All posts by Michael

Internal walls in place

The internal walls in place
The internal walls in place

I have found some new contractors and work has started again. The internal walls, made of very strong concrete blocks, are now in place. Excitingly the rooms are starting to take shape.

The ladder is where the stairs down will go
The ladder is where the stairs down will go
The home cinema with entrance to the wine sore off to the side
The home cinema with entrance to the wine store off to the side

Next step will be to bury the rainwater harvesting tank.

Surprise Elf & Safe Tea inspection

E & S inspector J.G.Moss
E & S inspector J.G.Moss

Industry renowned concrete expert and gastro-gnome paid a surprise inspection visit on Monday. I am pleased to report he found “a complete absence of Elves and that the tea is quite safe to drink”.

In passing he also said that the building work looked ok. Phew!

On another note, I am now optimistic of getting another contractor to complete the works in time for the timber frame erection.

A major setback

It is very noticeable that the demand for builders, support services  and materials has increased massively over the last 3 to 6 months as the economy has picked up. This makes it tricky for someone like me who is just trying to build 1 house. Services go to the larger projects or to those prepared to pay higher prices.

Last Friday 30th May at 2.30 Tom and his company Farley Groundworks left the site and took all of their equipment with them. This is a major headache for me as there is still about 2 weeks of work required before the below ground works are complete and the timber frame can be erected.

The timber frame delivery schedule has slipped to early July, so I have a month to get the remaining activities completed. I have some encouraging leads and am keeping my fingers firmly crossed.

A wet week

Difficult conditions this week with persistent rain. However there has been progress and the mood was lightened by the inspection team from Bognor Regis!

Hazel & Gareth enjoy a warming cuppa
Hazel & Gareth enjoy a warming cuppa

The external shuttering has been removed showing the reinforced concrete corbel which will carry the brick skin of the house.

Corbel to carry brick skin
Corbel to carry brick skin

The boys started building the internal block walls. This was really exciting as you could now easily see the shapes of the rooms in the basement.

Internal walls started
Internal walls started

Site party!

Several days spent stripping the shuttering, during which time a big delivery of top soil.

50 tons of top soil for the back garden
50 tons of top soil for the back garden

The boys are very tidy and the shuttering wood has been sorted and stacked.

The basement cleared, just the scaffold left.
The basement cleared, just the scaffold left.

Then this morning the crew came to remove the scaffold and reveal the new basement in all its glory.

Scaffold gone - wow its a big basement!
Scaffold gone – wow its a big basement!

To celebrate we threw a site party! Tea and biscuits in the site hut for Ann & Chris and their visitors plus Angie.

Ann's visitors at the site
Ann’s visitors at the site

A bad pour day!

The shuttering was all complete and I woke up on Friday morning to a beautiful sunny May day in eager anticipation of the concrete being poured to the top section of the basement walls. Little did I know what lay in store.

Ready to pour
Ready to pour

Everything was organised and checked for a 10 o’clock start to the concrete pour. Shortly after arriving on site at 07.45 we hit the first snag. The concrete pump was stuck in Oxford and wouldn’t be here in time for a ten start. I contacted the concrete supplier to delay the first lorry load. With the pump on site for 11 the concrete was requested – we had lost our time slot and would have to wait!

The first concrete load arrived about 11.30 and the pour started. Immediately there was a problem the mix was very lumpy and didn’t flow at all well. Very quickly it was rejected and sent back to Lafarge. The second truck arrived shortly afterwards and was also rejected. The problem seemed to be with the mix they had prepared. I had requested the same mix as was used for the lower wall pour and Phil Sacre had confirmed that with them.

Whilst the correct mix was sorted out by various phone calls the first disaster struck. The mix started to “go-off” in the pump and had to be quickly cleaned out.

A river of waste concrete!
A river of waste concrete!

With no concrete expected until after 3 I headed off to Wallingford to get fish and chips for those that wanted it. When I returned there was no concerete pump. The driver decided more serious cleaning was required and went back to the yard. I was assured another was en-route.

Making the padstones
Making the padstones

 

 

By 3.30 with no sign of the first concrete lorry everyone was getting agitated as it was approaching rush hour in Reading and trucks would get delayed in the traffic.  A new concrete pump arrived and finally the first lorry after a 1 hour journey from the plant in 21C heat. The mix was ok and the pour began. At 4.30 no sign of the second lorry and the concrete was going off in the sun!

Leveling the top of the walls
Leveling the top of the walls

When the second lorry had finished its load the walls were not complete and a further 3 cubic meters of concrete requested at 5 pm. Will they deliver at that time!

Suddenly the concrete pump driver calls for assistance to quickly clear out his pump as the concrete is setting. The boys set too with picks and probes and got the worst out. However the driver decide he needed to get back to the yard for serious cleaning before it was too late.

At 6 o’clock I had an irate concrete pump owner on the phone saying I had ruined two of his pumps and it was going to cost me! I also had 3 cubic meters of concrete on its way and no pump to deliver it! Very stressful.

Tom and the boys came to the rescue. They said they would shift it using their digger. Not optimal but it would allow us to complete the pour.

The concrete lorry reversed into the back garden
The concrete lorry reversed into the back garden
Using the digger bucket to fill the shutter
Using the digger bucket to fill the shutter

They didn’t finish until 19.30  (more than 11 hours after the start!) and there was concrete everywhere!

At least the wall pour was completed and I can survey the wreckage on Monday – after a rest and a few beers.

 

Some light relief

On the pitch at Brisbane road 13th May
On the pitch at Brisbane road 13th May

I took some time off from the trials and tribulations of the build to return to my roots. As a 10 year old my grandfather and father took me to watch Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road in the then 2nd division. This year they had a stellar season and ended up 3rd in what is now League 1 (old 3rd division). They qualified for the play-offs and had to play 6th place Peterborough home and away. Tuesday night, I and some friends went to see the return leg and watched them thrash Peterborough 2-1 and go through to the play-off final at Wembley on 25th May – the winner of that match gaining promotion to the Championship (old 2nd division). A great night and at the end the fans flooded on to the pitch to acclaim the team. We used it as a short cut to get to the Tommy Johnston bar for a celebratory pint!

Getting ready for the next concrete pour

I have supplied all of the info that the planning enforcement officer requested and now we are waiting for his decision.

Work didn’t stop as advised because I thought the risk outweighed the problem if Tom and the boy’s left the site and started another project.

Overview of the site
Overview of the site

Work is progressing on the steel and shuttering in preparation for the next concrete pour scheduled for this coming Thursday. The work is slow because of the complication of building a corbel around the basement.

James working on the corbel
James working on the corbel

The corbel sticks out 380 mm from the basement wall and must be strong enough to carry the brick façade in front of the timber frame.

West wall where the non-basement slab joins
West wall where the non-basement slab joins

 

 

Planning enforcement warning

This morning received an email from the planning enforcement officer which recommends me to stop all further work on the site because my development is now considered unauthorised!

It is disappointing that the officer seems to be listening to my neighbour without giving me the opportunity to respond. Here I am trying to behave in a responsible manner and build a house which will improve the neighbourhood. I  have consulted the neighbours and council at every stage and so I find this is very disappointing. I am trying to replace a tired inefficient  house with one which will benefit the environment in line with council’s wish list and now I get mired in red tape.

Deep breath – regroup, smile and try to get things sorted.

End of the ninth week

As we come to the end of week 9, another long weekend with the May Bank holiday, it looks as if we have 2 or 3 more weeks of groundworks left to complete.

View from the front
View from the front

There is no longer any risk of falling to the bottom of the dig so the safety fence has gone and it is easy to access the outside basement walls.

Top shuttering in progress
Top shuttering in progress

It is becoming clear there is a lot of variation in natural ground height around the basement.