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.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Down to earth

While the woodburning stove research continues, the more important issue of what we're going to put our house on has to be addressed.

We are going to embark on the groundworks soon and need to address various issues such as soil surveys. The floorslab design is going to be finalised to ensure it has all the ducts to match up exactly with where we need them in the completed house. I am sure the design will be done very meticulously in Germany!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Visit to the factory - part 3

The factory visit ended with a look at the 'sanitary blocks'. These are located in the wall panels and are the reason that the sanitaryware has to be organised so precisely. The taps and outflow of a basin, for example, would be attached to these and have to align in the completed house. So depth of floortiles and wall tiles need to be considered too.
We returned to the meeting to discuss the electrical installation, i.e. the location of all the switches and sockets in every nook and cranny of the house!
It was a very long but satisfying day, finally I could distance myself from some of the detail but still one thing hangs over us...have a guess!
The next day we went via a...you guessed it....woodburning stove shop! Unfortunately, we had no luck as they were all large appliances. Hmm, back to the drawingboard - well actually the clever guys at Meisterstueck house have left us a panel so we can fit one on site and don't have to specify that one in advance! Phew!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Visit to the factory - part 2

After lunch further decisions were made about how the house is going to look on the outside; the colour and texture of the render, windows, roof tiles everything including the front door and door bell!

We had a tour of the production facilities while the plans were updated.

It all starts with wood.

The wood is allocated to a project. It is then cut to size with the laser controlled cutting machine. The wood is made into panels with a sandwich of insulative materials.
These panels will form the walls of the houses. The windows are installed in the panels before they are transported.

This includes the skylight windows in the roof panels.
It is great to see where our house will be built but it does make you realise that there's still a long way to go!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Visit to the factory - part 1

After a last minute panic and frantic research we decided, the day before our visit to Germany, to change the way we heat the house. We had thought to use a gas boiler for the underfloor heating and to heat the water in the house when the solar thermal panel isn't kicking in. We did the sums, however, and realised that when considering the cost of reinstating gas pipework, gas meter, the extra pipework inside the house, as well as the gas standing charge, sticking to electricity was a financially viable option. So now, after my usual U-turn, we decided that we are going to have an air source heat pump.

It was a freezing day when we arrived in Hannover, it was all covered in snow, looking wonderfully picturesque. The UK company representative took us the site of their factory, in Hameln, otherwise known as Hamelin in English; the town made famous by the Pied Piper. We didn't have to worry, the children were safe; they stayed at home! There were rats around but I hasten to say there were none in the factory (instead they were statues in the town).

In the factory the welcome was warm and we felt at ease as we discussed the preparations for the meeting that was going to take place the next day. We rounded the day off with a delicious meal and a room in a cosy hotel (provided by the company - a BIG thank you for that).

The next morning was even colder (-8C) as we settled in for the long day of discussing details. We started with the structure of the building. Ensuring things like the windows and doors were in the right places, and that they opened the way we wanted. We had to consider where the duct work was required for the air source heat pump and then the mechanical heat recovery ventilation. We also had to make sure that the kitchen window wasn't going to be blocked by the kitchen units!

After plentiful coffee we went on to discuss sanitary ware, taps and showers. I don't think I've ever had a formal meeting about loos before! Everything has to be planned and measured so that it will fit when the house arrives.

Lunch arrived, and that meant time for a break but not before there was mention of the dreaded wood-burning stove, had a decision been made in time? Hmm...to be continued...

Monday, 15 February 2010

Finally the paperwork subsides!

Hooray, the paperwork phase will soon be nearing it's conclusion as we are going to go to Germany to the prefabricated house company. We are going to sort out all the details large and small; everything from how we heat our house to where the light sockets are going to be! Once these decisions have been made they can't be changed so we have to anticipate as much as possible.
When this phase is done, things will start to progress more quickly and we will start to see results of all the organising. Let's hope that we've not forgotten anything!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Another paperwork day

Today was another mostly deskbound one checking the budgets for lighting, tiles etc. Zzzzz

The highlight of my day was a trip to the out of town shopping centre. I took in Homebase amongst other places, looking at appliances, lighting, furniture etc. It was good to see the appliances that I'd selected based on internet searches.

It's all in the details, which could be overwhelming (see my illustrated method to deal with brain overload)...Just don't ask me if I've reached a decision about the stove; it's a definite maybe.

Monday, 8 February 2010


There's nothing much to see on site for the next few weeks as the paperwork takes priority. We are specifying the details of the house still which involves lots of phonecalls and decisions.

The choice of woodburning stove, for instance, has been an on-going saga which isn't yet resolved. We want a stove that takes air only via a duct from outside but meanwhile doesn't have too much output. Thank goodness for the internet and some very patient people at the stove company. Hopefully we'll reach a decision soon.

Meanwhile, the weekend was bathroom tile decision time, I don't think the children found it very exciting but decisions were made. Hooray.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Point of no return

When I was a child I thought that in order to be somebody, you had to have your own key. Now I've got keys to nowhere, I wonder what I'd have made of that?
I retrieved the thermos from the quagmire that is our site. It's great that we are onto the next phase, there is no turning back. The house is scattered all over the county and beyond, being reduced to hardcore, tiles re-used and wood recycled and thankfully, nothing put into landfill.
I'm now back to preparations for the new house which, while essential, aren't very photogenic as they are mostly organising trades, and deciding on more of the finer details of the house, which is a job that I've been doing full time since October.
It looks like we may have to have a soil survey done, we were hoping not to (more bills), just as long as it doesn't hold up the build and our tight schedule.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Missing CAT

Missing, presumed lost, one large orange CAT with black markings. Not really house-trained. Much loved pet.
Reward if found: many happy hours of fun and destruction

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

All Clear

This is the last load of the red lorry.

The last few roof tiles went too.

It's all done! Hooray! Great work!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Rainy site clearance!

The end is in sight, the rubble pile is decreasing, as the rain starts...

There is some order in the chaos...

The sun comes out just as the large red lorry drives away with one of the last loads of concrete.
I'm going to miss the big machine, I just hope the crane that lifts our new house into position in April is BIG, to make up for it.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Snowy Site Clearance

There was quick action this morning as the garden wall came tumbling down. It was so quick that I missed it, but the exposed earth looked raw against the light dusting of snow.

The grab arm was up close and personal grabbing the last of the bricks.

And so another day ends on site, with some order returning to the chaos and one day closer to total bungalow annihilation.