Self Build Diary

February 2013 Self Build Update

I can’t believe this is the first update we’ve done this year!

The house has come on quite a lot since our last update, in fact, the last update was just before I started on the Xmas festivities!But, where to start with the update is proving quite difficult. So, I’ll just start somewhere.

All major utilities are now connected and working in the house, all except cable that is. ALL utilities took longer than I’d expected, especially gas. Gas actually took almost SIX MONTHS! Honestly, they came around after several weeks and downed tools before they’d even started. We had some scaffolding up and even though they would have been working about 8 metres away from it, they refused to work and asked us to rebook. This is an immediate SIX weeks delay. Great thanks for that! Then they cried off because of the snow. Water were not much better, it took me at least SIX weeks for then to ring me re booking a date. Water are the only utility that don’t book a date until you ring then, even once you’ve paid. Then they don’t return you calls. They cancelled one date, they rang me up and told me, then asked me it it was OK. I said it wasn’t, and they basically ignored me! Why ask!

Underfloor heating is switched on and is warming the house nicely. Windows are in; the windows have build in blinds – they’re actually supplied by uniblind and they are absolutely fantastic. We opted for the blinds with cords in, rather than any fancy motorised units. By the way, they are really expensive, but, in our opinion worth every penny. We won’t need curtains or curtain poles etc.

Tiles are going down as well. We settled on Moleanos Limestone tiles from Mrs Stone Store These tiles are in the bathroom / en suite and the whole of the downstairs.

We’re now at the finishing stages, and at this point its a push to the finish. The kitchen is also being installed, we used a kitchen company called Amwell Kitchens We were introduced to Ken from Amwell Kitchens by our builder and we discussed several ideas and looked at a kitchen as well as a showroom. We had a good idea of what we wanted, but Ken is so enthusiastic and full of great ideas we’ve actually ended up with something completely different and of course, much better than the ideas we had! The level of detail on the design is far in excess of anything we would have ever come up with on our own.

The upstairs has been painted as well.

Here’s a random selection of some elements of the house build as it is now. We’re hoping to be in by Easter!!


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Scaffolding is off


Scaffolding is off. “Oh so that’s what it is” was the best I could come up with. Its quite a Momentous day today, the wraps came off the house, to reveal a house! Quite a lot has been happening the last week I’ll do a complete update shortly and add more photos. As Christmas is coming we have a few parties. I have been doing photo documentation and at the moment we have plasterers and plumbers onsite…




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Week 15 – Week Commencing 3rd December 2012

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We were hit by the first snow of this winter, there was only an inch or so, but that’s enough to cause chaos. Builder’s were delayed by an hour or so getting on site due to the road conditions.








Despite the weather, we continue to make progress. The loft storage space is now taking shape, roof is on and felt and battened. Internal plasterboarding is ongoing as well.

As we’re downsizing we are naturally concerned about the amount of storage space we’ll have. For concerned read paranoid! You see, when designing a house it’s difficult to know how much storage to have. I’m a believer in the more storage you have the more junk you have too. However, you can’t take it to the extreme and say that if you have no storage you have no junk. From a male perspective I seem to find I never make any allowances for storage. I’ll look at a bathroom suite, figure out where it should be placed in a bathroom only for Mandy to say something like “Where does the shampoo and shower gel go?” This of course means I go back to the drawing board.

With all that said we’ve asked the builder to work out a roof design that allows us as much storage space as possible. The solution is a large beam in the middle and no bits of wood in the centre which means we get an open expanse of storage space. Height wise it isn’t high enough to stand fully upright, unless you’re a jockey as the roof is about 35 degrees. Also, the boiler, megaflow and MHVR systems are going in the loft.

Here’s the first glimpse of the dormer. It’s a feature rather than something that has any practical use. As you can see the scaffolding is still up, so you can’t see it in all it’s glory. We decided on not having barge boards, instead taking the brick work all the way up to the roof tiles.

On the right is a piece of plasterboard. Nothing special you might think, but it’s another little milestone, something on the interior is happening!



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When will you get the heating fixed?


Here’s us, the proud owners of a house with no carpets and no heating, in late November 2012. See that gap behind us? No it is not a really clean window there’s no bloody glass in it and it was flipping freezing!!!! Say freeze – I mean cheese. …….

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Week 14 – Week Commencing 26th November 2012

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Today is 1st December 2012 and we have our 2nd day of frost – sub zero temps and it’s been freezing all week. The first part of the week was disturbed by rain and some winds and the roof was slightly delayed because of the weather.

However, upstairs internal stud work is going ahead, and when we had a look yesterday some plaster board is going up. Naturally the roof is now “done”, we decided on a hand cut roof, as mentioned previously to order in trusses would have taken 3 weeks, and it took our builders about 2 days to manually cut and fit. Doing the roof manually also gave us more space to work with in the roof for storage, although the design had to include a large steel right at the top, hence reducing head height a bit we were able to do away with the usually forest of trusses that go everywhere. So the roof is on and it’s been felted and battened, still some work to do at one end, but it makes the house pretty much dry. Well, if you discount the fact that we don’t yet have windows and doors!

They’re preparing to board up the windows to make it water tight whilst we wait a few weeks for the windows to arrive.

Here’s a fairly random selection of photos of the internal walls. At the moment you can’t really see “the forest for the trees” so there’s not point in my explaining the different rooms from these pictures. As the stud work goes up we get more of a picture of the size of the rooms, this is something I think most people struggle with, us included, is imagining and furniture in a room before the room actually exists! Even 3D drawings don’t really help that much, at the moment we’re thinking that the rooms are maybe bigger than we at first thought, which is a good thing as we’re down sizing at it’s worrying that a room might appear “too small”. Having said that I’ve watched endless programmes with people who are downsizing looking at houses and moaning that “the kitchen is too small”, “there aren’t enough bedrooms” and “we could really do with 3 acres of land” Naturally we’ve had the same worries! (Well apart from the 3 acres of land, we’ve never wanted that not being keen gardeners!)

So, onwards and upwards, quite literally in our case. Oh, that reminds me, I’ll get a photo of our dormer uploaded soon, as this also has been taking shape this week.

We’re expecting an electrician Monday so today we’ll be measuring the exact room sizes, I can then transfer those measurements ont oa 3D programme I’m using on my Mac called “Live Interior 3D” which lets us look at the house in 3D – even though we can actually go into it now and look at it in “real” 3D! What we really need to do is measure up properly so we can do the plug layouts, as well as supplying an accurate scaled drawing for the underfloor heating design as well as the Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) system, and really, I could bore for England by explaining what that lot does or doesn’t do, but you might want to Google it instead 🙂

Just a note on underfloor heating and MVHR. I spend months reading up on these 2 systems, getting prices looking at designs, but in the end I just got our builder to sort it out. It was probably useful to get an idea of prices, but really, one’s as good as another and the prices are all pretty similar.

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Garden wall is growing


I ventured out in the cold and fog to take a few photos. This one is of our garden wall, the hessian is necessary as we’ve had some right down pours over the post few days and rain is a pain when you’re laying bricks!

Actually when I say “growing” I’m sure our bricky Ollie would point out that it wasn’t “growing” he’s actually putting in the hard work and getting the thing built!

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Upstairs in the Sunshine


After yesterdays fog and rain the Sun came out, so I picked up my phone and took this. As you can see the first floor is sort of boarded and the first floor ceiling is also in place. But I’m sure there’s something still missing? Oh yes of course, the roof and unlike Wimbledon and Wembley, our roof will be closed all the time (I hope)

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Rather Large Meter Box


Here’s our meter box, I’d argue its too big and could actually fit about 10 meters in it! Because of health and safety it has to be this high. We’d have liked it a little lower, but as we’ve found out during the planning process, you can’t have everything you want.

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Week 13 Self Build Diary – Week Commencing 19th Nov 2012

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Good progress this week, despite the rain. We’ve reached wall plate level which allows us to apply for the next stage of funding, which will come in very handy indeed!
We’ve also had the Electricity connected, well, when I say connected UK PowerNetworks have dug the road up and run the cable to our new house. We also are now sporting a nice new, very large and very white meter box. We’ve just had our electricity meter replaced in our exiting house and it’s about size of an iphone. However, the new meter box they’ve installed is probably the size of football pitch! OK, it’s not that large but considering the size of the meters these days it’s absolutely ridiculous.

But hats off the UK PowerNetworks, at least they did the work. National Grid turned up to do the Gas and they wouldn’t even start the work as we had scaffolding up. The work they were doing was at least 9 meters away from where they would work, but I’ve had to re-arrange it because they refused to proceed. I’m my book, they’re a bunch of jobsworths. Honestly, on supplier ws fine, but another refused to do the work on health and safety grounds, I applauded UK PowerNetworks for undertaking the work is such dangerous conditions!! If National grid were that worried they could have worn hard hats, still, “rules is rules!”

The first floor joists are also in and they’ve started on the roof. A few steels were installed on Wednesday and when they did it it was p!ssing it down and really windy, but the managed to hoist them up and put them in place.

We spoke to a structural engineer and he did the calcs for the roof, which is basically telling the builder which size steels and which size wood to use. We’re having a hand cut roof, mainly because trusses can’t be measures until you’re at wall plate level and they take about 3 weeks to arrive. So, the builders went the route of hand cutting the wood themselves. In our case it allows for us to do away with trusses every 600mm (I think) and have a much more usable space.

The garden wall has also started getting higher. This is the wall that gives us our privacy back. It was the first thing to be knocked down, so we’re looking forward to not being on display all the time. As we live on a corner it’s nice to have some privacy.

Although we are fans of the open plan look, this is ridiculous!

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Week 12 – Self Build Diary – Week Commencing 12th Nov 2012

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As with last week, we’re pretty much at the half way point of the build schedule. However, in my own mind I had the roof on at this point. But having to wait for the LPAs decision on what brick to use held us up. By the way if you’re reading this article in isolation of the rest of our blog then be warned… It’s important to look at all the conditions on your planning permission, including the materials approval….

So, week 12 now, the walls are at wall plate level, which as any self builder will know is one of the staged payment levels. Now we can approach the lender for some more dosh and keep everyone on site happy!

Next week should start the commencement of the roof, but, we are waiting to hear from our architects to see if they are willing to do a roof design for a hand cut roof, rather than order up trusses. Here’s one of the things with designing a house, neither the Architect, or the Structural Engineering was seemingly prepared to do a roof design. At the time I didn’t pay much attention to it as I’d read the truss manufacturer does the design as part of selling the trusses. What I didn’t know is that from measuring to delivery is 3 weeks. You cant get the bloody thing measured until you’re up to roof plate level which is the very point you need the sodding roof!

Anyway, whilst I ponder that and have a few more sips of my Saturday evening cider, I’ll share a few more photos..

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