Pictures of Graham + Sues Selfbuild
This is the story of Graham + Sues Selfbuild. Graham is the Chairman of the
Association of Selfbuilders and would welcome any new members. The ASB is a non
profit organisation and its basically a group where you can meet other selfbuilders and swop ideas.
w/c 26 April
& w/c 3 May 1999
- After owning our site for nearly 3 years we
- On Monday in the pouring rain, Eric, the
Foreman, arrives and we walk over the site talking about the house and what
we know about the site. A little later the JCB roars though the gate!
- As the week progresses we see the grass, topsoil
and the sub soil stripped away and put into neat little (?) piles . The 5
tonne dumper certainly makes it seem very easy.
- At last the Herefordshire planning dept tree man
arrives (we have been be chasing the Planners for weeks!) and agrees that
the English oak that is only 5m away from our N-W wall should come down.
- We hire a jet spray and clean the stables for
what seems the first time in years ready for the new stable and storeroom
doors to be fitted.
w/c 10 May
- An exciting week. However, we start badly
by hearing that Eric (Site Foreman) has been rushed to hospital with a
collapsed lung. Our contractors Owen Pell arrange for another Foreman,
Joe, to take over.
- As our site has a slope in 2 directions we need
to step the foundations, so Joe spends most of Wednesday, 'shuttering
up' as he puts it.
- On Thursday we have our first load of concrete,
8 yd³ on an 8-wheeler. After reversing 300 yds up the lane the driver
negotiates our site entrance and arrives. The dumper and JCB work furiously
transferring the concrete. The lorry departs leaving the team to start
moving the concrete around and finally use a float to finish the surface.
- We sit like young excited children and take
pictures. After the third load the excitement is waning!
As for the fourth we are old hands!
- On the financial front we sell our house in
Maidenhead for the second time and the C&G confirm they will grant us a
mortgage to improve our existing site buildings.
- Allen Brothers, after a lot of chasing, tell us
that the windows/doors will be delivered 4 weeks later than originally
promised - a communications difficulty. After Graham talks with the MD
we don't shift the date but we do get a discount and help with their
installation if the timber frame erection team have left our site .
- Graham gains his 'bonfire badge' at the second
attempt and we burn a lot of the boughs and tree stumps.
w/c 17 May
- By Wednesday the concreting is complete and looks
good - congratulations to the Owen Pell team!
- Eric (Site Foreman) is out of hospital and talks
of returning to light duties next week.
- The site entrance is widened and the 8 wheeler
delivering blocks sails through!
- During discussions about the patio quote with
Owen Pell we agree to leave it to later due to costs and the logistics of
the patio v the timber frame erection.
- Graham saves some £6k by redesigning the foul
drainage route and approach - thanks to Fred Newman from NHBC for his
w/c 24 May
- Eric returns to work - we are very pleased to see
- The blockworking team arrive and begin work,
it is slow to start with as they learn about our building and understand our
needs. We are excited as we watch the house, albeit the foundation blocks to
bring the base level, begin to take shape.
- We received a phone call from Martyn Hocking,
Editor of Build It. We had written to him about our web site and he
wishes to visit us and write a before and after article. Apparently
our Vat comments on the zero rating of alterations to listed buildings is of
interest. We meet with him next week.
- We are now actively seeking our next series of
tradesman, brickies, roofers etc.
w/c 31 May
- David Bateman of Oregon Homes calls by with his
wife Kay. We talk over the house and agree that a delivery date
of w/c 15 June is more realistic. Apparently some information is still
outstanding from the structural engineers. A rocket is called for!
The erection team will confirm that an artic can get into and out of our
- The blockworking of the walls is complete.
- On Thursday the 360° tracked JCB arrives to fill
in the void under the ground floor. Within a few hours all of the non
organic spoil near the house is scoped up and placed in each room void.
- Next the 360° tackles the stump of the oak
tree we took out - within minutes it is out!
- Martyn Hocking, Editor of Build It, spend a few
hours with us talking about our house and the VAT implications. Later he
tells us that we will appear in the August edition.
- Eric and his team start to lay the RCM beams on
the load bearing walls. All is not going well - Eric is seen huddled
over the drawings several times and we hear suggestions being put forward!!
Later we hear that RCM have got the drawing a little wrong. Eric goes
off with a headache telling us that he has the RCM and Tudor Builders
Merchants rep coming out on Monday.
- We are still having problems with the timber
frame. It appears that the Structural Engineers are not responding and are
now holding things up! Graham talks to a partner who says he
will go and see where things are. We never hear from him but on Sunday
the fax comes alive with 7 pages of responses.
w/c 7 &14
- Graham disappears off on business for a week
leaving Sue to sort things out.
- Eric comes along with an idea and after much
discussion with RMC agree that a revised scheme can be used. A lot
more blocks will have to be cut.
- Whilst all this is going on the 360° is
used to take up the path adjacent to the stable. We soon find out that
like the garage we have no foundations. The building is built directly
onto the mudstone rock!! After a few phone calls
(architect/structural engineer) we agree that Owen Pell will build an
additional foundation wall back filled with a dry mix to hold everything in
place. Sue takes some photo's just in case.
- By the end of the week Eric and team have laid
all the blocks and are talking of being off site in a weeks time.
- Graham disappears off again - this is becoming a
- Owen Pell finish off some of the extra jobs we
had asked them to do, such as placing a concrete retaining wall around the
base of the stable block, and the service trench etc. At the a very
good job, well managed and good work - we can certainly recommend their
service, mind you we have not had the bill yet!
- Sue joins Graham in Maidenhead to pack up all
those things one accumulates over 20 years.
w/c 28 June
- The timber frame arrives on Thursday - fun in the
lane with 2 artics! During the day the JCB rough terrain fork
lift breaks down 3 times - a new one is promised for the morning.
- At 8am we have a crane so the panels start to go
- Later on Friday just as Graham is about to follow
Sue to Maidenhead to meet the removal van he sees floor panels being forked
on to the first floor. The erection team say they will be
permanently fixing the floor panels over the week end. Oh no they
cannot as we have to install underfloor heating first! After
some discussion we agree that they will temporarily lay them to provide a
safe working area - they can come up later for the heating installation.
- We have just received the August Build It
magazine with the feature on our house!
w/c 5 July
- All our furniture arrives from Maidenhead and we
store it in the various buildings.
- During the week the panels keep going up.
- On the Tuesday we have a delivery - this time we
are well prepared with diversion signs and all goes well
- Graham's parents arrive to watch the building
work for a couple of days.
- The windows (all but one and no doors!) arrive.
It appears that Allan Brothers sub-contractor is still behind!
- During the week we have a problem or two.
There seems to be some confusion about who installs the window and the
dining room supporting pillar. We state our case, Oregon Homes agree
but Oregon Timber Frame need time to think. We await Monday!
- The scaffolding team from Border Scaffolding
Services are due on Thursday. A telephone call says they will
run a little late. They do not turn up! Sue takes a call from their
Manager he finds out that she can bite! They will come on Friday and work
the week end - they are not happy people - tough!
w/c 12 July
- The team keep working away - they work hard over
- The next crane is due at 8 am on Tuesday to lift
the roof beams into place - Graham passes it on his way to London!
- The changes are less noticeable now as the
building looks almost finished.
- We still have odd design problems but in general
the house fits together very well - our compliments in particular to Stuart
Patterson of Oregon Timber Frame.
- We have chipboard floor boards laid in the
kitchen even though the architects drawings say ply!
w/c 19 July
- The roof is nearing completion.
- During the week we take our first delivery of
some 9000 bricks and place them around the building ready for the brickies
who say they will work Saturdays until September.
- Tuesday is manic, everything seems to be
happening, deliveries, visitors, problems, you name it!!!
- On Friday it is Sue's birthday - she has a cement
mixer for a present!
- The brickies turn up and we start seeing a wall
take shape. Where are the wheelbarrows they cry, so Graham rushes off and
- The roof tiles arrive followed by another load of
bricks, to say nothing of some flowers for Sue's birthday!
w/c 26 July
- The brickies announce that they will work Monday
and Tuesday which catches us out. We quickly prepare the cavity
closures around the ground floor windows. We cannot keep ahead of them
so we agree to them missing a Saturday.
- We now have quotes for the conservatory glazing
and agree to meet with the potential supplier.
- The windows and doors have different cill lengths
so which will affect their outside appearance. Allen Brothers agree to
send in a team to rout a slot in the patio doors and attach a new cill!
- We meet with a couple of builders merchants to
discuss stone lintels and negotiate a good price.
- On Tuesday Graham goes away to London for a few
days, Sue has a busy time sorting out bricklaying queries and meets
with the Building Inspector. It appears that the brickies don't like
the proposed movement material 'Compriband' as it is messy and not easy to
install. Overall the Building Inspector and the chippies think that
the bricklaying looks ok.
- Kevin, the leading chippie goes on holiday for a
well earnt rest.
- We are ready for the roofers to start next week,
we must arrange to move all those tiles!
w/c 2 Aug
- Graham decides that we need some help in all the
self building tasks. A discussion with the Job Centre for a General
Handyperson for maybe 3 months brings us Jason who is on his way round the
world from Canada. He and his wife have relatives in Ledbury and are
in need of cash. After a interview walking the site Graham takes
him and he starts straight away.
- We start to fit the windows - there seems rather
- We have another huge bonfire - the oak stump just
- Jason stains all the roof fascias black to match
our existing buildings.
- We hire a fork lift and and Graham drives one for
the first time in 15 years - Jason comments that what Graham lacks in
finesse he gains in accuracy - was that a compliment?
- The balloon weekend at Eastnor Castle gave us a
few things to look at.
w/c 9 Aug
- With the brickies on site again the walls start
to go up. Fred from NHBC comes along to inspect things - he is quite
- The roofing company arrive and start to baton the
roof. Sue runs out of mugs with so many contractors on site.
- The final brick delivery arrives - we now have
25000 bricks in total.
- On Friday the 13th the first roof tile is layed.
- Oregon come onto site to see the bowed panels.
w/c 16 Aug
- The chippies continue to finish off - lots of
- Michael Hunt from Total Home Environment arrives
with the Villovent ventilation system.
- Who are the worst trade so far - yes scaffolders
get the prize. They never turn up when their boss says they will and
if you turn your back they disappear!
- Oregon visit again and promise that the work will
soon be completed, however the chippies get pulled off to put up another
- The brickies arrive to load the next lift with
bricks, but where are the scaffolders. Graham is driving the forklift
again - why is everyone putting on their hard hats and hiding?
- Joan, an old school friend of Sue arrives to
visit the site and is soon indoctrinated into site rituals. Tea for
w/c 23 Aug
- Graham calls the scaffold company and lets them
know he is not a happy bunny. They send a man out!
- Gareth, one of the brickies runs out of petrol on
the way to site - can Sue get some petrol and go to him. In those
blissful days BM (before Mobiles) he would have walked to the garage, now he
just calls the client and says can you get some petrol!
- On Tuesday the skies just open! Sue
has 2 deliveries lorries to deal with. Mud splattered, cold and very
wet she comes back inside. Oh by the way, the day started badly at breakfast
when the toaster tripped the electric's. Sue had to get dressed, go down
onto site to get the step ladder to re-set the RCD trip! Graham is
- The chippies return to complete the timber frame.
- Jason loses his car keys and after searching for
4 hours still cannot find them!
- We meet with Paddy the aerial man who gives us a
price for installing the electric's - Graham gives him the job.
- We start to install the ventilation ducts - we
feel good as it the start of the internal house works .
w/c 30 Aug
- The brickies return to site after the rains and
go onwards and upwards. Later in the week the first stone lintel is laid
above the study window - it looks good. We receive their first bill!
- At long last the chippies complete the timber
frame erection by finishing off all those little things. Kevin, Chris and
Eamon have been a great team, they have worked long and hard -thanks guys.
- As the roof came in bits rather than factory
finished the Warmcel insulation had to be inserted afterwards. When
the team came on site we had an impasse for a while - who is to drill the
holes! Certainly it is not us, so after a few phone calls Oregon
Timber Frame agree it is their responsibility and pay the chippies 75p a
hole! After 2 days it is all done.
w/c 6/13 Sep
- Gareth and his brickies reach their limit as the
scaffolding needs another lift. Border Scaffolding Services say
Wednesday pm/Thursday. On Friday it is the weekend. On Monday they
arrive! Not exactly service! The brickies know all about
scaffolders and BSS in particular so they go off site and await us to call
- Paddy our electrician arrives and starts laying
- Sue and I have a grand tidy up - is it really a
house under all that rubbish?
- We have received a bathroom quote which is quite
- The quote for the decking at £21k is more than
we had expected. Graham visits a site in Wimbledon which is about 5ft
of the ground. It looks great, however £21k requires another
quote or two.
- So far we have spent some £150k+ with all the
fitting out to go. Now is the time we will be tightening our belts!
- We realise that we will not be in for Christmas -
it is disappointing but perhaps not unexpected.
- Fred from NHBC leaves us the certificates for the
build so far covering groundwork's, timber frame etc.
w/c 21 Sep
- ...and the rain came down!! Yes for
almost 4 continuous days it rains and rains and rains!
- We manage to install a few windows but the rain
stops us from continuing. We have some heavy wind and over goes
a door window combination. The door frame breaks but is
- We work inside - floor boards come up, and the
heating pipes go in. The David Robbens manual says it is hard work
installing the pipes - we certainly agree and go to bed knackered! The
next day after laying the aluminium sheets the floor boards are glued and
- We install the stud walls to the service cupboard
and by Tuesday Sue gives the walls a coat of paint - is this the start of
- the brickies come back to see when they can
return - or is it really to leave us another bill?
- We are having the week end off by going to our
annual wine tasting with Jon Hurley - the very reason that bought us to
Herefordshire. The 30 or so wines we tasted and drank were superb!
- Graham spends some time in contortions getting
the water pipework ready for Welsh Water .
w/c 28 Sep
- Monday starts with Herefordshire Council arriving
on site to tell us that they have had a complaint that we are building the
house higher than on our planning approval. Needlesstosay if it has
happened at all it was not as a direct act. The council duo climb the
scaffolding and dangle the tape - they did not give the impression of having
consistency in their measurements! Our check shows that we are within
150mm - well within any tolerance! But who is the complainer?
The Planning duo will not tell us, however the letter has to be put on the
planning file which is open to the public! (Note: We now know -21 Oct -
the complainer and what's more the Planning Dept have confirmed that we have
followed the planning approval exactly!!)
- Paddy keeps working on the electric's - we now
have power and lights inside.
- On Thursday we have the forklift back and the
brickies start to stack the next lift ready for brick laying next Monday.
- We spend some time installing the rest of the
windows on the first floor - only the one for bed 4 is now on the second
- We have spent some £160k so far - it is more
than we expected - we will need to reign in our spending!
- We spent Friday pm with a lighting specialist
from Hereford who advised us on our plans, generally what we had designed
was ok, we made a few changes and will spend a morning at his shop looking
at the various catalogues and listening to his comments.
w/c 4 Oct
- The brickies are back and it is a sunny Monday -
what else could one want - however they are short of a man and later in the
week they go off with a promise to return (honest guv) on Monday.
- Sue spends a couple of nights away - apart from
our wine-weekend a week or so ago this is the first time she has been away
from site since we started. It was strange on Tuesday for me to drive from
my hotel to visit our friends Vera & Nigel in Maidenhead to see
Sue for an hour and then to drive back.
- We are having some problems with the conservatory
glazing - it appears that our normal 45° roof is too much - conservatory
roof's are apparently 25° - we await a response from the glazing company
who normally work up to 40° to see if they can find a solution.
- We quickly fit the window furniture before moving
on to more interesting items.
- Saturday and Sunday see us continuing on
with the ventilation system. Taking the 200mm pipework through the external
walls to the sofit is surprisingly easy. This now enables us to
finalise the location of the Villovent ventilation unit.
w/c 11 Oct
- RoofCraft now promise us that they will be here
on Friday and what's more they do arrive!
- We still await the outcome of the glazing fiasco
- Hereford glass believe they have a new supplier. We await to hear!
Solaglas who came recommended via our architects have yet to respond to the
drawings they on Monday - despite several phone calls asking for a return
call we are still waiting.
- We have a response from a lighting shop who came
to offer some consultancy - £35 cost and returned if we spend more than £250
- seems a good deal - and what's more the recommendations are quite
- On Friday the brickies start the fireplace -
Kevin has built several fireplaces in the last 3 months so we should
be ok. We visit a fireplace ship in Ross - they have a good display
and good advice. We see a cast iron fireback with 2 people carrying a bunch
of grapes - quite typical for us!
- Over the weekend we manage to just about finish
the installation of the ventilation pipework.
- We stain the soffits black or in Graham's case it
may be his body - he looks like a Dalmatian!
w/c 18 Oct
- Welsh Water upgrade our supply to 32mm and later
in the week come back to change the 20mm pipe across to the main.
Graham goes down the hole to turn the taps and switch over to the new
- The brickies continue to have fun with our
fireplace and chimney - but keep making progress.
- The roofers are beavering away during the week
even in the rain. On Friday we ask them what are you doing today -
will it be the finials - oh no they say. Guess what - when we
return from Hereford they have put the first finial up, but they have
forgotten one of the parts - lots of embarrassment all round as up the
ladder they go to quickly dismantle it and add the missing part - we did get
a picture of the top going on though.
- On Friday morning we spend several hours choosing
lighting fittings -ouch £2300 and that's after a 20% discount and taking
of the Vat.
w/c 25 Oct
- We start to talk about wooden floors - at long
last we seem to be moving forward again.
- Over last week end we finish of the ventilation
- We have heard that the Planning Dept has
confirmed to our complainer that our house height is correct! - but now it
appears we will be visited by the enforcement officer as it appears that we
have another complainant - this time about the elevations - apparently we
have 11 deviations - the architects are called!
- Our change of planning for our existing courtyard
building raises no objections with the Planners but they may insist upon a
sole occupancy clause.
- We complete the underfloor heating on the second
floor - the pipework on the bridge needs tidying up.
- On Sunday we fit the French doors to the living
room and the solar (our name for our first floor conservatory). The
door frame in the living room is not square - this results from where it
fell over and had to be repaired.
- Our temporary plastic sheeting to the Solar roof
is again repaired/replaced - we long for the day we can have the glazing
- On Saturday we host a committee meeting of the
Association of Self-Builders - we talk about what the ASB can offer and how
we can increase our membership from 500 to 1000+ One outcome is a new
web site http://www.asb.intranets/
Go have a look and let them have your comments.
- With the delivery of the guttering and rain water
pipes we start to plan their installation - but first we need some screws!
As the house is to be maintenance free for 20 years Graham would prefer to
have the right screws. Today with the scaffolding in place it is easy,
so we will do it correctly. In a few years time it will be up a ladder!
w/c 1 Nov
- We start the week with one brickie, we have a
word with Gareth to express our concern. We want the work finished and
we are now into the weekly scaffolding rates - self-builders beware to allow
to do your planning - not easy - but the weekly rates can be expensive!
- Sue starts the week with a cracked or bruised rib
- she fell over 2 weeks ago and today we cause it to get worse - the Doc
say's take an aspirin and stop humping the blocks around!
- Another decking company comes along to see us -
it sounds good but we await a price.
w/c 8 Nov
- Over the week end we put up the first guttering -
we chose Hunter Regency - it is a large section that will cope with our
large south facing roof and it looks good.
- The plastic covering on the conservatory (we are
now calling it the Solar) roof is replaced, hopefully for the last time -
certainly it his the best version we have put up.
- We are still awaiting final confirmation of the
glazing form Hereford Glass - it seems we cannot have a black glazing bar -
we await a sample of what is termed dark! In the meanwhile we finally have
another company Solaglas visit who seem far more used to our type of roof -
we now wait for their quote.
- We receive the letter from the enforcement
officer detailing 17 deviations from the approved plans. We are working with
the architect on a response so as they put it so nicely in their letter they
can close their file!
- The brickies are now up on the gables - another
week and they will have finished - providing that the weather stays
good - on Friday as the rain shows no sign of stopping they go off to find
an indoor job. Clayton arrives at lunch time to see his colleagues -
with no one around we have a general chat. We mention that as they are
coming to the end we will be compiling a list of any faults or problems to
discuss with Gareth on Monday - Clayton agrees with our approach
- The plasterer, Fintan starts the plastering task
w/c 15 Nov
- The roof is now complete and looks good - we have
- Fintan, the plaster puts on a coat of plaster to
the attic and bath 4. During the week he puts the first, or scratch coat, on
the exterior walls. On Friday he tells us we have been visited
during the dawn by deer - or so the footprints say!
- We start work on the vacuum system and install
the first pipes. We then plan out the route for the other pipework.
- During the week the scaffolders turn up as
requested on Thursday, the first time they have ever turned up when
requested! We will still need two more lifts to complete the chimney.
- Ken, who largely built the timber frame rings to
tell us he hopes to be with us on Monday to start on the dining room tile
- At long last we receive a quote from Solaglas
which is better than Hereford Glass. As we are still awaiting for the
Hereford samples and Solaglass appear better we opt for their proposal.
It will now be some 6 weeks before we have the glazing installed.
- On a personal note we decide to go to New York
for the Millennium - 4 days for £999, including a helicopter trip, Phantom
at the Opera, and a New Years eve cruise around Manhattan.
w/c 22 Nov
- On Thursday we have a topping out ceremony as the
chimney pots are cemented into place - Sue even climbs right to the top for
- On Friday the bricklayers finish off all
the odds and ends and ride of in the inevitable while van with the job
complete. We will no doubt see them next year when we do the patio
walls. We order another 11 tonne of sand as Gareth thinks that he may
just run out. A tonne would have done at this time however that would cost
£55 and 11 tonne costs £120!
- Graham works on vacuum system over the weekend.
He cannot hammer as he has tennis elbow caused by too much hammering!
On Tuesday next we take delivery of the actual vacuum unit.
- The carpenters return to finish off the dining
room exterior wall ready for tiling.
w/c 29 Nov
- A slow week without contractors around.
- We start to decorate albeit the attic or plant
- Where are the chippies?
- We feel good by emptying the our cellar of
building bits and transfer the important things such as wine into its
- Graham completes the exterior painting of the bed
4 gabled rendered areas balanced at the top of the scaffolding some 70 feet
- We take delivery of the vacuum unit ready for
installation in the loft - the original intention was to install the
pipework and then try it on sale or return basis, however Sue persuades me
w/c 7 Dec
- We finalise our spec for the skirtings,
architrave's and door sets. Our budget prices from suppliers seem
high, however, we are using oak which will not require painting,
nor any future maintenance so taking a long term view......!
- Graham talks to Roof-Craft to finish the lead
work around chimney/roof interface and also where the dining room
vertical tiling joins onto the adjoining brickwork.
- If the chippies turn up this coming week end we
may be able to talk about taking the scaffolding down and saving us £150
per week - they do and we complete the building of all the first floor
studwork and the oak post that supports the dining room.
- We should get the drawings from Solaglas mid-week
to approve and then it should be about 4 weeks to wait to have the glazing
installed. Meanwhile the plastic sheeting continues to hold, but don't
tell the wind!!
w/c 14 Dec
- We meet with our neighbours (who own the field
below us) to talk over their proposal to plant a woodland completely across
our boundary. It appears that they feel our house dominates the hillside and
when they walk in their paddock they feel they are in our garden. We
start talking, walk around and get to know each others views. Later we
write them a letter explaining our position and with a parkland proposal
that keeps our view but lets them have some of our house covered up. It is
only when they are in the paddock that there appears to be a problem.
- The painting of the plant room in the attic is
- Graham completes the installation of the vacuum
system - it certainly makes a noise when it is running!
w/c 21 Dec
- The chippies turn up and complete all the outside
odds and ends. The under dining room and first floor walkway porch
tongue and groove is completed.
- The roofers hang all the vertical tiles to the
- Phil the plumber comes to site and finishes all
the outstanding leadwork.
- We now realise that the proposed vertical tongue
and grooved area on the dining room would look wrong so we revert to a
rendered finish - the architects working drawings did not show a
- We meet with a couple of local builders to price
and discuss putting in the windows to the stables before the planning
permission runs out.
w/c 28 Dec
- Graham completes the outstanding guttering - just
a few odd pieces.
- We continue cleaning up the window frames.
- The door locks and handles are fitted to all the
outside doors - they look good.
w/c 3 Jan
- We continue with the underfloor heating - it is a
slow process - drilling holes for the pipes - running the pipes -
fitting the pipe supports - pulling the pipe into position -
laying the aluminium sheets - relaying and fixing the flooring. It is
very good for aches and pains!
- We drive around Ledbury to see if our house can
be generally seen - it cannot apart from the immediate paddock below us.
- We prepare for our meeting with the enforcement
officer on Thursday to go over the minor evolutionary variations which have
occurred during the build - as we said earlier at least one of our
neighbours has complained that our building is not to the planning
drawing. It is like one of those spot the difference competitions!
- We await the final pricing for our oak skirtings,
architrave's and door sets etc.
w/c 10 Jan
- We start the week with a glorious bonfire and
have a site clear up - one advantage of being a little way out of town is
that one can have such things without incurring too much attention - not
that we were doing anything naughty.
- The scaffolding starts to come down - as ever the
scaffolders do not complete the task. However the south side of the
house looks excellent with most of the scaffolding down.
- Fintan, the plasterer, completes all the
rendering to the south side, again it looks good.
- Paddy comes along and completes some more of the
electric's -the east 'wing' is now complete ready for plastering.
- Graham starts the water plumbing, drills lots of
holes and lugs the two hot water tanks into the house - now all we have to
do is get them up to the second floor. As we are going to use a
pressurised system we will need the pressure bits undertaken by a competent
- We now have prices for all the oak skirting,
architrave's and door sets and have given the work to Kemps.
- We have the first floor covering laid - vinyl in
the storeroom, tank and plant room - they are all oddments. We await
with interest for the cost of carpeting after having had a local shop come
along and look the house over.
- Before Christmas we came across a timber floor
company quite by chance (whilst reversing in Worcester after Sue's
navigation took us to the back streets! We went in and asked them if
they were interested in 105m2 of wood flooring - they smiled! We now have a
£5k ballpark cost and now need to visit their showroom and start the
w/c 17 Jan
- We receive a note from our neighbours telling us
that they intend to go ahead with their woodland. A day or so later we
watch as what seems like hundreds of sticks marking out all the trees - it
must have cost a bob or two!. The woodland will stretch across our complete
southern boundary for 450ft and extend for about a 100ft or so.
- We have started to carry out the conversion of
our stable courtyard properties by having the holes made for the windows.
- We install the underfloor heating to the first
w/c 24 Jan
- We start the week showing some more people around
our house - we have received many calls from people both local and from afar
who have heard about our house mainly via the web site and of course the ASB
- Our builders continue to put in the two windows -
they look good - we have used two pane sash windows to match those windows
in the adjoining building - given some of our neighbours complaints we will
be advising the Planners of our deviation from the approved scheme!
- Graham temporarily installs the boiler so we will
know where everything goes. We call Eco-Homtec to ask about boiler
expansion vessels. There is one in your boiler they say, oh no
there isn't is the reply - oh we now know where another one without a tank
went to they say! A tank is on its way post haste - Eco were
very good when they realised what had happened.
- Owen comes along and installs all the piping for
the gas supply to the house.
- We make a start on the plumbing for the hot water
- On Wednesday we spend a day at the NEC doing the
rounds of the KBB (kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms?) and lighting
exhibitions. With tired feet we now know that our choices so far have been
good and that our local lighting shop has as good a range of stock as we
- Solaglas advise us that they are ready to install
the Solar glazing - but first we need some leadwork done so Graham spends
some time finishing the cavity closures.
- We hear from Allen Brothers who supplied our
doors that the repair cannot be done as arranged as yet again they have made
another balls up. Graham calls the rep and asks him to get the
MD to ring and explain how they have managed to loose the items this time!
We still owe them some £3k and make no attempt to collect the outstanding
money - we tell them we are still waiting for them to sort out their various
balls ups and they go away!
w/c 31 Jan
- Graham goes of to a meeting of all those
concerned in his idea for a Self-Build Week-End - it should take place on
Saturday/Sunday 24/25 June.
- Phil completes the leadwork ready for the
conservatory glazing. We await Tuesday and the end to our blue plastic roof!
- We complete the underfloor heating pipework to
the first floor!
w/c 7 & 14
- Solar Glass complete the installation of the
conservatory roof after a few modifications along the way.
w/c 21 Feb
- Graham starts his latest assignment in Didcot
working to bring commercial reality to an internet company. From now on only
weekends and evenings will be available for our work on Phoenix House.
- We have a letter from the Planners - apparently
we have the height of the ground slab correct at one corner but not on the
others - but the slab is level! Later in the week a red face
admits that the letter did contain some inaccuracies!
A meeting with the Planners is arranged.
w/c 28 Feb
- At long last the conservatory roof is complete as
Phil does the leadwork.
- Graham puts in all the outside taps before the
downstairs walls are plastered.
- Before the scaffolding comes down Graham puts up
the guttering around the conservatory roof.
- Connect It arrive to start wiring the house for
cat 5 wiring. We will have sockets in most rooms for a computer
network, all phones, Hi-Fi, TV and CCTV.
- A Building Regulations man comes along to measure
the height of the house again. Our avid local readers will be pleased
to know that this time he does not dangle his tape. No, he handles his
rod!!! Sorry again local readers we know the dimension but for the present
we will keep that to ourselves - rest assured we have no worries!
- We write to the Ledbury Society and invite them
to visit us to talk about their concerns.
- The last of the scaffolding comes down - at long
last Phoenix House looks like a house not a building site.
w/c 6 Mar
- The Ledbury Society respond to our letter -
they are concerned about the wider issues of development in areas of
outstanding natural beauty. They would like to visit us to talk things over
- it is a pity some of our other complainers do not share this approach!
We can only support their endeavours. In our case planning approval was
given in 1994 and again in 1997. No doubt Malvern Hills District Council
took all appropriate views into account when giving both approvals.
- We meet with the Chief Planning Officer and his
team. It is a very constructive and helpful meeting. They concur with
us about many of the comments about our house. The agree with us that
the house is built at the right level, to the right height and in the right
place exactly as per our original planning approval.
- We stuff insulation into the ceiling voids now
that the first and second floor heating system is complete and tested.
w/c 13 Mar
- The window boards we have had made specially are
delivered and look good - now we have to stain and fit them.
- We have another visit from some people who have
been told about our house and want to see what we have done - they go away
w/c 20 Mar
- Fintan returns to site to carry on plastering -
all the plasterboard we have stored outside is all ok so we have no waste.
- We put up the oak door sets on the first floor -
they look good when they receive their first coat of varnish.
- Graham starts to fix all the window boards in
place after Sue has stained the backs. The tins of stain from Allen
Brothers are all different! We decide to buy new supplies
according to the agreed spec.
w/c 27 Mar
- The oak staircase arrives in lots of parts, but
all very well labelled. It looks excellent.
- We tidy the site and have another bonfire.
- Paddy (our electrician) comes and continues his
work. With Fintan, the plasterer, he agrees about boxes, positions and
w/c 3 Apr
- The ground floor west wing is all plastered and
- We take photographs of all the first floor rooms
prior to plastering so we have a record of all the wires, pipes and
miscellaneous items that will be hidden away!
- On Saturday we go to Hereford to choose all our
light fittings and then across to Malvern to talk tiles.
- We have a visit from Beam vacuum systems - they
would like to use our house for a staff training session - we are rewarded
with a £50 silencer kit. Many thanks Beam.
w/c 10 Apr
- We spend Saturday in Gloucester choosing a safe,
taps, curtains and poles!
- Sue shrieks in ecstasy as the first light bulb
comes on - well done Paddy!
- Fintan continues to plaster the kitchen, utility
and larder as we prepare the rooms he is heading towards.
- Owen Westmacote arrives to install the gas and
other pipes to the boiler.
- As we install the first floor staircase we find
that it has been made to a wrong dimension. We arrange for it to be
- We start looking for curtains and realise
just how many windows we have!
- We write to Owen Pell Limited with the terrace
details for them to quote.
w/c 17 Apr
- We install the staircase to the second floor -
after much heaving, grunting we have it in place! After a quick
sanding we put a coat of varnish on. It really looks good.
- We are visited by another curtain maker and we
spend some hours deciding on colours and curtain s for the dining, living
room and our bedroom. We will be having curtain poles with draw
w/c 25 Apr
- We are one year into the building of our house!
Yes, a year ago it was a green field.
w/c 1 May
- Very little work this week from us - it was our
21st wedding anniversary so we had a very enjoyable weekend in Ludlow.
We stayed in one Michelin starred restaurant with a meal on the Saturday
night and enjoyed an excellent meal at Shaun Hill's Michelin restaurant the
Merchant House. Words such as self-build and all building conversation
- Paddy continued to second fix the electric's for
w/c 8 May
- It appears that our neighbourhood complainers
have been busy with their pens again! The letters make interesting
reading as they are somewhat offensive and factually inaccurate. The
height of our house seems to be the point of contention.
- Fintan continues to plaster away - he has spent
some time arranging scaffolding for the living room, as it goes right up
into the roof.
- Our decking contractor has advised us of a
starting date for the east decking.
We start to
explore the immediate countryside around us and take to the footpaths - don't
tell anyone as Graham has spent years building up an image of non-exercise!
Actually once one climbs the north wall of the Eiger just behind our house the
views are superb and the woods were full of bluebells.
w/c 15 May
- Our living room now plastered and looks
excellent! Well done Fintan.
- We receive a good price from Kemps for our Entec
P12 sewerage plant - we will order it shortly as soon as we have finalised
discussions with Owen Pell.
- Graham visits our architects as he passes by
their offices - there is talk of our house being entered for an award!
- We start discussions with a local landscape
company to undertake the hard landscaping and clearing our site of the
multitude of weeds!
- The week ends superbly with the Herefordshire
Council confirming in their report that our house has been built to the
correct slab level, is to the correct height as per original planning
approval The minor variations, generally differences to window
dimensions and doors that would normally be expected occur as one goes from
planning sketches to working drawings are recommended for passing to
the next planning committee meeting. It is only going to the committee
because of the generally unfounded complaints.
w/c 22 May
- The week starts well with another written
confirmation from Hereford Council telling us that our house has been built
to the height and level actually approved.
- It ends well too with the Hereford Council
Planning Committee passing our minor amendments! There was much
rhetoric at the meeting and certainly some incorrect statements. The
items for discussion were minor amendments eg minor changes to window
positions, one additional window at the front, 2 new roof Velux windows,
some changes in building dimensions eg an increase in room size to the east
'wing' to facilitate the actual timber frame construction, small changes in
window sizes, and of course the finial was changed!
- As our Planning Permission has become such an
issue we have decided to create a Planning page to our web site to put the
facts! If you hear something and it is not stated here -
question it, it is probably not true!!!
- Our house is to be the lead article in the
forthcoming special supplement to Self-Build & Design magazine for the
National Self Build Week to be held from June 17 to 24.
- We have submitted our planning application for
the terrace where we are seeking approval to replace the 2 separate paved
areas and ornamental pond with one area with a retaining wall. We await
comments! No doubt we will have them!
- We award Owen Pell the contract to undertake the
foundations works to our walkways, pond and paved areas that are approved
under our 1997 Planning Approval.
w/c 29 May
- Over the weekend we start to install the gallery
in the living room - it takes a lot of time for what seems little return,
but it still looks good.
- Kedros arrive on Tuesday with 8 tonne of timber
to start the walk ways and west decking. We are pleased that the
"horribly spindly legs" as one of our complainers puts it, are
correctly made from the centre heartwood of the American trees.
- 11 lengths of light coving arrive for the drawing
room arrive somewhat unexpectedly - it will be interesting to see how the
room looks when they are put up and have lights in them.
- We have received the quotation for the tiling of
the kitchen, utility, larder, cloakroom and sun room and given the go ahead
for the work.
- We talk to a local kitchen maker about supplying
and installing our kitchen and await his price.
w/c 5 June
- Owen Pell arrive to undertake the decking
foundations, Entec sewage plant installation and other approved works.
- Kedros continue to build the decking so that by
the end of the week we can walk in at first floor level!
- At the end of the week the foundations for the
east walkway are complete.
w/c 12 June
- Some fun and games as our Entec P12 sewage works
arrives - after having made specific requests that it be delivered on a
rigid lorry with a crane, the transport department forget and send an artic
- Entec are embarrassed! After some reversing and help from Owen Pell
it is taken off. Well done Robert!
- A hole for the Entec P12 mini sewage works is dug
and the unit put into position.
- The foundations for the west deck are now
complete so Kedros will be able to transfer to the other end with no delays.
- Prior to the planning committee, the 22
councillors were sent a 14 page circular with a reply address to our
neighbour David Williams. It is signed by 12 people in the immediate area
(well one was 2 miles away!). As with any story there are 2 sides so
we delivered a relatively brief response and ask our neighbours to consider
our comments before becoming involved with other responses regarding our
amended patio designs We also invite them to come and discuss it with
us. The coloured sketch below shows the situation.
w/c 19 June
- We start the week by digging the sewage outlet
trenches - 100m are required as the soil is so impermeable.
- We are a little disappointed to have the Kedros
decking team going off-site for 4 days just as the west end is ready for
- Over the week end we lay the underfloor heating
pipes to the Study and Bed 3 - it is very easy compared to the method used
for suspended floors!
- On Saturday night Sue takes a 20 minute call from
Tony Peake who has been actively complaining about our house and its
planning approval. He opens saying that he is concerned about the
poisonous attitude on the hill - we can only agree - it is a pity that there
seems to have been so much mis-information about our house and planning
approvals. Much of the time he comments that planning approval should
not have been given - but it was both in 94 and again in 97! After a
while Sue asks him what was the purpose of his phone call - he repeats his
comments about the poisonous attitude. Sue reminds that the house was built
to the correct slab level and the overall height of the house is within
250mm (10") of the approved 1997 planning drawings! The
conversation turns to the terrace - he agrees that the slope is a problem -
Sue offers him the challenge of giving us a design of patio and terrace that
he would prefer to see - you never know we may even like it! He
tells us he still intends to object on the grounds of privacy and bulk
the record the 1997 dpm/roof ridge dimension is 8.4m and the actual as
built, again dpm/roof ridge, according to both the approved minor amendment
drawings and actual measurement is 8.65m. This difference of 250mm
against the approved 8300mm is 3%!!! This as any architect/planner /builder knows is well
within accepted tolerance. Those who think that it is much
larger have incorrectly read the drawings. We suspect they have used
drg 124:24C which shows the proposed patio level and is below the correct
dpm reference point!! We lowered the patio level to lessen any
potential neighbour problem.
- Sue also has a conversation with another
neighbour, who believes we should not have built at all despite the
approvals and says we are insensitive to the feelings on the hill. As
no-one had told us their feelings until we obtained a copy of the letter
sent to Councillors this is not surprising! He does not seem to
consider we have feelings too.
- On Saturday our house is open as part of
the national Self Build Week - overall there are 20 houses open to the
public. This event is sponsored by the Association of Self-Builders,
the Building Centre and the Self Build & Design Magazine. Our
house is now to feature in "The Marches" which covers the Welsh
marshes. It will be a case study. BBC radio have also
requested an interview.
- Graham visits our neighbour to the west, Mr
Jones, to talk about our entrance from the road - our works could affect him
so we want to make sure he is happy with our plans. After explaining
what we would like to do he agrees that it is a good idea,
however before starting we will write to him confirming our plans and his
comments. Before starting in a month or so we will ask him to come and
talk again at the entrance.
w/c 26 June
- Kedros return to continue building the west
decking. Scaffolding towers are needed at this end because of the height off
the ground. After a few days work we are able to walk outside on
- Fintan completes the hall plastering - well
almost - it was quite a task - we expect him to carry on with the coving but
- Owen Pell have another busy week - the brickies
put the facing bricks on our garage retaining wall - soon we may actually be
able to put in some plants! The last of the 100m of sewage drainage
pipework goes in and the topsoil is made good. The two inspection
chambers either side of the Entec are completed together with the the
incoming pipework. We decide on the location of the rainwater soakaway
and Robert starts digging.
- The 10,000L rainwater tank finally arrives from
w/c 3 July
- Kedros continue building the west decking
and by the end of the week it is complete apart from the stairs - it looks
- Owen Pell install the rainwater tank and Graham starts to connect
the rainwater down pipes from the gutters to the tank
w/c 10 July
- Owen Pell return briefly to cast the base for the
stairs - they have completed all the work we have asked them to do at this
stage - we will now have to wait until we have received planning permission
for the terrace
- Kedros return on Thursday to install the stairway
to the west decking - it is quite a complex structure. It really looks
good! They also paint the slope up to the road with an anti slip
- We continue to work on the underfloor heating
w/c 17 July
- Andrew Bryan from Kedros comes to see us to see
if we have any problems - apart from a couple of minor points we are very
w/c 24 July 2000
- We continue with the installation of the ground
floor heating system and on Saturday complete the last circuit. We
spend some time tidying up the pipework where it joins the manifold and then
we pressure each circuit for leaks etc. There are no problems.
- Fintan returns to complete the plasterwork - we
are nearly there
- we get a call from the tiling shop - can they
came and start the kitchen floor on Monday? There is no problem so
they tile away - it looks good!
- A Planning Officer visits us on site to acquaint
himself with our planning request for the patio
- During the coming week is struck down with
gastro-interitus - Graham cancels several business trips and whats
more the old adage no show no pay applies in his profession!
w/c 31 July 2000
- Fintan puts up the plaster light coving - it
looks good - it is quite large and presently stands out against the
- On Monday we take delivery of various of the
kitchen appliances ready for the installation of the kitchen cupboards
- Paddy returns to continue with the electric's
- The floor screed is delayed until Monday
- After filling in the small gaps in the coving
wall/ceiling gaps we are ready for painting the ceiling
w/c 7 August 2000
- Over the week end we prepare the kitchen walls
and ceiling for painting and then get going with the Paint Mate!
- On Monday our screeding contractor turns up with
2 teams and by mid afternoon we have the floor screed layed - it is a 75mm
- Wednesday is a a good day - the Herefordshire
Planning Committee approves our planning application for our terrace - the
contractors are called in !
w/c 14 August 2000
- The Shaw's (Vera, Nigel and Rachel - friends
from Maidenhead) arrive. We put them up in the Grooms Flat. Whilst
some go off to enjoy themselves Nigel and Graham paint away. We
manage to get the the first coat on the ground floor ceilings.
Many thanks Nigel.
w/c 21 August 2000
- Owen starts to install the bathrooms and the
boiler - we place everything in position to start to work out the piping
runs. I forgot the waste from the cloakroom wash basin! Owen suggests
a way out and all is well. The kitchen man will now have to modify his
cupboards to allow for the waste being on the kitchen wall for a couple of
- A couple of decorators have been along to quote
for the hall, living room and solar
- Graham buys a pressure washer - just the thing
for removing rook s***t from the decking balustrades!
- We have now painted all the downstairs ceilings
- Graham does not want to see another ceiling for a long time -
unfortunately there is still the dining room on the first floor!
- We finalise our tap ware needs and ask for
quotes - prices vary from £3500 to £4600 for the Hans Grohe units we have
chosen - the winner seems to be bathrooms.com, but our local builders
merchants has still to quote - but can they beat the lowest quote?
No the order goes to bathroom.com
w/c 28 August 2000
- The week starts well with a bevy of contractors
on site - chippies, brickies, decorators, alarm installers - Owen our
plumber is possibly very wise and will be back in a weeks time
w/c 4 September 2000
- Owen Pell continue to build our terrace walls
- The alarm company complete the installation and
spend some time testing the system as their is an earth fault
- Our neighbours might like to note that
whilst the alarm guys have their ladder up to the roof ridge we take the
opportunity to measure the overall height of the house from top to bottom -
it is just 200mm (or 8 inches) more than our approved original 1997 planning
drawings show. This confirms all the earlier measurements and is well within
permitted tolerance! Yahboo!!!
w/c 11 September 2000
- Graham is at home all week having finished his
work assignment bringing commercially to a dot com and before starting a new
role back in basic manufacturing with an ailing company
- A week of odds and ends. The external
sewage pipework and the rainwater piping to the storage tank are complete
- We start to paint the exterior render at the
north off the house - it is hard work getting the brush into all those nooks
- Kevin beavers away at the range of carpentry
work. At the end of the week we have all the bathroom boxing and
panelling complete; just about all the doors hung; much skirting and
architraving; gallery ballustrading and the start of the curved
- With constant rain on Thursday and Friday the
Owen Pell team cannot work
- We receive a letter from Tony Peake asking when
we might be moving in - apparently the septic tank into which we
discharge is being troublesome again. We have installed our own
sewage works so when we eventually move in we will not use the Peake's
- With the fuel shortage we do not venture far
away - our lights which are ready for collection in Hereford have had to
- We now have a first coat of paint in Bed 1, 2
& 3 and the solar is complete
w/c 18 September 2000
- Again we start the week with all and sundry on
site. Progress will continue
- The Ledbury Reporter carries notice of a
planning application for a house opposite Westhill House. It is a
Border Oak design and will look out across Westhill House! . The plot
belongs to the owners of the Malthouse Restaurant. A previous application
for the plot next door was turned down and lost at appeal. We hope
that they are more lucky! Part of their logic is that, as permission
was granted for our house (1994 and revised in 1997) and it is baronial and
out of keeping with local buildings, theirs should be granted
permission. It will be interesting to see how the Bradlow residents react -
it will be the same people who were so adamant that our house should not
exist! But now the "new planning permission applicants" are
related to some of our objectors so will the co-ordinators against our
terrace application now back this application - what will be the
w/c 25 September 2000
- The weather does not help our terrace
constructors - they keep going out when the rain stops
w/c 2 October 2000
- Owen arrives on site to start all the bathroom
pipe work so that we can be ready for the tiles who are due in a weeks time
- The oak balustrades now look good as they get a
coat of varnish
- The weather is kinder to our outside
contractors, Owen Pell, so they are able to proceed with the terrace - all
the beams are in place with blocks in between so that we can now walk right
across the complete front of the house
- Graham continues to install all the internal and
external lighting - do they never end
- Kevin completes the gallery in the living
room - it looks excellent - almost like a very long pulpit!
- We order the bathroom work surfaces
- We think that we have now completed choosing all
- We end the week by tidying the house and
removing all the debris ready for the laying of the oak flooring in a weeks
w/c 9 October 2000
- Graham manages to complete installing all the
light fittings - a mystery why does one of the external lights come on
and where is the switch?
- CC Tiles arrive on Tuesday and spend all day
laying all the 100mm sq tiles to the larder, the pictorial tiles look great
- Kevin keeps working away - the carpentry also
never seems to finish - we now have the cloakroom and bathroom 4 ready to
- Owen manages to keep just ahead on the bathroom
plumbing so that Kevin can do his bit before the tilers knock on the door
- A surprise as a couple of 'old' contracting
friends turn up with the first load of top soil - Owen Pell have a job
in Ledbury and want somewhere to dispose of top and sub soil - and guess who
w/c 16 October 2000
- Another busy week - Owen Pell complete most of
the terrace brickwork and are ready to start laying the paving slabs. A
small problem arises - the Bradsone slabs are far from perfect. When
they were made the moulds were over filled so they are varying thickness and
there is a flash of the slab material all around the slab. Bradstone
agree to replace them all!!
- We now have the render painted on the southern
house face - it looks very good
- When Kingswood Flooring come to start laying the
oak floor they find that they have the wrong flooring! Panic sets in whilst
they track down the right floor panels. Later in the week they get
under way -the floor looks good, although we have a few problems about the
10mm gap at the edges and how it is going to be filled. After some
discussion they agree to have some specially made mouldings produced.
- Owen completes (nearly anyway) bathroom 1 ready
for the tilers
- Over the week we continue to receive trailer
loads of top soil from the works that Owen Pell are completing in Ledbury -
they need to dispose of the soil and we need it!
- John Pearce (our kitchen builder) rings to
confirm that they will start installing the kitchen next week
- We have a visit from the Hereford Planning Dept
- they are in the area and came along to talk about the proposed planting
plans for the terrace area. They would like a few more details to discharge
the planning condition - as ever we are pleased to assist them.
w/c 23 October 2000
- Another very wet week - the loads of top soil
keep coming. Our contractors have to park on the road as they
cannot really access the site. Normally we have been able to keep them from
parking outside of a neighbours property, however, we fail this time and we
have grumpy neighbour!!
- We have our replacement paving from Bradstone -
at least one pallet is damaged! Another one is on its way!
- The kitchen is delivered and looks good.
John Pearce will be back next week to complete the installation. When
we open up the boxes for the 2 hob units we find that we have 2 electric
hobbs instead of one gas and one electric! A gas hob is on its
way. Within minutes of starting work they have managed to fuse all the
power circuits. Fortunately Paddy, our electrician is already on his
- Paddy completes installing room thermostats and
starts to check out all the circuits. We find that the main hot
tank has a faulty thermostat. David Robbins Underfloor Heating have
arranged for a new one to be delivered - excellent customer service.
- The majority of the oak floor is layed - it
looks very good.
- CC Tiles are back tiling bath 1 and 2/3 - both
look good! Graham is doing some plumbing this week ( as
Owen has got himself over-committed) to keep ahead of the tilers.
- On Saturday we change our thoughts for tiles for
the kitchen. We were going to have a cherry red/orange tile but with our
units having red doors we have a bit too much red. We decide to use
the same tile that we have in the larder with a decorative panel behind the
hob. Graham has promised to clean it!
- We have had a quote for using marble for our
fireplace plinth - £3330 and that's with a 5% (very generous!) trade
discount. In talking with CC Tiles we find some very large 70cm
wide marble tiles for a considerably lower price - guess which route we will
- We order the carpets (nothing is cheap - £5800
inc vat). They should be layed in about 3 weeks
- We are now trying to keep the house very tidy as
we head towards moving-in in about 4 weeks.
- Will Owen turn up on Monday - watch this space -
any report of the unexplained death of a plumber should be ignored!
w/c 30 October 2000
- The kitchen is just about installed - it looks
- Kevin is coming to the end of his carpentry role
- there is probably about another 5 days
- At long last we receive the coping stones from
Bradstone - but why the wait!
- We frantically complete (or try to) all the
outstanding tasks so that we can think about moving in
- Owen finds that after connecting the gas supply
at the meter and purging the pipes we still have gas coming out somewhere -
eventually we find 2 screws have gone into the supply pipe, and whats
more our Plumber was watching when our Chippie screwed them in!! It
gets sorted but.....
- Along the way we have a few problems - water
pouring though the larder ceiling is dealt with but does show up the
potential problem of joining plastic to copper pipe-work with Hep20 - always
unscrew the joint and check the o-ring
- paddy competes the electric's (at least for
moving in) and Graham continues to put up light fittings
- We move in at the beginning of December - it
feels good even if we are still surrounded by debris and contractors
- Room by room we remove all the bits, materials
and rubbish and get them ready
- Owen finally completes all the plumbing so all
the bathrooms are complete
- We now have all the curtains up
- Kingswood floors fail to complete the edging and
whats more they dont tell us that they wont be coming! A lesson in customer
service is needed
- CC tiles complete our fire place plinth - it
looks good and considerably cheaper than the £3500 we were quoted for
- On the Thursday before Christmas Graham's
parents arrive and are immediately pressed into service
- Our friends, Vera and Nigel arrive with their
daughter Rachel for Christmas - we have a good time. Nigel and Rachel
play carols from our minstrels gallery
- At midnight on Christmas day we have "you
have water pouring from the ceiling into the corridor" Somewhat boozed
and tired Graham rips away part of the ceiling and pushes together a joint
on our water system (it passed 2 pressure tests and our plumbers
installation checks and had been in use for a couple of weeks!)
- After everyone departs we have a lazy afternoon,
but on the following day we start to check out the strange (sewage) smell in
our bedroom. We eventually establish that one of our contractors has drilled
4 (yes four holes) into the sewage down pipe and that's after going though
the bricks, air gap and 200mm internal walls! We stop using the
facilities upstream of the damaged section
- As it has snowed and we are unsure what it id
going to do on the Friday morning we quickly pack our
bags for our 7 days in Canada and depart to stay overnight with Vera &
Nigel near Heathrow - we do however turn off the water just in case!
- We have an excellent holiday in Canada, see
Niagara, ride snow skidoos and go sledging and at minus 12 or so
- When we arrive back we find that the boiler has
gone out so we have a cold house! The fault finder lists about a dozen or so
possibilities - Graham presses "re-set" and it comes back on - a
call to Owen is made! The boiler fault is corrected and a few other plumbing
- We start to landscape the grounds - another 200
tonnes of top soil arrive - lorries get stuck - JCB's are called out and
they say "don't worry dear" to Sue!
- A quiet month as we savour the joys of being in
our hew home
- We negotiate for a further 600 tonnes of topsoil
for £2000 to at as a 100mm top layer for the grass
- We have still not heard from the Herefordshire
Planning Dept about our balustrade design approval - this is now the second
time we have told them of our proposed design!
- Paddy (our electrician) is now re-doing some of
Graham's electric's in our stable property to make it more suitable for our
- The glazed link between the original stable
building and Phoenix House is completed
- Over 3 days we transfer some 900 tonnes of top
soil that will form the bed for the grass seed. On the morning of the
second day, two of our neighbours complain to the Hereford Council about mud
on the lane from our lorries! The Highways Dept who
visited us were very helpful and did not consider it to be a serious
problem. Unbeknown to our neighbours, Graham had arranged for a
sweeper vehicle (from Landers in the Forest of Dean if anyone would like to
check!) to sweep the lane at the end of our lorry operations,
however given their petty small minded attitude this is cancelled.
Tony Peake, another of our neighbours, calls round a few days later because
he is concerned by mud remaining on the lane - it has rained almost
constantly since we started to transfer the top soil and looks worse than it
probably is. We tell him that we cancelled the sweeper because of the
attitude of our petty minded complainers - had they talked to us they
would have been advised of our plans to sweep the lane. We were pleased that
he had come round to talk about it. The next day (the first dry
day for some while) when Eamon is with us, he spends an hour or so brushing
up the entrance to our drive and the 70m to our closest neighbours.
- We spend some time tidying up all the various
stables that have become home to so much of our bits and pieces. We almost
have enough to open a builders merchants! We do have
another glorious bonfire.
- Another day is spent clearing out our garage so
we can now park our cars - no doubt this will (at least according to our
neighbours) ease the tremendous parking problems in the lane - strangely it
has never been a problem!
- Slowly Graham goes through those almost
un-ending lists of little things to do or put right - wives seem very good
at adding to these lists!
- The pond is emptied, cleaned and refilled ready
for plants and some gold fish
- We order a garden irrigation system to water all
of our site using rainwater stored in our under terrace collection tank
- Eamon helps us to de-weed our site prior to
spreading our 900 tonne of top soil
- The Timber Frame Industry Association call us to
ask if they can feature our house in their forthcoming newsletter as an
example of a good timber frame design and in sympathy with local buildings.
Naturally we are pleased to assist them - this will be the fourth article
featuring our house - all of which have been un-solicited. We
look forward to receiving a copy of the magazine The picture to be
used is below, and is just before we sow the grass seed.
- Over Easter we confirm our garden border shapes
and lines and do those almost endless list of little jobs
- Graham has a resting period having just finished
an assignment as MD of an international distribution company (well they did
have an operation in Dublin!) so we continue to beaver away at all those
little tasks and see where we still have to spend some money!
Needlesstosay he looks forward to
- that phone call so he can get away!
- Colin Kent, a well known artist calls by to talk
about painting a landscape that would include our house and the surrounding
hillside. We are delighted as we already own several of his works - we
will await to know of the cost with intrepidation!
- We start the final landscaping by harrowing all
the subsoil to break it down and then start evenly spreading our 900tonne
pile of topsoil.
- Within the walled garden we lay a terram liner
and cover it with gravel - this will make it maintenance free and give our
tenants somewhere to sit in the sun, to say nothing of looking considerably
better for our immediate neighbours!
- We have a visit from Kevin Bishop - Planning
Officer - to finalise the outstanding planning approval issues. He confirms
agreement to the balustrade, colour and the hard landscaping adjacent to the
terrace south wall. We had advised the Planning Dept some 6 months ago
that we had issued the order for the making of the balustrades etc after
telling them some time earlier of our proposed design. Whilst we are
talking he agrees with our proposed brickwork and ironwork to the gap
between the garage and 1 Stable Courtyard.
- The last major construction task is started -
finishing the drive. We build a block wall (which will be hidden
underground from both sides - this is probably just as well as Graham was
laying the blocks!) and cement in the curb. This will set the
starting level for the rest of the drive. Now we will start laying a
concrete 8x6" wall for 50m along the drive using a cast/shuttered
technique. When this dries out we will cement the curbs in place
ready for the final aggregate and gravel.
- We have some overseas friends from Sri Lanka
with us for a while. Neil, Chandani and his son Neil have watched our
progress via this web site and have now had the opportunity to see it for
real. We should perhaps change the name of our house to
Pineapple House as they have bought a dozen or so with them! They are
- Dave Tarrnant has now almost completed the
balustrades so he is now putting them up as a trial before sending them off
for hot dip galvanising
- The drive is completed - well the first
50% - the rest can wait to next year when we complete the landscaping at the
western end. Many tonnes of hardcore are laid followed by blue
scalpings and the top surface of red gravel. It looks good!
- The garden irrigation system is completed - we
switch it on and quickly turn it off to tighten some joints - at the second
try all is well programing is a little more interesting - as
ever when things don't quite work out reach for the instructions!
Water coverage is good only a few dry spots in the garden
- We were approached by a freelance
journalist who has now written an article about our house. The theme being
new from old. It will appear in the August edition of Self Build &
- We are pleased to shown 2 different sets of
people our decking - we have allowed Kedros (tel: 01905 828077) who built it
(a good job and on time!) to use us as a reference site
- Paddy completes the last of the electrics - the
garden irrigation system and some odds and ends
- We have sent all the invitations to our house
opening weekend in July - we have invited all the companies and tradesman
who built our house as well as old friends from Maidenhead and our new
friends from Herefordshire and its surroundings
- Mundy Conservatories return to check out a few
problems with the glazed link - after what seemed a little reluctance
initially they now start to put a few things right
- Lords of the Manor prepare and plant out
our first planting
- The terrace balustrade starts to go up in its
finished form - it looks good - well done Dave Preston
- Graham goes off to talk to a UK cooker company
who are in a few troubles
- In mid June we go off to Corsica for a couple of
weeks holiday - after 2 years of building Phoenix House it will be great not
to have any contractors arround
- Upon our return from holiday (with a tan and
having eaten too much) to see our beds planted up
- One couple of house martins have built a nest
and have started to lodge with us
- We despartely need a few good hours of heavy
rain (yes in the middle of summer!) to soak into our top soil so we can roll
it to break it down to a fine tilth, presently it is far too rough