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.
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.
Plenum with 2 duct and plenum with single duct
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.
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 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.
Acoustic insulation on landing almost finished
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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…