it when they kicked us out at 5pm - there was so much more to see and do.

Wed 30 Mar

The planning application is now with the local authority, hopefully, it will soon be validated and then the determination period starts. Will put the link up when the application is available "on-line".

Fri 1 Apr

Today the wayleave agreement for the relocated electricity pole was signed by the land owner and we also signed a wayleave agreement for the supply to the neighbour to cross our site so hopefully that should be the legal formalities completed. Also heard that Central Networks was taken over by an American company at midnight on 31st March.

This is not an April fools.

Mon 4 Apr

Planners called for more details of the proposed septic tank - Biodigester T6.

Mon 11 Apr

Planners still calling for more information - seems like there was an error with the elevation drawings that needed to be resolved - something to do with the window size / location but that's been resolved and we understand the application has been validated. So the statutory consultation period of about 2 months runs until 12 Jun now it's wait and see.

Tue 12 Apr

Heard that our long time close friends Robbie and Shirley (of Alpaca fame) way up in the north of Scotland are also starting a similar self build - good man Thomson!

Wed 13 Apr

Having due regard to "Tips" numbered 4 and 9, then today we decided to start inviting quotes for the glazing - starting with Velfac, Rationel and Nordan. Not looking forward to the results!

Now scroll up past START HERE to the entry above for Tue 19 Apr only use the "continue" button (below) to leave the Blog!

continue ... 

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