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Internal Doors

I recently finished a contract for a client and rather than jump straight into another I decided to take a month or so out to try and get the house ready for moving in – the timing couldn’t have been much better to be honest.

The ‘normal’ approach to fitting internal doors is to buy door linings, architraves, doors, hinges and handles get then get a joiner to fit them all. Given that we haven’t gone down this route, I suppose we must be ‘abnormal’. Hmmm…

What we have done is buy ‘door sets’. In essence this is a factory made bespoke door frame and door that is easily fitted by a DIY-er. I’ve said it before, but ‘how hard can it be?’. The answer turns out to be ‘not very’.

The doors were supplied by Deuren and are finished in a satin walnut veneer. The quality is superb but I actually find the construction and installation the fascinating part. This is much easier to show with the help of some photos.

The basic frame is custom-sized to each opening. In the photos below you can see the head-rail screwed into one of the verticals. The small strips are used to locate the flat architraves.

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The flat architraves need to be cut to length and are located on the room side of the frame.

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Flat architraves

With the frame screwed together and the flat architrave cut to length, the architrave is fixed onto the frame and glued into place.

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Flat architraves clamped after glueing

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One side done

With the architraves fitted to the frame, the next step is to fit the frame into the opening. The flat architraves are positioned in the room into which the door opens, so the picture below shows the frame looking into the room.

An unusual set of clamps were supplied with the doors and help to position and adjust the frame. They’re very simple but incredibly effective!

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Frame held securely 

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Fitment clamps

Now the frame is secure the door can be hung. This is a pretty trivial task made even easier by the use of a pair of wind-bags to help raise and locate the hinges into the frame.  Unpacking the door, fitting hinges, hanging the door, fitting the handles and adjusting to a perfect fit takes about 15 minutes!

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Wind bags – invaluable

The frame is then secured into place with the use of a specialised 2-part expanding foam. A little goes a long way and it’s the only part of the process that needs much practice.

The final part of the installation is to fit the architraves to the opposite side of the frame. Given that wall thickness can vary, these architraves are telescopic, allowing a perfect fit.

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Telescopic architraves

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The finished article

In total we have 11 of these doors to fit and so far we have done 7. In addition there are 3 pocket doors in the same style although a very different process to install them

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Kitchen – Part 1

Getting the kitchen in seems like a massive milestone as it’s probably the last of the big jobs and marks the start of the end. We’d spent quite a bit of time visiting kitchen suppliers all over the north-west and the midlands but ended up getting it from a small place just a mile or two up the road.

The kitchen is part of the large open plan area in the house so it had to look good but like everyone, we had a budget. This is the first kitchen I’ve ever bought and I have to say I can’t believe how expensive a bit of chipboard costs!

So what have we bought? The cabinets are Spanish, made by Xey, and are finished in a matt dark grey colour. The work-surfaces are Neolith Iron Moss which is a sintered stone and is just 12mm thick.

The cabinets arrived a couple of weeks ago and took over the entire living area.

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First cabinets in place.

The light fittings are still under test and hence why they are hanging down. They should be pushed up into the ceiling soon.

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The worktops have been templated and are due to be fitted any day now…

Flooring

Another one of those blog entries that just needs lots of photos.

The flooring is all engineered oak. Upstairs we have 12mm thick planks while downstairs we have 16mm thick herringbone parquet. The herringbone is glued to the floor but the planks upstairs are floating on a 3mm thick layer of insulation but are each glued together.

The job isn’t quite finished yet as we have yet to finish the transitions between the wood flooring and the tiled bathrooms and we also have to finish off around the stairwell and above the front door. This will all be done in the next couple of weeks or so.

Downstairs, we have done most of the open plan area only – just enough to allow us to get the kitchen fitted in little over a week.

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The king line – dead centre of the front door

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Trimming for the coir mat

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Creating the border

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‘Soldiers’ in the window reveal

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Some protective floor covering going down

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Not long before this staircase comes out

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BT Openreach – Still Waiting…

This has been a bit of a journey. We had some major struggles with Openreach, what with them wanting to charge us £7,500 for a new connection, but it all seemed to be changing once we approached BT directly. Having an actual house address rather than just being a building site appeared to be the key factor, although for other people this has made no difference.

The order was placed with BT at the beginning of March and all seemed to be well – Openreach had completed their surveys, everything was agreed and we had a way forward. Oh, and it was free!

But then, nothing. I was getting update phone calls every couple of weeks or so, sometimes every week, always saying the same thing – the order is progressing and we should have an update within 7 days. An update, not an actual connection. This went on for many weeks and I could never get to the bottom of what the issue was.

At the start of June I had another of these calls. The guy from BT was very pleasant but just gave me the same news – you should have an update in 7 days. I’d had enough of this so I said I wanted to make a complaint, at least this would now be on record and someone would have to look at it. ‘No problem’ said our chap, ‘and would you like me to close it too?’. I’m not quite sure what he thought that was going to achieve and he seemed surprised when I turned down the offer. So a complaint was raised and surprisingly nothing happened for weeks!

Finally, I got a call from the BT complaints team. By finally, I mean sometime in July. And now it started to happen.

We now have a working phone line, but as of today (24th August 2017) we still have no working internet. I haven’t had a chance to get this resolved but it is on my list of jobs for next week.

So, a new phone connection from BT has taken ‘just’ 5 and a half months. It really shouldn’t have been this hard…

Tiling

I was quite looking forward to getting the tiling done – in just a few days we would go from a shell of a room to something which is almost finished. We had a few quotes for doing the work (3 bathrooms, cloakroom walls and utility room floor) which all came in at roughly the same cost so we chose a company that my parents had used recently and whose work they were happy with.

The tiles were delivered a week or two before they were to be fitted – all large format porcelain tiles with the exception of the master en-suite which are very large format (1200mm x 600mm) and pretty heavy. This is where it started to go downhill a little.

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Floor tiles for family bathroom

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Floor tiles for en-suite 2

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Wall tiles and floor tiles for master en-suite

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Big tiles need a big cutter

A few days before starting, the tiling company boss and his son popped down to check everything was ready for their guy to start work, which it pretty much was. Then they saw the big tiles. “No way”, “Impossible”, “It’s not happening” were just a few of their comments. It was all a bit dramatic and laughable really. Apparently they didn’t want to stick them onto the skimmed plasterboard walls as, they said, with their weight they’d fall off and bring all the plaster with them!

Now, I’m aware that skimmed plasterboard doesn’t have the same load-bearing capacity as tile backer-board but it should still be fine – a test would have proven it one way or the other. Even so, they were refusing point blank to do the work. “Impossible” is a term used by the hard-of-thinking, which this chap clearly was. I told them I was quite prepared to rip the plasterboard down and replace it with whatever was needed to get the job done (he hadn’t thought of that) and the two of them huffed and puffed, trying to put on some air of arrogance and superiority, which fell short somewhat. It might not have helped that I pointed out that I’d got this far building a whole house, so sticking a few tiles on a wall wasn’t exactly the most challenging thing I’d had to do that week. I laughed. They left.

The actual guy that came to do the work was as different from the previous jokers as it was possible to be. Aside from being a decent bloke and doing a great job, the tiles didn’t faze him in the slightest. Yes they are heavy and yes they are very awkward to fit but there was nothing that stopped him fitting them. All done and they look great!

I’ve just realised I haven’t taken any photos of the finished rooms so I’ll update this entry in a few days’ time.

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Family bathroom tiling in progress

 

Electric Underfloor Heating

Heating of the house is provided by a wet underfloor heating system (UFH) on the ground floor. Everyone we spoke with that had built a house to the same standards had commented that this was more than enough and in reality would hardly be used, even in the depths of winter.

But there was something nagging at me. We have some very high ceilings (4m+) and heat rises. My fear was that the upstairs would never quite get warm enough on the cold days and we’d have nothing to generate more heat. Doing something during the build phase would be much easier and cheaper than any retro-fit so I looked at the options. I’m still on the page that the ground floor UFH will be sufficient, but towel radiators and electric UFH in each of the bathrooms isn’t that expensive and would provide a heat boost if needed.

The electric UFH is supplied as a roll that can be cut to suit the room, with the tiles applied directly on top. A simple temperature probe and thermostat finishes the installation off. We’ve gone with Heatmiser Neo ‘stats throughout the house – not too expensive, look ok and can be controlled via an app if needed.

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Electric UFH mat laid in-place

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A bath-shaped gap in the UFH

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.

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Megaproof. Easy to spill…

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First coat of sys.protect

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 Megaproof tape on the tile backer board joins

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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.

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Bedroom 4 – Egyptian Cotton

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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.

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Plasterboard makes a useful site table

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2.5m ceilings and 2.4m boards

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Neat!

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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

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Zep 6 Eyeconic housing

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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.

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Window reveal detail

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Above the front door

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Getting the back-boxes squared-up

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Landing looking to the front

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Master bedroom boarded

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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.

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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.

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Plenum with 2 duct and plenum with single duct

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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.

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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.

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Acoustic insulation on landing almost finished

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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