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.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Levelling out the screed

Today Ebi, continued from yesterday and ensured that upstairs was ready for the bamboo flooring by spreading the levelling compound. It looked like chewing gum but it set very quickly.

This was poured where was needed upstairs - i.e. just about everywhere. Only one bedroom had a texture where the screed was good enough for Ebi to think about laying the bamboo floor. This was one of the bedrooms.
The master bedroom also had the same treatment as did the ensuite bathroom where the floor dipped in the middle by 5mm. David, the tiler has also finished the grouting in the bathrooms but I didn't want to tread on the floor to get a closer look!
Ebi has also been working on the showerwall, this is a waterproof board that stops the problem of leaky tiles in showers, reducing the risk of damage to the walls. We had this costly experience in our old house. The showerwall has been finished downstairs bathroom and in the ensuite but the bath needs to be installed before Ebi can finish the showerwall in the family bathroom. The showerwall has a white metal edging strip that complements the tiles well in the downstairs bathroom.
The day finished with Ebi singing along with opera music, finishing windowsills and generally getting ready to start the bamboo flooring tomorrow. 

Thursday, 29 July 2010

varnish, tiles and windowsills

This morning I arrived early to make sure the house was tidy (and to bring the thermos of hot water for coffees). I checked out yesterday's paintwork. It wasn't fantastic but we will do one more top coat after the kitchen has been installed. Later on during the day, we varnished the insides of the cupboards.
David did a lot of work yesterday and managed to get the utility room grouted in anticipation of the busier site today. He also finished the initial tiling in the downstairs bathroom ready for grouting today.

A bit later, the now familiar grey van arrived in our street; it was Ebi, his van loaded with exciting house materials. He settled in, creating his temporary workshop upstairs. Meanwhile, the floors were double and triple swept in anticipation of the levelling compound going down.
The tiler managed to finish the mosaic borders in the family bathroom, thankfully the extra mosaic tiles matched, a little bit of grouting and it will be done.
The downstairs bathroom was then grouted, ready for the next stage (showerwall and then maybe even sanitaryware!). David chose ivory grout which matches the tiles. The tiles don't look liken much in this photo but they are really smart and remind me of a hotel.
Amongst the many things Ebi managed to take in his van, are the windowsills. Here he's ensuring they fit and are level.
It was a long day but we are definitely making progress. We even managed to get rid of the plasterboard leftovers, and the skip is going to be picked up tomorrow. Just the pallets to go! I can imagine now that we may soon be able to transform the front of the site back into a driveway and garden.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

8 week old house

Phew! Today we finished painting the satinwood topcoat on the kitchen doors. We are going to varnish the cupboard interiors with a water-based varnish but depending on how Ebi wants to do things, we may wait until the kitchen is installed. Next we have to decide on how we are going to protect the wooden worktops.
We have managed to catch a photo of camera-shy David, the tiler. He is working on the tiles in the downstairs bathroom on the walls. He wants to finish them today so he can grout them tomorrow. David is also going to grout the tiles in the utility room as there will be more through-traffic when the plumbers  and Ebi return.
We had to leave before David was finished for the day, so tomorrow we'll see how much he managed to get done. 
Interestingly, more and more people are hearing about our house through the local grapevine, I can't go to any local builders merchants without people asking me about the project. Even some online suppliers have heard about us! It is like a ripple effect. This blog is also now getting a wide readership- thank you. It would be good to hear from you and hear about your projects too! I nearly forgot to mention; the house is 8 weeks old.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Sanding madness and tiles

Our sanity was stretched this morning as the wood grain came up overnight on all the kitchen units that we had thought were ready for painting! I spent an hour tackling the sanding alone and went back to the rental house for strong coffee and biscuits. An hour later we all returned armed with our new purchase: a detail sander. I wish we'd bought this a few days ago! The sander made light work of task and we could quickly start on the painting and calm was restored.
Dave, the tiler, started to work on the downstairs bathroom floor. Fortunately, there weren't too many cut-outs...
...so he had time to do the utility room floor as well! It was very fiddly with all the gubbins in there. He's going to move the water softener a bit tomorrow so he can tile under it. I like these cheap and cheerful tiles; they should hide some of those muddy footprints.
It was a rather dull day today, the painting is brain-numbing and the early mornings aren't great for the children (or me) but we keep on going. I am longing to see the kitchen come together. If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture we are all very excited. Like my friend Martha says; it's like a jigsaw puzzle, you get the outsides done and you think you'll never finish the middle pieces. Then suddenly you are on the final stretch. One month to go until we move in.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Sanding and priming

After a weekend of priming and sanding the kitchen units, we did more of the same today. Fortunately, the priming is now finished so a bit more sanding tomorrow and we might make a start on the top coat.
A moment of reflection up on the garage deck ...
Just as we were about to go and find some lunch the sanitaryware arrived, with no one to help, Tony had to take it into the house single-handedly. Not easy over the mound of sand!
The mosaic tiles that were needed to finish the bathroom were delivered, as well as the levelling compound, purchased to remedy the upstairs screed.
There wasn't much action from the tiler today as there was the question of the residual moisture content in the downstairs screed, which is a little higher than expected. However, given the hot weather and the fact that the underfloor heating has been on, we have decided to go ahead and tile the downstairs bathroom, there would be lots of downstream jobs that would be delayed otherwise.

I took a quiet moment in the afternoon to admire how much sky we now see from the house.
Tomorrow will be a bit more busy given that the plumbers will be back on site. Ebi will be back later in the week. In the meantime, the kitchen units wait...

Friday, 23 July 2010


It was another day of decorating today. Brian worked very hard and has managed to get all the decorating done upstairs (except for bathroom walls that need malervlies first). The staircase in particular looks stunning. I am really looking forward to seeing the whole house looking like this!
Meanwhile, despite having a trip to the dentist and lots of phonecalls to catch up on, we managed to make a start on the kitchen units. Thanks to Brian's advice we are learning some new decorating skills and finding out how important it is to have the right tools! Anyway, we made a start on the units and hopefully will do more over the weekend. It will be lovely to see the units in place, I can't wait.
As we start dreaming about moving in, some caterpillars have beaten us to it. There are loads of them on this ragwort outside the sittingroom. A quick internet search reveals that they are Cinnabar moth caterpillars. It is amazing how much more diverse the wildlife and insect life in particular has become since we've been neglecting the garden! It is the cheapest and quickest way yet devised to increase our green credentials!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

White, grouting and knotting

Grouting done, as far as possible but we are waiting on the delivery of the last mosaic tile to finish the job in the family bathroom. The tiles in the ensuite bathroom are now grouted.
The masterbedroom has been painted by our very efficient decorator, you can see him in action on the other bedroom. It is very white and bright now.
Meanwhile, I have been working on the knotty problem of the pine units. Two coats of knotting solution and we decide to call it a day. Tomorrow we will prime the units and caulk them. In the meantime, the children have been painting ceilings in the two rooms at the front of the house. Many hands and all that. I've had to order more paint today as you need a lot of paint to cover the malervlies but it feels very smooth once it's covered.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Decorating and tiling again

Another day of decorating; by the professional: this is one of the bedrooms, looking fab.
And the determined amateur (teenager power). Actually, this is just the diluted first coat in the guest room; it will look much better later.
The tiler is continuing but unfortunately we are about one sheet short on mosaics.
Now the kitchen has moved itself into the main room downstairs; it has been sanded and dusted and is now waiting for caulking and knotting solution. Hopefully we will get a chance tomorrow to make a start.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Decorating and tiling

The living room is looking much better now with the light fittings back in the ceiling. We have to do one more layer of paint on the walls and then this room will be ready for the next stage.
As we had family commitments today we couldn't get to site until the end of the day. We were pleased to see that there was progress by the decorator in our absence. The first coat has been done in another two bedrooms and the top coat in the two bathrooms.

Meanwhile the tiler has been busy with the mosaics in the ensuite and the large white gloss tiles. There is now a chrome edge on the mosaic border and he's made a start on the family bathroom.
Following Ebi's advice we checked the floor for moisture after a few days under the plastic sheet. Downstairs was completely dry and there was only a slight bit of moisture upstairs. Mind you, the underfloor heating is chugging away downstairs so it's not surprising that it's beginning to dry out. Tomorrow I hope to get back on site to make a start on the kitchen units before Ebi returns. 

Monday, 19 July 2010

How many tradesmen can fit in the utility room at one time?

This was a very busy morning; the plumbers, electricians, tiler and decorators were all busy. Fortunately, they managed not to get under each other's feet.

Here Paul the plumber, somehow he managed to persuade Sam to put his head inside the rainwater tank in order to make a connection with the pump!
Meanwhile, over the weekend the family have all been busy painting the main room (not very well). The paint is incredibly thick and doesn't smell at all, with very good coverage. It does look like the aliens have sprouted from the ceiling or maybe a photography studio or filmset. During the morning Josh sorted out the light fittings, pushing them back into the ceiling.

Josh also did some of the electricity sockets; gradually the house is being reclaimed from the building site as it becomes a more recognisable home.

One of the limiting factors for the internal decoration of the house is the floor screed. I've tried it with Ebi's moisture meter and it doesn't look very dry yet so I'm trying Ebi's other test. I have attached plastic sheeting to the floor and I will check in a couple of days if there is water underneath.

The electrician is discussing with the people who are commissioning the heat pump whether the additional pump for the underfloor heating is needed. Apparently, it is surperfluous as the heat pump will pump the water around the underfloor system instead. By the time the heat pump distributor people leave, the underfloor heating has been switched on for the first time. There are no leaks and the floor slab begins to warm up. It was a hot day today but by tomorrow it will be roasting in the house as we heat up the screed by 5C everyday until we reach maximum temperature that the system will run at normally. This will take a few days but hopefully we will be able to tile the floors once that has cooled down again.
Meanwhile, upstairs the decorator is working valiently on; he is very quick and efficient and by the end of the day he's managed to put the first layer on the whole landing and stairwell; quite some effort with ceilings that reach over four metres high! Good job! He is not alone upstairs, the tiler is busy for most of the day with the mosaics in the ensuite. Another job that makes the house feel more like our home.