Welcome to our blog.

This blog will follow the ultimate in home improvement: demolish and rebuild!

This is our starting point: a 1930s bungalow. While not a bad house; it is too small for us with three teenage children so what should we do? A full storey extension versus complete rebuild - ultimately the stronger eco-credentials and more certain finances of a new-build helped to guide our choice.

For a number of years we've been trying to find the right route for us to build an eco-friendly, low energy home. We tried various architects and building companies and have eventually settled with a German prefabricated build. The new house will be nearly to passivhaus standards (but not quite due to budget constraints). In any case, the house will be heavily insulated and airtight.

As a family, we have not built a house before so everything is new and exciting but the risk of making a mess of things is quite high!

This blog aims to outline the day to day steps involved in our build.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Pimp my garden

Finally, it's pimp my garden time.

It looks like it was a quick process but far from it, there have been days of preparation to get to this point. Tonnes of type1 stone have been whackered down all around the house. Phil has spent days getting the paving slabs in just the right places and in the best orientation to lay our garden path, getting the front path just right - and all of this in near freezing temperatures. I had a couple of hairy moments driving some the extra slabs back from the builders' merchants to our house on the dual carriage way.... but now the final stages are taking place.

As usual, Phil is trying to hide that digger behind the trees again, too late, I think the neighbours have noticed.

 Meanwhile Jerry just keeps sweeping.
After another long cold day Phil and Jerry have nearly finished, just a few little jobs left but that shouldn't be more than a day's work for these guys. We just need the weather to improve.

Good job guys!

 Finally the sun comes out so we can see the front path in all its glory.

So here we have it, a beautifully manicured front garden. Maybe one day we'll get some plants but for now we're just enjoying having the path. The postman really likes having a clean path to walk on, and has made comments about the yellow brick road. We just love it, well and truly pimped, wickid!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Digger Time Again

Just when things were beginning to be settled in the house, the scenes of devastation in the back garden begin. The rationale is that we don't want to bring muck from the back garden to the front and make a mess on new front garden. This is the last time we saw the grass in the back garden. If you look carefully, you can see two garden sheds in the back right corner as well as the summer house in the middle of the plot. The summer house was just in the wrong place so we thought it would be a good idea to move it, but first we got rid of one of the two wooden sheds.

Then Phil arrives with a little digger and helps to dig a small wildlife pond (to keep the resident frogs happy).

Meanwhile Jerry is working hard getting the edgings down so that our shingle that will go around the house won't get trampled into any lawn.

Another day and Project 'Move Summerhouse' starts. It was a battle with the roof but with the help of teenage son and husband power they manage to dissect the summerhouse. It was quite some achievement given the amount of insulation, plywood lining, not to mention the large amount of building materials and general crud, that was inside it.

Here the men discuss Project Summerhouse and wonder who is going to be the first to admit that their backs are hurting.

Miraculously, by the end of the day they have achieved the impossible, Project Summerhouse, albeit with temporary tarpaulin roof, has been completed! Good job!

A quick moment to enjoy how much larger the garden looks now. The kindly donated trampoline will be barely visible from the house. Time for a skip for all that rubbish. We also have about as many old concrete paving slabs as the local builders' merchants.

A few days later and I spot a familiar sight ...there's no point hiding behind the trees, we can all see you Phil!

So Phil finishes up levelling out the ground at the back so it is now suitable for my veggie patch (one day). Now the back garden will no longer see the likes of a digger, any other work will have to be by hand.

So the saga of the garden continues, as usual battling the elements as Autumn turns to Winter. At last, all effort can be concentrated on the front garden and maybe one day we'll get rid of that heras fencing...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


It has been some time since I wrote on the blog as the project has nearly reached its conclusion. In many ways it is just the beginning as we grow more and more settled in our house. We have had our house-warming which was a grand food fest and a chance for friends and neighbours to see what has been going on for the last few months.
We were about to commission the hard landscaping at the front of the house but realised that if we do that then when we do the fence to the side, all the rubbish will come through and make a mess. We bit the bullet and decided to go for it. 

 Nothing is straight forward in our garden, we couldn't get the old fence down until the leylandii bushes, well rather trees, had been taken out. Simon returned with his chainsaw and had two days of slashing and burning, going to the tip and an abortive attempt with a chipper.

Benny arrived and quickly made light work of the remaining fence. The concrete posts were dispatched to the skip.  
Soon all we had between us and the neighbours was a thin yellow line of string. It's a good thing we have very patient neighbours.

Benny and Jason worked really hard and by the end of the first day we had the frame of the fence up. It looked rather elegant and were wondering whether close-boarded fence was the way to go.

By the end of the second day the fence was done. It looks amazing. Suddenly our garden looked really long. If you look carefully there are a few laylandii trees that defeated all chain saws but they will be no match for the digger when it returns.
So progress is still being made. I will keep updating the blog but only occasionally as life takes on a more normal routine. Maybe one day I will get rid of that pile of sand outside the house, but not just yet.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Another step closer

The house is getting closer and closer to being complete. We still have a pile of sand out front and an interesting arrangement of grey stone whackered down by Gerry and Phil. We need to do the fence to the side of the house first and then we can look at finishing the front so it's going to have to stay like this for a while.

Surprisingly, the man came for our wood-burning stove today. He needed to drill a hole through the house so that he could install the fresh air duct. We have been dreading that moment, fearing that the render my crack. Instead it all went according to plan. He then sprayed the flue and its connectors with black spray. It looks rather like modern art. I'm longing to check it all works but it was just too warm today.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Muck truck

A favourite view of mine; a digger in the front garden. Now that we're settling in, we have to settle the house into its surroundings. The level of the ground at the front is too high.
Gerry loads the muck into the truck.

Some type 1 stone is laid and whackered down. Finally, the house begins to look rooted in its surroundings. There is a bit more work to do but things can progress more slowly now.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

We're back!

Finally, we have contact with the outside world!

Now we are happy in our new home.

The last two weeks since we moved in weren't without incident.

The move itself was great, only one wine glass was broken. The house has still got lots of boxes in strange places as we've been too busy to unpack as much as we'd hoped.

We also need to have a big tidy up as we've carted a lot of things around with us that we didn't need in our various recent moves. This time I'm going to get rid of it but the best bit is- we're not moving again so I can take as long as I need.

Here you can see the corridor and the sitting room behind it, viewed from the hall.

A well known cable company caused us lots of tension. We arranged the installation on the day after our move but the best laid plans and all that...!

Anyway, they couldn't get their cables through the dedicated conduit so the electricians managed to drill a new hole through the wall and floorslab. It was a very tense moment. Thankfully, they managed to avoid any underfloor heating pipes, the render or the aluminium drip strip under the wall panel, phew! Well done!

Things weren't plain sailing from there, unfortunately, but I won't bore you with the details here, I'm sure you all know what it's like. The good news is the internet now works.

Even before we had unpacked, we had our blower door test done. It was very interesting to see all the draughts that we still managed to get in our airtight house. The good thing is that we had a fantastic result. We needed to get less than 10m3/hr air leakage for building regs and we got less than 2m3/hr! It means our mechanical heat recovery unit will work efficiently.

A few days after we had moved in we noticed a dreaded problem that we'd had before in the bungalow: the loos weren't flushing properly! We had a horrible discovery outside. The new drains and chamber weren't draining away. We called in the professionals but they couldn't decide what was going on. There was only one thing left to do...who's got a shovel?

A digger appeared again on our sandy site, so Jerry and his brother Phil dug up the drains. It became apparent that the cast iron drain (on the left) was to blame. The join was misaligned and the section of drain had silted up, especially after the months of not being used had made it rock solid. The clay pipe that joined onto it was also full of small fractures, which could have been, amongst many things, the roots of the trees and bushes that had been on site. It was definitely time to replace those bad drains.
We decided that it would be a good idea to get another chamber on the run between the house and the main sewer but fortunately, Jerry and Phil found this! It was a pre-existing man hole in just the right place, it hadn't even come up on any survey but it was most welcome.
So now we have drains that work! It is a real blessing. We've learnt how much water we normally use and won't take if for granted.

I want to thank all our friends, neighbours and the leisure centre for all the showers, clothes washing and the use of the internet in the last few weeks, it was fab! You are all very much appreciated!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Still waiting

Sorry to disappoint readers but we still don't have internet connection or telephone links. Our mobiles only work when you stand next to the windows because the insulation in the walls is so good! I will be back up and running soon. The good news is that the house is still fab and we are slowly rediscovering some order amongst the chaos of moving. Tomorrow the glass will arrive for the splashbacks.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Moving in

Due to an unfortunate delay in establishing connections with the outside world, I've been off-line since our move into the new house. I will give you all a better update when internet connection can be re-established! Meanwhile, the house is fab, everything I expected and more even though it's covered in boxes!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Plumbers and Electricians

With our moving day rushing headlong towards us, everyone is feeling the pressure to get the work finished. Here Bob and Sam are tackling the shower in the family bathroom. They then installed the bath panel.

Meanwhile the electricians connect the LED strip lights to the power supply in the stairs. Wow! It took a long time but it was worth it. Groovy.

The worktop multiplug is also installed by the electricians in the kitchen.
The list of jobs for the electricians seemed to go on for ages but by the end of the day the end was in sight. A few more things and their work will be done.
Unfortunately, the stove installer had a less successful day as the fresh air duct was an unusual diameter and he didn't have a drill the correct size. The stove itself looks fab, I can't wait to see it in action.
The end of the day saw the plumbing finished, except for the washing machine, we'll see the electricians again soon but by then the house may be our home as we are already waist deep in cardboard boxes.
The end is in sight. I hope soon to see the desert in front of the house disappear, although it may not be in time for the removal van.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Plumbing thursday

A day of plumbing....Sam and Bob arrived to do the little jobs that remain, including  the sinks. Here is the new shiny filter tap all ready for action, just waiting for the mains water.
The utility room sink is also plumbed in.
The perplexing problem of the rainwater harvesting tank had us all confused. Here Bob and Justin are considering all the options. Fortunately, after contacting the manufacturer, the solution was found and rainwater was pumped into the system.
Here is the control panel showing that the tank is 100% full.
It's not often we'd want to photograph a loo but this was the moment when the rain water flowed into cisterns for the first time! Hooray!
As Ebi, Sylvie and the children are having a couple of days' well-earned rest, we took the opportunity to dissect out the kitchen, sand it and give it a quick lick of paint. Tomorrow we'll try to find time to do the other sides of the doors.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The end is in sight

 This morning I couldn't help but admire the pergola construction. It now has beautiful looking guttering that matches the rest of the house.
The plumbers came today. Bob and Sam have been busy on another job so we were very pleased to see them. They managed to get the plumbing organised for the inflow and outflow of the sink.

Ebi brought the connectors from Germany with him so the plumbers were able to install the toilets. They also attached the flushing mechanisms. So now we just need water; they are going to be flushed with rainwater from the tank so we just need to switch the harvesting tank pump on and it should work...hopefully we'll see tomorrow.

The day was overwhelmed by the achievement of Ebi and Sylvie. They worked incredibly hard trying to get through the list of things to do so that we can move in next week!
First thing this morning, the front porch had some metal framework attached to it so that the glass could have something stable to sit on.

Then Ebi and Sylvie worked on the skirting boards. They were pre-painted ones which clip onto brackets screwed into the wall.

While I was away starting to organise things for the move, the 'T-bar' treads started to appear. They separate the different flooring areas and neaten all the edges. Finally all evidence of the dodgy screeding job is covered up!

The banister is put in place! Hooray, it looks great and people who visit us won't have the treat of possibly falling down the stairs. The doors are all in place so now there may even be privacy, especially in the bathrooms. A bit of dusting and the whole of upstairs will be just about ready!

The day ends with Ebi putting the final fixings on the glass porch. It all looks amazing. We are getting very excited about moving in. The only problem I can see is that our old furniture will make the house look cluttered. With budget constraints the chic designer gear may have to wait quite some time but keeping our own is also more eco-friendly.