Update

For those of you following this blog you might be wondering what has happened as I haven’t put anything up for a while. There are two reasons for this. Firstly we have been extremely busy trying to finish the house and bring up a young child which does not leave us with much spare time and secondly we unfortunately have an ongoing issue with the timber frame company Unitek who constructed our kit. We had hoped to have this issue resolved by now, but sadly it would appear to be far from that point and it is looking increasingly likely that we will have to commence legal action against them. As a result I do not feel that I can comment on certain aspects of the construction process of our house until this is resolved. There are however many parts of the build I can comment on freely, so I hope to get some more updates and photos put up soon.

Drainage

It has been quite some time since I posted anything on this blog, this has been partly due to being quite ill for a long time which has made it a lot harder to organise / complete work myself. I’m now getting back to normal health, but it might be a while before I am 100% again. Progress has therefore been quite slow, internally things have all but stopped, but more on this later. Externally we have made a little progress with the drains, water and sewage going in.

We got ACG back to install the rainwater drainage which connects into a large soakaway, the sewage connection and most of the water supply pipework.

Starting work:

drains 1

drains 2

The pipes were uPVC unfortunately, this was an area we had to compromise on, the chlorine involved in its production is not exactly great for the environment. Anyway they were laid in a bed of pea gravel:

drains 3

P-traps were installed at the base of the downpipes with hoppers which have a removable grill on top so we can clean out the drains easily and hopefully prevent them blocking up:

P traps

More drains:

drains 4

drains 5

The big challenge with this stage was connecting to the village sewage system. The mains sewage is quite a distance from the house and there was only just enough height difference to maintain the appropriate fall, so not a lot of room for manouvre. On top of this the trench needed to be very deep to get through a small hill and we had to negotiate a lot of other buried services including the mains water supply for the whole village which was described to us as an old and very fragile pipe. A testement to the guys that it was installed easily in possibly the worst weather conditions.

Starting the sewage trench:

sewage 1

Some of the snow which didn’t help:

snow

The last thing to go in was the soakaway:

soakaway

Render

The blockwork has now been rendered, finishing the external appearance of the house. We have also had the front door fitted and we have finally got the scaffolding away which is a big step and a relief financially (as it aint cheap).

The rendering of the blockwork was constructed with three layers, a scratch coat, a base coat and final wet dash render.

The scratch coat on the north gable wall (to the right of the corner if you are wondering) :

And the whole house with the scratch coat on:

Then the base coat was added:

The whole house with the base coat on:

It was amazing to see how by just covering the blockwork up the house felt transformed.

Then the top wet dash layer was then hurled on (literally it is thrown on). Each side of the house was done seperately as wet dash renders are notorious for changing colour mid job. In the picture below, the south side is finished and the east side (right) has the base coat visible:

A close up of the final wet dash render finish, it is lumpy to create  a greater surface area to speed up drying after rain:

The colour of render had to be approved by the planning department via a site visit. They are traditionally very conservative on what they will allow, we initially wanted white, but according to aberdeenshire planning department you only get white houses at the seaside(?). anyway we did manage to get a subdued off-white colour approved and we quite like the results.

The scaffolding is dismantled, starting to reveal the house:

The eagle eyed will notice the addition of a TV aerial on the photo above. I stumbled across a fantastic website: http://www.aerialsandtv.com/ when getting my head around putting one on our house. If you ever want to know about TV and radio aerials in minutia then this is the place for you. Being quite sad I found it fascinating.

The finished article in the glow of some evening light:

And the ‘piece de la resistance’:

Rachel has always wanted a purple door.

External Window Detailing

The installation of the windows is one of the more complicated sections of the build. We installed our windows recessed back 50mm from the front of the timber frame, and surrounded in XPS insulation (see previous post) to maximise their performance. The final stage of this process was to overclad the window frames with insulation on the outside (we can’t insulate the alphawin windows on the inside as the frames are too narrow). This proved to be a reasonably time consuming part of the build.

Once the blockwork was in place,  a 100mm gap between the blocks and the window frame existed. We first of all lined this with DPM to ensure no water would get into our frame. We then added a combination of XPS packing pieces and sheeps wool to help iron out the uneven surface at the back of the gap:

The DPM material was also siliconed and taped to the windows to ensure no water ingress:

Then we filled the gap with offcuts from the floor insulation (Kingspan TF70), with any gaps being filled with expanding foam:

Working on the insulation around the lounge window:

And filling gaps:

We then had to work out how to render over all of this. We finally went for using some 6mm thick cement board covered in a metal lath:

The cement board and lath shown above was held in place by long screws on the inner side fixing into the frame/firestop and on the outerside by hammer in screws fixed to the blockwork (Not fitted in the photo above).

The sills for the windows were made up of two parts an aluminium sill attached to the window lapping onto a slate sill. We also put some sheeps wool under the aluminium sill since there was an opportunity to do so:

The slate sill:

We had some additonal help on this detailing when the McCallum family paid a visit:

Currently when most people visit they are roped into helping in some way or another. Thanks Steve.

Blockwork

The blockwork went up some time ago, but here are some pictures and details. We opted for a traditional timber frame approach (in these parts anyway) with a blockwork and render finish separated by a 50mm ventilated gap.

Some of the blocks arrive:

We put in three thin courses of Caithness slate below the damp proof membrane. I had ordered random lengths to make it look a bit more interesting, but this proved a bit of a headache to Stevie the Brickie. But he soon got his head around it and has done a great job:

Progress at the font of the house:

Shortly after, the steel beam went in. This was muscled into place by three of us. It was a bit of a heart in the mouth moment as we moved what is a very heavy beam into place above some quite expensive windows. But it all went well:

One slightly different feature was the use of knauff dritherm 32 as a firestop at a few strategic locations. This had the added benefit of not only being a firestop but added another 50mm of insulation over some locations in the timber frame where we have solid timber running all the way through. This should help to reduce any thermal bridging.

Here it can be seen running around the house at the level of the first floor cassette:

We put in a DPM above this to act as a cavity tray to protect the insulation from moisture and any snots of mortar which might fall down the cavity from above:

We also used it at the top and middle of the gable ends:

Progress:

Finishing a gable:

We had some spare slate blocks which we used to build the front door steps. Stevie and Andy who did all our blockwork for us hard at it:

More picture of the rendering to follow…

Update

Sorry for not putting any entries on the blog for a while. I’ve been juggling building the house, work and bringing up a 7 month old baby and recently there has not been enough time in the day to get everything done. I will post some pictures as soon as I can. Briefly though we have been getting the blockwork put up outside and the house has the scratch coat (base layer of render) on. We have had the colour of the top layer of wet dash render approved by the planners, so hopefully the house will look finished from the outside soon. However I  just need to finish off the window details prior to this last stage of the rendering.

Hopefully pictures will be following soon…

The Floor

There has now been some progress with the internal floor. Previously we had a concrete floor slab as part of our foundations. So we have now added the floor insulation (200mm of Kingspan TF70), the under floor heating system and then a 70mm concrete screed. The under floor heating system may be excessive, however we are going to try to run it at a very low temperature to add the small amount of heat that the house will need. In theory it should be easier and more efficient to supply low water temperatures (20-25°C) from the solar thermal/wood burning stove system than heating the house through a water heating battery in the MVHR system (which requires 60°C). Though the difficulty with this approach is controlling an underfloor heating system where only a very small amount of heat output is required, as it would be easy to overheat the house. To try and manage this we have installed a temperature probe into all the different zones of the under floor heating system. This way we can maintain the temperature of the slab to heat the house. If we relied purely on air thermostats, then when the room reached temperature the thermostat would switch off the UFH but there would still be a large amount of heat still to radiate out of the floor slab (overheating the room). So by controlling the temperature of the slab itself we should be able to control the amount of heat being radiated out and keep our house warm, but not too hot. Hopefully this will work, time will tell…

If all else fails we have an electrical heat element in the MVHR system which will be able to maintain the house at 20°C.

The floor insulation:

The floor insulation is butted up against the timber frame thus reducing any potential thermal bridges at the floor to wall junction.

The manifold:

Lots of pipes:

Screeds were put into place to work as height guides when putting the concrete flooring in:

The finished floor: