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, 1 April 2013


The house has been performing well, generating a profit so we are effectively a net No-bills home!
You may want to check out Build It magazine, April 2013 for more pictures.

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Hip hip hooray! Our house is a year old.

The house is performing very well, the bungalow is a dim and distant dark memory.
We feel very fortunate and happy. It has been a great adventure.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Good morning, Sunshine!

Passersby have been wondering why we might have scaffolding up on our house again. Thankfully it is good news as our photovoltaic panels were installed this week.
We have employed the same contractors to do the work as for our solar thermal panels and heat pump.

We chose the Sanyo Hit 250W panels and have installed 12 of them. They should have a theoretical output of 3kWh peak.

Here is the roof with the brackets in place before the panels were attached.

Work in progress.

Job done! Fab! Thank you Neil, Steve and Liam.

When the system was connected within the house, we were amazed to find that it generated 3kWhp when the sun shone. Apparently there is often a drop-off of up to 20% but not with these panels. Having a good angle on the roof helps, without shadows from trees or other buildings.

We are very happy with the results. The first day we generated 13.5kWh, and yesterday we generated 12.8kWh even though there has been a significant amount of cloud cover! We have been charging everything and using the washing machine the minute the sun comes out!

The good thing is that with our low-energy house, the demands for energy are relatively low (even with three teenagers in the house). The installation of the photovoltaic panels to generate electricy should allow us to get sufficient income from the Feed-in tarriffs to cover the cost of our electricity the rest of the time when there is no sun. Net result: no bills!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Snagging ends but the garden grows

We have had some snagging problems; such as the calibration of the rain water harvesting tank but that has been resolved now. There are some remaining problems with the mechanical ventilation with heat recovery system which is not meeting the planned specification for the house. We hope for a resolution of this in the future.

The house itself is working very well. The airtightness and high level of insulation have offered us a very energy efficient way of living. We are very happy with it. The house is so comfortable that the bungalow is a dim and distant nightmare. We have lots of space and light and could not imagine living in a conventional house again. Anyway, we are now looking at improving the garden so I will only occasionally be adding now posts to this blog.

Meanwhile, if you want to continue following the goings on in our project, you can see the new blog: blog my garden. Watch as the garden takes shape again after the build, although, the results are not going to be as fast!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The grass is greener or is it?

It's been a long time since I last wrote on the blog. The house hasn't changed much but we've started to look at the back garden.

From a distance I was pleased because it looked like the lawn was growing back. However, on closer inspection I saw

it was ground elder!!! These tiny shoots bode alot of back-breaking work. They will keep coming back unless you get rid of all the long roots.

After two days of work, I'd hardly made an impact. I think I may have to think of a plan B. No weedkillers though as we plan to grow veggies here.

The digger may have helped to spread the ground elder around, but it also helped by making the pond. About two months ago we put the liner in the pond and waited for rain. It didn't seem to come. Then suddenly it started to pour down. A couple of days ago it looked like this. The liner was a bit big but I'm using it help collect more rainwater.

Meanwhile the front garden looked devoid of life as we decide what we're going to grow in there. But miraculously, perhaps caught on the digger tread, a small crocus tulip is flowering. Perhaps it is telling me to get on with planting before ground elder spreads to the front garden too.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Snow progress

Amazingly, just before Christmas, our newly moved summer house received a new layer of felt on the roof, thanks to our intrepid handyman, Harry. Despite the snow he managed to complete the job, so like the house it is water-tight.

Our house is more than water tight. In the recent snow, even when the snow was melting on the neighbours houses ours was still intact. How's that for the good insulation in action.
Now it's a new year and we realise that in comparison to the house project, the garden will be more straight forward. Like sorting out the snagging problems, both will progres slowly but I will continue to update the blog occasionally.

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.