Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Time Plys When You're Having Fun!

The last two days have been spent putting the ply board on the outside of the frame. This will brace the frame adding structure and also allows a flat surface to fix the exterior finish and the interior insulation etc.

The plying didn't go quite as well today as the nail gun gave up just over half way round the garage. We thought it had just got too hot, but then Darran thought perhaps it was a bit clogged up so had it to pieces on the back of the truck and cleaned it out with an antibacterial hand wipe (one of their many uses!) and it worked for about 2 minutes then wouldn't fire at all. We got home and Dad cleaned it out with the paraffin sprayer and it is working again now (good old Dad!).

This is Darran's Nail Firer's Finger - not a good look and quite sore, but not much more to do!

Today we also drilled the holes for the post supports. Two post supports outside the dining room for the covered terrace area and two post supports in the garage to carry the roof. We have set the two in the garage but realised we didn't have enough threaded bolt rod for the ones at the back so will do them tomorrow.

A slow day today and with the nail gun packing in it felt like the world was against us by about 11 o'clock. But, we did get quite a lot done, and tomorrow should be a slightly easier day too as we should be able to finish off things that we have started but have been waiting for materials to be delivered.

May even have Friday off. We'll keep you posted!

Sunday, 28 June 2009


When we got to site yesterday, the house at filled up with water from all the rain we'd had over night, there was over an inch on the slab.

The garage slab also had a good sized puddle which needed clearing before we could stand the garage frame. Darran made a good sweep and you'll see I managed to get a bow wave at one point!

We stood the garage frame and the beams across the tops of the doors in our noisy time yesterday, the council has restricted construction time on site to between 8am and 1pm on a Saturday.

We then measured the outside of the house for the plywood which we're cutting today and will fit tomorrow.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Hitting A (not-brick-but-timber) Wall

Today we learnt that: -
  1. Our block work around the garage was wrong.
  2. Katie can't read a tape measure (well, not consistently anyway).
  3. When it rains hard, the slab fills up with water to create our own indoor swimming pool in the sitting room (this is normal though, there is nothing wrong with the slab).
  4. Hardcore is really really really hard to dig a hole in.
  5. The cat over the wall is attracted to the sound of Darran's nail gun firing.

So not such a productive day really.

It didn't start that well as by 8am we found that the block work around the garage that the frame sits on ranged between 30mm and 50mm too narrow. We called the architect who came down and agreed and then we had to wait all day for a solution. We managed to build the frame but just not stand it so the time wasn't wasted but it was so frustrating. The architect called back late this afternoon and said that our Contractors had only been sent a part sectional drawing of the garage showing the block in front of the metal post, and had assumed that the 125mm blocks went all around the garage and not just in front of this post. Anyway, not wishing to get into who said what to who about the blocks, our architect came up with a solution to pack out the bit of block missing under each stud with a packer. This will work and we will be compensated by the architect for his lack of scrutiny when signing off the groundworks. All the frame is now cut and ready to stand tomorrow.

So, when Darran eventually found his carpenter's mojo again after the morning frustrations, I was set the task of measuring for the noggins (the horizontal bits between each stud that keeps them straight). I had the worst tape measure in the world that was rusty and a lot of the millimeter lines weren't there, but I persevered and diligently wrote everything down, only to find when Darran cut them that some were way out. I kept taking them back having to own up to the fact they didn't fit, and it was raining and about 5 o'clock so not helped by being at the end of a long day!

The more it rained the more the slab filled up and up so we were splashing about it in by the end of the afternoon, adding to the enjoyment of cutting bits of wood in the rain!

I was also given the job of digging two holes outside the dining room patio doors down through the hardcore to find the concrete pad to set the supporting beams on. I found it, but the hole is more conical than square, but it's a good start!

On brighter notes, we have a little black and white cat who lives over the wall and seems to be attracted to us by the sound of Darran firing his nail gun. This seems really odd as you would think that sound would be quite scary for a cat. It hasn't actually come to say hello properly yet, but it won't be long. We also have a site office, already moved a few things in, fire extinguisher, site manual, safety equipment, picnic chairs, it's also really good when it rains!

Tomorrow we're back on site and can make a noise until 1pm so will stand the garage and finish the noggins and studs in the house. We will then do some measuring on the external frames to fit ply board to. We had 75 sheets delivered today, and all need to be cut to size for Monday.

No rest for the self-builder!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Right Wing

Today we completed the right wing of the house all bar the noggins and a couple of extra studs but we ran out of timber. We had a lot of visitors to site today so we're lucky to have finished. Our first visitor was the architect at 8am, followed by Building Control at 10am, then our foundations contractor's Site Manager stopped for a chat a couple of times throughout the day, then one of the groundworkers wanted to tell me all about his dog's trip to the vets, then the contractor's Site Director turned up and wanted to chat, and then our representative from Buildstore's Trade Card arrived at 4.30pm. So I think we did quite well really!

We're framing the two sitting room walls of the house tomorrow after the arrival of more timber and framing the garage. The weather is still on our side so we're hopeful we may even get a day off at the end of next week before we go back to 'real' work.

On our way out of the development tonight our truck got stuck down a man hole! The contractors that had been doing our foundations had damaged one of the man holes in the communal area so had replaced it tonight before they left. On our way out we heard a crack and thought Darran had hit the cottage which is one side of the access way. I got out and had a look and couldn't see anything and then there was a massive crack and the front wheel of the truck sunk and got stuck down the man hole. Oh. Now what do we do. As luck would have it, the Site Director had given Darran a card today for possible work in the future, and on it was his mobile number so we called that and he dispatched two vehicles and four men to come and replace the cover and pull us out! About half an hour later they arrived and managed to free the front tyre and pull the truck around too. They have put a temporary plate over it tonight and will come back in the morning to replace the cover.

It turned out that the (little) van that left our site today broke the first one when he ran over it, so swapped it with one on our soak away and would be back tomorrow to sort it out. Our truck is about twice the size of his van so how he thought we were going to get I don't know.

So that was fun and games at the end of a very hot day! We're warned tomorrow and have a spare piece of plywood to place over the man hole now in case it looks a bit dodgy.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Left Wing

Today was our first proper day on site, and we completed the external frame around the left wing of the house, so the entrance lobby, kitchen and dining room are done. It went together really well and all that cutting over the last few days made all the difference. You'll see the photos show our progress.
Tomorrow's plan is the right wing and then Friday is the garage and sitting room.

The plywood for the external bracing and backing is being delivered on Friday so we should hopefully get it all cut over the weekend ready to fit on Monday, then we'll start on the internal walls next week.

It is fairly safe to say we're shattered, but it's such good fun that it doesn't seem to matter. We're building our house! For over a year we have wanted to do this and finally we are. It's a very good feeling.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A Post About A Post

Today was the first day of our two weeks off building the frame. As you'll see from the photos the contractors are still on site finishing the drainage and block work around the perimeter of the slabs. We can work along side them so it won't hold us back, progress will just be a bit slower over the first few days.

We went over to pick up the steel post on Saturday that will support the beam over the garage doors, and with the help of the contractors, managed to stand it today. Quite relieved that a digger and sling were available as well as a couple of men to help out as not sure how we would have done it otherwise. The post was about 130 kilos and I don't count as manpower for anything over about 30 kilos at the moment!

We have cut all the studs for the garage and about a quarter of the studs for the house. We will be standing the house studs tomorrow as the block work is still to be laid around the garage.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Flat Packed House

A busy weekend this weekend. We had all the timber delivered for the frame on the house (photos below). It actually didn't look that much on the back of the lorry, but after I had moved and stacked all 6 tonne of it, I can safely say that there is merit on not getting carried away on first impressions.

We also had the first injury of the timber frame stage; Dad dropped a lintel on his ankle.

We managed to get all but a few lintels chopped to size and planed to the correct thickness. We will start on cutting the studs and noggins for the walls next weekend as we need to take a measurement from the base of the brickwork that the groundworkers have yet to do.

We visited site on our way home and took some photos, including one of our new BT pole. The slab is now down and the footprint of the house looks really small, and the garage looks huge in comparison. I'm told it is because it is currently in the middle of a huge plot (but won't it always be?!) and when the frame is up it will look bigger and when the garden is sorted and there aren't piles of soil everywhere it will look better. I'm not very good at imagining things where Darran finds that easy so I'm sure he's right.

A week tomorrow we will be on our own plot, building our own house!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Stud Alert!

Darran went up to site today to fix some steel threaded rod studs into the supporting cross beams in the garage foundations to fix our vertical beam on to which will be holding up the garage door lintels.

They were really tricky to fit as the drill bits had trouble getting through the steel. To quote Head of Construction himself "they were a pain in the a*rse".

Monday, 8 June 2009

Not Too Big For a Told Off

We had some good news on Friday; our architects had arranged a meeting with the Head of Planning at the Council to discuss a certain planning officer's decisions with regard to the choice and use of materials on quite a few of their projects. Our house is one of these projects that has this particularly troublesome officer overseeing the approval of materials. As our architect put it "the Head of the Planning Department is the only person who can tell off this officer". Woman after my own heart!

As we mentioned here this officer had refused the use of man made slates and aluminium guttering. We were frustrated at this decision, not only because of the cost issue, but that there didn't seem any rationale for it as aesthetically it matches the surrounding properties and the dratted house at the front which, it seems, the world revolves around. Our architects were equally frustrated. When they discussed this with the Head of Planning, he agreed that there was no reason at all why man made slates and aluminium guttering weren't appropriate materials to use.

We now wait and see what happens next as this particular officer won't want to lose face in the planning department.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

House Built By Blackberry From Orange

I wasn’t a fan of the Blackberry at all. They always seemed a bit all singing all dancing for me, all I need is a phone that I can call and text on, and maybe take a photo. I also hate the fact that 90% of those who own a Blackberry have it constantly attached to the end of their arm, almost like one hand has morphed into the latest model.

Anyway, Darran persuaded me that I might like one when I came to upgrade my phone last year, and after checking out the buttons (they have to be right) and how big they were, I thought I’d give it a go.

Before I go on I would like to point out I am not one of the 90% mentioned above. But…..

My Berry has been worth double its weight in gold. The facility to receive and send emails on it has been so helpful with the project so far. The architect and I exchange emails daily, we can respond to quotes from suppliers as they come in, and Buildstore can say ‘yes’ on the emails too! We are sure that things have happened a lot more quickly and smoothly as we are able to respond quickly, otherwise we would have to wait until we got home in the evenings, and then we’ve lost a working day. In some cases this doesn’t matter, but at other times it’s helpful to respond to keep the momentum going if certain professional friends seem to be on a roll!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Can't Quite Reach

During all the turmoil and letter issues this week with Buildstore and the Council, we still managed to have a laugh.

The Building Control Officer at the Council mentioned to our architect that all residential properties should really be within 45m from a fire service hydrant at any one point within the boundary of the plot. We were nearer the 52m mark. Building Control suggested that we put a piece of hose in the ground at the boundary that the fire service could use to connect to the hydrant or as an extension to their hose, and that would then be long enough to reach any point on the plot should they need it.

I know I’m always worrying if I’ve left the gas on, but this seemed a bit extreme!

The good news is the Fire Service has now been consulted and the Chief Fire Officer has confirmed there isn’t a problem and they can access the property without the need for additional hose or hydrant.

The funniest part of all this is we are probably only about 60m from the actual fire station itself!

Buildstore Said Yes!

We finally got the OK from Buildstore yesterday morning that the letter the Council has eventually produced would be good enough for our Stage 1 drawdown. This is just as well as we have to pay our foundation contractors half the overall contract value in two weeks.

We’re in the money! Well, strictly speaking, we’re in the money for about two weeks!

We have had such a battle trying to get the right documentation together. Buildstore will only accept either full Building Regulations approval, a Building Warrant or a Notice to Commence Works. We’re currently going through building regs and a Building Warrant is something that you only get in Scotland, so this left us the Notice to Commence Works option.

So our architect wrote to the Council notifying them that work will start in 48 hours. We sent this off to Buildstore together with documentation on other matters so they could see the Council were aware of our build and what was happening.

Buildstore came back to say this wasn’t acceptable as they needed something from the Council stating the work could commence on site, understandable when you think about it. Then the fun started! Our Council don’t just write letters like that, they only write if they’re not happy about something, if everything is going as it should they’re happy just to let it carry on. We tried several other ways but Buildstore were still wanting this particular wording, it could appear in any letter, but had to state that work could commence on site.

Almost at our wits end, our architect contacted the Environmental Officer at the Council who had been out to inspect trial holes and had verbally stated that work could proceed and the foundations could continue, hence effectively signing off the pre-commencement condition (why our architect didn’t do this anyway still remains a mystery). We were confident (well, one of us was!) this would fulfil what Buildstore needed. And we were right.

Two weeks later, a few sleepless nights and a few big important count-ups of our loose change just in case, we got it and Buildstore said yes!


During a conversation with Buildstore today they explained that the lender will now instruct an inspection of all stages prior to the next stage release being draw down. This inspection literally means someone just turning up and checking the foundations are actually there, and then the frame is up etc. They don’t interfere with anything further and will not stop a release unless you’ve been naughty and there is no evidence on site that you have built what you’ve said you’ve built. This is because some self-builders were asking a dodgy architect to sign their Certification of Work forms to say stages had been completed when they hadn’t, and then running off with the money.

I’m telling you this because I think it is very sad, and something else hard working legitimate people have to endure for the sake of the plebs of this world.

We’re looking forward to shedding blood, sweat and tears for our house (only blood to go already by the way!) and having the satisfaction and the scabs to look back on.