November 2009

The Build-Up to the First Floor

With the inner leaf of the ground floor walls completed work began on the outer leaf,
and we began to get a glimpse of our reclaimed red brick plinth.

And very nice it looks too. We're not using pallets for doors - that would be taking recycling a bit too far.
They're being used to make sure the edges of the openings are vertical.

The time has come to bring in the external scaffolding - now it's really beginning to look like a building site.

This will be the first of three 'lifts', where the scaffolding is built up to a specific height for the work.
The next one will be for the first floor walls, then finally the gable ends and roof....

Getting very busy on site now, so time to make some space by lowering the Rotoplas tanks into the basement....

.....where eventually they'll store the rainwater which will supply the house with all of its water.

Here's the red brick 'plinth' - just over a metre high - almost completed. This will eventually be topped with
a decorative layer of blue engineering bricks, and then lime render will continue on up to roof level.

And so preparations began for the final massive concrete slab which will form the first floor.
We've been so impressed with our groundworks company, LeBrun Construction, that we've kept them on
to complete the first floor, leading to complaints about vertigo ('It's a bit high for us up here.....')

Again a strong wood and scaffold framework is constructed....

...which is then covered in marine grade plywood sheets ready for the steel reinforcements, of which more later.....

Supporting all of this is a huge scaffolding structure currently filling the ground floor. At the far end, you can see
the two main bedrooms beginning to take shape, where part of the dividing wall has already been completed.
Remember this house is 'upside-down', with the living area on the first floor.

In trying to reduce the environmental impact of the project where possible, we'd hoped to dispose of the spoil from
the excavations by spreading it out on site. But in reality it just wasn't possible, and at least 12 huge lorry loads have had
to be taken away, as otherwise we would have been left with an enormous mountain of subsoil.

Even so, more lorry loads may yet have to be removed, but with most of the top soil back in place,
it's just about possible to imagine that this may one day be a thriving and beautiful organic garden.

With work on the house proceeding rapidly, it was time to make a start on the foundations for the garage.
Mike Neate checks the day's post.

Our skilled bricklaying team John and Anthony worked amazingly quickly – almost by stealth –
and within just a few short days the main structure was in place.....

...and it was time for a well-earned cup of tea. We bought a few more reclaimed bricks than we needed for the house, so these,
combined with those we recovered from the old cellar a year ago, were enough to build the garage walls. So we saved the
cost and carbon emissions of yet more concrete blocks, and ended up with what we think is a really interesting garage interior.

In the past few weeks we've had some proper wintery building site weather – damp, cold, and miserable –
giving us a foretaste of what could well be in store for the months ahead.

To keep the rain out of the unfinished wall cavities, project manager Mike Neate installed some temporary protective sheeting.

There's insulation in the cavity below here, which is best kept dry. The final insulation and render which will complete
the external walls won't be installed until close to the very end of the project, so this will protect it all until then.

Meanwhile up on the first floor, Andrew LeBrun had begun marking out the opening for the staircase....

...and we were joined on site by architect Neill Lewis, to sort out a few details and see how things were coming along.

And here it is – known, hopefully not apocryphally, as 'The Titanic'. This wooden structure will form a void for
the stairs and gallery to the ground floor by stopping the wet concrete from flowing into this section.

Site manager Max determinedly tucks into a disgusting snack of mud-covered rotting apple which he found in some rubble....

....while Mike gets to work in the basement, cleaning up the Rotoplas tanks with a pressure washer.

There are 12 of these 1500 litre tanks, originally used for importing concentrated orange juice from Israel and Turkey.
We bought them direct from Britvic UK, with plenty of rancid orange juice residue still in the bottom.....

....which was effectively reconstituted with water from the pressure washer, putting us off orange juice for life.
Well, for a while, anyway.

Two floors above, the steel structure for the floor slab was coming along well.

This is even more complex than the ground floor steel work, because of the large hole for the stairs, which has to be
thoroughly reinforced around its edges. Andrew and Lee Lebrun are assembling one of the supporting members here,,,,

....while the other is already in place, as Tim continues working in what's going to be the corner of our first floor living room.

Again, there are thousands of joints to be tied by hand, but with the pouring of this concrete floor now just days away,
there are real signs of progress, and a great sense that at long last our house is beginning to take shape.

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