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The Garage

The Initial Plan

The last of the ‘big’ jobs is to build the garage. The original plan was for it to be made from a single skin of wide blocks so that I didn’t have to have any internal piers and with an insulated slab, walls and roof. It would also have a flat roof with parapet similar to the flat-roofed section we have above the kitchen. Size-wise it was planned at 7265mm wide and 7715mm long – so quite big! We’ve made a few changes to that original plan.

The New Plan

Firstly, it’s now 6740mm in each direction. The reasons for this change were that although I did want something as big as possible so that I could work comfortably on my cars I didn’t want it to dominate the front of the plot. A friend has a HUGE garage and seeing how he had set his out made me comfortable that I could make ours smaller without really compromising my work space.

The second change is to the structure. It’s now being made from single skin 100mm blocks with piers in each corner and half-way along each length. Quite simply this has been done to save money.

The last main change is to the insulation. It won’t have an insulated slab and at the moment neither the walls or the roof will be insulated. This may change but probably not until next year. Again, this is just a cost -reducing exercise as I’d rather spend the money on something to actually go in the garage!

 Levelling The Site

It’s been a bit of a challenge to work out the levels. The gateway is higher that the garage slab which in turn is higher than the front door of the house. In other words the plot slopes towards the house from the road. We want as flat a driveway as we can get but that really means that we need to build a small retaining wall in front of the house. This isn’t perfect but by keeping it reasonably low (a couple of blocks) and moving it away from the house enough it should work ok. It’s hard to visualise it but I’m sure it’ll be fine once done.

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Retaining wall in front of house

The garage slab is due to be poured tomorrow so I’ll update with more detail later in the week.

Gas!!!

The only issue we’ve had so far is that the brickie put a spade through the gas pipe! The pipe  was laid by National Grid and they didn’t put any tracer tape down so I can’t blame him for not knowing. Anyway, 3 visits later from the ‘gas guys’ and it’s all fixed.

 

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Drainage and Groundworks

With the scaffolding down and gas, electric and water all routed into the house (we’ll conveniently ignore BT for now) the outside was pretty much ready for the next few external jobs – preparing for the garage and getting the drains laid.

In theory we could have started some of this work quite a bit sooner but work on the garage couldn’t start until the shipping container we were using as a site office and storage was removed. It was quite handy having it as it kept the external trades out of the house and the inside of the house as clutter-free as possible. And less ‘stuff’ visible to unwanted night-time visitors.

Rainwater

Each of the downspouts from the gutters feeds into one of two soakaways. These are just holes in the garden that are filled with stones (then recovered) which allow the water to ‘soak away’! With the land being so sandy we don’t have a drainage issue and these work pretty well.

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Rainwater soakaway

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Soakaway covered

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Access for rodding will be cut down after the ground is levelled

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 Sewerage

In total we have 6 soil pipes exiting the house to feed into the main sewer, with four on one side of the house and two on the other side. There is one for each of the three bathrooms, two for the downstairs cloak-room (I know – see the blog entry about the issue with how the ducts were originally laid into the slab) and one from the kitchen. The utility room feeds into the one from the second en-suite. On each side of the house they merge into each other and then route off towards the main sewer. At each point where there is a change in direction we need a man-hole to allow for access. As ugly as they are there isn’t a lot we can do about this so the only thing was to ensure that they would be sited in the grass and not in the path around the house. I’ll try and get some of the covers that allow grass to be grown in them if I can.

Fortunately, I think, the main sewer runs through our rear garden so connecting to it should be pretty straight forward, assuming we can find it! Each of our two neighbours ‘knew’ where it was, although they hadn’t actually seen it, and the plan supplied by United Utilities was at about the level of detail my 9-year-old niece could provide. Aside from it’s general location the other challenge was that, based on where the neighbours said it was, it must be DEEP! At a guess around 4-8m deep. Oh joy

A morning with a big digger didn’t uncover anything so we resorted to UU’s sketch. And then we found it! We should employ more 9-year-olds I think. Or is that not the Right Thing To Do these days? The pipe is about 1.3 m down but only around 180mm in diameter – for some reason I was expecting it to be much bigger. So we had a big hole, an exposed main sewer and a number of our soil pipes ready to feed into it. Just need to get Building Control to approve it all now.

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Main sewer

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Building Control

The Building Control Office (BCO), Bill, arrived to sign-off the drains and was really happy with what he saw – all good. The only fly in the ointment was that BC don’t sign off the connection to the main sewer as that’s under the control of the utility company. And you can’t just connect to the sewer, you need permission. We didn’t have permission!!!! Now, this is something I should have picked up on a year ago when we got the water connection but as the forms asked whether we were connecting to the mains sewer (yes) and there was no resulting instruction to do anything I’d struck it off my list of things to think about. The groundworkers had a moan (it was all my fault…) but I did point out that they’d connected to main sewers hundreds of time before, knew we were connecting to a main sewer, hadn’t asked whether we had permission (apparently they didn’t know!), hadn’t organised for UU to come and inspect the works and also would have connected it up if the BCO hadn’t said anything.

I made a few quick calls, filled in the forms, pleaded for a quick approval and got it all sorted within about a week. Having said that we are still yet to make the connection though as UU need at least 5 days to inspect the work before the hole is covered up and the guys were due off site the following day. They need to come back in a few weeks anyway so it’ll be done then.

Levelling and the Patio

The site slopes from front to back, not massively but ‘plenty’. As far as the font of the plot is concerned the main challenge is to find a way to go from the gate to the front door, while still keeping as level a driveway as possible, bearing in mind there is about 1.3m height difference over around 11m. We decided that the best way would be to build a small wall in front of the house with a path between it and the house itself. The driveway would come to just below the top of the wall. We’re still to work out the exact details but as we’re just about to build the garage we do need to know where the driveway level will be so that we can lay the garage slab. I think we know…

As part of the works we reshaped part of the plot to make it a little more level and dragged top-soil and sand around to achieve this. It does look much better now but we still have work to do, which will be done when the sewer is connected. We’ve also laid MOT Type 1 stone around the front, one side and back of the house onto which a path and the patio will be laid. I’m hoping the patio won’t be too big but it does look sizeable as it’s the full width of the house plus a bit (so around 15-16m) and 5m deep. At least we have some time to get used to it before we actually lay any paving.

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 Garage

Area stripped, trenches dug and concrete poured. Bill the BCO was on holiday when we needed the trenches inspecting so we had a stand-in chap come to inspect. He was concerned by the roots from the hedge so we were forced to dig deeper that we’d normally expect. The fact that there weren’t any roots anywhere near didn’t seem relevant to him and I can’t help thinking that he just wanted to find something for us to fix. Well, it’s ready now so we just have to wait for the brickies.

Scaffold down!

I seem to have neglected the blog somewhat recently so I think it’s time I rectified that. This entry is being written very much retrospectively (about 2 months retrospectively!) but I just want to bring everything up to date for the record…

Finally, and I do mean ‘finally’, the scaffold has come down. This obviously means a couple of things – the rendering and the cedar cladding has finished. Well, the upper part of the house is finished, at least. Oh, and it also means I’m now £84 a week better off!

Render

The upper part of the house is now rendered! Not much to add other than to post up some photos…

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Parts of the lower section of the house have been primed, but as I wrote in the last blog entry, this won’t be completed until much later on.

Downspouts

The eagle-eyed will have spotted that we now have downspouts, or at least half-spouts. The remaining lower sections will be fitted when the render and stone cladding is completed.

Cedar Cladding

The fitting of the cedar cladding has been ‘pending’ for quite some time. It was planned to have been done a few weeks earlier but due to other works slipping we lost our slot and had to wait the best part of a month. I did toy with the idea of getting someone else in to do it sooner and in fact offered the work to two other people.

The first guy believed it was about a month’s work for two people (it’s only 50m2!) so he was dropped pretty quickly. The second guy was a retired joiner who seemed happy to just do anything. As it turned out, I needed a couple of pretty low-skilled joinery related jobs doing first so asked him to do these first. This was a Good Move. It took him all day to do what I think would have taken me about 3 hours to do and my gut was telling me to drop him quickly – certainly not to let him anywhere near the cedar! I’m pretty sure he was a retired joiner, I’m just not that certain what he ‘joined’ – I don’t think it was wood.

Anyway, I digress… We waited patiently for the original guys to turn up and I have to say they did a cracking job – I think it took 3 of them about 3-4 days. Mind you, they did whinge a lot (that seems to be a VERY common trait of most of the trades), generally about nothing in particular, but one recurring theme was that I hadn’t bought enough timber to complete the job. I knew I had and in fact I knew I had bought way too much – even a set of plans showing which pieces went where didn’t seem to placate them. Obviously though, by the end they realised I was right 🙂

Oh, a little about the cedar before I forget. It’s Western Red Cedar 19mm thick, 144mm deep and various lengths from about 2m long to around 4.2m. The profile is called Microline Channel (Silva Timber Cladding) There are various grades of timber and this is known as No.2 Clear and Better, which basically means that it doesn’t have (m)any knots, although there is a degree of colour variation between pieces.

Additionally, we had it coated by the supplier with a UV protecting coating. The basic aim of this is to try and keep it from going grey as long as possible without having to resort to staining it. I’m not sure how effective this will be but we felt it was worth the gamble.

We’ve only fitted the cedar to the upper part of one side of the house, wrapping around to the windows front and rear but I think it looks fantastic. We’re really please with how it looks so just hope that the UV coating does it’s job, at least for a few years.

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Some Progress Externally

Externally, everything has been waiting for the aluminium copings and flashings to be fitted. Not so much stop-start as stop.

Aluminium Pressings

The aluminium is coated to match the the windows, both in colour and texture. We did look at cheaper options but it just wouldn’t have looked right so bit the bullet and went for it. Seeing the first few pressings go up though has vindicated our choice and by the time the rendering and cladding is finished it should look great.

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Coping above study and cills

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Cill detail showing upstand

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Drip detail on coping

Rendering

The render system we’re using is Alumasc. The first few boards have been fitted and in a couple of areas the base-coat has been applied. We will only be finishing off the top half of the house for now and will be completing the lower half once all the groundworks have completed. The reason for this is that any damage to the base-coat can be easily fixed but not the top-coat.

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Boarding the front

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Boarding the rear

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Base-coat applied

Local Meet

The local VX220 Owners’ Club held a meet on site at the weekend. (one for SELOC)

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An on-site VX220 meet, yesterday

Rainwater Goods

One of the jobs that has been progressing (slowly) and has now just completed is the installation of the roof-line products: fascias, barge-boards, soffits and gutters. I think I may have covered off what we were looking to do in a previous blog entry but to re-cap, all these items are in high-quality powder-coated aluminium. The aim has always been to minimise the amount of maintenance that is needed on the outside of the house and going for aluminium finishes rather painted wood really helps with this, despite the much higher cost.

Now it’s up I’m really happy with it, with one exception which may actually prove not to be an issue when other trades have done their bit – more on this later. The finish is superb and hopefully this is starting to show in the photos.

The exterior of the house will be a mixture of render, western red cedar cladding and slate slips. On the photos of the exterior, anywhere you see blockwork that will be covered in the slate. The areas covered by the blue membrane will be mostly render, but the left side (looking from the front) at first floor level will be timber – this will also wrap around to the windows front and back. Before this works can be done though we need to get some aluminium strips fitted above all the large windows and these in turn require that the soffits be fitted.

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Soffits ready for installation

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Soffits showing ventilation strip

The soffits are held in place by aluminium white-headed rivets into a 50mm J-trim that is fastened to the walls. The render will be applied to carrier board that is affixed to 50mm battens, so when the rendering is complete these rivets will be hidden from view. The exception to this is above the large windows where we will have some alumium trims fitted as these trims will sit much closer to the wall, giving a (hopefully) nice detail between the trim and the render. The problem here then is that all those rivets would be visible. The reality is that they’d hardly be noticable from the ground but I was led to believe there would be nothing on show so there needed to be a fix. This ‘fix’ has been to fit another trim over the J-trim, hiding the rivets although a couple will be visible, but that’s all. This is ok, but close up you can tell there are 2 trims and I’m not realy that happy with it. The scaffold is in the way at the moment so I can’t tell if it’ll really be a problem or not. Either way I’m going to have to live with it.

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The join won’t be visible when the rendering is complete

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Just checked – it’s not visible from the ground

There were a few ‘disappointments’ along the way. First up was we only had the guys on site for a couple of days before they disappeared for over a week. I’ve still no idea why this was allowed to happen and there was no real explanation. Tied in with this was that we seemed to have a constantly changing work-force with what can best be described as a ‘mix of abilities’. One area that this really manifested itself was that they had started to use stainless screws to fasten the alumium. Aside from the fact that these screws: looked terrible, weren’t screwed in square and were silver so stuck out like a sore thumb, they hadn’t considered the effect of galvanic corrosion, which is shocking given that they work with aluminium every day.

Galvanic corrosion, also called bi-metallic corrosion, is a process whereby one metal corrodes preferentially to another when both metals are in electrical contact in the presence of an electrolyte. This is the process in play for a basic battery. In our situation we are looking at aluminium and steel in the presence of water, which leads to agressive corrosion of the aluminium! Some might believe that because the area of contact between the steel and aluminium is small then the effect would be negligible but in fact it is aggravated. There’s lots of information out there, but this page from Wikipedia is a good overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galvanic_corrosion.

So how do you prevent it? Easy, either insulate the two matals and stop them coming into contact, remove the electrolyte (water) or more simply don’t use dissimilar metals! Obvioulsy we went for the latter so all the screws had to come out and be replaced with rivets. I still can’t believe it was left to me to pick up. ‘O’ level chemistry saves the day again 😀

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Soffits complete

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Corner detail

Gutters

Ideally we would have fitted galvanised steel gutters, but there were two factors that led us away from this. Firstly, there was the galvanic corrosion issue but secondly I didn’t want to have to deal with yet another supplier, so the only real option was to go with alumium gutters and downspouts. The product itself is superb – very well made and sturdy but we needed to pick a colour, which isn’t easy without seeing samples. In the end we went with a satin finish metallic silver in RAL 9022. This was picked largely blind with only an internet photo of a set of re-finished BMW alloy wheels for reference. As it turns out, the colour is exactly what we were looking for. Relief!

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Gutters look more metallic in the flesh

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Temporary rain bag

The downspouts won’t be fixed until the exterior is finished so in the meantime we have polythene bags draped down the house. I can’t see these lasting a couple of months so I’m going to have to find a temporary solution I think.

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Looking sharp!

A bit of wind

One final thing… We had a few days of high winds recently which led to one of the ridge tiles coming loose. Although this might sound bad it was probably to be expected as we haven’t yet fitted the ridge end caps.

The ridge tiles are secured using a dry ridge system, essentially screws and plates, rather than the traditional (rubbish) sand and cement method. This is not only quick to install but it is very reliable. The last ridge tile though requires an end cap to ensure that any wind doesn’t lift it up but most of those available are plastic and designed for different roof pitches. I’m still waiting on some aluminium ones to be delivered but I wanted to be sure that no matter what, the ridge wouldn’t come off. So, up I went and drilled another hole near the end and fitted a suitable fixing…

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There’s a gap that needs filling

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Additional fixing installed

Roofing has Finished (and other short stories)

Roof

Well, the main roof was finished about 3 weeks ago actually, but you don’t know that. Not a lot to say, other than I’m glad it’s done and I think it looks great.

The guys also fitted the Velux roof-light for us. At 160x114cm and being triple glazed and electrically operated it was a fair-old lump to get on the roof and required the erection of another scaffold tower in the stair-well. The only job left for me to do was to fit the external roller-shutter blind, but that was put off while I mustered up the courage!

Although the main roof was finished we still had the flat roof section to address but due to bad weather and other clients, this didn’t get finished until just a few days ago. Not a big deal in some respects but it has been raining in and at times the house has been flooded. As long as it didn’t impact the impending air-tightness work I was reasonably ok with it, but it was getting tight.

The flat-roof is now protected with a product called Kemperol – a liquid waterproofing system produced by Kemper System. Flat roofing products have really moved on in the last few years and I was really looking forward to getting this last bit of the roof complete as there’s been quite a bit of water coming in in the past few weeks. In the end we ‘invested’ in a dehumidifier to help dry the place out prior to MBC coming back to do the air-tightness tasks and blow in the insulation. In the nick of time, the place was ready 🙂

Other progress…

Since the last main update at the end of last year there has been some progress but perhaps not as much as I was hoping for. Partly, the Christmas break was to blame for that but getting trades and suppliers lined up can be beyond painful at times. These appear to be those times.

So, what’s happened recently?

Windows

Aside from the front door and its frame these were all fitted in one go and they look great. We left the front door off for a couple of reasons: the guys were finishing off for Christmas and I felt it might have been a bit of a rush-install as they were running out of time; I also didn’t want to risk the door getting damaged – it’s an aluminium door with the same powder coating as the windows so if it gets scratched we’re in trouble!

Obviously, without the door in place the house isn’t secure and with first-fix looming we decided to get it in. Also, there are a couple of other jobs that needed attending to:

  • Firstly, there are a few windows where the air-tight foam hadn’t been completed, so this needed to be done before we could make the whole house air tight
  • Secondly, the sliding doors needed to be re-fitted.  They were originally fitted so that they were at the right level based on the thickness of wood flooring that we’ll be fitting (more on this shortly). All good, aside from the fact that the concrete floor isn’t quite level (due to the severe rain we had when we laid the slab) and the door levels were set with the wood floor placed at the lowest point on the slab, not the highest. We’ll be pouring a thin levelling-screed soon so it’s paramount that the doors are set based on the wood being at the right (high) level. So, out they came…

Everything is sorted now though, so I suppose that’s another bill that’ll need paying!

Blockwork

I mentioned early on that we would be having some stone cladding detail around the house. We can’t adhere this directly to the timber frame and in some places that wouldn’t be appropriate anyway so the approach was to put up some blockwork and then fix the cladding onto it.

The two brickies started the work between Christmas and New Year and it was finished just a few days later. One of the quicker elements of the build! It’s just a few blocks but they do now give the house a very different look.

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Soffits, fascias, gutters etc

This is the job that’s now holding-up everything else. And will very shortly be leading to a £180/week scaffold bill. We had the survey to measure up 2 or 3 weeks ago (I thought it was mid December but apparently that was just to measure-up. No, I don’t understand that either). Once that has been done we can get the other aluminium pressings measured up and fitted. Then the rendering can be done. Actually, this job started today but I’ll do another blog entry on the subject in the next day or so.

Timber cladding

Well, it’s ordered! We’re going for Western Red Cedar from Silva Timber coated with Sansin clear UV protection. This (hopefully) will help the timber keep its natural colour for longer but we shall see. I’ll report back in 10 years 🙂  I now just have to find someone to fit it

Render

Another ‘work in progress’. I still haven’t settled on a render system but some of the quotes I’m getting are quite comical. More news later this week I think…

Roofing has started

Well, it would appear I’ve been a little remiss with keeping this blog up to date. I had actually prepared this entry around Christmas time but for some reason it never got published. So, although time and tasks have moved on I’m going to post this ‘as it was’ purely as a reminder to myself of what went on.

The Slates

Just before Christmas the slates arrived on site. Much like everyone else we would have used Welsh slate if we could, but the price premium was just too much to bear so we’ve gone with a Spanish slate called Cupa R12. You often hear lots of horror stories about anything that isn’t Welsh slate but the reality is that most slate in use isn’t Welsh and there aren’t that many reported issues. To be fair, I think most of the problems are down to cheaper Chinese and Brazilian varieties. These were cheaper than Welsh, but not ‘cheap’.

We did have a few problems along the way though. The roofer commented that he was trying to order the slates but there was some sort of shortage reported by the supplier. Apparently this was down to Brexit- much like the weather and VW’s emissions scandal, I’m assuming. So, not one to take anything like this at face value I made a few calls, including to the importers of the Cupa slate up in Scotland. Now as you might imagine it turns out that the ‘shortage’ wasn’t quite so dramatic as might have been reported, so all good. Or maybe not. We had originally been quoted for 600mm x 300mm slates but it would appear that these were not the right size for the roof slope and house location. I was directed at the table below.

Essentially, what it shows is the recommended minimum head-lap (how much the slates overlap) and slate size for a given roof slope in areas of the UK that are considered to be ‘moderate exposure’. Our roof is 20 degree pitch, so the appropriate slate size would be either 600x350mm or 500x300mm, neither of which are particularly common. However, we are in an area that is considered ‘severe exposure’ and it’s not recommended to go below 22.5 degrees pitch. Nice. I mentioned it to both the roofer and architect but they were non-the-wiser, which is disappointing.

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Slate Size & Headlamp for Moderate Exposure Areas

Anyway, I had to make a decision on what to do. The roof pitch wasn’t going to be changing and the house is staying where it is. We could have gone for a different roof covering (I did consider it), but the reality is we wanted and we were having slate. Bearing in mind that with any of the recommendations there is an in-built safety factor we elected to go with the installation based on the moderate exposure figures. It’s not as though we’re in the north-west of Scotland either (I hope I don’t live to regret those words!).

Slates duly ordered, they arrived after a couple of weeks but were promptly sent back as they didn’t have the pre-drilled holes. The right ones were on site a few days later and were loaded on to the roof, ready for nailing down. Then everyone stopped work for Christmas.

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Roof loaded up

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Roof set out and ready to go!

The first few slates were nailed down and looked good against the Kytun dry verge.

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First slates fitted to dry verge

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Dry verge

Then it was obvious that the dry verge had its limitations. We’ve ended up filling the joints with a grey lead sealant. Close-up it doesn’t look too clever but from the ground it’s not really noticeable. I’ll probably see what I can do to improve it, but for now it’s ok.

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An imperfect solution

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Ventilation

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Looking good!

So, there we have it. At the end of 2016  the roof of our new home is going on!

Windows

At last

It’s mid-December and we’ve firmly entered BST (British Slow Time) on the build now. After the lightning progress with the Irish guys, everything is starting to slow right down now.

The windows arrived a couple of days earlier than expected, which was a nice surprise. Well, I say a couple of days earlier, what I actually mean is a couple of days less late than I was led to believe we’d have them but at least they’re here now.

So far we’ve had about 3 or 4 days of installation and most of the smaller windows are now in, either completely or in part – I have to say they do look good! We’ve gone for some triple-glazed aluminium/timber windows and doors from Internorm, an Austrian company that makes very high quality and performing windows and doors. As well as the windows, they’re also supplying the front and side doors and the 2 sliding doors and all are produced in their ‘Studio’ line which has a very sharp and modern look, hopefully in-keeping with the rest of the build.

The internal finish is a factory-finish white paint but externally we’ve gone for a dark metallic grey (DM03 if you’re interested) which looks fantastic. This was quite a bit more expensive than the standard anthracite grey (RAL 7016) but doesn’t have the green tinge that 7016 has (nor the Nazi-connection – look it up). It has a subtle texture to it too rather than being smooth which also really adds to its appearance.

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Family room side window

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Dressing room

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Kitchen

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Side door

Design approach

A common design-theme running through the windows is to split them into thirds horizontally. I always thought they looked great right from the architect’s initial design sketches of them and in the flesh they don’t disappoint. The problem with a lot of windows is that they’re pretty boring, large single panes and as a result don’t make the best of the house – lazy ‘design’ basically. These look part of the house, as if they were designed for it. Which they were 🙂

Aside from the aesthetic which was wholly the architect’s input, myself and the Sprectrum’s( the supplier) Technical Manager, James, spent quite a while getting the proportions and details just how I wanted them. Credit to James, he really was very patient throughout but I’m sure he was pleased to get them finally signed-off in the end! Anyway, thanks James, so far they look exactly how I envisaged.

One of the details we addressed was the appropriate choice of glazing bars over transoms. Transoms are effectively part of the frame whereas glazing bars are simply decorative. Often, glazing bars are just stuck on to the inner and outer panes and there is an obvious gap between them but these are much better insofar as between the panes there are sectional profiles set in so that they look just like the transoms they are trying to replicate.

So why not just use transoms then? A few reasons really and they all boil down to ensuring the look is right. Externally, transoms must have drainage holes which never look great so minimising them where possible was important.

In the photo below you can see the glazing bar running across the top third but which still needs the final piece fixed to the inner pane. In the bottom photo both horizontal bars are transoms.

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Family room showing glazing bars

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Living area with 3 transoms

So we have had a good start to the window installation but all the large ones are yet to go in. The crane is due later this week and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to keep the team on site this side of Christmas until it’s done. I’m sure Spectrum won’t let me down 🙂

A few little details

As previously mentioned, the roof is due to be slated any day now so I thought it would be worth just commenting on what we’re planning with some of the details in this area.

A handful of definitions before we start…
Gable – the triangular wall between the roof pitches. For us, this is basically the front and rear walls of the house
Ridge – the horizontal top part of the roof where the two roof pitches meet
Verge – the very ends of the roof above the gable
Fascia – the vertical board on the side of the house on to which the gutter is fixed
Barge – the fascia on the gable end
Soffit – the ‘ceiling’ under the roof between the wall and the roof line (fascia or barge)

Ridge and verge

One of the things that needs to be done when finishing the roof is to ensure that wind and rain can’t get under the slates at the verges. The ‘traditional’ way to finish these verges is to apply mortar to the edges of the slates but this: looks terrible; always fails. The ‘modern’ approach is to use a dry-verge system which employs some form of plastic or metal to cover the slate ends instead.

We’ve gone for the Kytun dry-verge system which seems much better looking than many other products and has come highly recommended from a number of other self-builders. This is an aluminium powder-coated J-channel which simply affixes the roof battens and wraps around the slates. Simple, cheap, reliable and fits in well aesthetically with the rest of the build.

The roof ridge is generally finished with a ridge tile that runs along the length of the ridge and is held in place by… mortar. Again, the ‘modern’ way is to use a dry ridge system (as you can see, there is a pattern emerging here) although as yet I haven’t yet found one I like – something I need to get on to asap.

Roof-line products

The other roof-related products that we need to sort are the gutters, downspouts, fascias, barge boards and soffits.

Maybe it’s because I’m the son of a decorator and I’ve spent far too much time up ladders cleaning and painting house exteriors, but the decision to find a product that didn’t need painting was pretty much at the top the list of ‘must-haves’. Settling on the material was relatively simple – PVC is cheap and effective but doesn’t really look that great; aluminium isn’t cheap but does have the scope to look very clean and sharp. So aluminium it is then 🙂     A more difficult task was finding a suitable supplier.

Primarily, it’s all just sheet material folded into the right shape and fastened in place, ideally with hidden fixings. Almost universally, the fascias and barges looked just as good from one manufacturer to another but the problem was the soffits. We wanted these to look much like tongue and groove boards but by and large most of the suppliers just took large sheets of aluminium creased them to give the appearance of individual boards. This is pretty simple (and cheap) to fit but I was a bit concerned that it would have looked bad and given the amount of time I’ve spent trying to get all the details of the house right it felt like it was a corner that shouldn’t be cut.

Only one supplier came up with (read that as ‘bothered to reply to emails/calls’) a solution I was happy with at a price I was happy to pay. Rather than folding sheet aluminium, they use extruded pieces that lock together which are very clean and consistent looking. Exactly what the house deserves!

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Hopefully what the soffits will look like

Preparation

The soffit boards will all run perpendicular to the house walls, rather than along their length and to create a tidy finish, a small J-section channel will be fixed at the wall into which the boards will run, but this creates a slight issue. The walls, largely, will be rendered – the render will be applied onto 15mm board which in turn is fastened to 50mm battens so from the wall to the rendered face is around 70mm. Given that we want to get the gutters up as soon as possible (so that means the fascias and soffits too) we then have 2 options: fit the J-channel to the wall and make it big enough so that when the walls are rendered it is still visible; or, fasten it to the battens. The first option is simple but isn’t ideal and although the second option is better we aren’t close to getting the battens fixed. The way we’ve got round this is to fit a 50mm batten horizontally and fix the J-channel to this. Obvious.

 

We want to be in by Christmas

I think that’s the common phrase used on Building the Amazing Grand Design Dream Space isn’t it? I think we may be pushing it somewhat though.

Yep, the guys from MBC vacated the site on Wednesday which triggered another stage payment on the build. I can’t deny I was quite happy to pay that bill though as it now means we are now entering a new phase of the build, albeit a much slower one.

Roofing…

One of the main things to have happened recently is the roof going on – it’s really starting to take shape now! As you can probably tell from the photo below, the overhang is quite large, about 700mm actually, but that should go some way to help keep the sun off the large windows. Some way – we will still need to look at what else to do although fitting a solar film on the south facing windows is pretty likely. We’ll address that later.

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Front gable

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Roof light above the stair-well

One of the ways we’ll be looking to keep the house cool on warm days is to allow the heat to escape through a roof vent – the stack-effect. This roof light will be a custom-made Velux triple-glazed unit and measures 1600mm x 1140mm. Glad I won’t be lifting that up there!

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Roofing felt and trusses

To achieve excellent levels of insulation and air-tightness, we obviously need more than a single layer of roofing felt. For now, it will be left as it is in the photo above but once the house is weather-tight, the guys from MBC will be back to do a number of jobs, one of which is to insulate the roof. There will be a layer of air-tight membrane that will run under the trusses (all sealed properly) and then battened out so that once the plasterboard in those rooms is fitted there will be a service void in the ceiling for electric cables etc. The space between the roofing felt and the air-tight membrane will be filled with cellulose insulation, blown in. Toasty!

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Roofing felt

Slates

The battens are positioned in accordance with the 115mm head-lap that we need for the slates. The slates themselves will be 500x300mm Spanish slates (Samaca Q49). We do prefer the Welsh slates (as does everyone) but at 3-times the price we’ll give that a miss, thanks.

Actually, there have been a few comments on both the slate size used and the head-lap (how much they overlap) as both are reasonably uncommon, but there is a reason! Isn’t there always?

There is a British Standard (BS5534) that ‘recommends’ both the slate size and head-lap based on the roof pitch and exposure to bad weather (wind and rain). Our roof is 20 degrees, which is considered to be the lowest pitch acceptable for ‘moderate’ exposures. Arguably, we’re just within the ‘severe’ exposure region so theoretically we should be up to 22.5 degree pitch, but given safety margins that are always inherent in stuff like this and the fact that the slates aren’t actually the last line of defence we’ve conveniently ignored the ‘advice’. At the end of the day, if it all goes Pete Tong it’s my problem and no-one else’s!

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Battens and counter-battens

Flat roof

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Flat roof section

The flat roof above part of the kitchen will be a rubber membrane.

Finishing off

The photo below is taken from the scaffold at the front of the house, looking down the landing. The barrier at the front is to protect from the drop to the hallway. Actually, from the hallway by the front door you can see all the way up to the roof.Which is nice.

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Finished

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Front

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Rear

There are a few details that I haven’t mentioned yet which I’ll write about in the next few days, but for now work is paused. MBC left the site tidy, swept up and fitted poly-tunnel polythene across the big openings to help prevent the interior getting soaked if it does rain before the windows go in.

Slating the roof is planned to start in the next week or two and windows are due to go in just over a week from now. Progress has been quick so far but is likely to slow down significantly from now, although every job ticked off is one closer to moving in date.