Welcome to the Neighbourhood

Well, we did it. We’re in the house, and I’m writing this in the kitchen, with less than a week to go before the newest addition to the family arrives. We received our Temporary Occupation certificate last Tuesday. This means we are allowed to live in the house even though it’s not yet fully complete for at least 6 months.

I haven’t been great at updating the blog over the last 7 weeks or so, purely down to the fact that it’s been pretty hectic all round, obviously with the emphasis being on trying to get moved into the house before the baby arrives. The last time I wrote, we were just getting the house roughcasted, which is now complete. Inside is now fully complete except for the living room, which due to needing the plumbers to install the wood-burning stove before we could seal up the false chimney breast, has held us up. This is now done, and so we’re just waiting for the taperer to come and finish off, and then the carpet can be laid. Then, we’re done …. inside anyway.

Outside is looking much better. All the steps are now set, and last week we began work on the paths. Only another couple of sections to go, as well as the wheelchair ramp to the back door. Other than that, all we need outside is a washing line, and that’ll be complete too. I say complete, but it will probably not be complete for a long long time. Most people who build will tell you the same, money dries up pretty fast towards the end, so landscaping is usually the area that takes the hit. The neighbours themselves are just getting round to it, so it may be a while yet for us. They’re doing a great job of there’s though, so no doubt we’ll be pretty keen to follow suit as soon as we can.

No major teething problems to report so far. The heating is playing up at the moment, but we hope it’ll be sorted asap. The heating is set in 2 zones, the living room/kitchen zone, and the bedrooms/bathrooms zone. it’s the latter which isn’t working properly. the plumbers aren’t yet sure why exactly, but I’m harrassing them to come and fix it as soon as possible, as we don’t really want to have to resort to back up heaters once the baby arrives. Fingers crossed.

There’s not too much to do to finish for the final completion certificate. Well, not that I can see anyway, no doubt building control will help us tie up the loose ends shortly. Without incurring too much additional cost I would hope.

Here’s a few pics of the last while.

Finished roughcast, with steps to front door and bays set out for concreting the paths

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Back door steps and platform with ramp being infilled before concreting

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Stove installed and false chimney plasterboarded awaiting taper (note the light, this is the wife’s pride and joy)

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Main bathroom fully tiled and complete

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So that’s about it. We’ve had a few visitors since we moved in, and the neghbours have been great. It’s a really nice wee community round here, with a great feel. Just what we were looking for, and with this view just a few minutes walk away ……

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… what more could you ask for.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog over the last 20 months or so. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m happy to pass on anything I’ve learnt if it’ll help anyone else. I’m off now to figure out what to do with prams and nappies etc. As if the last year wasn’t stressful enough …..

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Welcome to the sauna

The bathrooms are almost tiled and so nearly ready for the sanitary ware to be installed. Pretty soon we’ll have working toilets which my pregnant wife has been more excited about than anything else recently. We changed the floor tiles in the en-suite last minute, and I’m glad we did because they look great.

We ordered the majority of the bathroom items online, meaning that sizes were guessed. Unfortunately, I guessed wrong … again! The unit we bought for the en-suite does fit, but is literally just a couple of millimetres away from the swing of the door, and overall looks very bulky in what is quite a small room. We’ve ordered a smaller replacement, but will probably take another few weeks before it’s delivered up to the island.

The joiner has been busy again too, fitting all the frames for the wardrobes and then installing the wardrobe doors, and also making a start on the facings and skirtings.

Outside, all the drainage and landscaping is almost finished as well, so the whole site is looking really neat and tidy. The peat bank that was to the rear of the house has been flattened and the whole site levelled. The site is primarily made of boggy peat, so the ground is extremely saturated and muddy. Hopefully this will dry out over time and we can get some kind of garden on the go in the near future. This pic was taken just before he finished off, so it’s even neater now.

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Roughcasting is also well underway now. The house was scratchcoated last week, and the roughcaster has started putting the dry dash chips on this week. With roughcast, there’s a choice of chips or render. We chose the chips as we liked the look and the colour of the one we chose. We’ve been told render can be better, as it seals the house better, but it’s more expensive. As usual, it’s personal choice really, and we preferred the look of the dry dash chips.

Once the roughcast is finished we can make a start on the concrete platforms at the front and back doors, and then put the steps, ramps and pavements in.

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The air source heating system was commissioned and switched on, and the house is baking hot!! The system must be commissioned by an approved MCS (microgeneration certification scheme) installer. So although our plumbers could install the system, another approved company is required to commission and switch the system on. It was a bit of a rush to get the final bits connected and installed, but no problems with it at all now, as can be verified by the sauna-esque atmosphere in the house now. I still don’t know how to work the heating system, so the workers have been enjoying the tropical heat inside for the last few days (they haven’t!).

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So, we’re almost there. It’s now a case of the fiddly wee last bits now. Finishing things off and ensuring we meet the building standards to have the house completed. This will probably still take a few weeks or months, but we can move in once the house is safe to live in. By safe, I mean having the electrics tested and signed off, and having steps up to at least one door to make it officially safe to be entering and leaving the house. It’ll be great to have a cold beer in the new home very soon.

“Can we move in yet?”

Ok, so here goes. The house is painted, kitchen installed, heating installed, electrics just about finished, blockwork finished, guttering on, site infilled to pavement level, hydro connected, water connected, sewer and drainage trenches dug, bathrooms halfway and fireplace almost built.

I’ve been at the house just about every evening and all day on Saturdays for the last 6 weeks, and inbetween all that I’ve been studying for my final accountancy exams, which I sat last week. All in all, it’s been incredibly busy and even more stressful. The house has ticked along nicely, so most of the stress was related to the fact that I felt that I was doing things at the house instead of studying for my final exams. But that being said, I did manage to fit in plenty studying, and the exams went reasonably.

So, back to the house. The blockwork took my uncle around 4 weeks to complete, including fitting the windowsills. This is pretty impressive considering it was only a couple of hours most evenings and most Saturdays. The bay window was the last bit to be completed as the windowsills ordered were too small, and we had to wait for replacements to be made locally.

Inside is a complete transformation. The painted walls and ceilings change the house from a building site to a house. To me, it felt like we were finally getting somewhere. The kitchen also makes a huge difference to the feel of the house. The kitchen fitters whizzed through the install, beaten on speed only by the painter, who managed to paint the whole house, 2 coats, in just 3 days. Amazing. I’d have broken my back doing 1 ceiling in a day, never mind a whole house.

The plumbers and the electrician rattled their way through things as well, getting everything connected in around a week. Everything has come together really quickly, blink and something else was finished off.

The bathroom and en-suite are now ready to be tiled. I’ve installed an underfloor electric heat mat in the main bathroom, which needed to be fitted before the tiling. I thought I was all organised but having everything ready to go as soon as the plumbers installed the bath and shower tray, as the electrician needed to wire it up before he went away. But, I ordered the wrong size! Too big, but only just. But you can’t shorten the wires, so I had to order a smaller one. It came just in the nick of time to connect before he went off though, so delay averted.

Digger back onsite this week, infilling around the house to raise the ground level to where the paths will sit. He’s very neat, so it looks great, and so as soon as we get the house roughcast, we can get the steps and paths done. By this time, we hope to have the bathrooms finished, flooring down and the finishings (internal doors, skirtings and facings) well on their way. If this goes smoothly, we could be in the house very shortly.

So far that’s 18 months since we decided to build, and 7 months since we actually started. It’s a long process, but it’s well worth it. But a bit of advice at this point would be, it’s a stressful enough process, perhaps don’t decide to build a house, sit exams and have a baby all at the same time!

Here’s a few pics –

Air Source setup
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Windowsills in place
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Site infilled to pavement level and house ready for roughcasting

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Kitchen Completed
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P.s. I officially HATE varnishing. Thanks to friends, parents and in-laws for easing the burden!!

Bob the Builder

Momentous night tonight as I laid the last block in the house earlier. After placing a pound coin in the cement for luck, I positioned the last block into place. Thankfully my uncle laid the other 1400 or so, as you can clearly see below that my technique isn’t up to much.

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So that’s us ready to roughcast. There’s been an awful lot going on in the last month, both personally as well as at the house. I’ll get a full post up over the next few days.

Not enough hours

Slightly chaotic few weeks. A lot going on as usual, but haven’t had any chance to sit down and write about what’s going on. Well, there probably has been, but I’ve used this time to sleep instead! 

The tiles we ordered were delivered. A lot more boxes than I thought came, who knew you needed so many tiles! I had to move them out of the way of the ames taper, and so piled them all into the bedroom. The first box I picked up though, I dropped …. there were no survivors. Luckily I’d over ordered on that particular tile, so we should have enough, fingers crossed.

The plasterboarding is completely finished thanks to the immense speed of the joiners. Good from our point of view, but the electrician built up a sweat trying to keep up with them. More bad news for the electrician was that the plumbers decided to change the air source heat pump system from what they’d previously told him, meaning the majority of cables he’d run are now unusable, and he’ll have to re-run new ones. Not good. This creates quite a bit of extra work for him, which could have been avoided. This is one of the pitfalls of having a lot of different people hired to do the work, rather than getting a single contractor.

The ames taper made great progress this week, with only the final sanding to do once all the coving is on. We don’t have electricity yet for him to run is sander, but the neighbours have very kindly said we could run an extension cable from their house. We owe our neighbours a lot of favours already!
Kitchen
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Lounge taped and filled, looking out into the hall
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My uncle has stepped in to do our blockwork, which he’ll do in the evenings and Saturdays, as he has a full time job as well. I’ve been labouring for the last week for him, and my arms are in bits. It’s a heavy, intense job, and there’s a lot more to it than I thought. Before he can even lay a block, there’s lots of faffing about to do, such as putting wood in the cavity to prevent the spread of fire, attach damp proof material to this, and also between a course of blocks all round the house, and there’s wee vents to go between every couple of blocks just above the ground level to give an airflow through the cavity. 

Start of blockwork
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Other things going on: painter quote was good and hoping to start a week on Monday; kitchen also coming a week on Monday; sourced a hearth for the fireplace thanks to advice from a friend; water, BT and hydro connections ready for connection; also hoping the plumbers will return and complete everything once the painter is finished.

Multi Tasking

A lot’s changed over the last couple of weeks, and it’s getting busier and busier every day.

The slates are finally finished, and the ridge tiles are now being put on. These are put on with a mortar mix, so decent weather is needed, luckily we’re getting a few decent days here and there. Once these are on, the roof is complete.

Ridge tiles going on
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Inside is where all the action is at the moment though. The flooring was finished the day after my previous post, and so the next stage was to plasterboard the ceiling. This was done really quickly. After this the partitions were ready to go up. Myself and the wife went off to Glasgow for the weekend to get bits and bobs for the house and by the time we came back, the change was incredible. After it being an open shell for months now, we finally had rooms to walk in, and at last get a proper feel for the room sizes. A really great feeling!

Once the partitions went up, one half of each wall was plasterboarded. This allows the electrician to run all the cables underneath and overhead, and bring them up through the partitions before the other side is plasterboarded. This has all come together much quicker than the timescale I had in my head, so we’re delighted with how it’s all going.

The plumbers also need to bring up the pipes for the showers, as well as any wall hung sinks. I hadn’t really thought of this, so if anyone else reading this needs to know, if you want anything wall hung (sink, toilet, etc) then the pipes need to be hidden behind the partitions. We had thought of having a wall hung sink in the en-suite, but because of the closed panel kit, we should have specified this before the kit was made. The closed panel kit has the insulation pre-injected, and so the space left between the panel and the plasterboard isn’t deep enough for pipework. On a normal kit, the void is much deeper as the insulation is put in on site in the form of the wool rolls.

Ceiling being plasterboarded
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Looking down the hall, bedrooms on both sides, door to bathroom visible by the bit of green moisture resistant plasterboard showing
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Looking out into the hall from the kitchen, living room to door on the right of hallway
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Now it’s all action! By the end of this week we should be ready to tape and fill the plasterboard. Unfortunately our ames taper cancelled on us, but we’ve luckily managed to get a replacement at short notice, so this shouldn’t cause us too much delay, if any.

When we were away we bought tiles for the bathrooms, so have had to arrange collection and delivery from the store to get them up to the island …. at more expense, of course. We’ve also ordered all the other bathroom items online, which all adds up to an incredible amount, be warned. Delivery to the island, again, comes at an extortionate price. This is becoming the bane of our lives. It’s been well documented in the press recently that the price of delivering to the islands is ridiculously expensive and unfair, but until something is done about it by the government, it’s unlikely to change, and we just have to either accept the high delivery prices, or find a way around it.

The kitchen is scheduled to be fitted in a few weeks, so there’s plenty to be done before then, including painting, which we haven’t even got a quote for yet. The bricklayer is due back any day now to finish the outer blockwork. The digger is due back in the next week or so to dig the trenches and lay the ducts/pipes for the service connections (water, sewer, hydro, telephone). So there’s more than plenty to keep us going.

Warming Up

It’s been a while since the last blog, and although it hasn’t felt like much has happened, when I started thinking about writing this I realised quite a lot’s happened.

We had been waiting for the plumbers at the time of the last post, and I’d thought they’d have taken a while to get all the pipes for the water and heating done, but once they arrived, they were in and out in 3 days. So that was us almost ready to put the floor down once the roof was watertight.

The slater has been getting on well, but with a few delays with weather and other things. But we’re over two thirds of the way there now, and are hoping the good forecast for the coming week will allow the slates to be finished and work can start on putting the ridge tiles on to finish it off. There’s still water getting in whilst the roof is bare on the last few sections even though the roofing membrane keeps the majority out, but now that the end is in sight for the slates, the joiners have put the underfloor insulation down and are ready to put the floorboards down. You can feel the difference in heat already.

The remaining load from the kit supplier arrived too, containing all the plasterboard and internal doors and finishings. but, as we don’t have a floor yet, we have it stored elsewhere until we’re ready for it.

Once the floor’s down, the partitions can start going up, the electrician and plumbers can then come back and bring all the pipes/wiring up from under the floor, then plasterboarding can begin. Hopefully we can coordinate everyone well and make some speedy progress.

Front of the house slated
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Remaining sections to be slated
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Insulation under floor
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Bedroom section
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