Monday, 31 December 2012

The Start of an exciting New Year Ahead

I can't say that I'll be sorry to say goodbye to 2012 with all the stresses of planning the build from the initial work with the architect through planning permission to choosing a builder and raising the funds (though some of it's been fun) but I'm very excited about the New Year to come!!

As you can see from the photo we have the small beginnings of the walls so we can only go upwards from here.... We'll be in our new home for 2013!! WHOHOO!!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Ring Beam

After the piling the ring beam is built which joins all the piles together and forms a strong base on which to start building.

Lots of rainy weather but Graham and his gang of youths got on with it, digging, lining with the yellow stuff and inserting the rebar ready for the concrete to be poured. It all looked so lovely .........but then the NHBC inspector arrived on site and he said NO STOP!!!

He wanted the foundation dug 50ml deeper, a layer of sand put on the bottom and then a layer of cellcore (as you can see in my cool picture below) to allow for heave before the yellow stuff etc is laid.

So a great upheaval ensued. So annoying, but we obviously have to keep all these people happy. Even though building control and our structural engineer were satisfied with it as it was we won't get our NHBC certificate or our mortgage unless we conform to all the NHBC demands.

Next time we were on site it looked like vandals had been rampaging........

How depressing was that!!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Good Bye to the Piling Rig.... Phew!!!

After all the problems we had while they were on site we were very glad to see the back of these guys.....Byeeeee!!

Two Weeks in One Major Problem

You would think that plotting out the site would be not too difficult but when everyone seems to be working from a different angle it's not plain sailing!
One thing that Will and I have always been ultra aware and worried about has been the drain on the East side of the plot and Southern Water's stipulation that any building has to be at least 3 metres from it (leaving a pretty useless strip of land between us and the neighbour on the wrong side of the house) but when Will visited the plot during said plotting out what did he find? Of course, they've marked the house out within the 3 metre restriction area!!
That rectified, the pilers got on with the plotting out and wasted no time before they started drilling ...... unfortunately a little too soon - 3 piles are in the wrong place. All went on hold while we established what had gone wrong and how to put it right. The pile layout was provided by our structural engineer but apparently one coordinate was incorrect, only one mind, but unfortunately the pilers used this coordinate to work from. They could have worked perfectly well from the measurements and then we wouldn't have had a problem but hey ho it's done.
Will & the builders had various calls with the structural engineer and eventually got him to make some calculations and he made some alterations to the ring beam in order to carry the load in the small area of the 3 offending piles. We had a few anxious days but now on to getting on!!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Foundations begin with Piling

We have to have piled foundations due to both the soil type on the plot which is a dense London clay and the sloping nature of the site. This doesn't come cheap so unfortunately a lot of our costs are going deep into the ground never to be seen again. 
We are having 22 piles which support the ring beam on which the house will be built. Our piles have to be friction piles as opposed to bearing piles. Bearing piles are driven down through soft soil until they reach a firm base on which to support the load but friction piles rely on creating friction between the pile and the surrounding soil so the load is transferred downward and laterally into the soil.

Friction Piling

You can see a very big drill bit stuck in the earth here!

The 30mm wide holes are drilled deep into the ground, then a ReBar is sunk into the tunnel like hole which is filled with concrete thus creating an incredibly strong concrete and steel column....... ta da, there's a little lesson and that's as much as I know (and probably will ever need to know) about piling.

It wasn't completely known how deep the piles would have to be until the rig started drilling - in the end the deepest piles are 17 metres deep and shortest 11 metres - our house isn't going anywhere, I'm guessing if we had a landslide we'd still be sitting pretty in our house on stilts!!

We have a portaloo, electricity and water....

and the dog on site.

At vast expense and after numerous phone calls with the utility companies we are connected (though these are only temporary for the duration of the build and then there will be more expense and more phone calls to make them permanent once the house is complete) and the builders have their "restroom".  Ha, I won't be going anywhere near that!

Buddy and I surveying the site - Happy :)

Action at Last!!

Nice neat bit of digging - Second week in October the digger came on site and started plotting out the house... So exciting that something's going on!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Tenders etc

So, what's been going on since my last post? As usual a lot of waiting on the architect!
During the summer they were working on the tender document to send out to builders and my, did it take some time. I know that their job is to get as much information in the document as possible in order for the quotes to be accurate but everything seemed to be incredibly slow.

Apparently it's standard for builders to need 4 weeks to get together their prices so the tenders were sent out to 4 builders and Will & I contacted 3 independently. After a couple of weeks one of the building companies (Hare Builders) requested an extra week - and we stupidly said "OK" so it went on an extra week. The prices were amazingly varied with the highest being Hare, £200k above the bottom two!!
During the process we contacted and met with 2 of the architect's builders and one who we contacted directly. For us, we knew that we needed to be able to get on with the contractor and hopefully get a good working relationship going with them, as we had realised by this point, that we would want deal directly with the builder during the build foreseeing problems if we kept the architect in control.

We made our decision on price, of course, but also on personality. It came down to two companies in the end and we chose the company who appear happy to deal direct with us, listen to us and work together with us. They are a very small company but really keen to build something a bit interesting and high spec and concentrate solely on our project. They've quoted a 32 week build which takes us to May next year.... if we're in then we will be SO chuffed!!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Code 3 it is..

Oh my, I'm bad at this blogging lark.  I've just got back on it because at last we have some stuff going on & taking a look at my last post realised that I never concluded that little chapter in the story of our build.
After much pestering by phone & email the council caved & gave us an answer. Yes, we can build to code 3 with the condition that we do everything we said we would in our letter of appeal. That's fine, we're happy!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Planning Department - A Law unto Themselves

One of our planning conditions was to achieve Code 4 of Sustainable Homes which I won't knock because the intentions are good but there's no differentiating between the solo builder and the developers, we are all treated the same.
Canterbury City Council have a policy of requiring Code 4 where other neighbouring councils ask for Code 3 and some councils don't ask for any. This all works on a points system divided into categories such as energy efficiency, water usage, materials, waste etc etc. We reach Code 4 on many of these areas but when totalled up just come short and in order for us to get all the points required we would have to spend a whole lot of money that we can't afford on a heat pump so we have applied to the council to vary the condition to allow us to build to Code 3.

The decision should have been made yesterday but can we get an answer from the council? For the last few weeks I have been trying to call the case officer for this application & all I ever get is a recorded message saying that she's on extended leave until April - it's now May! When I speak to anyone else at the council they tell me that she is now back at work but on light duties working only Wednesday & Friday mornings so I call every Wednesday & Friday morning & still only get the recorded message... aaaargh!!!!

We are now a day past decision date & are still none the wiser, how is it that they get away with treating people like this? It is so frustrating & inconsiderate. Phew that's better, I've got that off my chest!!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Elevations of Property

At last I've worked out how to change the format of the architect's images of the the proposed build to put on this blog so here they are .....

South Elevation at top facing the street and North Elevation at the bottom looking out over the back garden and the views to the sea

East and West Elevations

Cross Section showing levels

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Planning Permission Granted!!

Check out the link Oh my this put a smile on our faces!!!  And we had no opposition from any local residents so we are very grateful to have such lovely future neighbours!

Click this link to see our conditions (we've been lucky :))

Planning Permission...GRANTED!!!


I know I've been very bad at keeping up this blog but this last few months have been very tedious....
We had the joy of getting our planning permission passed in January & I naively thought "hey hey here we go"!!! How wrong I was!

It would appear that we need numerous weeks for every kind of report to be done from surface rainwater run off through thermal calculations to our inside leg measurement before we can go anywhere with this thing. So, to start, we had a 8 hour meeting with our architect, yes 8 whole hours with no food and no break. My head was banging by the time I went home!! Friends have asked me, 'what did you talk about?'  and I have to say it's a very difficult question to answer but the honest answer is, every little detail of the build. We probably did an hour on drains..... (I found my mind wandering at this point), they want to know what taps we want, what precise tile we want in the bathroom & so on. This seems far too early to make decisions when all we have is a plot of earth with a shed on it but we're told they need to know all this to prepare the tender documents for the builders. I think my beloved did a good 30 minutes on how he wants the skirting boards to be....(head banging against the  

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Headaches with Southern Water's Drain

When we bought the plot we knew that a public sewer ran down the East side of the plot near to the boundary and knew that this would affect the build, however, we didn't realise how difficult it would be to talk to someone at Southern Water about it.  Infact, it's not possible to talk to anybody at Southern Water!! They use a consultancy called Atkins to deal with these sorts of things who were very vague and non committal.

Before we could take the plans any further we needed to know for definite how close we could build to the drain.  Baring in mind that we were told that they need 24 hour access to the drain for checks, maintenance etc it was stunning to find out that they didn't know for sure the diameter of of said drain and without that they couldn't give us an answer. The biggest indignity was that we would have to fork out £850 for them to send a camera down it to find the answer! If the drain was of a larger diameter we would only be able to build 4 metres from it unless we paid for a "build over" whereby they may let us build closer but on the condition we pay a further £850 at the end of the build to make sure that we hadn't damaged the drain & sign something to say we would be responsible for any damage to the drain at a later date.

Survey Drawing
You can see the line of the drain on the right of the plot with the man hole covers shown with circles.  Actually on the ground only 1 man hole cover was exposed.

We had no choice but to pay the fee for them to check the drain which probably took one man half an hour.  We were lucky though, the drain was found to not be such a major one and we were granted permission to build 3 metres from the drain. A result but a very expensive one!!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Catching up....Preliminary Sketches

Am realising it's a very long time since my last post so a little catching up is needed!
A lot has happened but very very slowly....frustrating as we just want to get started. The best day was going back to the architect after leaving him with our brief for some weeks. He produced a very simply drawn plan of his idea but, although simple, he had to talk us through it as it had curved walls, split levels etc so not easy to interpret to the untrained eye!
These are the sketches he showed us;

Front & East ElevationsCross Sections
Plan of ground Floor

Basically he's gone for a boat shape (due to Will having spent his whole working life with boats of  all different shapes and sizes).  When you look down on the plan you can see the curved walls like a hull.

There is a double height hall open to the roof with a glazed metre wide strip that runs over the whole of the house from North to South which should bring in lots of light and warmth from the sun, or "solar gain" as they say in the trade! There is a cloakroom and Utility Room on the same level and a short flight of steps down to living areas and another up to the mezzanine landing.

The living room is off to the left with 2 floor to ceiling windows looking towards the sea and the kitchen to the right. We had made a big thing about the importance of a good sized kitchen & dining area to us and this space should be wonderful. There are 2 steps down to the dining area with a waist height wall dividing the 2 spaces and nearly all the end wall is glass out to the garden and view.

The first floor has a mezzanine landing and a floating bridge across the void to Ruby's room. There are 3 bedrooms each with an ensuite and all interesting in their shape & glazing.

Finally there's a single garage the roof of which extends to the spare bedroom creating a covered outside area.