Well, the title sums it up. Last week we thought we were on course for the kitchen and utility floor slate being laid and then the kitchen fitted. However, the extreme damp caused by the plastering and residual damp in the walls and floors scuppered all that. Well, it's not as though we were planning to move in before Christmas as we don't yet have electricity.......don't get me started. The big relief was that the kitchen fitters managed to find gainful employment elsewhere so we didn't have to pay them to twiddle their thumbs. Meanwhile, the plasterers are continuing to get plastered and we are investigating dehumidifiers.
The underfloor heating and screed was laid whilst we were away at the end of October so we don't have any photos of the underfloor pipes. It certainly made a difference to the rooms as the floor now is at a sensible height so you don't feel like a hobbit in a human home. What was really funny was that we noticed that a little visitor had checked out the screed before it had set, walking in through the front door, into the hall, around the lounge and kitchen before exiting by the kitchen door (nb no doors fitted at this point).
Shortly after that the windows and doors for barn 1 were delivered and fitted and it just made it all suddenly begin to look like a home. As the nights have drawn in I have only been able to see the changes at the weekends so it takes a weekly leap and bound, although after the windows went in it typically went quiet for two or three weeks. The last couple of weeks have seen a huge amount of activity with 1st fix being finished, and 2nd fix underway.
The ventilation pipes for the MVHR have been installed too. This needed to be done so that the electrician could do his first fix bit. The MVHR pipes are really quite big and there is a pipe to and from each room so there are a lot of them and the space at the apex of the room above the beam wasn't quite big enough so they were fitted below the beam and then a lower ceiling added afterwards. At the same time the plumber has been doing his bit, and the joiner adding the door frames.
The kitchen fitting is due this week so this has given a deadline for the first and second fix, at least downstairs. We have come to the conclusion that this is the way that builders work - to a tight deadline! For so long all our workers have been moved off to finish other sites that we figured it was our turn and just booked the kitchen to give our builder his deadline to work to. So far, it looks a bit tight but they are going to make it. The plasterers have been in and have finished the kitchen and utility area, though they still have loads more to do in the rest of the barn and from tomorrow the tilers will be in to lay the floor.
Simple pine staircase, beautifully made and fitted
Not forgetting the staircase which went in last week, and the stud walls for the master en-suite. The master bedroom has lost maybe a foot of space as a stud wall will need to go in to hide all the mvhr pipework. It won't make a significant difference to the bedroom which is a really nice size.
The plasterers have been plastering away like mad people to meet the kitchen deadline. The ceiling in the kitchen/dining area is a thing of beauty where the intersecting vaulted ceilings meet. We are so glad that we didn't go for reclaimed beams and kept it simple. The feature brick walls are just perfect as a nod to the origins of the barns. Incidentally, most of the bricks have been cleaned by Richard and he is still beavering away preparing bricks for barn 3, so it is great to see it looking so beautiful on the inside as well as the outside.
This is the master bedroom showing the mvhr pipes. These come in from the vaulted ceiling of the lounge and then up and over the bedroom to the en-suite. We lose a little bit of bedroom space but it will be nice and tidy when the plasterboard goes up.
There have been a couple of hiccups along the way; when the stud wall was put in to separate the master bedroom from the stairs, it became apparent that the velux roof window was in exactly the wrong place and was bisected by the stud wall. Not to worry, the roof window has been moved down - all in a days work. Similarly, the vast quantity of mvhr pipework in the lounge meant that the ceiling needed to be a bit lower which again caused bother with the little window in the gable. Again, it was not a drama - it was just moved down a bit and you can't see any difference from the outside. The party wall between the kitchen and the neighbours utility room almost caused a kitchen fitting catastrophe because the final measurements for the kitchen had been done before the specially insulated plaster boards were fitted. This meant that the measurements were wrong but were caught just in time before manufacturing commenced. Phew. It actually highlighted that the pantry door was going to be partially covered up by the kitchen cabinets, so again this was moved and the feature brick wall rebuilt (beautifully, I must say). All in a days work.
Not to forget barn 3. This is making steady progress despite the intermittent rush jobs on other sites and the occasional episodes of inclement weather.
To finish off this monster catchup post here are a few snowy photo's from today!
Things have moved on since my last post. We now have roof tiles, roof windows and solar pv panels on barns 1 and 2 and work has now moved inside. The water pipes have been laid throughout the two barns and also the flow and return pipes for the heating and now the floor insulation has been laid ready for the underfloor heating, which is next. We have also had a walk round barn 1 with the electrician Mark Sparks to work out where we want everything. I don't think that is his real name, but that's how his phone number was passed to us :)
We need to arrange for the windows to be delivered after the floor is finished. They were made in May I think, but until the roof was on there was no point in having them delivered. Whatever happened to the summer? Then, when the windows and doors are in it will finally be watertight in barn 1.
We also had a visit from the Kitchenworld man to make sure that the kitchen dimensions ended up being the same as the plan, and also to check that we had water and drains in the right places. So, on the face of it, we are seemingly making some good progress. However, it still is very slow. Frustratingly slow. We are getting really fed up in our rented flat and need for it all to be finished so that we can get on with our lives. At the moment we would be happy to move into barn 1 and then get finish barns 2 and 3, but we really would like to be in by Christmas. It's a bit like the war - it'll be over by Christmas.
Little has been mentioned about the services needed for the barns. The water is a relatively simple affair as there is a connection just a meter outside of our land. Electricity should have been the same. Our neighbours are a well established charitable trust from whom we will access the electricity mains. However, when we made the application for the electricity with Western Power a year ago we were unaware that the charitable trust would expect compensation for allowing access known as 'an easement' across their land. This is known as a ransom strip. Western Power expected to make some concessions; replacing old infrastructure with up to date and so on. They were wholly unprepared for the land agent appointed by the charitable trust who came up with an easement compensation figure of £30,000. Naturally, we were somewhat taken aback by this. Maybe that's an understatement. We were thrown into a state of panic. The electricity connection was going to cost us about 12k plus the groundwork from the nearby electricity pole to bring the cabling up to the edge of our property. Now we expected to pay much much more than we had budgeted for and indeed more than our contingency allowed. The only thing we could do is appeal to the trust. This seemed like a sensible thing to do, however the trust only meets every 3 months and we only found out about this after the January meeting so we had to wait until the April one before we could even start to negotiate. Hah! Negotiate! They held all the cards. Anyway, we appealed to their charitable nature and eventually heard after the July meeting that they would accept less (in order to not bankrupt us), but with some extra concessions. These concessions transpired as replacement of the entire overhead cables, of a distance of 250m for which we have to do the ground works for. The groundworks are going to take a couple of weeks and will cost us about another 6-8k. It's all madness and a bit of a salutary lesson to anyone out there thinking of self building or barn converting. Check your access to the services early! This has caused such a lot of stress and it feels like there have been more down's than up's this year. These damn barns had better be worth it after all of this. We want our lives back! Hopefully, we'll be able to look back on this and think that it was all worth it.
The roofs on barn 1 and 2 are getting there......slow but sure. The roofing felt and most of the fixing points for the solar pv panels are in place plus the guttering. Next are the tiles which are being delivered this week (and fitted we hope). The roof tiles as per the plan are not available until January. Noooooooo......so plan B was required. The planning officer in charge of our build has agreed to a similar tile to the proscribed tiles as these are available immediately. To be honest, I don't really care as long is it goes on soon. We couldn't afford staffordshire blues so the looky likeys are all very similar to the staffies so I just want them on.
Barn 3 is moving onwards. The foundations are done and next is the sub floor. We met up with our architect in the week to finalise the plans and made a few last minute changes. I've been doing some pacing around inside the foundations planning where the furniture will go and we made a couple of window and door changes. The main changes are to move a doorway from the courtyard side of the living room side to the garden side and to join it together with the existing one to make a big glass window and move it to the middle of the wall so that we have a view into the garden. This is what we wanted all along but now it's a rebuild, we can make some non material amendments. Additionally, since planning the courtyard garden we decided that we are going to have an opening door from the kitchen into the courtyard to make the most of beautiful evening sunshine for alfresco eating as the sun sinks down in the west. Having sat outside eating the occasional takeaway in the courtyard over the last couple of years we have come to appreciate the sheltered sunny spot outside what will be the kitchen.
After seeing some progress on site and in the plans it has renewed our excitement so this weekend we have been out there tidying and brick cleaning. I've been in charge of brick cleaning which is now at the front of the barns so a much different view. It's also quite sociable as we have quite a few walkers and dog walkers passing either along the lane or on the footpath. It's been nice chatting about the barns. I can bore for hours in great detail about what we are doing and what is happening!
We returned from our holiday to find that the foundations had been dug but not filled with concrete. It did look as if they had found next doors water main pipe (!) as it runs underneath barn 3. It was a bit of an unknown as our neighbour believed that it ran under barn 2, but that was clearly not the case.
Blogging has slipped by the wayside of late, although Instagram has filled a bit of an update gap as it is easy to take a photo and upload with just a couple of sentences, but now it’s time to post a more detailed update – anyway as I type it’s raining outside and I am on holiday.
So where are we up to?
Barn 1 is largely unchanged as our contractor made the decision to wait until barn 2 reached roof level so that the roof could be done on both at the same time. This seemed an eminently sensible thing to do so we agreed without quibbling. However, it seems to have taken ages for barn 2 to get to rafter height. Every time rain stops play or our rather small building team are taken off to do a job somewhere else we have been kicking ourselves for not insisting on barn 1 being pushed to completion.
Barn 2 has now reached roof height – hooray. The beam is in and the rafters, boarding out and insulation is being installed as I type. The final bit of brickwork where the roof level changes is also being finished. It has been slow……..very slow, but it looks absolutely fantastic! The layout is as envisioned, well actually it looks bigger than I imagined, which is clearly good news. And the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms are much bigger than I thought they would be. It’s really hard to imagine it all when it’s just on a piece of paper. To be honest, we have largely been hoping that the room upstairs rooms were going to be nicely proportioned because we didn’t see the cross section plans and therefore the height of the roof until the ground floor was finished. We know that our architect (and builder) are very busy, but we seem to get the plans in a ‘not quite in time’ basis. There seems to be quite a bit of judgement going into this build - thank heavens the brick layer is experienced (our hero), but it passes inspection at every stage and looks great so we are not complaining. We do need a bit of retrospective window altering to take place in the living room of barn 2 as they are set really high which is faithful to the original building, so I want at least 3 courses of bricks to be cut out of the base of each window. I don’t mind them being a little bit high so that they don’t impede on the layout of the furniture as it is quite a small lounge, but I think you need to be able to see out of them! Fortunately, there is a window on the front elevation in that room which is quite low so there will be a view out of this room.
Barn 3 is on the move. Well, not literally but the brick pile (which is still pretty huge) is being moved to the front of the barns so that the foundations can be dug. Whoop Whoop! A lot of bricks have been cleaned. Not by an army of brick cleaners, but mostly by Richard who is losing the will to bash another brick. And there are still so many of the flipping things. So where is the army of brick cleaners? We were promised a youngster who was going to earn some holiday money but he didn’t appear. The trouble is that it is too time consuming, dirty and elbow rattling to tempt any helpers, and we guess that our builder is looking at his budget before taking on anyone just yet and Richard is free! To be honest, we are leaving him to manage his budget and doing our best to chip in and help as any excessive cost on his budget will be passed to us and we want (need) our original quote to stand without getting any bigger.
Whilst the brick cleaning and building continues, we have turned our thoughts to the courtyard garden plans. We decided that we would like to have brick walls to separate the courtyard gardens. We definitely don't have a shortage of available bricks! In total there will be three properties and we need to make sure that each property gets a section of private garden and we really didn't want to have a courtyard full of fences or hedges, or even worse a mish mash of all sorts. We have been looking at brick walls up to about 1m in height with brick piers and railings to take the total height of the walls to around 1.8m. The reclaimed brick looks so nice and we will have loads of bricks left over after the build so it all makes sense. Obviously, we need to make sure that we can afford all of this so have asked for a quote from the builder! It might yet be pipe dreams, but you have to start somewhere. From much perusing through magazines we have decided upon a low maintainenance mediterranean style for the main bit of courtyard - the bit that the occupants of all three barns will need for access the rear of the properties. This will have a centre piece - probably a simple water feature, with paths radiating out to all properties with the ground covered in pea gravel or similar. To break it up a bit, we will cut out some beds and fill with lavender and herbs. I envisage some planters with tall trees and roses. Sigh........it will look beautiful one day........ The images below were painstakingly rendered in Sketchup - not by me I hasten to add, I spend all day working on computers and couldn't face the time needed to learn new imaging software! The images are based on the planning drawings so are pretty much to scale