We have the start of a house

When we left site on Tuesday afternoon, there was a floor slab and a pile (or several piles) of timber scattered around the site.

48 hours later, when we returned on Thursday afternoon, we had most of the bottom floor of the house…

Josh and his team had made great progress over the 2 days, assembling and erecting the 2 portal frames that will support the bifold doors on the living room and dining room, putting down the sole plates, erecting the panels for the outer walls and then putting in the internal walls.

For the first time, we can actually see the room layout.  As Paulette commented “It’s just like we designed it!”.  And we can now see the view across the river framed, as it will be, in the living- and dining-room windows.

Meanwhile, work on the foundations continues, in a sort of 2-steps-forward-1-step-back way.  The groundworkers are now putting the reinforcing steel (back) into the excavation for the footing of the retaining wall.

Should be finished with this stage on Monday, inspection on Tuesday, concrete later in the week.

Josh & Co will be there on the frame next week, and maybe a little longer.


The first part of the frame is delivered

This morning saw the delivery by Potton of the first package of our timber frame.  This comprises (mainly) the parts for the bottom floor of the house, which will sit directly on the floor slab.  The plan is to build this, then for the groundworkers to return to build the retaining wall and the outer skin of the house adjacent to it, allowing the concrete path to be laid in front of the house.  This will permit the scaffolding to be erected to allow the rest of the frame to be built and the roof constructed.  So, today was momentous, in that it marks the beginning of being ‘out of the ground’.

Pretty exciting in its own right, too.

We arrived at the site shortly after 9 this morning, to find the road crammed with Potton lorries (well, there were two, at least).  The construction team – Josh, Rick and Jamie – were expecting the crane for 10:00.  It finally arrived, reversing down the road at about 10:30

A bit bigger than even the construction team expected!  A while to set up, jacking the crane on to its levelling legs, and a bit of concern about the sewer across the top of the site,

then one of the Potton lorries reversed down to beside the crane,

From further up the road

and all was ready to start unloading.  The plan was to put much of the kit in the centre of the slab.  Josh and his team managed to get the main panel packs there,

but there was not enough room for everything, so some of the materials were dotted around the sides.  Some of it looked pretty precarious, particularly this (very heavy) pack of plywood floor panels

But by 12:30, both lorries were unloaded and had left for their return journey to St Neots.

Next week should be exciting

A few meetings on site, with Project Manager Sean,  yesterday.  The first with Richard from Source Energy, the heat pump supplier.  This was to line up the drilling of the three boreholes to feed our heating system.  The drilling company will be on site on Monday and Tuesday, to drill three 70m deep holes, and to lay a pipe loop into each.  These will collect heat from the ground, which will be used to heat the house.

The next meeting was with Josh, from Timber Constructions, the company who will erect our timber frame.  The plan is for the bottom floor to be delivered on Tuesday, and for them to erect it next week, then put on the floor joists and deck for the first floor.  The Potton lorry with the panels is scheduled for 10:00 on Tuesday, along with a (substantial) crane to lift them down on to the slab.

Also on Monday, we have the inspection of the foundations for the retaining wall.  The excavations are complete for this, and the groundworkers are currently putting in the steel reinforcing mesh and bars for the slab and wall.  Subject to satisfactory inspection, this should mean more concrete some time in the week.

Starting on the retaining walls

Now that we have a floor slab in place, the next phase of the groundworks has started.  This is the construction of the retaining wall above the house, that prevents the hillside joining us in the living room.  First part of this is to dig out some more spoil, to create the foundations for the wall.

This entails digging down about 600mm below the current level, to allow for a 250mm thick reinforced concrete slab.  The main difficulty is access, as shown here.  Jerry can only get the small digger in, and is limited on how much spoil he can move to the level above – plan is to move the big digger up to the top of the site, and fill its bucket fron the small one.  We shall see!

What’s remarkable is that, for the first time, really, we can see how big the house will be, and start to see how it fits into the site.  Standing on the floor slab makes it obvious just how well tucked away the house will be.


Also, now that Malcolm has started spreading the Spoil Himalaya across the bottom of the site, we can start to see the extent and lay of the garden, and confirm the way that it leads into the country beyond.

We’re now told that the first part of the timber frame will be delivered on March 12.  That will just be the bottom floor panels and floor joists for the middle floor. Once that’s up, the groundworkers can build the blockwork wall nex to the hill, and lay the path outside the front of the house, so that the scaffolders can do their stuff.  All seems, suddenly, very fast indeed.  We carry on anxiously looking at the weather forecast, and hoping for dry weather.