Thursday, 31 December 2009

Having A Rest

It's been quiet on the blog recently. The weather has put the shutters on the work for any length of time because it has been so cold. We have managed to do some more bricking and have finished sticking the bricks around the garage plinth ready for pointing.

Thanks to Gramps who noticed that in our first section of bricking the bond was wrong. The lines of mortar join up on the left hand side of the picture which they shouldn't do. If this was a 'real' brick wall it wouldn't be very structurally sound. So, Dad was the Bad Cop and broke the news last week. Darran took it quite well in the end, realising that he had been thinking about the brick system as a jigsaw puzzle rather than a brick layer building a brick wall. And from then on it has gone a lot better....we hope, unless you've spotted anything else Gramps?!!

We haven't worked on the house physically since Christmas, we decided we needed a break. Darran has been researching the electrics and plumbing and seems to have got on well there.

For now though, wishing everyone a Happy New Year and thanks for your interest this year. Much more to come next year.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

It works!

We started bricking last week. And there was a 'Eureka' moment on Friday when it worked. The backer panels stayed on the walls and the bricks stuck to the backer panel and the lime mortar mixed to a good consistency and stayed in the joints. Phew.

We, of course, were totally confident that it would all go together like Lego. Our faith in the system never faltered. Except.....when there was a slight glitch with the damp proofing and how this would work around the plinth and we also had to add in damp proofing at ground level on top of what was there. So after advice from the architect who offered the solution, off we went. And then there was the 'what happens at the corners' moment, but with the help of Dad and some extra info from the Internet, we were sorted.

We're really pleased with how it looks.

We have to admit to being slightly daunted by the task of putting this system together after the delivery arrived a few weeks ago. There were so many bricks, and boxes, and panels, and bags of cement. It's not hard to do when you get into the swing of it so will get easier as we do more. The hardest part now is gong to be working around the weather, or not as the case may be as winter sets in.

Update on the cat mess problem: thanks to Mags who has suggested Lion manure which you can buy in pellets. That should get rid of the little blighters, and if it's not cats it should get rid of whatever else it is that is leaving us presents!

Sunday, 29 November 2009


Yesterday we spent all day sorting out what sockets, lights and light switches, phone points, and TV points we wanted in what room and where. This took a surprisingly long time as although all this was marked on a drawing from the architect, we still wanted to walk though what they had done and we added and changed a few things along the way.

We can now talk to an electrician and get a quote for the labour only work. We're still in two minds about whether to do the work ourselves or have an electrician in to do it. The problem with doing it ourselves, or so we thought, was certification of the installation work and final connection. Now the electrical regulations have changed an electrician won't sign off work he hasn't done himself. However, Building Control will, so this does still give us the option to do it if we want to.

It was really nice to talk about actually living in the house rather than the construction aspect. A bit disappointed that we couldn't finish staining but it was too damp.

Update on the cat repellant crystals - Wem Urban cats are obviously a hard ring to crack as they are not in the least bit repelled, hence cat mess on top of the cat crystals yesterday morning. Ever get the feeling you're being laughed at?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Brick By Brick

Our Eurobrick system was delivered yesterday and what fun and games that was! We joked in the morning that Darran should wear his high-vis coat in case he needed to direct traffic and we weren't wrong!

The lorry arrived at about ten to eight with half the load on, and another lorry would be arriving about two hours later with the rest. When we say 'load' we mean (in total) :-
  • 18,421 brick slips in various forms
  • 86 8ftx4ft backer panels
  • 7 rolls of jointing tape
  • 4000 black washers (part of the fixings that secure the panel to the house)
  • 4000 screws
  • 300 600ml sachets of adhesive
  • 80 bags of lime based mortar
  • 6 pointing bags
  • 6 pointing bag tips
  • 3 adhesive guns
  • 10 adhesive gun nozzles

The first lorry had a folk lift to move the pallets from the lorry out on the road to the plot. This worked fine, but would have been much better had there not been a dim-wit on the controls who was scared to do anything other than leave them outside the garage. This didn't please us as we wanted all the brick pallets in the garage, and now we were going to have to unpack and move the bricks. He was also unloading his lorry traffic side so was blocking one lane with the lorry and one lane with the forklift when he was getting off the next pallet, hence traffic duties for Darran! I don't think you could say where we are really has a 'rush hour' but traffic was stacking up!

The second consignment arrived and this driver was much better and lifted 4 of the larger pallets into the garage left by the other delivery which meant we only had the smaller ones to move.

The backer panels went into the house as these need to be kept away from the elements as do the mortar and glue.

So now all that is left is to fix 86 backer panels and stick 18,421 bricks. If anyone out there didn't gain their Brownie/Scout badge for brick-sticking now could be your time to shine! Register your interest here!

Talking of badges, I have nearly got my Wood Staining Badge! I'm about half way round the windows and doors. They are coming up really well and the stain is adding a nice depth to them.

Today is calmer. We have been to the plot and measured for the plinth around the house which we need to erect before we can brick. We have also measured for the garage doors and have discovered the utility room wall may need to move if we want 8ft doors. Now we're thinking about the plumbing so we can either brick if it's nice weather and if not get on with the plumbing inside.

Off to the garden centre this afternoon to get some cat deterrent crystals - I know they go against the grain with me being a cat lover, but the amount of cat mess isn't funny anymore!

Monday, 16 November 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Last week I looked at what vegetable seeds I'm going to order to plant next year. It's nice to be thinking about things to do with the house and moving in that don't involve a screw gun, nail, or expanding foam!

We're going to have two raised vegetable beds in the left hand side of the garden where we can grow veggies and herbs, and some soft fruit like raspberries. I'm going to start this next year as seeds need to be planted from February for next year's crops. I've wanted to grow vegetables for years but never had the space so I'm really excited about it.

We just hope the neighbourhood cats don't use the beds as their litter tray - we do seem to have a bit of a cat-mess-problem at the moment. As I keep hinting to Darran LOUDLY we really need our own to sort them out!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Close That Window And Shut That Door!

The windows and doors arrived yesterday and are all installed and sealed. They are absolutely perfect, we are so pleased with them. I am especially pleased with the front door. I love heavy, chunky front doors and ours is definitely that.

They have one coat of stain on them already as protection, but will need about another 3 coats to make them properly weather proof.

The house now looks like a proper house and has given our enthusiasm and motivation another boost. It actually now looks like something you can live in!

An update on other things; the electricity was connected on Wednesday so we now have live power on site, and we also now have guttering up which looks really nice and blends in well to the roof (hence why you can't really see it in the pictures).

The Eurobrick System is being delivered on Friday and hopefully by then we will have cleared a space to put it in!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Screeding. Done.

The screeding is finished! Hooray!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Underfloor Heating And Screed

Right. We're back. It's been a bit quiet recently and that's because we have been sorting out the underfloor heating and putting down the floor screed.

The underfloor heating went pretty much without a hitch. We didn't have quite enough pipe for the ensuite, thought we could join in the wall, but then decided to rip the pipe up and put some more down that would make one continuous loop (each room needs to be on it's own loop or 'zone' to those of you who are underfloor heating geeks!).

I found putting the pipe down had really good comedy value, but as it was pointed out I wasn't the one holding the reel and trying to twist is around the corners. We nearly had the slinky effect once when Darran let go trying to lean the reel against the wall, but we rescued it at the last minute. It went down a lot quicker than we thought and we're pleased with the result.

We put the screed down last week. Darran did really well as he hadn't done screed before, and a huge thank you to Dad for driving the truck back and forth to the readymix plant to get the screed, I think we now owe him a chiropractor appointment!

We only have the front bedroom and some of the hall left to do and are hoping to take a day off over the next couple of weeks to finish it. The aim is to get all the screed down before the 13th November which is when the windows and doors are delivered so we're not shovelling screed over new frames.

We have also confirmed and placed the order for the Eurobrick system which should be ready for delivery the week of the 16th November so that will give us something to do over Christmas - temperature permitting.

We're now on to finalising plumbing and electrics, ready for the next stage as if it's not the weather for sticking bricks we can be doing something inside.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


This weekend we put down the floor insulation in the house. Here is a video of Darran doing the sitting room!

We managed to get the house completed, just the utility room to go so next weekend we could be on to laying the underfloor heating pipes. Darran is working on that today to see how much we're going to need.

As well as the video, here are a few photos.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

All Wrapped Up

Yesterday was our first visit to the plot since the roof had been finished and we are so pleased with it. It looks like a proper house now, settled into the plot.

We also put the breathable membrane (builders paper) around the house. This protects the timber frame and absorbs the woods 'sweat' and allows it to breathe. We have the garage to do next Saturday and to fit the electric meter box ready for the electric connection within the next few weeks.

The Eurobrick panel is now on site and ready for inspection by the Council tomorrow so they can finally finally finally give the final OK and we can contact Eurobrick and place an order.

We also have to have a clear up! Not impressed with the amount of rubbish that has appeared on site, some of which is the roofers' (the majority of which they're coming back to take away this week), some of which has probably been dumped there by those around us due to the fact there is so much rubbish on there at the moment anyway, including a shoe, a bottle of tomato sauce and a roof rack!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Roof Is Finished

Finally. Can you believe it?!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Decision Made

I thought a 'completion' post was in order as we finally placed an order yesterday for our windows and doors. This is such a relief as it has taken us ages and ages and ages to decide on which manufacturer to go for, what we wanted and what would be best.

The lead time is 4-6 weeks which gives us ample time to get the guttering up, place the order for the bricks and to lay the floor insulation, under floor heating and screed.

Cup of tea and a sit down now I think.....

Saturday, 12 September 2009

High Maintenance Porta-Loo

If you have contractors working on site you are required by law to provide 'welfare facilities' so in our case this is a toilet and running water. There is a public toilet about five minutes walk away but that doesn't count.

We have a very attractive bright green porta-loo which so far has spent more time just sat on site than actually being used. These odd toilet trips we've had and our contractors have had probably work out about £2 a time, if not more. That's expensive relief!

This loo is a bit of a diva on the quiet too. Because we are set back from the road and the loo cubicle itself is too heavy to carry, it takes three people to load it on to a trolley and wheel it down the courtyard to the road where they service it and do whatever else it requires and then it's loaded back on the trolley and wheeled back up again. Only to sit there under the Beech tree.

But, as Darran keeps reminding me, it's that or people water the plants. I'd rather have the loo.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Windows On The World

Tomorrow we're going down to Somerset to meet with a window manufacturer. It has taken us a long time to decide on the windows. They are an important part of the build, more so for us as we have so many windows and doors that if we get it wrong, it could completely ruin the look of the house.

We have struggled with certain manufacturers who seem incapable of amending quotes as we mentioned here and who also aren't really supplying what we want so we would be 'making do' with what they do. The windows we are going to see tomorrow are more expensive than we budgeted for, but we think it's the right decision.

In other news, we went to a DIY store's kitchen design service last weekend which was really helpful. Helpful in so much as we don't like what we thought we wanted now we've seen it in 'virtual reality'. And we have since found we can get something far nicer a lot cheaper (i.e. exactly the same tap for £100 less!) from a certain Swedish flat-pack company! We're going to have a look at their range tomorrow on the way back from Somerset.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

More Roof Update

The roof is still going on. We're bored with it now!

It seems to have taken s o o o o o long. One of the downsides of not being on site all the time I suppose, no one to keep an eye on things and to put pressure on, you rely on phone calls and unfortunately we're not always convinced.

Anyway, Dad and I went to site on Tuesday afternoon when I was up in Shropshire on exciting job prospects and Dad kindly went up the scaffolding and took these photos. I can report that two men were present, one knocking in nails and one cutting slate. The latest up date from the chap cutting the slates was it should be finished Friday or Monday.

We wait and see!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

How Many Bricks Make a House?

The outside skin of the house will be brick, but not just any old brick! We will be using Eurobrick which is a brick slip system. The bricks are still 'real' but are about the third of the width of a normal brick, and therefore about a third of the weight also.

We needed to construct a sample panel for the Council to give the final OK. They have agreed the system and the brick type, but as they're not familiar with appearance of brick slips wanted to see a section made.

We are really pleased with the way it looked, and that it was fairly easy to construct. I think we have about 14,000 of the brick slips to stick and then mortar in to complete the house so we'll be well practiced by the end!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Roof Update

Mum and Dad went to site yesterday evening and took some photos of the roof in progress. Not a huge amount done in two days (if you don't count yesterday because it was raining).

Sunday, 23 August 2009

More Walls

Yesterday Darran and I spent the morning starting to put up the rest of the internal walls. We have decided that we will do it over the next two Saturdays. We can only work until 1pm so it's just right at the end of a week at work.

Here is what we did; this is the bedroom wing showing the bathroom and en-suite walls.

We've got the sitting room / kitchen dividing wall to do next Saturday and to finish putting a few studs in and the noggins.

When this is complete it means that both the architect and the structural warranty inspector can finally sign off the timber frame stage.

Here are some pictures of the slating in progress.

Not too much had happened as one of the chaps had been 'off sick' apparently. I know we shouldn't be so suspicious of people but you do wonder sometimes! Anyway, they are back on it in full swing this week and the main chap knows we're back up next weekend so we hope to see a big difference.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


We thought we'd do a post reflecting on our experiences so far with the build, a bit of an insight in to what goes on behind the blog posts.

There is no denying that it has been exceptionally hard work so far and a struggle at times. From first agreeing the purchase up until today, really! It's not just the physical aspects, they're the easy bits by comparison, it's the organising and dealing with the contractors and suppliers that can be so frustrating. For instance, how many times do you think you'd need to tell a window manufacturer that you would like stained wood windows and not white? Four. And then to add to your exasperation you receive a revised quote and one of the windows is still white! And, if you received a letter instructing you to erect scaffold on site and ready for use by the 3rd August, would you do it ready for that date? The majority would, but as in our case the firm thought we wanted it erected on the 3rd August. Where in the letter did it say that?! Point to it and show us!

Is it rewarding though? Absolutely. Without a shadow of a doubt.

As soon as we step on site the feeling that we are building our own house and will eventually live in it is a mixture of excitement, achievement, and if I'm being really honest slightly pleased with ourselves that we are doing this and have come this far (with the added bonus of still speaking to each other!). We promised ourselves we would enjoy the build and not turn it into a chore, we've clung on to this promise with our finger tips at times, it has been stressful, pressured and we have been slightly short sighted on occasions. Taking two weeks to put the frame up was physically exhausting, but then Darran beat his personal best by standing the roof trusses in a week (with a little help!).

The more the build progresses the more it is easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of what is ahead of you and what's to be done. We've done some of the hardest bits physically (apparently!) but there is still a lot more to go. We're now looking at each bit individually and ticking them off as we go (lists, I love lists!), breaking things down in to bite sized chunks. This is all very well but you still need to have an eye on what's coming up next and getting the next step in the pipeline. What we have learnt is that you don't need everything, including the shape and size of the heated towel rails, in the pipeline at the same time!

You can read all the self build magazines, go to seminars, watch Grand Designs, read so called 'self build bibles' on the subject, but none of these prepare you for what you're taking on. The only way to learn how to do it is to take a deep breath, close your eyes, jump, and hope the bottom isn't too far down!

We've got a lot more to come, there will be more struggles and frustrations and a lot more excitement. But above all we're both still very happy we made this decision to own our first home together this way.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Roof In Progress

Mum and Dad went to take some photos for us at the weekend of the roof so far. Looks like they have most of the felt and battening done. Darran spoke to the main chap on Saturday and he said they had slated the back elevation.

We're going up next weekend to start to put up the rest of the internal walls so we'll see a big difference then I'm sure.

Monday, 17 August 2009

What's In A Name?

Deciding on what to call our house has been very difficult. We know the address, but we also want a name to give it a bit of identity rather than just being a number.

Severn Trent Water are now ringing fairly frequently because they want to bill us for our water usage but can't at the moment as they need a registered address. They have given us to the end of the month!

Options we have had......
  • Dundealin and Needle Cottage because of what was found here (you'll be pleased to know these were never considered seriously).
  • Berry House due to how much my Blackberry has been used to build the house and the fact that we plan to grow berries in the garden.
  • The Garden House because it's built in the garden of the main house.
  • On a bad day it has been just No. 3 which is it's number in the courtyard.
  • The Hideaway, because the house is hidden away.
After much deliberation we have decided on The Garden House. This seems the nicest and the most suitable.

Now we have to write to the Council who then register it and send the details to whoever needs to know. We'll also be putting a post box on the security fence at the weekend for any thing that finds its way to us by mistake.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A New Home

Look what Gramps has made for us!

A lovely bird box which is already up in the Silver Birch tree ready for the first occupants. We decided to put it here as the front bedroom is going to be our office/study and we can see it from the front window.

Thank you Gramps xx