Sunday, 24 July 2011

Week 21 - Finishing first fix electrics

This week we continued with the task of running wires and cables through the house. Certain areas of the 1st floor void are now pretty congested - it's unbelievable how many hundreds of metres of wire are required in a house.
Below, wires for the boiler are left coiled up until the boiler is fitted in position.

Below, the most congested area next to the consumer unit (fuse box). There will be a cupboard in this corner to house the consumer unit and other things like phone and internet connection and the alarm control unit, so this corner has loads of data cables leading to it as well as the electrics.

200m 1.5mm two-core and earth (lighting)
200m 2.5mm two-core and earth (sockets)
100m 2.5mm three-core and earth (switches, thermostats and smoke alarms)
25m 6mm two-core and earth (oven)
100m Cat 5 data cables (internet/networking)
100m 6-core alarm cable
50m phone line


The weather has been a lot better this weekend so fortunately we finally managed to finish off a few external snags before the scaffolding gets taken down in a few days - we've come to the end of the 10-week contract. Kai pointed the joints between the decorative stone pieces using a special bath-stone coloured mortar, although we're not convinced yet if it actually matches. We'll give it some time...

Below, the valley tiles are finally mortared in. It was a complete nightmare to do this job as the angle of the roof is slightly too steep to comfortably climb up without slipping. The edge tiles are also extremely delicate and break very easily, so we ended up placing a scaffolding board (plank of wood) either side of the valley to kneel on and spread the load - one person climbing up to apply the mortar, and the other keeping hold of the bottom of the boards to stop them sliding. I'm pretty sure this job would be a lot easier if sky-hooks had been invented.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Week 20 - Starting first fix electrics

This weekend has been so wet that we decided to make a start on first fix electrics and finish off the studwork, which allowed us to work inside.

Most of the electrics will be run in the first floor void (between the floor joists). The only electrics above the first floor ceiling are the upstairs lighting circuits, so this was pretty quick to get done. It's very easy to drill holes in the studwork and feed the wires through, clipping as you go. Soon we'll board out the studwork, but probably won't cut the holes for sockets and switches until the whole lot is plastered. This makes the plastering much easier and neater, but does mean we'll have to remember where all the wires run so that we can cut the holes in the right places!

Below, this is most of the lighting circuit done for the kitchen. The twists of cable are to allow some slack in the lighting string so that we can cut and wire the downlights in the right place after the ceiling has been plastered. We intend to use Philips 7watt LED downlights which will cost £450 approx for the whole kitchen/diner. These are equivalent brightness to an 11w energy saving unit, but with equivalent light quality of a 50watt halogen, however the electricity you save using LEDs should pay for the units in about a year. Halogens tend to blow frequently and are fairly expensive to replace, where LED bulbs should last around 50,000 hours (years)!

The kitchen lighting will be split into three separate zones - 9 downlights over the cooking area, 4 downlights over the dining area, and 4 under-cabinet LED strips to light the worktop areas. Looks like this kitchen will be lit up like a bloody Christmas tree!

 The work is being overseen by our sparky. We're doing all we can to make his life easier, labelling everything up as we go.
On all the block walls we'll be dry lining the plasterboard using dot-dab adhesive so there'll be a small void behind the plasterboard. This means there's no need to chase the cables into the walls, saving lots of time and effort. We'll just need to cover the wires with pvc capping before boarding out. Similarly the socket and switch boxes won't need to be chased in either. A 10mm adhesive void, 12.5mm plasterboard, and 3mm skim just about accommodates the 25mm boxes.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Weeks 18 and 19 - Render and plastics

Right, what a busy couple of weeks! Sorry for the delayed blog post.
The last piece to achieve wind and watertight - the front door has been installed so the house is now secure. 

 uPVC fascias, soffits and barge boards all done. These have to be fixed in position before rendering.

Kai mortaring in all the verge. This stops the wind from lifting the edge tiles and the driving raining from getting into the roof void.

Fitting the guttering. I chose ogee style over round or square - it is about one and a half times the price, but it's really posh...

The renderers prepared the house ready to render the next day. The beading strips are fitted to all the corners to form a proper edge, which makes a really neat corner when it's all rendered.

160 x 25kg bags of 'Weber,pral M' Ivory mix render - 4 tons in all. This is a one-coat through-coloured monocouche render, which out-performs traditional sand and cement renders, and shouldn't need painting for 10-15 years. The powder gets poured into a machine which adds water and squirts the sloppy mix out of the end of a hose. The team of renderers on the end of it have to work quickly to get a consistent thickness and smooth it back to a nice finish.

It took the team of 5 just one day to render the whole house. About 4 hours of squirting, followed by a 2 hour lunch break to allow it to dry a bit, then 2 hours of rubbing it back.
These guys normally work on big commercial developments (like Bristol harbourside flats) - not quite sure how we persuaded them to do our little house but I guess sometimes it's just nice to do a one-off. They were recommended by Bob the Builder. Because they work so quickly, they cost the same as if it was hand-applied, which would take a week and a half - but the quality of finish is much better because it's all applied so quickly (no drying lines, and it's applied at high pressure which helps it key  into the concrete blocks really well).
The roll of pink on the scaffolding is a special plastic mesh which they apply to areas like over windows and door heads, where the patch of render will be fairly small and needs the added mesh reinforcement to stop it cracking.

The render is still quite wet at this stage and looks quite dark. As it dries it will lighten up, and should contrast nicely with the decorative stonework around the windows.

In the meantime, Kai is going great guns with the studwork upstairs. It feels strange now that the space has been divided up into rooms.

The outside finished, and a new addition to the plot - Dobby the landrover, which should come in useful...