Oh. My. Lord. I’m sitting in the ‘Van with a copy of Elle Decoration in front of me, wondering whether a Plum Chenille headboard with Elephant’s Breath walls is the way of the future. What has my life become? Actually, although we laugh about the fact that I’d rather be grubbing round a builder’s merchants checking out the colour and quality of their sand (I kid you not) looking through magazines for this type of fluffy stuff is really rather exhilarating, until you add it all up and see what it’s going to cost. Mother of God. I’ve just spent a theoretical £10,000 on the John Lewis website and that was only for a few light fittings. Why is it that the lights you want are always the most expensive in the book? I reckon they put £30, £70, £28 lights in, lull you into a false sense of security and then throw a £650 in just to catch you out. Then, when you find one for £325, you think you’re getting a bargain… Anyway, project management and budgeting is actually pretty easy and all about finding solutions. The solution is easy, the budget is intact, just get a storecard 😉
So today’s work has been utterly brilliant. Aside from arguing by email with the Helifix people (apparently, there was never a warranty included in their prices – which is why we were paying over the odds for the works in the first place, really, we’re not that stupid) I came to the conclusion that if we’re going for ground source heat pump to keep our energy prices low, LED lighting for the same, rainwater harvesting to keep the water bills down and massive kitchen garden to embrace the whole self-sufficiency thing then we may as well really jump off the edge.
Our water connection (to the mains) will cost about £800. The pipe, running from the mains, down the ‘drive’ and to the house will be in the region of £1500 (even mole-ing it costs a pretty penny, it’s quite a stretch). The rainwater harvester (which is a must considering the size of garden to water, horses to supply and car washing, etc) will be approximately £2500 to buy and install. So let’s say, conservatively, £4500. And then we have the on-going water bills. I’ll set up a direct debit, pay no more attention to it and within three years, two grand will be sucked from our account annually without us even noticing.
Instead, I’m investigating a water borehole, for pure, unadulterated, hasn’t been through fifteen people previously and once it’s installed won’t cost more than the electrical pumping costs and annual filter tests. Fenbilly Grappa, there’s a marketing exercise in there somewhere. I suspect it’ll cost about £5-6000 to install and set up, but will give us Evian (or similar) on tap, for free, for ever. Not that we ever actually drink water but at least it’ll be one less bill to worry about. I’ll keep you updated.
Talking of water, Mr Meaden and I have become total strangers to bathing. Thanks to the ‘van set-up I’ve had a bath twice in the last six months, and that was when I stayed in a hotel (fear not, I have been showering, although sporadically). Hubster has been insistent on a few things during the build – copper drainpipes, sterling board on the walls so he can hang paintings and a copper bathtub. Lord knows where the copper obsession comes from but as project manager, I have to satisfy all these whims. To this end, I found the Cast Iron Bath Company who hand-finish the most lovely bathtubs imported from India. Based in Yorkshire, Rich has visited today, with a view to making a decision about exactly what’s going in the main bathroom. He sounded distinctly undecided and sent me a couple of grainy photographs. I may as well put it to the vote. Copper exterior with tin interior or the bling-tastic nickel? You decide.
In other news, the house is still looking splendid although I’m a little concerned that we’ve frightened off the building inspector aka The Little Owl. However, the little shit has been spraying his excrement up our walls of an evening. Stu says it’s lucky, I say we have to get the scaffold down before the whole building is covered…
One side of the roof is finally finished. Poor Stu has been beavering away up there on his own, moaning about how tight the thatch is to the clay tile roof. He reckons if he’d known then what he knew now, he’d have got a contractor in to do the clay tile roof because of all the cuts round the rooflights and valley. 60 tiles per meter and the time stretches out in front of you. Then again, he did confess that if he’d got a contractor in, he’d only have been finding faults forever and a day. I suspect that when it comes to doing the same tiles on the garage, Stu may well be pinning some poor sap down with a price! Sadly, Kevin the Leadman’s, beautifully crafted valley has all but disappeared, but don’t worry Kevin, we know it’s there 😉
Inside, all is well. Gary and Geoffo have all but finished the first fix electricals. Actually I think they finished today. Gary has finally got into the swing of things by just coming to check about switching and the like. My best answer to his questions has been ‘What do you think I’ll want Gary’ and him saying ‘Separately switched’, has been utterly correct so far. Poor Gary, it’s nothing personal cos the guy is an utter diamond. Him and Geoffo working together has been brilliant. Geoffo is living in the dark ages, ironic for an electrican! He’s been musing over the ground source heat pump for some time and I think I’d be right in saying that it’s actually kept him awake at night. ‘Really? Heat from the ground? Very modern. Can’t wait to see it in action,’ Me either Geoffo, me either.
Talking of heat from the ground, it’s about time I introduced you to Alex, our ‘renewables’ chap. Alex is the salt of the earth, utterly loveable sort of bloke. He’s been responsible for our due-to-be-installed ground source heat pump. Funnily enough, we met him through a Twitter contact, Jez Merckel. Jez is a total Richard fan boy 😉 so got in touch as he does the PR for Vaillant. Basically, Vaillant is a family owned, German, boiler company. Having looked into ground source and the like, I’d whittled it down to one company, and it wasn’t Vaillant 😉 In the world of plumbing, Vaillant is a big name, known for their quality and efficiency, but in consumer terms, their exposure is absolutely nil. Having pored through the self-build mags for the past couple of years, I’d like to think I’ve been pretty savvy in terms of researching the best products for our build and I’d never heard of them. Ask a plumber though, and he’ll tell you Vaillant are the boys to do a man’s job.
Anyway, upshot is, Vaillant are installing our ground source heat pump array and Alex, of Orangehouse Renewables, is their local installer. Obviously, we got a good deal 😉 To this end, the underfloor heating pipes are running throughout the house, upstairs and down. Lots of people have been somewhat surprised that we have underfloor upstairs too – it’s a bit pricier than your standard underfloor and screed downstairs, but we have the headroom and, well, radiators are pretty ugly aren’t they? They also free up plenty of wall space so it doesn’t restrict where furniture goes – not now or in the future. I suspect, with the amount of insulation going in the house and the super insulated SIPS extension, that we could probably have done without the heating upstairs altogether but hey ho, better to open a window and let the heat out, than be stuck wearing a onesy forever 😉
Anyway, by the end of the week, the clay tile roof should be well on the way to being finished, the screed will be down downstairs ready to take some floor coverings (and so I can get some measurements for some cheap internet stairs) the electricals will be all finished until the second fix and Richard will have spent more than the allocated interiors budget on a new bath and tap. Next instalment will be plastering and rendering, all the windows in and the scaffold will be dropped so we can see our little house in all its glory. Oh, and apparently it’s Christmas. If that’s true, then I sincerely hope it’s a good one!
PS The screeders turned up first thing this morning, Sam and Jordan from Flow Screed Floors. Two more friendly chaps you couldn’t hope to meet. It’s now midday and they’ve done a very tidy job, packed up and gone. The temptation to walk around the floor is quite large but I really must resist for a couple of days until it’s dry enough to walk on. The underfloor pipework is all covered, the floor is level and the whole place is starting to look a little bit more ‘together’. Good work guys, I’ll be giving you a call when I do the next project 😉