27th April: Incredible Things

I’m feeling quite emotional writing this, as I’ve just been back in the house to find the camera and had a good look round (and I may have sunk a couple of beers). It’s nearly dark, there’s not a soul around and I had a good clean up earlier so it’s easy to finally see what Rich meant when he said, ‘It’s almost like we need to have a sweep up, throw some rugs down, and move in.’

The last time we saw it without scaffolding...

The last time we saw it without scaffolding…

Believe me, at the time, even a fantasist would have struggled to see the vision. Especially with the shotgun peppered walls (what was left of them), 60 years of owl shit on the floor and more leaves than you’d find at Sherwood in the autumn. Isn’t it amazing what you can achieve if you set your heart on it? Like, properly amazing? I know that Rich and I haven’t exactly been knee deep in stone and wood, doing it ourselves, but we saw this place just over two years ago, fell in love with the ‘feel’ of it and stepped off the precipice. For over a year we held our breath and waited for our house to sell and, to be honest, if it hadn’t have gone when it did, we would have been in some substantially deep shit. We weren’t at the point of buying food on the credit card, but our current abode came courtesy of VISA…

All it needed was a quick sweep out and some candles

All it needed was a quick sweep out and some candles

To be honest, it’s been a real lesson. And I don’t mean to sound conceited or smug, but it’s one I already knew. Smile at people, and they will smile back at you. Treat everyone as you would want to be treated and it will make you feel nice inside. Respect everyone and they will respect you back. Most importantly, let people get on with their job and they will do a fucking great one. With the exception of Gary, the electrician, of course. The only other piece of advice I can offer if you’re thinking of doing something similar, is make a lot of cups of tea, and genuinely don’t begrudge a single one of them. Oh, and burgers/sausage sandwiches, with cake, on a Friday.

Going to the tip, pikey-style

Going to the tip, pikey-style

In all seriousness (okay, as serious as I can be) building The Meaden Project has been an absolute belter of an adventure. Rich and I spent the weekend burning anything that wasn’t pinned down. We concluded, in our maturity, that the Fenbilly is like building a giant den, but with no grown-ups telling you what to do. Living in the ‘van has been a revelation and I really can’t understand why people keep saying ‘I bet you can’t wait to move out of the caravan.’ Yes, it’s somewhat cramped but look at the upsides.  For starters, as we don’t have any bins collected, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that buying from a supermarket is a fucking travesty. Honestly, I certainly wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist, far from it, but the amount of rubbish we have to drop at the tip is embarrassing and there are only two of us. Learning that lesson now has been a good thing. Give me a year, and I’ll have properly learned how to grow stuff to eat, meat included, and stop adding to the landfill problem, not to mention keeping the old living expenses down.

Arms like popeye, me

Arms like popeye, me

Secondly, we have lived without television for the best part of a year. Television is a bad habit. You watch shit that you’re not really interested in, it makes you cross and you don’t talk, because the television is blaring away in the background. Far easier to turn the old idiot’s lantern on than have a nice chat to the rest of the family. Go on, try it. One night a week without telly, do something constructive instead and see how much happier it makes you feel.  Although, I’ll be honest, I am missing Game of Thrones and Countryfile

And lastly, that I was right 😉 Rich and I have lived together for just over 18 years (I know, seems impossible that we could be that old) and when things were tough, I always said as long as we had each other, we’d be happy living in a caravan. We’re both still grinning from ear to ear. Need I say more?

Give a man some tea, and he'll walk a million miles for you

Give a man some tea, and he’ll walk a million miles for you

So enough of this sentimental bullshit, what about the house, the beautiful house.  It seems that all has been pretty quiet – predictably, Looloo has found Stu and DependaPaul a zillion other jobs to do at her lovely maison so they didn’t come back here til Thursday, but actually there’s been a load of stuff done. Funny how it seemingly stands quite ‘still’ for a few weeks but that little things make such a big difference.  We’ve had a few deliveries – paint, lights, stuff and The Spark Knight and Russell have been back and forth doing electrical type stuff. A nice man called Mick arrived from the electrical company and actually connected us to the grid. Woo hoo, I’ve never been so excited to plug the hoover in and hear it working. Actually, I’ve never plugged a hoover in 😉 Kidding(!)

Knights of the Pole.

Knights of the Pole.

On Wednesday, a bloody great coffin arrived on the back of a pallet truck. Matey boy delivery driver cracked open the back of the truck and our bath, in the coffin, was at the far end. There was no way he could move brick pallets, etc and get the bath out so I rounded up the boys who’d come to take down the scaffold (thanks Tonker, Paul and Ocker) and they put a bit of muscle behind it and saved the day. And then, instead of depositing aforementioned coffin on the somewhat muddy bit of grass that’s left, they asked if I wanted the bath taking upstairs. You see, that’s what I was talking about earlier. Had I not gone to the trouble (although it was never trouble) to make the boys a cup of tea every time they rocked up to move/remove/move again some scaffold, or even come for a quick gander on their quieter days, they would have ignored the fact that I may have needed some help in moving a heavy item. Instead, they were happy to down tools and not only get the bugger off the truck, but also unpack it and take it upstairs for me. Thank you guys, as ever, very much appreciated. They’ve been another exceptional part of the team, sort of like the AA – there when you need them, but you don’t pay a subscription charge 😉

And so to the bath. Erm, wow. I had never actually seen the bath in real life, only on the interweb. Rich was working near The Cast Iron Bath Company up in Yorkshire (www.castironbath.co.uk) and popped in to see what it was actually like in the metal. He gave it the thumbs up back in January and Paul and Lee marked one of their next orders as sold. Basically, the baths come from India, are polished, lacquered and titivated in Yorkshire, and wrapped in a massive coffin and delivered to site.

Our dream bathroom. Can you see it?

Our dream bathroom. Can you see it?

When we first saw The Meaden Project, one of the first fantasies we had was of the bathroom. No particular reason, but the middle room upstairs, with its long and low window and a cracking view onto the pond was earmarked straight away for a freestanding rolltop and massive blingo chandelier.  Even though it hasn’t been decorated, the bath’s not quite in the right place, the chandelier isn’t up, the floors aren’t down and the rest of the sanitaryware isn’t it, I think it gives you an idea of where we’re going with it…

How about now?

How about now?

I’m really glad I’ve been writing this blog. It’s difficult to remember what’s happened in a week, let alone 10 months, so it’ll be lovely to have a record to look back onto. Photographer extraordinaire and old friend Andy Morgan took a photo of the house before we started and, although it still looked lovely then, it’s come quite a long way since. I reckon that picture will have pride of place in the hallway, so that every time we come in, we’ll see what we’ve achieved.

On a more practical note, lots of odds and sods have been done this week. Stu’s managed to find a lovely stone airbrick for the obligatory bathroom extractors – rather than some awful plastic vent. The Spark Knight has managed to somehow combine the two bathroom extractors into one outlet – poor bloke was up in the roofspace with a core drill for hours. ‘Quite thick, your walls,’ was his only comment.

Stu, always smiling

Stu, always smiling, especially now the extractor’s in

Talking of extraction, Stu and DependaPaul have finally laid their biggest bugbear to rest with the kitchen extractor unit. Fast Eddie came back last week and did some kitchen titivating, plumbed in the hot water tap, cut out some more bits and got rid of those plinth lights for me, but couldn’t do the extractor, until the plasterboard surround for the discobox had been cut out. Stu tackled it with some headscratching, a phonecall to Eddie (‘They’re a bastard, if you still can’t work it out, I’ll come over and we can scratch our heads together’) and finally, with quite substantial input from DependaPaul, resolution. With the extractor now ready to be hooked up and simply clipped into place, Stu looks like he’s lost ten years.

So impressed was Simon by my brickie skills, it inspired him to do this

So impressed was Simon by my brickie skills, it inspired him to do this

Our very tame and exceptionally talented brickie Simon, and his right hand man Pat, have been back for a couple of days and laid a plinth round the base of the house in preparation for the render board. I gave Simon a couple of tips as he wandered round my still largely un-started stable block.

Simon, just before spitting out his tea

Simon, just before spitting out his tea

When I told him my laying rate was about four bricks an hour, I thought he was going to keel over laughing. He did the plinth, complete with door details and some jiggery pokery with the electrical supply in two days. And that was with stoppage time for a burger…

In its naked glory ;)

In its naked glory 😉

Oh yes, as I mentioned earlier, most of the scaffold has come down. Which is, frankly, strange. Brilliant, but strange. It’s been up for so long now, you kind of see through it and it becomes part of the furniture. With it gone, the house looks almost naked. But by heck, if I looked that good naked, I’d be showing you pictures of me in the bath. Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen. Not anytime soon anyway 😉



10 responses to “27th April: Incredible Things

  1. its almost time for carpaccio in bling bling fenbilly kitchen 😉 looking forward to candles and cushions and get all this building brick shit in the past ….LooLoo x

  2. Place is looking great – love that photo of the new part. As for simple living, first memory was living in a caravan as my parents built a house, it was quite a little one too… do remember being happy.

    By the way, GoT, season 3 is off to an epic start, but that’s what box sets are for 😉

  3. We were introduced to GoT by Jimbillybob and Looloo. Did season two in about three days 😉 Now on The Tudors although I think the zombie Walking Dead one should be out soon to tide us over!

  4. Nice work so far – just double check your cladding details – there might be a few issues with differential movement and providing the correct drainage and ventilation to the external wall cavity.

      • From a differential movement point of view, SIPs (as all other timber buildings) will be subject to differential movement. The engineered floor joists, as well as the solid timber plates and will shrink and the structure will settle a little over time (the shrinkage is much greater with solid timber joists). The shrinkage and movement is concentrated in the floor zones where the horizontal timber elements are – the panels themselves will not shrink. Depending on the exact detailing, you could get as much as 7 mm of shrinkage and settlement in the floor zone (in excess of 10mm with solid timber joists).

        This shrinkage should not be visible in the rooms themselves as the shrinkage occurs in the floor zone area. But, the cladding battens have been installed spanning over the floor zone, meaning that when the structure tries to settle, the cladding battens will not move in the same way and the battens or the timber structure will be forced to do something that it doesn’t want to do (i.e. the battens want to stay the same height, but the timber structure wants to get shorter). Normally this can result in cracking of internal linings and/or cracking of the render cladding. Sometimes you can get away with it because the fixings holding the battens to the SIP stretch/slip/pull and take up this movement, but these are certainly risks that should be understood and mitigated if possible.

        The other thing I mentioned was provision for ventilation and drainage to the external wall cavity. There should be open perpends in the masonry cladding section installed in the brick course below the lowest sole plate (I can’t see any in the pictures). These provides drainage and ventilation for the SIP in the lower area (open area equiv to 500mm2/m of wall). It looks like there is a timber batten at the base of the clad areas above. I don’t know your details but this would block or inhibit drainage and ventilation to the rendered areas above. The base of the cavity behind the render should be drained and vented above the junction with the brick using a provided metal or lead flashing installed tucked behind the breather membrane (to deflect water out and away from the SIP). The render should be stopped short above the bricks/flashing and an insect mesh installed to prevent insect ingress into the cavity above.

        As I say, this just based on what I can see in the above photo and I don’t know what your actual details are, so just really a suggestion to double check the detailing how before you get any further. Hope the above doesn’t sound OTT or alarmist or get you too worried – better to get it right first time hey!

  5. Blimey! Gulp! There is def drainage and ventilation in the brick course – it was awhile ago but I distinctly remember the BC man asking about them . There’s also a lead flashing to go on above the brick course – the bricks don’t actually touch the renderboard battens. We’re following the Kingspan recommendations for the construction so hopefully all these things will have been taken into consideration. But I’ll mention it to Stu before the boards/render go on, just to be sure. Thankies (I think ;))

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