Sunday, 18 December 2011

Goodbye static caravan

An early start on December 10th to get the caravan taken away. Having sold it on ebay the week before to a guy wanting to do his own selfbuild, it was time for the caravan to get collected.
We had to do a bit of work to replace a buckled wheel with a new one, but other than that the caravan was in pretty good nick and we pulled it as far out of the plot as possible using the Landrover with no trouble.

The truck arrived about 9, as we were hoping to get the caravan loaded up and gone before the traffic got too heavy.

And we're left with space for a garden - we'll work on this in the spring. Right now the priority is to enjoy Christmas at The Laurels. Nadolig Llawen! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Week 36 - We're in!

The last week we've had a flooring fitter in to carpet upstairs and lay the engineered oak floor downstairs. We would never consider laying carpet ourselves as you just can't achieve the same finish as a professional. We've never had much luck with carpet fitters before and always been slightly dissapointed, we certainly wanted someone who was going to look after our freshly glossed skirting! We found a guy called Spike by recommendation, he's good at carpet fitting and laying wood flooring so we just let him get on with both which has saved me having to do the wood ourselves and freed us up to keep going with the long list of little jobs that need finishing off.

The bathroom is functional now but we still have to find time to scrub the grout residue off the tiles and only half the room has sealant around the edges, definitly not enough hours in the evenings for all of these little jobs.

We spent quite a while looking at different wood flooring and in the end settled for just an ordinary Tongue and Groove board that was suitable for glueing down to the concrete. It's suprisingly difficult to find anything other than the 'click' system flooring now which needs to be floated on a felt underlay/membrane. You end up with a slight bounce if you use that stuff and it doesn't work so well with the underfloor heating, our glued down floor is really firm and seems to transmit the heat well.

Iona has been taking a well earned rest on our newly aquired sofas and we've been generally basking in the warmth and comfort of our amazing new house - it's beyond our expectations and living in the static caravan for 6 months has definitely made us more appreciative of the creature comforts.

We're by no means finished, there's a long list of things to snag inside and a few quite large tasks to complete outside, but the pressure feels like it's off and we can afford to take a little more time to relax now rather than work flat out all the time. As such blog entries may be a little more sparodic from now on.

Major tasks left are:
  • Sell caravan and remove from site
  • Dig soak aways and lay the rainwater drainage
  • Move shed into rear garden
  • Grade the driveway back from the road, lay 16tons of hardcore and 10tons of gravel
  • Build the canopy porch over the front door
  • Build the decking to the rear of the house
  • Stone walling, fencing, turfing, pathways and flower beds
If anyone fancies popping in for a visit please get in touch, we're more than happy to show off the fruits of our labours!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Weeks 34 and 35 - A deadline looms

About 8 weeks ago we set ourselves the vague dealine of being in by end of October..... The carpets and Oak flooring are going to be laid this week so we've pretty much done it, no more decorating or messy work allowed inside after that, although there will be a snagging list to work our way through of course. We aim to move in on Friday the 4th, all being well.

We've been working extremely hard for the last two weeks getting lots of jobs done. Kai finished the kitchen, only the door handles need to be put on the cupboards now. We're over the moon with how the kitchen has turned out, it's a dream kitchen we thought we would only see in glossy magazines, and everything is laid out just as we want it so it should be a joy to cook in!

The boiler has been boxed into its own wall cupboard so that it blends in nicely with the rest of the kitchen units. It needed a bit of jiggery pokery with a filler strip as it stands a little pround from the other wall units but looks s good now. Kai covered and plastered in the pipes in the wall to get our seemless splashback with no horrible boxing, just needs a lick of paint now.
The patch on the ceiling is a repair to a section we had to cut out in a hurry to locate a water leak that the gas man left us as a gift! Sloppy soldering had left the joint dry which withstood pressure testing when cold but when the pipe heated up it sprung a leak! The water damage was minimal but still annoying, if you want something doing properly, do it yourself...
 Having grouted the travertine tiles, the floor looks fantastic. Skirting is on in the kitchen and just waiting for glossing and final colour on the walls (when we can decide what colour!)

Kai hung the glazed door to the kitchen, while I faffed about with preparing the stair ballustrading for the mind-numbing task of glossing...


Yet more glossing.

The sink for the wc in position. This will have a cupboard built underneath to hide the underfloor heating manifold and controls.


Kai's pleased with his efforts at plastering the side of the stair, a bit wobbly at first after nearly 2 years without touching a float but he's achieved a good finish that you can't tell apart from the professionally done wall opposite. It definitely reaffirmed that he doesn't like plastering, and it was money well spent to get someone in to do the majority of the work.  Just one more coat of gloss to go on the stair ballustrade...

Seeing as the weather's turned cold, we thought it's probably worth getting round to insulating the loft. Better to keep all that heat in than pump it all out the roof. 300mm of glass fibre insulation should do the trick. We're still getting to grips with the heating system, the undefloor heating seems to work really well and just gives off a gentle, constant heat throught the day, hopefully all this insulatuion will pay off and keep the bills down.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Weeks 32 and 33 - Kitchen, painting, joinery

Well another busy two weeks! We have cranked up the pace a bit and are generally putting in several hours an evening as well as working long hours on the weekends. All in aid of trying to get the house ready to move in by the end of October. We're still not yet sure if we'll manage it, but it's no big deal if we're in a couple of weeks after that. We may have to start wearing more jumpers while we're in the caravan though since the temperature has dropped a bit!

Thanks to Nans and Rob for coming and helping for a day, we managed to get a lot more painting done. Feels like the painting is never ending, but I'm getting there gradually. All the rooms have had a base coat, and the bedrooms have all now had a finish coat.


Kai managed to get all the radiators fixed onto the walls today, and he also did the skirting boards and architrave for the three bedrooms. I suppose I'd better start glossing soon, lots of calking and filling to do first though!


Kai spent most of last weekend tiling the kitchen floor, and did a fanstastic job of it. We're really glad we chose the Travertine tiles which are quite expensive but they look superb. And Colin's tile saw cut through them like butter, couldn't have done the job without it.


The range cooker, fridge freezer and cooker hood were delivered last week so the kitchen is starting to look more complete. The range cooker won't be put in place until the gas man has sorted out the gas pipe for it, and the floor tiles have been grouted and sealed. We're really looking forward to our first dinner using the range cooker!


We've gone for integrated appliances because the overall look of the kitchen will be more stunning.


Kai got the first section of worktop fitted in place. We've gone for a square edged laminate work top. We did consider using higher spec acrylic composite worktops which look like granite, but they cost about five times as much as laminate worktop and in the end they look quite similar!

For the splashback we sourced a sheet of stainless steel 2.5m x 1.25m x 0.9mm thick directly from Aalco wholesalers. Cost around £120, which is great considering you normally pay about £80 for a tiny 600mm x 600mm sheet. It's really tough stuff to cut, eats through cutting disks on the grinder and if you try and drill it with normal drills it just makes loads of heat, so we had to crack out the special Cobalt tipped drills normally kept sharp for really tough stuff!

Oh, and Kai managed to find time to install the shower enclosure! Can't wait till the boiler is commissioned and we can try out the new shower! The grouting is coming along bit by bit and once done we can get sealant on all the edges and corners.


Wales and West utilities finally got the gas line connected to the main, only took about 8 weeks in the end. To our dismay they turned up at 8am on a Sunday and started sawing up the road with big petrol saws and using a jack hammer on the digger; I'm very grateful we have such tolerant neighbours and I promise this is the last time we're going to have the road dug up......

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Week 31 - More painting, bathroom and kitchen

Yet another busy week has flown by. I gave the remaining bedroom a base coat which just leaves the hall and landing to be painted - a mammoth task I'm not looking forward to!

The kitchen units were delivered on Friday so I spent some time putting together the large corner units. Most of the other units come ready-assembled and are much higher quality than you'd get from B&Q.


Kai did a great job of tiling the bathroom and getting the suite and shower plumbed in, the shower controls are all embedded in the stud wall which makes it look really neat and stylish. We're really pleased with the way everything looks, we find it hard to imagine what the finished product might look like so it's always a bonus when it turns out good! We will grout the tiles this week and get the shower screen installed and with a dob of paint we will have the first room pretty much finished.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Week 30 - Boiler, electrics and tiling underway

This week we had lots of goodies to play with, and had a number of different jobs to be getting on with. Kai got the underfloor heating manifold assembled and connected it up to the pipes in the floor. We pressure tested the system for a 24 hour period and it looks like we are leak-free.

 A huge thanks to Colin and June for coming to help this weekend - Colin for his pipe-bending expertise and June for her interior design advice.
The pipes to the boiler are now all in their place, with a hole cored ready for the flue.

The boiler is now in position. Just a few minor details need sorting before we can commission it - a gas supply would help but Wales and West Utilities are being a bit slow, having forgotten to bring the traffic lights last time they tried to dig up the road...

Using Colin's tile cutting machine (thanks very much for letting us borrow this amazing piece of kit!) Kai has got off to a great start with tiling the bathroom. Once it is completely tiled then we can install the rest of the bathroom suite.

We are using a shower waterproofing kit, which basically involves painting a sort of barrier liquid over the shower area. This means we'll have two waterproof layers (tiles and the barrier) to stop leaks happening.

Our electrician has also been beavering away getting sockets wired up. A few more days' work from him and we should be lit up like a Christmas tree

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Week 29 - Plastering complete, starting second fix

The plasterer finished off  the rest of the house by Wednesday, a total of 5 days for him to do the whole house on his own - pretty impressive and we're very happy with the standard of his work. We can't stop running our hands over the walls they are that smooth! Overall plastering has worked out a lot cheaper than we expected, definitely worth getting someone in to do it.


With plastering completed we are officially onto second fix, which meant we could go and buy lots of goodies! Outgoings have been pretty tame recently so our bank manager must have had a shock when we went and ordered the heating system, kitchen, bathrooms, electrics and tiles all in the space of a few days. Should give me plenty to be getting on with.


This weekend I made a start on the bathroom. I'm quite paranoid about leaking bathrooms now after seeing (and usually having to fix) plenty of failures, so I'm making sure there is a double waterproof barrier as you would find in a wet room. The first barrier is achieved with a waterproof membrane, a wet room would use a much more sophisticated membrane but just ordinary DPM left over from the floor slab will do for us just fine. Over this is laid WBP (Weather and Boil Proof) ply wich doesn't fall apart when it get's wet, unlike normal plywood. We will tile directly onto this which forms our second waterproof barrier.

The shower tray has been bonded into place, I'm pretty sure you would have to lift the floor if you wanted to take the shower out now. The waste has been connected up and sealed with silicone to be doubly sure.


The bath has been framed out with sturdy 3" x 2". I hate the flimsy feet supplied with baths and would rather build something more suitable for the weight of a grown man plus 50kg of water! The more rigid everything is the less likely you will get movement causing leaks. We're quite pleased with the small boxing around the waste to the toilet, generally the bathroom has very simple clean lines thanks to the plumbing under the floor. The toilet and bath are all plumbed in now and ready to go but we won't switch everything on until we have tiled.


Iona has started spraying the whole house with her new spray system. It seems quite a bit quicker than using rollers and brushes but it certainly isn't a miracle worker, there is a lot of prep needed and it still makes a fair mess. Were thinking it's OK while the house is empty but it might not be as useful for applying the final colour.

This is just a couple of coats to white everything out so we have a good base to start from. It looks really striking and will be a shame to have to add colour on top of it.

We took the opportunity to cut the holes for the downlights before painting while you could still see the joint lines between the plasterboards and could use them to help show you where the joists are within the ceiling void. As it happened, our recorded positions of the wires above were perfect and we didn't have any problems pulling them through.


I couldn't resist adding ballustrades and the handrail to the stairs at the end of the day, still a little work to finesse it but it looks great so far. Just need to decide what we want on the tops of the newel posts, something simple I think.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Week 28 - Plastering and drainage

Kai and I both took time off work this week to get all the digging done for the new permanent service connection.


First off was a trench dug perpendicular to the road for the gas connection. The gas pipe is normally laid straight in the trench but where you are in close proximity to other services like ours it's advisable to lay a conduit, which is what we've done. This also allows us to backfill now rather than leave the trench open for 2 weeks which is when the gas company has booked us in for. The conduit is 63mm perforated conduit and they said it must be yellow. The electricity cable laid in April crosses the new trench, so this required some careful digging to uncover. We've taken the opportunity to lay some black conduit  alongside the gas and left an access pit as we backfilled so we can pull through the new cable when the connection gets swapped over to the permanent meter box on the side of the house in a week.

Next up was some careful trenching around the back of the house. There was virutally no room to manoeuver with the tail of the digger swinging uncomfortably close to the house. We dug the trench 750mm deep all the way to the front of the drive for the MDPE water supply pipe to be laid within a bed of sand. We then backfilled the trench to different levels sloping upwards from the drain connection point and compacted it to ensure no settlement will occur. Some careful levelling with the dumpy level got our falls bang on the 1:80 and 1:40 required.

The deeper drains along the side of the house have 420mm diameter manholes where the waste pipes exit the building. At the rear we have smaller 320mm diameter inspection chambers. You require manholes at every intersection and change of direction of the pipe - seems excessive at first but if anyone has ever tried to clear drains of blockages then you will appreciate the access.

We air pressure tested the drains - not a single leak, and passed the building inspection without a hitch. 2.5tons of pea gravel ensured everything was bedded in nicely. It's unbelievable how much you need, it just seems to go nowhere!

The digger made light work of closing all the trenches where it could get access, and at the end of four days and many rain showers all we have to show are 4 new manhole covers, a site which looks like it's been ploughed and a grand less in our pockets!


While we were busy making a mess outside our plasterer, Troy, was busy inside making our walls look beautiful. He's only done a couple of days so far and managed three complete rooms which look superb. He's working on his own so although he's pretty quick he's going to take most of this week to finish. Time isn't important for this bit, we want his quality to remain good so he can take as long as he needs.


The plaster is a 3mm skim, so it only takes a couple of days to go pink at which point we can get some paint on it. We're waiting for delivery of a semi-professional spray paint system which will make light work of getting a couple of coats on the wall. That will be the priority while there's nothing in the house - just mask off the windows and doors and everything else can get sprayed white!