The old house was gone, and the story of the next few months could be summed up in two words. Mud and concrete. Oh, and rain. And freezing temperatures. And snow. And lorries. And quite a lot of steel…….
Having demolished the old house, and the old out buildings, Bob the Builder and his team of merry men quickly got on with starting preparation for the new construction.
This involved the removal of an awful lot of old materials, and of course mud, some of which was taken off the site but much of which has been kept for future landscaping and hard core. The team did an amazing job working through some very cold and wet days in January and really impressed us with their diligence and devotion to duty. Makes me feel grateful that I spend my time in heated or air conditioned offices, and I’ve never really been one for the outdoors in winter as my family and friends can attest to…..
While excavating for the house, we came across something slightly unexpected in an unexpected place. Having removed the existing indoor swimming pool during the demolition, we were aware that the previous owners in the 1970’s, who had originally erected all the extensions, tended to do things on the cheap. We had also been told that there had been an outside pool that had not been removed when the inside pool was built, just filled in. In fact, the pool had simply been filled in and become a large flowerbed in the middle of the patio – now to be revealed after 40 years hidden away……
Digging out and laying foundations can be high risk for any build. I say this not as a construction expert of course, but as a Grand Designs expert, much more useful and relevant to what we are doing! We were lucky. We found nothing untoward while digging, such as man made items not on the plans, or archaeoligical artefacts that would have brought the local authority down on us. The digs went smoothly, the soil is mainly clay and therefore stable and all was as we had hoped.
Up until now, we hadn’t really had any issues with the neighbours, and Karin had done a good job in communicating with the neighbours, either verbally or via newsletters. We are lucky with our location as the houses are quite widely spaced and there are really only 7 houses that are in the vicinity – 6 on the ridge with us and one at the bottom. Funnily enough, the close neighbours all understood – partly because 2 of them plan similar works. It was the furthest away neighbour, who complained, but not to us, only to the others. Finally, Karin called him up and he was very polite to her face – bit of a coward really! Anyway, all this resulted in a sign saying “Mud on Road” for those too dumb to not understand what mud looks like…..
The other effect of all the mud, apart from Karin’s Volvo being permanently filthy and smelling like a wet dog ( and her smug comments about how wonderful her 4×4 was and how useless all my cars are in the mud….) was that in attempting to get up our steep and winding 400 metre drive in all the mud and rain, the cement lorries destroyed it. This was really the first delay or snag we had to date and was not too traumatic. All it really meant was that we lost a couple of days while concrete pumps and were installed to bring the concrete from the road up to the site. We had always planned to replace the driveway in any event, but Bob had to do this now, rather than wait until the end of the process. So they put the main road in and it will be properly finished and edged at the end of the build and all in all we really only lost a week.
My wife has been, and continues to be, a brilliant manager of this project. She does this by, also, not being a construction expert but with 3 main techniques :
- She is extremely charming and friendly, so gets on with everyone;
- She always knows exactly what she wants and due to 1. above almost always gets her way; and
- She looks at everything in a very simple way. Her approach to this whole project was summed up for me with her phrase “building is just like lego……”
And it was at this point that the “lego” comment started to ring true as a great analogy with the laying of the concrete, the shapes, the use of the steel reinforcement and the construction of the formwork for the concrete. Amazingly the next few weeks went very smoothly. The pouring of the concrete foundations for the house took a couple of days and the walls a couple of weeks all in. Concurrently, the team laid all the foundations for the garages.
So by 11th March, our son Tom’s birthday, we were ready to start coming out of the ground. It was still too early to sense how the finished building would look and feel, but Spring was on it’s way and it wouldn’t be too long now.