Sunday 6 May 2012

Between Christmas and Easter

It is now over a year since we started the top bathroom. I cant believe how the time has flown. Since Christmas we have had a lot on our plates, with both of us getting back on track workwise.
Chris and Marlon working outside

Outside the drainage has been completed and the sunken patio dug out. Inside skylights have been put into the extension.
In the cellar meters have been moved to the back end and lots of cabling put in so that all TV , internet and phones can be used in many locations around the house.

A staircase has been put down into the basement so we no longer need to climb down using a ladder. We can now start to kit out the utility room. Life is gradually becoming more civilised.

plastering & plumbing

This all happened before Easter, some before Christmas - so a little while back.
We decided to put underfloor heating in all the ground floor rooms, so our lovely old parquet had to come up. We thought we might be able to put it back afterwards, but it just split as it was taken up because it had nails in it.
So insulation down first, then the pipes laid by the plumber, then screed to ensure a material that can retain and radiate heat over a long period of time. This works really well, where there are floorboards and pipes under neath but no screed, very little warmth is produced.Downstairs we now have the boiler room , with boiler and cylinder and all the manifolds, so that there is plenty of space if it needs to be repaired. Pump installed as well, which circulates the hot water, so when you turn a tap on upstairs, there is always hot water coming out almost immediately.

After the floors, we started the plastering. This is the plasterer on stilts up above. All of the basement and ground floor extension had to be done. Below is the media room. Although we wont use it as such for the time being, due to financial considerations, it has had all the wiring done so we can change its use later if we wish.

Meanwhile the new bathroom was being tiled. We got the guy through my builder, but it was a bit of a disaster. Guy spoke no English, he took over 3 weeks,  he made a cock-up of the alcove I wanted in the showers enclosure for washing things, the floor wasn't evenly laid, left the wrong space for the waste pipe, and made holes for the taps too big. 

What a bodge, but because we didn't notice these things till later he got a good write-up on the website, for which I apologise to everyone who uses this building company on the basis of our recommendation. Anyway, walls don't look too bad, but the floor tiles got a bit splashed during plastering, so I am going to have to do a proper clean.
Up on the roof, Chris at last got his way with a satellite dish, apparently the best option for us, although we wont get Sky Sports or Polish TV, so not sure exactly what we will get with it.

Saturday 21 January 2012

the eco bits

Rainwater harvesting - both Chris & I spent hours researching this. I did one of my spreadsheets comparing costs against everything that is included. It can be quite confusing when the packs on offer include different bits. Eventually after attending many eco shows and visiting numerous websites we went for this one, we bought the Ecosure Underground Water Harvesting Tank, which at 2800  litres seemed a reasonable capacity. 
Sorin & George dug a massive hole in the lawn and put in the tank. Over the Christmas hols, it rained. The walls of the pit caved in and the tank floated up. We had been warned! Another pit dug. This time the tank concreted in and filled with water, so now its in there again sitting snugly until the plumber connects everything up.The plan is that this will be connected up to the washing machine, downstairs loo and the garden.
Our plumber however, believes it is a complete waste of money, as in the summer he thinks it will run out very quickly, and we will just have to keep pumping water into the tank which will involve additional energy costs.
I believe if the water in the tank is low, the water should be going direct from the mains. Have to check this out, but the plumber has got the instructions at the mo. if anyone is thinking of setting this up, anglian water do a very clear summary of all the issues that need to be considered on .

The other main eco bit are the photo-voltaic cells on the roof. We put them up whilst we had the scaffolding up. Although we had provisionally agreed an order from Joju a while ago,we had a mad rush when the government decided it would call a halt to the subsidy for homeowners, known as the Feed In Tarriff, as there had been such a surge in the numbers taking this up (which was what it was designed to do. Suddenly it was announced that the FIT would be reduced from 42p per KWH to 21p per KWH. we booked in and managed to get all the necessary documentation to our supplier by the 5th Dec -
deadline was 12th Dec for the higher rate. Phew! 

However, some installers are now taking the matter to court, so for those that didn't quite make it, there is a chance that the decision will be reversed.
The kit we received included an energy monitor which shows what the difference is between what we are generating and what we are using - and when the meter indicates something like 90 W per hr of usage, that does make me feel warm inside. 
To my mind, the panels are not aesthetically pleasing, and they lie rather higher off the roof than I expected, blocking part of the dormer windows. However, the panels that could be integrated into the roof line do not work as efficiently and as the purpose is to reduce our energy costs as much as we can, there was really only one choice to make. I will put up some pictures of it once we have a better view.
Finally a photo of the room where we now cook, eat, watch TV and relax - a bit of a mess isn't it? No Christmas tree and no decorations this year- I expect that also gives us some more eco brownie points.Make up for it next year though, I hope.

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.