Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Airtight! (We can still open windows though - in case you're worried...)

Here are a few pics of the window/door fitting, membrane sticking and MVHR pipework...I'll take some of the windows and doors themselves, and of the MVHR unit at the weekend.

But for now, they had to cut away the blockwork to put in the compac foam with enormous screws to support the doors (this is the front door). Then we'll have to build back around it...

I think this is the downstairs bedroom window - it has been covered on the outside to protect the window box from the endless RAIN: it is just ply at the moment so we don't want to let it get soggy. When the exterior trusses are built there will be another 300ml of Warmcel added to the outside to meet the weatherboard etc and the edges of the window boxes...and we have quite large interior as well as exterior window ledges as we like the idea of can see the redder ply here, which will be plastered:

Below is a shot of the MVHR pipes (which transfer warm air around the house) snaking around the ground floor ceiling - apparently they need to go back around and add all the bolts - the pipes fit neatly into one another but to avoid rattling they need to be connected. And then...Rob found an unopened box of specialist foam...which should have been placed around the pipes where they come into contact with the he got as much in as he could yesterday but some sections have been plasterboarded already and we can't get to them!

Our house being wrapped up!

And proof in the was a bit nervewracking but after some drying (with hairdryers!) lots of taping, and lots of crevice filling, the first airtightness test came in with a figure of .35 on sucking and .5 on the blowing...rather good apparently! (I think 10 is the required level for new homes?)

We know this good figure will be weakened by a few things - the membrane will be punctured as the trusses go on and the MVHR unit now has got its hole in the side of the house, for example - but fingers crossed we'll be very snug!

Roofing: trusses, tiles, solar & even insulation!

It has been over a month since I've put any pics up and the longer I leave it the more enormous the task seems to catch back up!

We seem to be hurtling towards Christmas now and so much is happening that Rob is eating, sleeping, breathing house details - so many things need ordering yesterday: tiles, bathrooms, sockets, door knobs, cooker, and all the stuff we've forgotten. But it is appearing before our eyes at least and looks good, in spite of the endless rain.

Back in October our kitchen living room was coming together - these windows were the last to be put in as we had a few issues with the door going out into the garden/mud swamp - like no handle on the outside...isn't it normal to have a handle so you can get back in? We ended up keeping the frame and they are sending us a new later.

And meanwhile the roof was covered:

Battened down - and solar panels photovolatic panels attached: 

And then tiled beautifully! We got up there on the scaffolding and really like the scuffed texture...

We went for grey ridge tiles to match the slates - mention red ridge tiles to Rob and stand back for the response...(I have to agree though, especially since we don't want the house to stick out any more than it already does!)

So, with a roof on, the Warmcel folk came over from Meifod and filled it with 300ml of insulation from their van through these holes:

Which meant the builders could start with the plaster board - and the dark orange walls are at last covered with something a bit brighter and I can imagine what our bedroom might look like:

(I'll try and do a post on windows next week btw)

And finally, trusses go up on the playroom/studio so that we'll be all roofed over really soon!

Friday, 19 October 2012

It has stopped growing at least...

We've got a sort-of-roof! Trusses anyway, which in their own way, cap off the house and I no longer feel it is growing out of all proportion...

This is our bedroom and the window spaces look great. Just heard today that our triple-glazed Optiwin windows left the factory in Austria this morning - on two pallets, one of which is 4metres long and totally impossible to unpack at this end so there has been a hurried call to get them returned and put on 3 or 4 pallets, no idea where they are now! I just hope that driver wasn't too annoyed...and our builder Colin's otherwise very organised schedule is not shot to pieces.

But meanwhile, bathroom window...

View from the neighbouring plot which has just been bought - their detailed planning runs out in August so there'll be building down this lane for a long time yet!

 Colin checking the roof trusses...

See, it looks sort of capped now and not looming much over next door's bungalow...

View from the back alongside next door's bungalow again...

If the window chaos gets sorted out soon we should be weather tight in a week. It'll rain each day till then of course but what can you do?

Friday, 12 October 2012

It is big and it is very orange...

Oh lord, it is definitely one of the stages where it all feels very BIG...

We've been told by lots of people that you go through stages of the house seeming too small, tight and enclosed...and others where it feels enormous and looming...Rob has sent me these and I've not seen the first floor yet (the top floor - no more to come - the neighbours will be glad to hear!) Might not be a bad thing just yet.

I'm sure with weatherboarding and a slate roof and a bit of Welsh weather it'll stand out a lot less!

It is great how quickly this bit happens after the endless waits for paperwork, drawings, and rain rain rain...

But there are some ominous signs of airtightness problems. It seems that we have a lot of people working on the house but those that know what they are doing in terms of specialist windows and airtightness and MVHR aren't the ones organising the day to day work...So we have been told, just as the roofing is due, that the designs and now the frame aren't suitable for the airtightness membrane, but if they don't tell us how are we or the builder to know?

It is too late to change the design but fingers crossed a solution is found that doesn't lose us too much of the passiv design that is costing so much!

Floors/ceilings and the actual view from our bedroom!

Not only is this a real photo of some sun, it is also a sign that we have a ground floor ceiling and somewhere to put the first floor...

In a funny way it is a dislocating experience to see these spaces being enclosed (stupid I know!) after getting used to the open space for so long. But also, I have this feeling that these sights are one-time-only specials! Pretty soon (relatively - in the hoped for lifespan of this house) this will be concealed from human sight and unless we're really unlucky, won't be exposed again.

Rob in the hallway/stairs area just inside the front door:

It seems that the downstairs bathroom - a little room with shower squeezed in for those who can't make it upstairs - has had the window moved to the left and a bit lower than we had in the drawings. This, we've now been told is because of the window in the spare bedroom on the other side of the left hand wall, and perhaps because of the supporting bit of wood above the window? It's a shame because the shower is in the left hand corner and the window wood...and we'll need to put some frosted patterning on at least the lower half now but I guess it isn't a disaster judging from Rob's response!

Some scaffolding surrounding the house - it makes the house look even bigger unfortunately but it does mean we can get up there and see our bedroom and bathroom view for the first time...

Yup, not bad.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A house! A lot of rain...and some airtightness hiccups...

It is still pouring with rain and may well do all week - it is hard not to lament the weeks without rain we had in August now but here we are, and the builders seem to be doing their best to put  a brave face on it.

The rain may damage the OSB and destroy the hardboard protecting our floor but it hasn't diminished the excitement of seeing the plot become a 'house' at last! We took Meg over to have a look and she bounded in the front door like she was born to the place...

It looks massive here from the road/hedge with the scaffolding ready to put in the first floor...just the living room and kitchen wall not yet in as this will need some steel to support the windows:

(Rhododendrons in bottom left doing well!) The below is the downstairs bedroom with the office to the right, lounge/kitchen in the middle and front door and dog friendly hallway (!) far left.

View from the does feel strange framing off the view we've gotten so used to just standing on piles of earth but one day that'll be a distant memory I suppose. I know the window frames will make the view smaller still but thankfully they seem fairly massive!

House from the back and lots more OSB out there ready to finish the ground floor:

View for Rob while at work...

 Overlooking lounge/kitchen:

Front door is the one on the right (below) - there will be a little garage on the left and that left hand door way will lead from the garage into the laundry/corridor space where the plant will be. There'll also be a big wooden overhang from the garage covering the walk to the front door where a handy bench will be for taking off wellies!

We were giddy with all this great frame work which was built in our builder's workshop near Cemmaes but then, showing round our Passif expert on Sunday - in pouring rain - he realised that the air tightness membrane had been cut for the internal wall joins which would allow cold bridging all over the house! We might not have felt the difference although our wallets would have when it came to the bills and as Nick said, its much better to get the basics right rather than find problems when it is built and plastered over.

A scary moment as so much great work had already been done but when we turned up on site Monday morning the builders thankfully agreed to remove the easier walls and leave a gap and with the tough ones they got in and cut out a section of wood (below) so that Mike, the airtightness specialist can come back and tape it all up. So nice to be working with people who don't freak out when something like this comes up...

Crisis sort of averted and the view of Cae Bach from top field (you can just see the estuary in the top right...)

Not sure what'll be there next time!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Sole Plate and missing bricks...a good band title?

It has been a while since the excitement of the concrete pour but to be honest, the thrill of having that done has sustained us while the frame and technical drawings were finalised over August and the site cleared up ready for the next onslaught...once the digger and concrete pour vehicles came off site the plot which we'd always felt was quite small, it suddenly felt a lot bigger to me.

Our builder, Colin, and Rob spent an hour marking out all the no go areas for fixing the sole plate to the concrete so our precious under floor heating pipes don't get pierced - the endless measuring we did before the pour clearly makes sense! The dug out bit is the downstairs wetroom and the water needs to drain down - could be an issue later but will have to see.

Typically, the date set for starting this next phase was yesterday, 24th August, when it proceeded to pour down again...and it hasn't stopped since! But rain or not (and you can't see the downpour in the photos but it really was there) the guys came down and got on with fixing the sole plate (had to check the spelling and found Wikipedia was useful...although I reckon our pictures would help!):

And you can just see the Rhododendrons (had to check that spelling too! that Rob has planted below the hedge and above the wall in the above photograph - they seem to grow pretty well here so we're hoping it won't be totally barren when we move in...

Wednesday is the day for the internal membrane to be fitted to the sole plate, so the rolls stored in our hallway and boxes of very expensive tape can be put to use at last, and then the frame work can start on might even stop raining at some point!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Concrete at last!

We waited five weeks for a couple of days without rain scheduled and at long last pencilled in the concrete and the guys from Y Rhondda...and the concrete pour began...

In fact, after floods, rain, low temperatures and grey sky there was a risk of it being too hot in the end - too cold it'll freeze, too wet it'll pock mark our concrete floors, too hot and it'll crack...

But it got poured...the underfloor heating pipes started to move up and Rob had to squeeze in to put more cable ties on the corners to keep them down...
 The eight guys got the concrete all down early and then hung around till they could powerfloat it...
And then it had to be hosed down every few hours all afternoon and evening because it was so hot to touch - and then again the next day. Not nice to think of those pipes in that heat...but they seemed to have survived ok.

Concrete pouring team headed off to their next job in Central London and Rob and John dug up the manifolds and John has tested the underfloor water pressure - it seems good.

Now, just a few jobs and the groundworks are done and the framework begins - feels like there might actually be a house there one day now. Not sure what the cats and dogs will do with that much room now!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

I would walk....

We made it!

My brother, Ben and I did the 42 mile Across Wales Walk that the Rotary organise each year last month - starting at 3:50 in the morning at Glandyfi and finishing at 7pm at Anchor in Shropshire. I raised almost £400 for Caffi Cletwr - a community cafe project in Tre'r Ddol and Tom and Ben raised money for St Francis hospice in Essex where they both live.

After a lot of practice (mainly with Meg the lab, my walking buddy) it was actually not too is so well organised that all we had to think about was getting from stopping station to stopping station, our bodies, water and food - which meant no thinking about work for a really long time!

The weather was, predictably, wet, but much better than May's heat wave walk (see below) ...after that 25 mile one we just couldn't contemplate another 17 miles but walking through the wind farm at about 34ish miles we were quite impressed with ourselves!

All in all if I was given the choice of doing this walk or moving house I'd take the walk EVERY time.

Didn't help that Tom left his boots in London of course and did the whole thing in trainers...