You thought the last interlude was long, well try 5 months. But we haven’t been wasting our time since then.
Before Christmas, we completed the plastering of the outside of the house, with the help of ‘Helper Dave’ and family, and apart from a bit of inside plastering, thoughts turned to cladding. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Jamie Duffin and his gang of chippies began the job of putting on the cladding. Originally, we had planned to be a bit more traditional, and plaster the external straw with lime mortar. But after consideration of the amount of time and maintenance required, plus also the rather stringent atmospheric requirements for the correct setting of the mortar, we decided to clad the outside with larch. For this, we again sourced UK grown, air dried larch.
Digging out the gravel to put in the rodent-proof mesh
The first job was to put rodent-proof mesh between the ground floor ring beam and the ground, to stop mice getting into the spaces between the ground and the floor, and the cladding and the walls. This was nailed to the ring beam and sunk into the French drain gravel outside the tyre foundations.
After this, a framework of 3″ x 2″ rough cut larch was constructed to support the cladding. This spans the height between the ring beams
The first of the cladding support frame on the ground floor
Once the frame was complete around the ground floor, the cladding started to go on. We used rough cut feather edge boards, around 200mm wide, and between 9 and 25mm thick, secured with stainless steel nails.
This job was all but finished just before Christmas, and had transformed the external appearance of the house.
With just the last of the cladding above the top-most ringbeam to be completed, as well as the gable end under the barn roof (which required the ceiling joists to be installed to provide support), thoughts turned to getting connected to the electricity grid.
With a couple of days of in recognition of the season, the bulk of the festive period was spent with Rob, Chris and Katie digging up swathes of the yard to install the appropriate ducting to carry the mains power from the transformer feeding the farm to the new house. This necessitated digging up areas near the grain bins, which had originally been ‘made-up’ ground after the closure of the railway line in the 1970’s. This ‘made-up’ ground had been made-up with building rubble from house demolitions in the village, some of which seemed to have involved minimal demolition before being tipped into the ground! One piece of ex-concrete floor was at least four feet square and and 8 inches deep, and too heavy to lift with the digger. However, in time, we had a suitable trench, covering the 50 metres from transformer to house, and had inserted ducting and back filled.
Thereafter, in an apparently uncharacteristic turn of speed, a week later, the power company had connected the cable from network to house, and the supply company had installed a meter – now just got to wire up the house! More of this later….
Back to indoors in the new year, when we made relatively short work of installing the ceiling joists across most of the house.
Hot on the heels of this came the long awaited arrival of the windows. After an interminable process of backwards and forwards emails with the suppliers, getting dimensions and details correct, a lorry arrived bearing two very heavy pallets, made up of our 2 tonnes of triple glazed windows. A very nervous Chris then unloaded them safely into the shed whilst equally nervous house-builders looked on!
So, joists all ready and windows arrived, Jamie and the chippies came back and completed the remaining cladding and helped us install the largest of the windows on the south side, including the central sliding doors which weighed about a third of a tonne! These main windows only took a couple of days to get in place, and thereafter we were left with the task of installing the toplights above these, and the rest of the windows.
Being all triple glazed, they are solid, but this makes them heavy. So after an Easter of illness, when we did very little work on the house, we returned ready to go with installing the rest of the widows……and in the course of lifting the first one into place, I put my back out and had to have another 2 weeks off!!
Still, that all seems a while ago now, as we have just spent the last 3 weeks getting the last of the windows in, and so depriving the local wood pigeon population of a night-time roost. As well as that, we have at last installed all the ground floor joists and all the noggins and wall ties that strengthen each floor.
One interesting interlude to this process was the need to dig a couple of radon sumps. The area around our village is considered a high radon risk area, and since we have a ventilated underfloor void, we decided to install some preventative measures should they be needed once the house is complete. Radon is the heaviest element that remains a gas at normal temperature, so will usually remain in or close to the ground unless other factors come into play. One of these is that the pressure inside a building becomes negative with respect to outside through intended or unintended ventilation. If this happens, the gas will be sucked up into the house unless its path is barred (sealed membranes) or it is propelled elsewhere (vented to outside). Because we could not seal the ground surface under the ground floor, due to the nature of the tyre foundations, we constructed a couple of sumps: a grand name for a hole in the ground lined with bricks. Any radon escaping the soil and underlying rock would lie in this, and if necessary in the future we could vent this to outside through a horizontal flue. Once the house is finished, we’ll test for actual radon levels and then see if venting is necessary. Otherwise, we’ve installed a partial seal in the form of a heavy plastic membrane lying on the ground surface below the floor joists.
Oh, and we’ve had the solar panels installed…..20 panels giving a total array of about 5.8kW. And they look smart!
So that’s a very brief version of about 6 months of hard work. We’re now in the throes of doing the wiring and plumbing, before we can then finish the floors and ceilings with floor boards, plasterboard and insulation. More of this in due course.