Inside and Outside

Laying out the first rectangle over the rain-water tank
Laying out the first rectangle over the rain-water tank

Outside

With continuing fine weather during September I started work on the deck at the back of the house. I had studiously read the recommended way to build the substructure and had the required materials delivered to site. The deck is to run straight out of two rooms – the lounge and the kitchen / diner and will wrap around. So the best way to build the complicated shapes is as a series of rectangles. The ground is also sloped and uneven, but there is only a narrow space in places between the ground and supporting timbers.

First rectangle in place
First rectangle in place

I built 37 supporting posts in total; all concreted into the ground. Once I had walked on the timbers I added additional posts (stood on bits of broken paving slab) to make it absolutely rock solid. Ground control fabric was laid under the substructure to stop any vegetation growing up through the deck.

Second rectangle almost in place
Second rectangle almost in place

In total 5 rectangles were required to complete the shape of the deck. Before the decking boards could be fitted wires for lighting were run under the structure for later connection.

Deck boards in place
Deck boards in place

68 metres square of composite deck boards were fitted to complete the surface ready for lighting and a balustrade.

Nearly 10 metres across
Nearly 10 metres across
Access panel for the rainwater harvesting tank.
Access panel for the rainwater harvesting tank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside

We did have some wet days in September and early October and I took the chance to work inside on the room that is to be my pride and joy in the basement.

Painting the ceiling and wallpapering
Painting the ceiling and wallpapering

Muted colours were used and non reflective surfaces chosen. With the room decorated and an old carpet was put down until funds allow. The screen was fitted to the far wall and the projector bolted to the ceiling.  Although a total of 9 speakers have been allowed for; I started off with my old home cinema amp and 5.1 Bose acoustimass speakers. The result is pretty good although I will in future upgrade to a Dolby Atmos amp and fit the additional speakers.

deck-cinema-5

The screen is 3.2 metres wide and 13 feet across the diagonal. The big black shape in the lower left is a bar built from black units. Two large sofas mean 7 people can sit in comfort.

deck-cinema-6

The picture quality and sound are both very good. I can run 4 video sources through the system which can be controlled by an Android app. The films and TV shows are stored on a local 4TB NAS system which has several hundred films.

Boys Toys eh!

Still working away

We have had a pretty good spring / summer in the Thames Valley and it has been ideal for working outside. I have had a fair bit of time from Martin but otherwise it has just been me working away on the front garden. First step was to clear the way for the new garden by removing the old one!

Front garden-1With the hedge gone footings were dug for a new wall. The footings were built by me and not quite to the expert standard required by my brickie! He said I caused him a lot of extra work to get the wall level. I will know better next time.

Clearing the front garden
Clearing the front garden
The new wall with our instant garden
The new wall with our instant garden

Angie was amazed one day when she arrived home from court to find I had bought an instant garden (More than 40 mature shrubs from a travelling salesman). A bit of an impulse purchase on my part but has turned out to be a really good buy.

Next came the hard landscaping which only got done in a reasonable time thanks to Martin’s hard work, mixing and laying concrete. The Indian sandstone slabs really make wonderful paths. Finally top soil to level the site and then turfs to make it finally look like a garden……

The new garden
The new garden
New driveway
New driveway

On to the back garden next – a big area of decking to build before the autumn sets in.

Starting the deck
Starting the deck

Two years on

The work of demolishing the old bungalow started on 3rd March 2014, so it is just over two years later. I moved into the house after approximately 18 months but work continues and “finishing” is still a bit away. A project like this is never really finished, because there is always something to be done. However I notice less than a 100% of my time is taken up with work on the house. I had my first game of golf for quite some while last Friday – a bit rusty but not bad.

Now
Now
Then
Then

As you can see two years has brought quite a change to the plot. Tiling the roof of the car port / bat roost is still to be completed and a lot of landscaping is still needed.

Inside the latest development was carpet in the new lounge: –

Ready for the new carpet
Ready for the new carpet
Finished
Finished

Work inside will continue for a few more weeks with two rooms left to finish (my study and the home cinema). Then in the better weather it will be time to make some decking and tidy up the garden (front and back)

 

 

New Bat Hotel to open in Streatley!

Front view of the car port
Front view of the car port

The extra building I was required to erect as part of my planning permission is nearly complete. At the initial planning phase, a survey revealed the possible presence of long-eared and pipistrelle bats in the roof of the old house. After lengthy discussions with the environmental officer a bat mitigation strategy was agreed which involved the creation of a new permanent roost for bats.

A 5 * 4 metre space in the roof for the bats
A 5 * 4 metre space in the roof for the bats

On top of the car port a dedicated space has been created with features to encourage bat habitation. A large loft with bitumen roofing felt and cross beams for the bats to hang on, has been built.

Bat ladder and gap for them to squeeze through
Bat ladder and gap for them to squeeze through

The bats will enter through a special gap created at the front of the building.

I do get something usable out of the building a large shed at the rear plus spaces for bin storage and bikes – more code for sustainable homes brownie points.

Rear section with the new shed
Rear section with the new shed

Happy New Year

Angie and Jim outside the King's Chapel
Angie and Jim outside the King’s Chapel
Tim with Ann & Chris just before the wedding
Tim with Ann & Chris just before the wedding

New Year’s Eve was very special for us as my nephew finally married his partner of 14 years! Tim & Sam are a lovely couple and we were honoured to share their special day with so many of their friends and family

Tim with his beautiful bride Sam
Tim with his beautiful bride Sam

A very lively welcoming of 2016 ensued and most of us were a bit the worse for wear on New Year’s Day. Back home on the 2nd Jan and then work started in earnest with Martin here to help erect the Bat roost.

The main uprights installed
The main uprights installed
It took four of us to install the final high level beam
It took four of us to install the final high level beam

The Bat roost is an integral part of my gaining planning permission to build my new house. West Berks had requested a bat survey and two small samples of bat droppings had been found. I discussed the matter with their environmental officer and we reached agreement that I could build a car port with a bat roost in the roof space over it

Success !
Success !
Bat roost floor goes in
Bat roost floor goes in

 

 

The whole building was supplied as a kit by Solidlox  with the main timbers and cladding in Douglas Fir. Erection should be fairly straightforward so long as the concrete base is the right size!

The first six beams went up relatively easily but the back section was much more difficult due to the shear size of the timbers and their weight. Martin and I needed reinforcements to get the last bay in place – Jim and Ben coming down to help from Oxford Renewables.

Building the side walls on the ground
Building the side walls on the ground
Rear wall in place
Rear wall in place

Once the post and beams were in place the whole structure started to lock together. Then it was a question of building the walls and inserting them into the spaces in between the posts and beams.

Lets hope the January weather stays dry and mild so that we can get the rest of walls and roof in place for the bats to arrive in the spring!

 

 

Christmas 2015

Angie, Luke, Glen & James at the torchlight procession
Angie, Luke, Glen & James at the torchlight procession

Our first Christmas in the new house started with a Christmas Eve feast then off to the torchlight procession. On Christmas Eve people descend on the two villages and at 6 o’clock they walk to the meadow in Streatley carrying flaming torches. Several thousand people congregate there around the huge bonfire to listen to the brass band and choir and sing Christmas carols. Then off to the various village pubs for the real start of Christmas.

Lizzie, Jim, Luke, James, Chris, Ann and Angie on Boxing day

We had nine around the table on Christmas day, in our new lounge which had been hurriedly decorated for the celebrations.  After the meal, Tim, Sam, Alex and Lizzie all came over to share  presents and join in the fun. Glen, Angie’s middle son set off for Brazil with his girlfriend on Boxing day.

A game of "Cranium" went on long into the evening
A game of “Cranium” went on long into the evening

Boxing day lunch preceded various party games before settling down to watch the latest Agatha Christie remake.

A very successful time really made the house feel like a home at last.

Much to do in the New Year though.

 

Merry Christmas!

Us at the Taj Mahal
Us at the Taj Mahal

Angie & I returned from a well earned holiday in India. A fantastic experience, but left us totally unprepared for Christmas. I prepared a book of our travels which you can access by clicking below.

Fortunately Sidney was on hand to help out.

Helping to dress the tree
Helping to dress the tree
Chocolates in my Advent calendar
Chocolates in my Advent calendar

 

Playing marbles after the hard work of putting up the decorations
Playing marbles after the hard work of putting up the decorations

Angie & I will spend our first Christmas in our New Home with her three boys, James and probably Chris and Ann for Christmas dinner. I have been rushing to get the lounge ready in time for Christmas and it is going to be ok.

We wish all our friends a very Happy Christmas and a successful New Year.

Love Mick & Angie x

Our fist Pellet delivery

Pellets arrive
Pellets arrive

Up until now the heating and hot water has been running on wood pellets delivered in 10 kg bags. It was now time to test the pellet store which has been constructed in the basement. It is about 11 cubic metres in volume and capable of holding about 9 tons of wood pellets. For our first delivery I decided to play safe and have 3 tons delivered just to check all was ok.

Pellets pumped into the underground store
Pellets pumped into the underground store

The pellets were pumped in via an inlet built into the wall – directly into the store. Straight away it was obvious there were a few problems. Dust started to billow out from the store as the small gaps in the internal structure were found by the delivery. Then the temporary door I had fitted was found wanting as it started to buckle under the weight of pellets.

Some spillage from the pellet store
Some spillage from the pellet store

A few emergency screws and then the whole delivery was finished. I learned a lot about the process, and once this lot has been used up and I can get back into the store I will make some remedial works to make sure it is fine in future.

This should be sufficient pellets to last about 18 months. In the bottom of the store is an Archimedes screw which feeds the pellets automatically to the boiler.

Angie moves in – 29th October

Champagne & Chinese - perfect!
Champagne & Chinese – perfect!
Removal men amongst the builders
Removal men amongst the builders

With work ongoing but Angie’s house in Stokenchurch sold it was time to try and make some order so that Angie could move in as planned. Unfortunately it rained on the day which didn’t help with the move but I had put some shingle down in the key areas to minimise the mess.

Precious plants and leather sofas etc.
Precious plants and leather sofas etc.

It took most of the day but by the end we could relax and enjoy a well earned bottle and a takeaway.  There is still a lot to do before Mark (our lodger) moves in on Tuesday and even more before we can have a house warming party – probably in the new Year.

 

A calm space in the kitchen /diner
A calm space in the kitchen /diner

Landscaping works

Sidney on the digger
Sidney on the digger

With a moving in date for Angie now decided it is all hands to the pumps to get as much done as possible before then. Key is to try and complete all of the messy jobs. Sidney came over one Sunday and helped me with the digger install some of the rainwater collection pipes.

Pipes draining into the rainwater harvesting tank.
Pipes draining into the rainwater harvesting tank.
Footings for the garage
Footings for the garage

Meanwhile Graham and Michael are busy  building the foundations for the garage / bat roost.

 

….. and I found time to build the wardrobes for the basement bedroom designed and supplied by Tanya at Number Eighty one.

wardrobes-1

An eco friendly retirement project