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, 29 June 2010

Screed part 2 day 2

A slightly cooler day on site saw Russell and his team back to finish the screed. Here are a sample of the fibres that are added to the water before it is mixed.

A smooth result is achieved. It looks much better than upstairs.
All that's missing in the sea and then we'd have a perfect beach.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Screeding part two

Early this morning our second sand mountain was delivered. A new screeding team arrived to do the ground floor. I hope that these guys will achieve better results than the last ones!

Here is Bob, who is organising out the mixing of the screed. Fibres are added to a tub of water that is mixed with the quick-drying cement. These fibres reduce the likelihood of large cracks appearing by making the screed more flexible. Bob's hat shows how hot it was today; over 30C again.
Russell is in charge and does the levelling out. He is using a laser level to check the screed depth as they start with the corner of the kitchen.

Action Adie, who helps with dispensing the screed, runs to check on something. This time the tube for the screed isn't left to wriggle around the floor as it is tied down to scaffolding boards laid on top of a plastic sheet that is protecting the underfloor heating pipes. For those of you who are wondering, the pipes shouldn't collapse under the screed as they are pressurised with air.
Here is the sitting room half finished as everyone has a short break. It is very hot work so the screed is drying out quickly. Russell decides not to work too long into the afternoon as everyone is struggling with the heat, not least the floor!
This is the finished downstairs bathroom. My daughter thought at first that we were using mud not concrete as it is brown-coloured. I'm optimistic about this job but I would like to see how it dries. Tomorrow the screeding downstairs should be finished.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Another quiet day

Another quiet day on site, the full skip was picked up. Gary managed to balance another skip on top of ours before driving off. Expert skip handling!

The scaffolding is going down.
The whole house is visible.
It looks very smart, like it has been unwrapped.
The screed is still drying upstairs but monday will hopefully be a good day for the downstairs screed.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The house rests

There is a maze of underfloor heating pipes waiting for screeding downstairs. The board in the doorway is there to create an acoustic barrier so that sound isn't transmitted across the floor. It also reduces the risk of the screed cracking. The screeders upstairs insisted that they didn't need the boards and that they would cut a line into the concrete between the rooms, but that didn't happen.

In addition, they pumped the screed through a large pipe that was like a wild dancing python, in the process it damaged the insulation at the bottom of the stairs and over the hall. My daughter and I spent ages sweeping up the dry screed particles and covering the area with tape. Hooray for duct tape! It was hot, smelly work as the heat from the screed is staying in the well insulated house!
Here is the screed upstairs. The thickness variation is just on the borderline of british standard sr3. I'm still not happy with it, I'm sure it's not up to the standards of most other screeders! While I find a new screeder, the project is being held up. Mind you, it gives the screed upstairs a chance to cure undisturbed.
The house is shrouded by the large mound of sharp sand that is now redundant. The skip is full again and there is a large collection of cardboard and other reduntant materials. Another skip is full. More rubbish than when we demolished our house!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Watching screed dry...

This morning the screed upstairs did not look too good. The screeder said it was the quality of the sand and that it was level. I discovered that there is a British Standard in screeding. Apparently over a 2m straight edge there can be a tolerance of +/- 7mm (called SR3). A flowing screed can achieve a slightly higher tolerance apparently. Anyway, I called a halt to the downstairs screeding while I decide what to do.

Meanwhile, the screed upstairs is drying, giving off heat on one of the hottest days of the year.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Insulation and Screed

The house is starting to look  very smart on the outside meanwhile, on the inside there is a huge amount of activity.

It is all systems go upstairs as we get the floor prepared for the screed. Ebi and Charlie worked all hours to get the insulation ready. Everyone leant a hand to get the tape on the insulation joints at the last moment.
The shower trays are raised ready to be set in the screed. Just in time ...

...because the screeders arrive.

They start quicky, with a very dry screed mix

which is reinforced with D49 mesh.

This is then levelled. Unfortunately, the screed mix was a bit rough so a smooth finish wasn't achieved. Hmm, the level doesn't look quite right; it will need to be checked when it's set.
Meanwhile, Ebi is busy with the hinges for the garage door.

Charlie is busy fixing the panel on top of the solar thermal pipes in the utility room.
The new beautiful garage door closes on another day on site. Ebi and Charlie go home for a well-deserved rest.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Connections and Insulation

There has been a lot of progress. Here is the cute digger back again that dug the trenches for our water and electricity connections with the help of Jerry and Doru.
Here is the trench that goes from the temporary power supply to the new meter position in our house.
The new connection is made.
Jerry and Doru apply more layers of black jack on the outside of the floorslab for waterproofing. Insulation is then stuck onto the perimeter of the slab.
The downpipes from the house are now all connected to the drains, ready for the rainwater collection. All the groundworks are now finished so a BIG thank you goes to James, Jerry, Doru and Andy who all got the job done!
The electrical as well as the plumbing connections with the rainwater tank and made. The pump is made ready. Here Matt is pulling the piping through while Josh is at the other end in the house and Neil is shouting directions between them! Good teamwork!
Ebi and Charlie have been working hard, as always. Here is the new position of the foul vent pipe that is in the process of getting boxed in. Unfortunately, they need to do the more imminent job of finishing laying the insulation so that the plumbers can finish installing the underfloor heating pipes and so that we can be ready for the screed tomorrow!
Mid-morning we get a delivery of sharp sand ready for the screeding but no insulation.
Eventually, long after lunch the delivery comes with a loud cheer. Suddenly, everyone is rushing, the insulation has to go down!
There are so many sheets that they can only just fit on the site. The race is on to see how far they get before the screeding starts. Can the plumbers still lay the pipes if the screeders are going past with screed? There are lots of questions that will need to be answered. Tomorrow we will find out.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Insulation and underfloor heating day 1

Nearing the end of the wiring...

The ventilation first fix is finished soon after Adam arrives with the extra ducting. It looks very technical, it's almost a shame that it will be covered by the floor.

But today is really the first insulation day. Here Ebi and Charlie are deciding how to cut the first piece, or maybe it's just a ploy to hide from the camera...

Here they are working out the best way to avoid the pipes.
After the whole of the sitting/dining/kitchen has been covered by a layer of insulation, it is sealed and a second layer of insulation is placed on top. Joss is giving Ebi a hand while Charlie cuts the next piece.
Next, Paul and Joss lay the underfloor heating pipes; it looks rather impressive but there is something reminiscent of a post office queue about it.

The pipes then lead to the underfloor heating manifold. So now the main room is just waiting for the screed. Next to the windows there are six wooden boxes in position acting as moulds so that when the screed is added they will become voids which can house the LED floor lights. 
So the day ends with grotty weather but we are all feeling light-hearted; England are going to play in the world cup and its friday!