internal

I’ve Tanked!

We have 3 bathrooms and in each will be a wet-room – basically instead of having a shower tray it’s just a tiled area. Hopefully, the tiling and grouting will be of such high quality that no water will ever get through but we know that is unlikely to be the case so the key challenge is to make sure that any water that does seep through the tiles doesn’t end up dripping through the ceiling. The way to do this is by tanking the wet-room area.

Tanking is effectively sealing the area with a waterproof membrane. There are many different types but the one we went for is what is termed as a liquid membrane, which is like a rubberised paint. Larger gaps are covered with a waterproof tape.

I ended up using two different brands due to running out half way through. Initially I used Weber sys.protect, which is pale blue in colour. It’s quite thick but very easy to apply. The only down-side with this system, although I only realised later, was that the re-inforcing tape for joins and gaps needs to be bedded into the membrane. You do this by painting on some of the membrane then laying down the tape before going over it again with more membrane. It’s pretty messy and more time consuming than it should be, especially around corners.

The second brand I used was Megaproof. Their tape is rubberised self-adhesive with a fleece backing. It is so much easier to apply and get a good seal and I really wished I’d used it from the start. The membrane itself I didn’t like. I’m sure it did a good job as it did cover ok, but it’s very runny and needs a lot more care to ensure you don’t get it everywhere!

In the photos below some of it looks a bit patchy, but this was generally after a single coat and even then looked much better than the photos show.

You can also see the wet-room former we used (Dukkaboard). This helps to get a nice slope to the drain and is waterproof so doesn’t need applying with the membrane. The same goes for the tile back board. The main reasons for using the tile backer board are that it’s a good surface on which to tile (strange!) and it is more effective at reflecting heat from the electric UFH than plain chipboard.

IMAG0579

Megaproof. Easy to spill…

IMAG0578

First coat of sys.protect

IMAG0577

 Megaproof tape on the tile backer board joins

IMAG0580

Weber sys.protect vs. Megaproof Megaseal

All ready for the UFH to be laid and the tiling can start!

Decorating Has Started

(YARBE) Yet another retrospective blog entry…

This might be (to some) considered to be jumping the gun somewhat, but we started decorating in mid-May, while the rest of the house was still being skim plastered. The plaster is applied directly to the plasterboard and dries within about a week or so, so once we had clear rooms to go at we started with the emulsion. We haven’t got skirting or window cills yet so all straight forward with no awkward cutting in.

My dad is a recently-retired decorator and since my teens (a few years!) I’ve spent quite a bit of time helping him out at weekends and school holidays etc. so although this is quite a big job it’s not a big deal. The main challenge with this job is the height of the first floor ceilings which in some places are over 4m high, but fortunately I bought some decent scaffolding at the start of the year which made the job a lot easier (although not easy) and I’m not sure we could have done the landing ceiling without it. So, with me wielding the roller and dad doing the cutting in we slowly worked behind the plasterers and got the bedrooms, bathrooms and landing area either done, or at least one coat on. There’s a good chance that lots of it will need a bit of touching up doing but that’s a lot quicker than having to do it all from scratch.

We’re still pondering colours (so there’s likely to be a lot of white) but so far we’ve only re-painted one room as we didn’t really like the shade of green we’d chosen for the third bedroom.

IMG_1043

Bedroom 4 – Egyptian Cotton

IMG_1044

Bedroom 3 – Before it was repainted Egyptian Cotton

I’ll upload some more photos shortly 🙂

Plastering

Plastering in a timber-framed house is a fairly quick process – fit plasterboard and skim it. I think in total it’s been going on about 8 or 9 weeks and there are still a couple of areas left to do!

It’s amazing what a massive difference fixing the plasterboard does to the feel of the rooms and even more so once they’ve been skimmed.

There’s not really a lot to add other than just look at the photos.

Plastering - 1Plastering - 2

Plastering - 3

Plastering - 6

Plasterboard makes a useful site table

Plastering - 5

Plastering - 7

2.5m ceilings and 2.4m boards

Plastering - 4

Neat!

Plastering - 16

Plastering - 8Plastering - 9Plastering - 10

Plastering - 11Plastering - 12Plastering - 17Plastering - 14Plastering - 15Plastering - 13

It’s possibly worth mentioning the lighting at this point. I’ll cover the specific details of the lighting design in another blog entry but in general the mood lighting is provided by top quality LED down-lights. Downstairs we have 50 fittings (called Zep 6 Eyeconic) which consist of an aluminium housing that is skimmed in, into which the actual light fitting is inserted – the photo below shows one of the housings before the ceiling was skimmed

light-eyeconic - 1

Zep 6 Eyeconic housing

light-eyeconic - 2

Open plan area showing Zep 6 housings

First Fix Almost Complete

In stark contrast with January, this month has seen much happening on site, both internally and externally.

Plastering

As first-fix electrics and plumbing have progressed (and are due to be complete this week) we’ve seen the plasterers start boarding and skimming the place out. So far the upstairs is largely boarded, the exceptions being the bathroom and en-suites for no other reason that the plumber is only on-site part-time. Two of the bedrooms have been skimmed too – one completely and the other about 90% done so they will be ready for decorating in a week! Boarding downstairs has started and this should be progressed over the next few days.

I don’t know whether it’s because they know I’m fussy, but the standard of both the boarding and the skimming is excellent. Not only that but they are very tidy, which to anyone familiar with building sites is practically unheard of. They aren’t the fastest (nor cheapest) but they are probably the best I’ve come across.

I reckon another 3 weeks on site will have most of the plastering complete.

FirstFix - 23

Window reveal detail

FirstFix - 8

Above the front door

FirstFix - 7

Getting the back-boxes squared-up

FirstFix - 6

Landing looking to the front

FirstFix - 26

FirstFix - 24

Master bedroom boarded

FirstFix - 21

Bedroom 3 skimmed and almost ready for paint

I know I’ve said this a number of times, but it really is starting to feel like a house now!

Pocket Doors

The doors into the two en-suites and the dressing room are pocket doors – doors that slide into a pocket in the wall. As always, the clue is in the name 😉  There are quite a few different products out there but it’s quite difficult to actually pick one as they are generally just on-line orders. Fortunately, we did see the Eclisse ones at the Homebuilding and Renovating Show at the NEC in mid-March.

In so far as we are concerned there are two options – a flush version with no architrave and a normal version with architrave. We fancied the flush version 🙂  Problem number one here is that the flush versions were on a 3-5 week lead-time and I needed them by the weekend so we’ve ended up going with the architrave version. No big deal really and actually they should look really good as they will be fitted with the same Deuren satin walnut as all the other internal doors.

I did look at other pocket door systems but ended up going with Eclisse for a number of reasons: well made, easy to assemble and fit, good support and not least the fact that they could be boarded and skimmed in without the doors being fitted. I had found a couple of other systems I liked but they both needed the doors fitted before plastering and we won’t have them for the best part of 3 months! Deuren did recommend the Selo pocket door system which look to be superb but they do require aluminium cutting and look to be a bit of a faff to fit. And they were on a 3 week lead time too.

FirstFix - 22

Two pocket doors fitted

A Few Decisions Needed

A handful of decisions need to be confirmed early this week: wired or wireless doorbell? (a Ring video doorbell, I think); alarm system and location; Wi-Fi access point locations; ceiling speaker locations for the Sonos system in the kitchen.

Trenching

The gas is due to be connected in just over a week so I’ve had the groundworkers over to discuss the digging of the trench for the services along the side of the house. It’s a relatively trivial task to do the dig but oddly it feels like a big step towards completion.

A (Quick?) Update

There’s quite a bit to report on and as there have been so many different things going on it’s difficult to know where to start, so there might be a bit of jumping around and I apologise for that.

MVHR Jobs

The main job that’s been taking up our own time over the past few weekends is to progress the installation of the ducting for the ventilation system. All the pipes are in place with the exception of one which is a few metres short as we ran out, but it’s not really a problem as we have plenty of slack on other runs. Until we fix everything in place though  it will stay ‘pending’.

We’ve also now fitted the plenums for the ventilation system. These  are simply a plastic tube with a couple of small openings and one large one – the red ducting fits inside the small openings and the larger opening leads into the room and is fitted with a valve that allows us to adjust how much air is allowed to flow through the plenum (either as an inlet or outlet). At the moment the plenums have been fitted so that the large opening sticks out quite a bit through the wall or ceiling but this will be trimmed flush when the plasterboard has been fitted. The valves just push in and will be done after decorating. All the plenums are the same so where there is only a single red duct to it then the redundant opening is sealed with a bung.

Plenums - 1

Plenum with 2 duct and plenum with single duct

Plenums - 2

Plenums serving the two main bedrooms

Theoretically I could get the ducts fixed into place now but I’m going to leave it for a couple of weeks or so, at least until the acoustic insulation has been fitted.

Acoustic Insulation

As part of building regulations, the house has to be ‘insulated’ acoustically. Aside from it being something that we have to do, it’s something that we would do anyway to improve how the house feels and sounds – there would be nothing worse that it sounding like a wooden drum! I think the regulations call for something like 50mm thick insulation in the walls and 100mm in the ceilings but I was happy to pay the extra for 100mm all over for, hopefully, better sound insulation and a more solid feel. I’ll have no idea whether the additional outlay was actually worth it or not though!

We initially took delivery of 30 bales of 100mm thick Rockwool – each bale contains 5 or 6 slabs and covers just under 3m2. We know we’ll need a lot more than this but it does take up a lot of space so only got what we could use for now.

Rockwool - 3

Rockwool Bales

Rockwool is made from volcanic rock and unlike some of the fibreglass-based products isn’t that bad to work with. It cuts easily with a large knife and isn’t anywhere-near as itchy when it’s on your skin. You still need gloves (and ideally a mask too, especially when working overhead) but it’s fine really.

We knew it would take a while to do the whole house so we made a start while we could, focusing upstairs in areas away from where the electrician and plumber would likely need access. I think we got through about half the bales before my dad took over and finished the lot off! Thanks dad 🙂 Unfortunately for him I’ve just order another 40 bales and I think we will probably need another 40 more.

Rockwool - 1

Acoustic insulation on landing almost finished

Rockwool - 2

Acoustic insulation in bedroom 2

So far we’ve done most of the landing area and odd bits in the bathrooms and it’s noticeable how different the house now feels in those areas. It’s almost starting to feel like a house now rather than just a shell.

Cat’s Paw

As an aside, I needed to remove a few of the boards that were installed to help keep the stud walls solid – these are just 11mm OSB fastened to the studs with nails from a gun. The first one I removed by punching the nails in (with a punch) and it took aaaaages. Just after I finished, Darren from MBC suggested I get a Cat’s Paw tool to do the rest. I thought he was joking but a quick Google threw up what I was looking for.

catspaw - 1

Japanese Cat’s Paw Tool

Essentially it’s a small hand-tool about 200mm long of Japanese origin and is really good at removing nails without destroying the timber. Obviously it does leave marks but nowhere near as much as you might think and it’s really quick. If I had a top 10 list of hand-tools this would be my number 1! (I might well have a top 10 list, but if I did it would be a secret, although a pair of oil-filter pliers might also find their way onto the list too. At number 7)

First Fix Electrics

First fix has officially started in earnest.

Work on the electrics started upstairs with all the cabling for lights, sockets and switches being routed and back-boxes fitted where needed. By and large we’ve opted for double sockets everywhere (most room corners) and supported by additional 5A sockets. The 5A sockets are a useful addition as they allow you to have floor and table lamps switched from the wall just like a normal light. This is great for us as most of our lighting, in the bedrooms at least, is quite subtle and in contrast to the approach taken by many. I’m not sure why people see the need to flood-light bedrooms, bathrooms and the like.

Lighting

On the subject of lighting, I’ve been working with Guy at EcoLED to come up with a lighting design for the interior, with a focus on the ground floor. EcoLED produce some stunning luminaires and we’ve gone for what I believe to be a one-of-a-kind design – we’re using their Zep6 Eyeconic  Trimless range which are very small and have a directional ‘eye-ball’. Each item is anodised with an mid-bronze colour and then hand finished to give an antique look which should look stunning next to the rest of the modern interior. I’ll do more of a feature on the lighting when it’s time to fit it.

Cables - 1

Memories of an aeroplane safety briefing

First Fix Plumbing

This has also started but is lagging the electrics by a couple of weeks but despite this I’m hoping that it will be finished in 2-3 weeks. Part of first fix is to fit the Geberit frames for the wall-hung WCs. These, plus the Hansgrohe iBoxes that are used to control the showers were bought direct from Germany through www.reuter.de Their prices and service is superb and we’ll be getting the majority of the bathroom kit from there as needed.

Geberit - 1

I’ve also had a little bit of stud-walling and boxing-in fabricated. We don’t yet have a joiner (yes, I know it’s a timber-framed house!) so I took a bit of a leap of faith to find someone off MyBuilder. It’s not a difficult, nor critical job, but to be fair he did what I wanted at a price I was happy to pay so all good. I did offer him the chance to fit the timber cladding but his quote of 20 man days for 50m2 was a little on the high side as I reckon on it taking about 5 man days. He had the chance of lots of work on-site, which he openly admitted he wanted, but he blew it by being greedy. There are some idiots around.

Media Distribution

As part of the first-fix wiring, I’m going to be routing  network cables to the locations where we will have, or may have, a TV point. At each point there will be 3 Cat6 cables and 2 co-ax and they will all be routed to a central location from where the different sources will be located. What this will mean is that each satellite receiver, DVD player etc. will be able to serve all locations and won’t need to be sat under the TV. This will be achieved through the use of an HDMI matrix and in our case we will use a 4×4 matrix, which means 4 sources can be distributed to 4 locations.

So what are all the cables for, I hear you ask? One Cat6 will be used to carry the signal to the TV. The way it works s that the source (DVD for example) is linked to the matrix by an HDMI cable. A Cat6 cable then carries the signal to a ‘balun’ behind the TV and the balun is connected to the TV by another HDMI cable. In this way an HDMI signal can be carried over Cat6. The second Cat6 is a standard network cable for the smart TV and the third is a spare. The co-ax cable allows us to send a standard satellite or terrestrial signal direct to the TV if we wanted to – we’re unlikely to do this but it’s easy and cheap to do it now so it would be foolish not to.

Some might call all this ‘future-proofing’. Others might suggest that more cables or the use of Cat6a or even Cat7 would tick that box. The reality is that they’d all be wrong. Future proofing would allow us to change the technology easily, say to fibre or magic fairy dust, but all we are doing is allowing for better capacity.  Which is fine for me, as I’d rather be out driving or playing the guitar. Just thought I’d make the observation 🙂

Aluminium Pressings

Finally, these will be fitted next  week! Getting this done will allow us to get the rendering and timber cladding finished and then we can get the scaffold down and off hire.

These pressings will be fitted to the parapets and as copings and also as decorative trims above the large first floor windows. They will coated with the same finish as the windows and should look superb when done. I’ll create a new blog entry for these in a week or so.

We are still waiting for the ridge end caps and a rainwater hopper but these should be with us next week.

Letter Box

We’ve started to get mail! This is a Bad Thing as it’s usually bills or junk but it prompted me to buy a new letter box which I mounted on the gatepost…

LetterBox - 1

Air-Tightness

This week has seen the air-tightness work progress. At this point it’s probably worth just going over what we are doing and why.

Air-tightness objective

Two of the key features of the build are it’s high levels of insulation and its air-tightness. To put the level of air-tightness into perspective let’s compare it to standard UK Building Regulations.

Part L1A of the ‘regs’ state that any new dwellings are tested for air tightness by using a method known as a ‘blower door test’ in accordance with BS EN 13829. The measurement is taken by blowing air into the house via a particular door that is mounted in the main entrance. Part L1A requires an air tightness of maximum 10 m3/hr/m2 air loss at a pressure of 50 Pa. Standard good practice for air tightness testing in the UK is a maximum of 7 m3/hr/m2.

We are building to Passiv standards and the measure they use is in air changes per hour (ACH). A house built to Passiv standards requires no more than 0.65ACH and that’s what we are aiming for.

There isn’t really a direct way to convert from m3/hr/m2 to ACH as it depends on volume and floor area, but a reasonable finger-in-the-air would be to say that Part L1A is looking for around 7-10ACH. That’s like leaving a door wide open!

Air-tightness work

The work itself involves the use of specialist tapes and membranes to create an air-tight barrier. Theoretically, it doesn’t matter where this barrier is but usually this is on the inside face of the structure.

The internal face of the external walls is fabricated using an air-tight board (the green board in the photos). Any gaps between them and at all the interfaces with floor, windows etc. are sealed with various types of tape. At roof level, air-tight membrane was fitted to the underside of the joists and again all taped up to provide a robust seal.

airtight-1-2

Window frame taped-up

airtight-1-1

Air-tight membrane under joists

airtight-2-1

Roof-light sealed

airtight-3-1

Bedroom ceiling membrane joins and board taped-up

The work itself has taken the best part of a week although the other job that has taken pace is to fit battens at the air-tight faces which will help create service cavities for pipes and cables once the plasterboard has been fitted.

airtight-2

Battening in utility room

airtight-1

Battening of roof and walls in master bedroom

Also, we have a small flat-roofed section in the kitchen and the whole area within and above the joists here will be made air-tight and insulated. This causes a bit of a problem as we also want to have some downlights here. The solution is to fit (and seal) a number of air-tight lighting boxes into which the downlights will be located.

airtight-3

Air-tight lighting boxes

Insulation

The house is to be insulated with 300mm of a newspaper-based material in the walls and 400mm in the roof area. Toasty! This is blown in over the course of about 3 days by drilling holes in the wall and then subsequently taping them up once the insulation has filled the cavities.

insulation-2

Warmcell insulation waiting to be blown in…

insulation-1

Makeshift canopy in case it started to rain

insulation-3

Blowing in the insulation

insulation-4

A completed wall

The blowing in of the insulation started today and will take another couple of days or so, however, tomorrow morning we are planning on doing the air-tightness test. The insulation itself doesn’t affect the level of air-tightness but the (poor) repairing of any holes made for blowing it in can. However, in Darren from MBC we have one of the best in the business so doing it now has very little risk. His estimate is that we will achieve around 0.4 ACH (remember, Passiv is 0.65 ACH) but we shall have to wait until lunchtime tomorrow to see what we actually do have.

I’ll post a separate blog entry with the results…

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.

windowsblog1-2

Family room side window

windowsblog1-5

Dressing room

windowsblog1-3

Kitchen

windowsblog1-6

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.

windowsblog1-4

Family room showing glazing bars

windowsblog1-1

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 🙂