19 May 2014

My Toilet Preoccupation!

Did you think that you'd heard quite enough from me about bathrooms.  If so, don't read on...I'm telling you, I can go for hours about this stuff!


I am ridiculously opinionated and have discovered that here in England I'm a bit of an oddity! Sales-staff look at me as if I have lost the plot whilst I question them in detail about their sanitary-ware.  I consider myself a true 'Northern European' now.

I like almost everything, except the extent of tiling.

I hate seeing and cleaning the visible waste pipes at the back of loos. 
I hate stupidly small flush buttons.
I hate loos that need to be flushed more than once.
I hate hard to clean angled-bowls. 

I'm collecting stories from friends and family about toilets; the seat hinges are corroded by boys peeing inaccurately, my nephews mechanically destroyed a brand new toilet seat within weeks - no one is quite sure how they did it..., toilets installed only a few years ago refusing to refill as the mechanism has broken.

18 May 2014

The windows arrive!

The windows left the Rationel factory on the exact date they had given us.  The delivery guy got a little bit confused and we ran into the Bank Holiday weekend but they got here safe and sound. Our first glimpse of the windows...

We were able to get local firm Ellis Crane Hire to come out to do the job.  They brought an absolutely massive crane to do the job, the newest in their fleet.  We couldn't have asked for a nicer or more professional team.

We discussed the huge progress there has been in the industry over the last couple of years which has now resulted in there being a lot more variety of vacuum lifting devices available now. As the lifting technology advances so can the ambition of the glazing design.  Ours needed to be slim enough to lift the windows down between the house and scaffolding.  We had occasional light rain that day, not ideal when you are trying to achieve a complete seal. I was reassured that each vacuum suction cap has an alarm which will signal if the vacuum has been compromised...as long as it doesn't go off when the window is high in the air! 

16 May 2014

Building up the roof

We will have a flat roof, this is a cost-driven design choice. Roof trusses and slates cost a whole load of extra money.  Early in the design process it was a butterfly roof but it eventually became flatter. If we are honest, this was not our first choice from a practical basis - we get a lot of rain and having it run down a steep pitch is just common sense.  However it suited the design of the building and we have been reassured that materials have improved massively to make flat-roofs a safer bet nowadays.

In order to deal efficiently with water runoff, the roof has been designed to slope gently to the centre, and then slope to the outer edges where there are downpipes.  There was a lot of last minute phonecalls between CLD and Andrew where the tension between cost and pitch were debated. With a smaller pitch the furring strips (a tapered batten) can be cut from a single piece with both sides being used.  As the pitch increased each strip would have to be cut from a single piece, doubling the cost. In the end cost was the winner, I'm sure the water will move effectively down and off the roof!

The parapet

The openings for the rooflights have been built and this means that the measurements could be passed to Roof-maker, so that they could manufacture to the exact internal measurements.  Andrew and Paul made them to precisely to the exact mm.  So retrospectively we could have put the order in earlier, as there is now a few weeks wait before they are delivered.  The rooflights will be fitted and then the Single Ply membrane installed.  At that point we will be weather-tight (except maybe for the parapet capping)!

Another development was resolving how the utilities, which currently terminate in 'The Hub', were going to be ducted into the house.  As we were perforating the building there was a lot of air-tightness and insulation issues to address.  The ducting has been done now and eventually the electricity, gas, water & telephone will be pulled through.

With the building somewhat, although not entirely, impervious to rain, the Upper floor was boarded out, which meant that we could walk around upstairs for the first time (I was not a joist-hopper like Andrew and Paul).


Cracking on!

More Belgian inspiration - Slates

Whilst in Belgium we also got a good dose of slate inspiration. New slates, old slates, new slates pretending to be old slates. They like a bit of fancy-shaped slates and fancy patterns or bonds. 

The upper storey of our house will be clad in vertically-hung reclaimed welsh slate.  So far this has not been an easy choice and one we've had to be pretty determined about pursuing.  Every roofer I contacted recommended using new slates rather than reclaimed. Reasons given were; the new slates would last longer and come with a guarantee, the job would be more difficult with reclaimed slates, they were worried about the quality of reclaimed slate supplied, there would be more sorting to do and therefore the job would take longer, and cost more money, there would be a lot more wastage involved with reclaimed slates.  But, as cost is a huge factor in our build, all new slate would have to be Spanish, whereas if we used reclaimed slate we can use Welsh slate - the best in the world!  We also loved the softness and texture that reclaimed slates would bring to building.  New slates is a very different look, very uniform and sleek, and not at all the style we want. 

The size of slate that CLD have specified has meant that the slates are too small to have new nail holes drilled, which would be normal practice when hanging reclaimed slates.  There has therefore also been a lot of discussion about the use of slate clips.  Again, this has been a source of worry for a lot of roofers.  It is not normal practice in this country. But there were advocates for clips as they will make it a lot quicker (and therefore cheaper) to replace any broken slates in future.  Either way everyone worried about how the clips would look.

In Belgium almost every slate installation we saw whether vertical, or on a pitched roof, used slate clips.  It is obviously usual practice there.  We've seen enough to know we think it looks great.  Although the clips are obvious in these pictures you barely notice them on the scale of the whole wall or roof.  Even when you do see them they are not in the least bit offensive.  It has also answered the question as to whether we should use stainless steel clips or black powder coated clips - it doesn't matter! 

I had found a supplier a couple of months ago who had the quantity I needed at a good price.  Job done I thought!  Then last week I asked for a sample slate to be posted to me and it turned out the slate was welsh purple not blue/grey, so it's back to the phones for me next week! Good job I checked before I bought - lesson learnt.

By the way, we don't want to move to Belgium!  It just happens to be very interesting to us...architecturally speaking.

8 May 2014

What a beautiful floor...

We needed to decide what floor we were going to be putting in our living areas on the upper floor.  It was always going to be a wooden floor so really the next thing was to decide whether to install Engineered or Solid-Wood boards.

I spent a number of weeks of driving all over the place, checking out what was available and what was affordable and in the end we made our choice...

Dinesen, Dinesen, Dinesen!

Dinesen floors have entered my consciousness via the vast amount of magazines I have read over the last few years.  Utterly gorgeous.  Something that I thought was unaffordable and way out of reach. Under Charlie's direction we asked for the catalogue and price list and discovered that if we chose their 'Natural Douglas Fir' product in random length (2-5m), 200mm wide boards, then the price was achievable.  This was wider and longer than most engineered products I was looking at.

2 May 2014

Our Cardboard Box

It's been bit fragmented on site over the past couple of weeks due to Easter and last minute changes to the design. This has had implications for ordering and delivery of materials to site, and the work programme has been a little bit unpredictable. It's edge of the seat stuff here (or is that fly by the seat of your pants?!).

Work continued with the steico all around the rest of the house.  

Then Andrew and Paul started to construct the window supports and sleeves.  Lovely big bits of timber to support our massive windows.

In a last minute change our sheathing board is now a new product called Timbervent.  This 12mm wood fibre board has been nailed to the outside of the steico beams.  The change is due to the fact that Timbervent is stronger and has much better breathability. It's more expensive than the board previously specified, 11mm OSB3 sheathing, so there has been an uplift in price, but we all think it's worth the improvement it brings.  In general the budget for the build is looking good at the moment.

Timbervent nailed to the ply part of the Steico Beam

Within the fabric of the building there is a gradient of breathability from the inside to the outside layers, this is to prevent condensation accumulating.  We start with concrete block, then insulation (this will be pumped in in a week or two), then the timbervent.  

Our Ibiza-style dance floor roof!

Our house now looks like a giant cardboard box.