Planning Approved and Building is Well Underway

Where to start?! It’s been a whirlwind few weeks and we’re up and out of the ground. Actually, in 3 weeks of building we’re up at second floor and the roof is being stripped! Milestone moments. Note to self: provide more regular updates, as soooo much has happened in the last month and progress has been incredible!

Our architect, Seth White Architects, liaised closely with the planning office who were happy with the general footprint of the planned building works, the double side-storey extension and the ground floor single storey extension. We have had to make some last minute alterations in the loft space, loosing 2 side dormers from our plans, but with these removed our planning permission has now officially been granted. We will still be able to have one of the side dormers under permitted development, so losing 1 of the loft dormers is a small compromise to get the seal of approval and push forward with the build.

In preparation for the building works to commence, we first knocked down the garage at the side of the house.

With the verbal green light on the extension footprint, Mac then wasted no time and set to digging the foundations.

We dug footings 1.3m deep, at which point the building control inspector made a site visit to check and sign off the foundations. His one stipulation was to remove the Leylandii Cypress tree hedging down the right hand side of the property due to their roots being too close to the build, and they grow very aggressively. Initially this was disappointing news, as the hedging gave us a great bit of high greenery and privacy as a boundary with the neighbour on that side, but in removing this we have also gained nearly 2m width in the garden as it was very wide. Silver linings…

Fencing has now gone up in its place and I’ll have a think about what I may replant down the sides to bring some greenery back. But we’re fenced in now with new panelling on both sides of the property for the whole length of the rear garden.

When the footings were dug, we could see that the ground below was solid ballast, similar to a type one base which was a great unexpected win. Ordinarily once the foundations are dug you’d pour concrete then oversite or block and beam it. However, due to the solid ballast base which we then whackered and compacted, the building inspector was more than happy with us putting in 250mm of concrete slab across the whole ground floor extension. This saved us a lot of money as an oversite or block and beam floor base would have come with their corresponding costs, but also meant we have a very solid and level base to work with going forward. Mesh cages were laid to tie it all in together before flooding the whole floor area with concrete which was then levelled.

During this time, the water board has also been out to get us connected up, and whilst we had the digger on site for the foundations, we dug a trench down to the back of the garden for cabling so we can connect the summer house electrics and data cabling in to the main house.

If you want to read our step by step guide to building your own summer house, here’s the link to my last blog taking you through the stages step by step.

So, with the foundations dug and the floor base good to go, the following week on Monday all the blocks were loaded out on to site for the brick layers arriving on the Tuesday to start the build. This is Mac’s OCD and age old army training setting in. The 7Ps – Proper Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss Poor Performance. This adage is introduced early on in military training and has stayed with Mac since his early days in the army.

Day 2 of the build saw us engineered out the ground with engineering bricks up to damp course.

Days 3-4 the block work was built up to 1st floor wall plate, all with the necessary cavity insulation. You can also see in the picture below the damp-proofing in place ready for the flooring to lap over it.

And here’s our brickie Gary from Pinnacle Brickwork to talk you through some of the detail of the build going up:

The steels were then delivered and installed. This was all in the first week of the build.

With steels in place, we could then get the scaffolders in. This was left in the good hands of London Scaffolding Solutions who came in over the weekend to install the first lift, so that in week 2 of the build we could press on without delay.

The brickies pulled off site for a couple of days whilst the chippies came in to joist the 1st floor and overlay with 22mm waterproof caberdek flooring boards – all glued and nailed in to place.

With 1st floor in place, we’ve also now knocked through from the front right bedroom in to the extension, creating the door space for the ensuite to this room which will be in the extended part of the house.

Infact, we’ve designed the house so that all the bathrooms are in the extension down the right hand side of the house where the drainage is. This makes the plumbing and drainage fairly straight forward.

At this stage, we therefore mapped out exactly where the bedroom and bathrooms in the 1st floor extension would go so as to allow for the window gaps in the block work on the 1st floor. This involved a trip to Porcelanosa to choose the tiles, as knowing the tile size we can structure the bathroom sizes to fit the tiles and minimise tile cuts – again saving time and money and thinking ahead to work most efficiently.

We are also putting in a laundry chute that will have a drop both from the loft/master bedroom and the 1st floor family bathroom in to the laundry room & utility below on the ground floor. Laundry Chute Solutions in Hereford were incredibly informative by phone on the mechanics, solutions and fire safety measures we’ll need to factor in for this.

We next had a loading platform built by the scaffolders so the delivery truck could lift 8 palettes of building blocks directly on to the first floor platform, to save them being carried up ladders. We had several hands on deck that day to create a chain gang and load out the building blocks around the 1st floor ready for second lift of the build.

The brickies were then back on site in the middle of the second week of the build to get us up to roof plate level.

With the extension taking shape, we could then take a good look at the new open plan space downstairs. One of the new steels was resting on an old pillar in the house and we’re not too confident on how strong that pillar is and whether it’s up to holding the weight of the steel and build above it, so we took the decision to take down that pillar and wall of the existing house and build anew and strong. We therefore propped up the existing house to replace this wall and pillar.

With the ground floor extension wall on the right side of the house built, we could then finish the new fencing down that side of the property and join it in to the side wall of the house, so the neighbours are nicely closed in again with new fencing.

With the build meanwhile at roof plate level, second lift scaffolding could then go up with a tin roof over the whole thing. This is our biggest scaffolding to date and London Scaffolding Solutions have done a great job, giving up weekends to get us covered and in the dry as soon as possible, so little time is wasted and we can crack on internally undercover now to move the project to the next stages.

Which brings up to the present week. We now have 2 carpenters in working on the ground floor to put in the flat roof of the rear extension. We’ve created an overhang of 0.5m as the dining area in the corner of the kitchen will have bi-fold windows that open out to a little bar area on the other side. It also requires some real precision work, creating the sloped edges for the zinc/metal wrap.

We’ve also allowed space in the kitchen diner ceiling for two 1200mm velux domes to flood this area with natural light.

We decided to leave out the 3rd velux dome over the outdoor porch area as we decided we wanted to keep natural light more subdued here for a cosy evening feel, and we’re planning on putting in a drop down projector from the ceiling for outdoor movie nights, so we want to keep it fairly dark and will brighten it up as and when needed with lighting instead.

We understand that in doing this, we won’t therefore have much natural light in to our lounge other than via the French doors / windows at the back from the terrace to the lounge, but we plan to manage light in the lounge with floor and table lamps to keep it cosy instead. In reality, as a family, we tend to use the lounge more in the evenings to chill together watching TV and the likes, whilst our bright, light and open plan kitchen/diner will be more our day room and have plenty of natural light flooding in.

Meanwhile, at the top of the house, the roof tiles are being stripped and the roof taken off.

As always, Mac is managing this build with military precision. Infact, it’s good project management skills that will determine whether your build is done in 3, 6 or 9 months. Knowing how long each trade should take to do their part of the job he is then able to line up the other trades to follow close in suit, co-ordinating between building control, brickies, carpenters, roofers, labourers & scaffolders, not to mention suppliers and deliveries.

It’s also about planning ahead and this is a joint effort between the two of us. In the midst of all this we’ve got water connected, BT booked to come out in April and connect us with their new G Fast fibre connection direct to premises. Our windows and doors have been ordered. The staircase designs finalised. I’ve chosen the flooring for the ground floor, designed the kitchen, and I’ve been to Porcelanosa to decide on tiles for the bathrooms. Whilst we’re not ready to install any of this yet, some of this will have up to 8 weeks turn around time so I need to make those decisions now so there is no time wasted in the weeks ahead.

After 15 years of building, I’m now well used to the pace at which Mac works, and know that he wants decisions made quickly. I know at some point he’ll turn round to me and tell me to order the tiles “tomorrow”, or need me to brief electricians on first fix with 12hrs notice, so I’m all ready to go when he does! Knowing what’s going where in the kitchen and bathrooms will be key to instructing on first fix electrics and plumbing in the extended part of the house so these decisions need to be made early for efficiency.

And now that the extension has been built the kitchen and window/door suppliers have been able to come out and do final measurements too. I’ll share some of these details with you in future blogs though as this update has been all about the build!

With the amount of trades on site over these past few weeks I also got some pavement signs made up with Slam Signs, reminding all site visitors to park respectfully for neighbours and to warn passersby to proceed with caution and keep children close.

We’ve also just this week had our newly designed hoarding go up at the front of the property and we love it! Thanks again to Slam Signs for producing this and to Visual8 for the CGI! How cool?!