Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Blocks, wool, oak, slate . . . and light

Sunpipe The Velux suntunnel took another step forward when Ging cut out the rafters to accommodate the mirrored tunnel.

We're using Thermafleece (made from British sheep!) to insulate all the external walls in no.4, the new bootroom and all the roof spaces, etc. Thermafleece is as green as you get when it comes to insulation - its renewable (sheep grow their wool back for more clipping for more Thermafleece); its zero GWP (global warming potential); zero ozone depletion; safer to use (unlike many man-made fibre insulations); its long lasting (it will last as long as the house stands); it will keep us lovely and warm whilst helping to reduce our carbon footprint; it breathes. Unfortunately I couldn't catch Ging in his funky space suit he wears to fit this stuff. It might be nicer than fibreglass etc, but its still dusty old sheeps wool!

Bootroom progress Jon (upper) and Josh (lower) crack on with the gables of the bootroom. Its a dusty old job cutting up them blocks!

Jon's handywork at the end of the day. Very neat!

Oak postsThe three oak posts for our rear canopy (a covered walkway running the length of the back of the house from the garage end to the back door) arrived today. You could smell them from miles away, a lovely sweet, fresh cut smell. And they each weigh a ton!

One nice new roof

Matt and Kev finished the main new roof section - don't it look just sweet! Just a wee bit of work on the gable edge before they move on to . . . roofing the bootroom and the canopy!

This is what the site is looking like at present.

Meet the builders #1 - Ging

Name: released only on a need-to-know basis (police, Inland Revenue, etc)
Known as: Ging (the Ginger Lover); the Lover
Job: general builder - chippy, bricky, etc - you name it, Ging'll have a go!
Marital status: available
Likes: beer, women, adventure weekends involving cliffs, Red Tube (and he seems to like hard work too!)
Dislikes: thems that walk slow or stop right in front of him in town; thems with push-chairs bateering there way through shops; fibreglass insulation (apparantly); not having his build buddy Sean with him (aagghh - Sean is currently invalided out and off-site after a fall of his bike)
Once heard to say: I like Mock the Week. I even get some of the jokes.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Four weeks in

Rome wasn't built in a day. Or four weeks. Well, neither was our house going to be! Here we are though, end of week four (out of scheduled 18) of our renovation (week 1 reset with the new builders - we think very little of BJAS - Before Jon Avory & Sons).

Much of what the guys have done over the last four weeks has been documented already, and week four was more of the same but also included some important milestones.

More stud wallsGing and Kev cracked on with battening all of the inside of all the external walls to no.4. These will be packed with Thermafleece before plasterboarding over. This should reduce our heat loss through the brick walls to virtually zero.

Boot room mk. 2! The frame and brick piers left by the cowboys got ripped up. A nice new concrete (sorry, we had to use some somewhere!) floor poured in, a new timber inner frame and a nice course of blockwork (which will later be rendered). Jon's been a busy boy here! And Josh just kept on mixing those mixes and clearing up others' mess! Note the outside brew station on the block.


A major event for us Matt starting to fit the Velux suntunnel. The above two photos show the sited external roof window (nice flat fit and finish - none of those hideous little crystal domes other manufacturers use) from above in the slate roof, and from inside looking up form the landing through the rafters. A mirrored rigid tube will be connected to the external window to transfer the light down through the attic and through a diffuser above the landing at the top of the stairs meaning natural light during daylight. All the latter has to wait until everything is plastered up before we can see it in action. The guys did comment just how much light this little window let through when they cut the hole in the roof to accommodate it.

And another milestone was seeing the term 'first fix' in practice! The term was consigned to memory banks long ago, and to finally see first fix electrics going in was brill. Danny (Hereward Elecrtical) and Andy came in over the weekend to first fix the inside whilst they had free run of an empty building.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Day 19 - only day 19!

It's hard to believe that we are still only in week 4! So much has happened and the guys pace is relentless.

Outside at the front, Jon sorted out the mess that was the doorway to no.4. It soon went from this . . .

. . . to this . . .
. . . to this!
Thankfully we had a large stock of recycled bricks from the various new window openings tha twe could use here. Once the mortar has dried and the bricks wiped then soon weather in. Interestingly, Alan Lamb, former occupant of nearby Crowtree Farm, told me which brick, Bundy (the stamp on the bricks) our house bricks came from! I can go and look at the flooded pit with new eyes now.

This is what the front currently looks like.

Round the back the concrete slab for the boot room floor was poured after Hunts Building Control had passed the base.
On the roof, Matt and Kev have been busy, in the wet, putting thr ridge back on over no.3. Just some more slates and the ridge to go on no.4 now. Just look at that roof - crackin'!

Here's detail of Matt's leadwork around the chimney.

Inside, Ging has been largely on his own (Sean bust his arm coming off his bike at the weekend - no sympathy from any of the lads!) and has cracked on big time getting the studwork up for the walls. Here's the studwork round the stairwell which will form the back wall of our new office space.

And here's the studwork for the new bathroom. Much more to go!

And what of Josh. Well, he's been a busy boy both here and elsewhere. He had his graduation this week (Jon swapping builder's atire to be suited and booted), was interviewed for and offered a teaching job in London, and here he's sweated his nuts off labouring for whoever needed it.

Oh, and Sean came on site today cos he was bored on his own at home! Lets see if he's fit to return to action on Monday.

One of the great feelings I have had this week is the sense of Jon and the guys now 'owning' the site. They've pretty much redone all the things the cowboys had screwed up (roof, floor, joists, boot room, etc) and the site no longer bears any resemblence to the mess the cowboys left us in. I can honestly say that it's a pleasure having Jon Avory & Sons here and it is now the renovation experience I had hoped we would enjoy. Thanks guys.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Day 15 - weathertight!

Well, for the first time in many, many months the house is again weathertight! The guys have finished creating all the new window and door openings - the two gable end window openings, two french door openings, and altered the first floor dormer windows which were too high - and once done, they could all be boarded up to keep out the elements!

Inside you can see the newly lowered window openings (the top strip was filled in later). They had been made 20cm too high! They look and feel right now and Liz can even see out of them! With the first floor dormer floor joists now finished, Sean and Ging layed the new floor.

On the roof, Matt and Kev cracked on through the crap weather (not a great week weather-wise for roofing) and got as far as they could until they ran out of slate. About 10% more to do next week.

This is what those living a little further down the drove from us see as they whizz past. Just wait until those gable end windows are in - its gonna look fab! This is what it used to look like -

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Day 13 - wet, but spirits definately not dampened!

No photos of the exterior today cos it not stopped 'issing down! The guys have been great (again), simply donning waterpoofs (for them outside) and getting on with it despite the constant rain.

Rain just doesn't dampen spirits or slow down work (not that we can see any road!). Jon finished rebuilding the back wall complete with new opening for the two french door sets; Ging and Sean completed reinforcing the floor joists to the first floor extension (nice work guys!) and fixed the brickwork around them; Kev and Matt continued on the roof until they ran out of slate (just proves how much roof surface we now have in that the old roof had a pile of slate left over, the new roof they are about 10% short); Josh laboured all day clearing barrow loads of crap, mixing barrow loads of cement, etc - not fun on a wet day! And Jon, not one for resting on laurels, began knocking out the opening for the ground floor living room window. i'm telling you, these guys graft. Everyday sees visible progress - it's great!

The three photos below show you to some extent the new open plan living room, including the new french door opening and the new opening going in for the new 2.6m wide window.

Taken from the corner by one of the french door openings.

Looking back diagonally across to where I took the above photo.

The two french door openings from taken from the same spot. Our new living room is gonna be large, bright and airy - cant wait!

A builder's brew needs sugar!

Ahead of the guys starting work on 23 June, Liz and I stocked up the essential brew ingredients - tea, milk (at least for first few days) and sugar. Day 13 and the consumption of tea and milk is as expected, but sugar consumption is amazing - they've stirred 3 kilos of sugar in 12 days into their brews! Mind you, with not a belly between them, they clearly work it all off! Builders nationally must account for a significant percentage of annual sugar sales! At least we're giving them Fairtrade (an Fairtrade tea too).

Monday, 7 July 2008

Day 11 - exposed rear!

The beginning of week three sees two new hands on deck, Jon's two other sons Josh (fresh from getting his 2:1 at uni) and young Max who is on site as part of his schools 'go to work with a parent week'. So, we now have seven (!) on sites, Jon Avory, four sons Matt, Sean, Josh and Max, Kev and, of course, Ging the Ginger Lover in all his glory!

Day 11 sees the back wall of no.4 dismantled, brick by brick. So, by mid-afternoon we had a gaping great hole in the rear of the house!

Below, young Max spends most of his time chipping off the old lime morter so as they can be re-used when it comes to refacing part of the front (replacing the painted bricks revealed by removing the front porch).

By the end of the day the wooden frames mark where the french door openings go, and the first couple of courses of breeze blocks are in.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Two weeks in and still smiling!

Well, so far so good. Each day brings a broader smile as progress continues. The week started badly of course finding out just how many more thousands we had to spend to fix the roof, the non-existant foundation for our new pillar and the upgrading the first floor floor joists - and it hurt! Alas nothing we could decide not to do, so we have to bear and grin - but the cash flow is definately not too great.

The new first floor gable end window from the inside showing the new steel lintel.

The building inspector he say 'OK' to our hole ready for filling with concrete for the new foundation of the pillar in hte middle of the living room. Neat hole! Take a bow Sean Avory. I've told Sean if I ever see a neater hole I'll send him a photo!

The guys have started building some of the internal walls (above, the other side of the all is the downstairs shower room and the doorway leads in to the corridor to the kitchen) and making ne opening - below, this is the enlarged landing opening off which will be our new office, one bedroom and one bathroom. A neat bit of work by Ging the Ginger Lover as he is known by the guys!

The whole of the new roof came off and binned. The guys put in new rafters, nicely bolted top and bottom (you should have seen the few nails the cowboys used to secure their botched job), to provide the required degree slope for the slate roof (and better than the 4 degrees under the minimum slope for slate the cowboys achieved) .

Here's Kev (left) and Matt relaying the Isolair sarking boards - 95% recycled wood mill stuff (sawdust, pulp, etc) and 5% laytex. Great U value rating will help insulate this large roof. The roofspace will be insulated with Thermafleece. Below, by the end of the week re-slating had started! What a great week for roofing. Bar one major shower, it was blue skies and suntans all round.

Its a joy to watch real builders at work. They roll up at 8 each morning, most of them clutching a tin of Red Bull for their high energy needs for the morning! Its a great spirit on site a the guys wander around in the sun in shorts and no shirts topping up their ever-present builders tans. Roll on next week!