Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Muck, rubble and mud!

IMPORTANT NOTE - this post relates to the work undertake by Hampton Construction (not Jon Avory & Sons).

Lack of blogging does not mean lack of work. I nearly said progress - now that would be pushing it!

No, between work, sourcing lots of things for the house (solar panels, radiators, etc), Steve swanning of to Botswana (see here for some pretty pics), both being under the weather and generally being emotionally knackered, we simply ain't had the time!

Ahead of EDF (we could be very rude but won't cos we might just end up in court as it is - they are sooooooo bad!) coming in to switch the leccy supply to the whole terrace (our two cottages and our our neighbour's Debbie and Tony's supply), the ever increasing mountain of rubble had to be taken off site. Enter one man and his grab truck. Now, this thing really can do some damage. Its a good job we needed to redo the drive!

Anyone who has watched any of those property developing programmes or Grand Designs will be familiar with the term 'unforeseens'. So are we.

The first 'unforeseen' was actually a foreseen that we hoped would not materialse. But it did. The back wall of no. 4 has been knocked about so much it couldn't withstand our new alterations, so, down it must come and a new wall up in its place. But that can't happen until the existing leccy cables running along its length are removed.

So, the leccy cables had to be done. Having finished the waste and rain water trenching and piping, much of the back garden had to be dug up again, even deeper this time, to lay the new leccy cale underground the whole length of the cottages. EDF came along today and laid the new leccy cable underground. You've got to admit, the back garden does have a certain something!

So, to a real unforeseen. Our builder, Max, was concerned about the state of the concrete floor. And with good reason. It took us a week to pick ourselves off the floor and decide to go ahead with this extra spend (and boy was it an 'extra'). The old floor came up and the bare earth (no foundations on these fen cottages) and in came the digger. Yep, a digger in your living room! I wonder what Liz is thinking she's going to put in that hole?

Above you can see the acros supporting the new steels that have just gone in having just taken out the main wall through the cottage to create our one large open plan living space. So, whilst Max played on his over-sized Tonka toy, Vas and Pete barrowed out the waste to create, another mound of muck and rubble! This is less than a quarter of what needs to come out. Its gonna be some pile!

And how are we feeling? Surprisingly calm! We have loads to think about. We're constantly thinking ahead looking at things we need to order in so things start to deliver as and when Max and the lads need them. We ain't really needing much yet - there's still much more coming out than going in!

We've had our stressful moments, especially when having to think about major overspends on unforeseens, but we settle back down once the decision is made and await the next one!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

digging in the garden

IMPORTANT NOTE - this post relates to the work undertake by Hampton Construction (not Jon Avory & Sons).

It's not just the house that's getting some attention! I'm not sure this wasn't all just an excuse to play with a nice yellow digger! I don't know what they're looking for, but I hope they find it soon.

Steve was a bit upset that he had just spent time mowing the grass!

This large water harvesting tank needs a hole to sit in.....

and here it is!

Stripping out

It's surprising how quickly a house can be reduced to its bare boards! Luckily we never liked it anyway!

Liz's office and spare bedroom number 1 soon became one room in preparation for our new office.

The story so far

We owned no. 3 (left) and in August 2006 we managed to buy no.4 (yippee!).

We've spent the last 12 months designing, redesigning, costing, recosting, applying for planning permission, getting planning permissions, and, searching for a builder! But we are there, and on 22 October work began on converting the two cottages into our dream fenland home.

This is the not-so-attractive dormer extension thats gonna be ripped down to make way for a new first floor extension that will run across the full length of the back.

who and what we are using

Supreme Windows | Walpole Highway, Wisbech  PE14 7QT
Tel: 01 945 880 091
Great showroom. We went to look at their aluminium options but ended up going with the composite upvc Residence 9 system with eclectic grey outside and Irish oak inside. Matched with a Solidor Italia Turin door.

Overall rating: 9/10. Very competitive pricing. Fitting very good but as with many of these things, could have been a little less messy (inside of house no problem, outside was a mess).

Ian McCannoch | Tiler | Werrington PE4 6QY
Tel: 01 733 321 435 | 07 771 513 909
After having two different lots of the builders do our previous tiling (bathroom, shower-room and kitchen) with mixed results, we finally found a tiler we can trust 100%. Ian is a real professional. Meticulous and very skilled. He also has that rare commodity among workmen - he communicates! Can't rate him highly enough.

Overall rating: 10/10. Faultless.

PRB Plumbing & Heating | Whittlesey PE7 1TY
Tel: 07 721 040 047
Phil re-plumbed the entire rebuild in 2008 and has been back since to service our two boilers and install two new ensuite bathrooms.

Excellent workmanship. Always left site tidy. His boiler installations were said to be the "some of the best work I have ever seen" by a Ferroli boiler engineer.

Overall rating: 9/10. Near faultless. Can be difficult to pin down at times. But he's worth waiting for.

Jon Avory & Sons | Carpenters and Builders | Werrington PE4 6LT
Tel. 07 729 263 335
After finally getting rid of Hampton Construction (Max Williamson, Vas, Danny/Stamper and Pete - DO NOT USE THEM!!! - rating 0/10 - we had to redo 95% of the work they undertook inc. replacing the slate roof they put on, rebuilding all the extensions they put up, underpin the new supports they put in without adequate footings, etc, etc -
see here for the state they left us in - hey cost us tens of thousands), we finally got back on track, and quickly, with local and well-established firm Jon Avory & Sons (Matt and Sean and occasionally Josh) and team (Ging and Kevin).

Overall rating: 7/10. We think there construction skills are excellent but their overall internal finishing skills let them down. A big downer has been they have not not been back since they left to snag despite many phone calls. We've given up on them and moved on.
Rod Mepham | Chartered Building Survey | Ramsey, PE26 1DQ
Rod took our basic design for the two cottages and brought them to life on the plans. His trained eye meant he was able to tweak some areas, but we're pleased that the overall design remains about 90% our own. Rod also oversaw our planning applications (one for the building work and the second for our solar panel) and the building regs.

Overall rating: 8/10. Improved on my own plans. Slight black mark for not spotting something which ended up costing us money unnecessarily.

Dendura (previously called Lamwood) windows and external doors
Lamwood make stabilized oak windows and doors from wood sourced from sustainable woodlands in Germany and Europe. We found them at the Homebuilding & Renovation Show at the NEC in March. They make seriously nice windows. We went up to their factory near Uttoxeter yesterday for a guided tour of how our windows will be made. The jobs they had going through are mega compared to ours. We plan to do use Lamwood in two phases, 1) during the course of the renovation for all new windows and doors for the rear and gable end elevations, and 2) when we have saved up some more pennies, we'll replace the nasty uPVC front windows and doors with oak sashes and doors.

Overall rating: 10/10. Simply brilliant windows and doors and fabulous service.

We're using Velux's suntunnel and four of their GGU 0059 M08 roof windows.

Overall rating: roof windows 10/10, sun tunnel 7/10 - a week link in insulating the roofspace.

A natural insulation made from British sheep wool. It has a great thermal (0.039 W/mK) so will keep us snug in winter and help to keep the heat out of the rooms in summer.

Overall rating: 7/10 - I think we could have done better with one of those super-thin foils which we will probably add as a retro-fit from the outside when we come to replace the outer cladding in 10+ years.

Jaga radiators
We couldn't resist some of Jaga's fab Knockonwood low H2O models for our new living room.
They just look so cool! Check one of ours out here.

Overall rating: 10/10. Stunning, efficient and effective room heating.

We're using Isolair as our insulating sarking boards for the new roof areas and to board the first floor extension. Isolair is made from 99.5% waste wood from Swiss forest/timber yards (where it is made). It has great thermal conductivity (0.047 W/m.K) so helps to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer.

Overall rating: 9/10. Seemed to work well and were easy to cut to fit.

Freewater UK water harvesting
We're using Freewater UK's Rainman Standard T.

Overall rating: its not yet working and Freewater haven't been very helpful. I woudn't use them again. Eventually got the thing up and running although the cut off to stop the thing isn't working but no big deal. The system I'd rate as 8/10 but Freewater UK only 3/10 - they were eager to sell us the thing but the backup service is non-existent. 

Having done our comparisons, we're going to run our new woodburning stove on these heat logs. They are basically bricks made from 100% sawmill waste. No glues or resins to bind them, just dense sawdust. They have are much denser than wood so burn slower and give off a higher heat output and per tonne is significantly higher than wood. They also burn much purer so leave virtually no soot residue on the stove glass or flue and reduce to much less ash than wood. They also fit our eco drive brilliantly. Unless you happen to have your own sustainable wood source growing outside the house, whatever wood we bought to fuel the stove had to be transported. At least this way we are using a by product which would otherwise go to waste and not require any trees to be cut just for our needs. Great!

Overall rating: 10/10. Great heat output and they create a great flame.

Our plans

These aren't quite the finished plans (I didn't have small enough images copied to hand to scan for here), but these aren't far off final plans.At the front, the main change will be the removal of the existing hideous porches, reinstate an original type canopy over the main door (no.3 on left), and add a false door to no.4.

Its all change at the back! The current eyesore that is the dormer extension on no.4 goes and is replaced with a new first floor extension across the back of the entire property. This will house three bathrooms, a large double bedroom and our dressing room.

On the ground floor we are extending the current extension behind no.3 to include a entrance-cum-boot room which leads into the enlarged kitchen diner with folding-sliding doors, and the flat room replaced with a pitched slate roof. Two sets of french doors lead out of the new main reception under the canopy and on to the garden.

The ground floor will be rendered and the first floor extension will be clad with black weather boarding (barn style)

Here you can see the extent of the first floor extension, the extension of the current roofline to form a canopy along the rear of the house to the back door, and the new gable end windows for the main reception (ground) and study.

The new kitchen/diner replaces the kitchen, utility and bathroom of the current no.3. Receptions 2 and 3 are pretty much as they are now, but in no.4, the existing reception and kitchen are combined to form a great new large reception room with open staircase. The shower-room will serve reception 2 which doubles as a ground floor bedroom.

Upstairs, bedrooms 1 and 2 are as they are now, but with the addition of ensuite bathrooms and a dressing room for bedroom 1. The study is formed out of two existing bedrooms (and will double as another spare bedroom) whilst bedroom 3 and the bathroom are formed by the new extension.