St Valentine’s Day, 2018; not memorable for the usual reason, but because it signals the start of work on site – at last! It’s exciting and daunting at the same time, and brings about a distinct change in mood, with much more purposefulness and a real feeling that progress is being made, rather than the seemingly endless waiting of the past few months.
Quite a bit has happened; I haven’t managed to agree costs with 3b Construction, as they insisted on carrying out and overseeing the whole project as a condition of using them to do the work. This would have entailed them adding a significant percentage to the costs of timber frame, ventilation system and window and doors, which increased the costs beyond the available budget. So I’ve engaged a smaller local builder, GS Constructions run by George Shaw, to carry out the building work with the specialist elements of timber frame, windows and doors and ventilation being carried out by the respective suppliers and installers working direct for me. This means that I need to do much more of the the coordination between the various aspects of the work, but will save costs significantly.
The subject of money occupies quite a bit of time; it’s become clear that constructing my high quality, energy efficient house, although it’s small, is just not possible on a budget of £100k. The structural insulated panels (SIPS), with large amounts of insulation, the airtight structure with MVHR, and triple glazed, energy efficient windows and doors make up the greater part of this amount, and when electrics and plumbing, kitchen and bathroom fittings and internal wall and floor finishes are added the costs come to considerably more. But of course there will be minimal heating costs over the lifetime of the house to offset against the high initial cost, as well as the comfort of a warm and well ventilated house. Now I just have to work out how to pay for it.
So after some heartache, I’m reconciled to the need to obtain a mortgage to cover this, and will be on the lookout for second hand kitchen and other fittings and fixtures. A perfectly presentable stainless steel sink has already come from a refurbishment project in South Lakes, with a built-in oven to follow; saving money as well as fitting well with the sustainable ethos for the house. I think Ebay and Gumtree will be frequently used bookmarks in my browsing history over the next few months!
George Shaw has completed the topsoil stripping (of which there was a LOT), and excavation down to solid subsoil that will support foundations. The Building Inspector will be calling tomorrow to inspect and approve the formation level. The photo shows the state of the site at the end of last week; the paler soil is where the house will be located. As there was so much topsoil that had to be removed from the building footprint (really nice topsoil at that), the finished floor level of the house will be 300mm lower than shown on the construction drawings, to avoid the need to import large amounts of hardcore to make up the levels. This won’t cause a problem with the foul water drainage as this has to be pumped up to the public sewer anyway, and another 300mm vertical difference is not significant. The site levels are such that surface water will still drain away across the site without ponding, so the house will just hunker down a little bit further on the site.
And not forgetting the snowdrops – they’re going great guns at the back of the site on the allotment. The ones with yellowed leaves were rescued from the mound on site, just before the digger scooped up the soil and shifted the mound in about 30 minutes flat!