Friday, 2 December 2011

Other bits and pieces

Marlon has been brilliant throughout. He and Chris have been doing a lot of the the jobs that get left out by the specialist tradespeople, because they dont come into any contract. Here they are putting up boards and felt on the roof.

Originally we were going to have a zinc roof, but we visited Grand Designs and decided to go for an optical fibre roof instead. we also put in rooflights to let more light into our kitchen. Chris and I had a bit of a debate about black or white glazing bars - in the end went for white, because Dominic our architect, says these look better from inside.

Other things going on have been Sorin and his guys working on the drains, as these need to be upgraded and Thames Water require us to have a manhole cover so that we can access the drains if need be. I know this doesn't look very exciting, but these are the little things that are now of extreme importance in our everyday lives, and Chris in particular is making sure he knows everything there is to know about every details of the construction.


Can't believe my last blog was early October. So much has happened on the house since then. I'm afraid the optimism of my last blog has evaporated. At that time, we thought we were on track for finishing the heavy work by Christmas, with painting and decorating shortly afterwards. Now we are feeling, perhaps we can finish everything by Easter. In the picture above, the ground floor wall is up. Down below we have the first floor extension going up, timber frame, covered with insulation and then bricks on the outside.

Unfortunately shortly after, the two builders fell out, and the brickie walked off the job. The hapless manager was unable to find a replacement and so we decided to find someone ourselves. The replacements we obtained were two elderly Polish builders. They were careful with their work, took pride in their work, but were very slow. During the work, one of them hurt his hand and was unable to continue. This slowed the main brickie down as he no longer had anyone to mix and carry for him - he finished the main parts of the job and went on to another job where he was due. So there we were, about 2 weeks behind schedule and the leading and pointing incomplete.

Friday, 7 October 2011

not a candidate for Grand Designs

Well Mr McCloud, I'm sorry to tell you that we are on schedule, below budget and not completely demoralised and disheartened. Our contractor dropping out has been a blessing in disguise, we are saving lots of money and at the same time completely in control of the works. Chris is proving a brilliant project manager and coming to grips with all the technical specifics of the job.  Above is the basement which is currently being tanked. We expect this to be finished early next week - so are looking to lay the insulation and underfloor heating pipes shortly.

The outside meanwhile is progressing well with our builders Pawel and Michal. The steelworks went up last week and now they've completed the ground-floor brick-laying, they are constructing the first-floor bathroom, which Chris is surveying in this photo with pride.

Last week we had the people from Adpol coming round to measure up the windows and sliding doors to the garden. These are going to be manufactured in Poland and then transported here.
We also had Dominic with solar thermal cells and he has sent as a quote, but we are still in two minds whether it will justify the investment.
Likewise we are hesitating about rainwater harvesting since we were told that we could not use it in the washing machine, which means the use would be rather less than we had envisaged, and does it justify digging a huge hole in the garden for the tank?
Caring about the environment is proving hard work.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

back from holiday

Back from holiday- not much appeared to have happened over the summer, as builders, architect and ourselves went on holiday at various times during July and August.
The biggest blow to us was the fact that the builders due to carry out the 2nd phase of the building works upped his price by about 33% between April and June and therefore we declined to sign a contract with him. We did look at alternative builders but in the end decided that as we now had the time available we would project manage this ourselves. Chris, mainly, has been hiring specialists to undertake different parts of the job. He has become quite an expert in construction, making sure that he understand all the specifics of the construction that is being undertaken, studying diagrams and speaking to the structural engineer or the architect if anything is not clear. I'm sure the job would not have been carried out with more care if it had been a building firm.

Our relationship with Emil of basement services and his team has been very good and we've been very pleased with the work they've completed. We had added some windows to the basement which were unfortunately causing water to get into the basement, so we decided to get the patio dug out now, which alleviated the problem. The photos above show the membrane that is going on the cellar walls to stop moisture from getting in.

In the meantime, work has been going on on top of the basement slab. A steel frame was put up by one company that will support the bathroom on top of the extension.

Pawel and Michal will construct the frame of the extension and the bathroom on top with bricks and timber and ofcourse add a damp-proofing course and insulation.

With the start of the brickwork, it really feels as if our house is being built at last.

We are now trying to get an electrician, plumber and plasterer so that the works inside can take place. I think this is the part of the project I am getting more excited about.

We have decided to go with local companies for the solar panels, photo-voltaic cells and garden design, but more of that another time.....

xxx to all my ardent followers - bet you cant wait for the next installment.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

one step forward, two steps back

 This week the basement has started to take shape. Basement Builders were proceeding on schedule, due to Emil's brilliant management of the project.
 However, the unexpected always happens. Due to the quantity of recent rainfall, leaking drains and a sandy base that had been laid during the original works we undertook, the soil on the last remaining section caved in, and the builders have had to put up a temporary retaining wall before the build the final section of cellar wall.
 Another setback was the withdrawal of the company that was going to deliver the second phase of the contract. So we have to find another company to carry out this work.
I am begining to doubt whether we will be finished by Christmas after all.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Eco weekend

This weekend was North London Eco-House weekend. We visited about 6 houses which was probably a bit too much to absorb. Quite a variety of projects, some very professional, some quite DIY.  It was interesting to see how successful some of the DIY insulation had been - and no cold-spotting either. 

It was useful to hear about the benefits of solar thermal heating from a neutral source and about the design problems of earlier double glazing.
Only one house we visited was doing any water recycling and they were recycling grey water rather than harvesting. Interesting too to see too how  people are putting in place fixtures for further development.
Meanwhile the basement is starting to take shape. we now have footbridge across to the garden, and at long last I have trained our cat Mille, to cross it (she suffers from vertigo and get panicky when crossing).

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Digging ever deeper

 The basement builders are making huge progress. The pit is getting ever deeper.

 Soon the two sides will meet and we will need a crossbridge to get out into the garden. To add to the chaos, Thames Water has hemmed us in from the other side with work in the street renewing their infrastructure. As the house trembles I am never quite sure which side the tremors are emanating from.
 The front garden remains a calm oasis in the midst of this carnage. My roses have put on a wonderful display, as has the philadelphus, and the tree with a name unknown to me.

On Friday we are expecting a camera crew to suprise us during the day, as they will be filming Caia. I had better get out the mops and dusters.

These photos do cheer me up.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Roof matters

The dilemma of the week : whether to install photo-voltaic panels on the roof or integrated panels (these are much more aesthetically pleasing, but we wouldn't be able to fit as many in, and they are not quite as efficient).

Mini-dilemma: whether to install photo-voltaic cells or solar-thermal cells on the smaller bathroom roof.

We are going ahead with a local group scheme organised by Transition Town Re-furb group, which gives us a group discount. The group asked a number of companies to give estimates and have decided to go with local company Joju, who are very helpful, have wonderful computer-generated plans to show you the lay-out, and explain how much money you can expect to save through the Feed in Tarriff scheme.

Here is Chris with Dominic our architect on one of his site visits. 
Dominic looks pleased with the work.
Chris has just been cycling.

Digging in the foundations

A photo for Janek who loves dumper trucks

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

over the bank holidays

Before Easter, the back of our house was pulled down. This is how our garden looks at the moment.
The shed has been moved.
 The gates put on for delivery vehicles.
 Our new toilet.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

work has started

We have at last got a new bathroom - though not quite finished.
We are having 2 builders - Emil who is doing the basment and Jacek doing the new building works. Jacek's crew came in to install a bathroom at the top of the house. This had to be built before our bathroom in the extension was demolished - there was a bit of over lap when we didnt have anywhere to wish - but on the whole things went well.
It was Caia's birthday during the course of demolition works, but she and her friends had a great party on the scaffolding.  They put our rugs and pillows and had balloons, strawberries and chmapagne. The weather was great. That was before the rest of the house came down. Show you that later. Unfortunately I deleted a load of photos by mistake, that showed work in progress. Wait for more photos in next post.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

starting this week

I notice in my last blog, I said we were going to start in February, it is now 13 March and we are going to start next week. The first phase of work involves putting a bathroom in the top floor, so that we have somewhere to wash when the back extension and bathroom come down.
Last week Chris and I went to Ecobuild exhibition and were inspired. We now know a great deal more about PV cells, underfloor heating and rainwater harvesting, and these are basically the technologies that we want to install in the house during this refurb. Of course we also want to make sure that we have as much insulation in place as possible.Roof has been pretty much done, but under ground floor rooms will have to be done. It was good at Ecobuild because a lot of these technologies have moved on and we were able to have a lot of our questions answered.
This Saturday went to Chris Stevens and ordered all the stuff for the bathroom, basin & taps, shower tray, enclosure, shower head and taps, toilet, cistern and eco flush system.Believe me, it all mounts up. And then there were the tiles. Have spent about 10 hours looking in magazines, going to Chris Stevens, going to Topps Tiles, then back to Chris Stevens. Could not make my mind up - ordered some tiles, but not sure if they will be right. Main thing was to get porcelain instead of ceramic, as they are tougher. Hope it all looks OK.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

heron in the garden

The big moment of my day was glancing out of the window and seeing a heron wading in our pond at the bottom of the garden. Makes me feel sad that all this will be destroyed and wildlife will be disrupted.
And here is the heron. Isn't that amazing?
Apart from that on a more mundane level:
  • party wall agreements are being sorted out
  • nursery behind has been approached for back-of-house access
  • agreement with builder being reached about basement & terms of contract etc.
  • Transition Town group looking to buy PV cells en-bloc
Looks as though we will start some time in February.

Dominic the architect has been brilliant in keeping things moving.