We last published an update in December. So many apologies for the delay, which has been caused by a mixture of work, travel and generally not getting round to it. It was also caused by the fact that although an awful lot has been going on, there has been no specific “big event” to write an update around. So although the house has been a hive of activity, with a large number of people with all sorts of skills and trades spending time “on the hill”, it has really all been about steady progress. One advantage is that I have finally managed to use in writing, a phrase which has been in my mind for years. I have no idea where I first heard it, but I love it. And that’s what it all felt like over the past few months – lots of little mickles, making one big muckle…….
For those of you interested, here’s the definition of the phrase about mickles and muckles
Once the body of the building is up, what strikes you is how much manual, fiddly labour is involved in first and second fix, as the shell goes from bare walls to plastered, painted and finished beauty. This of course takes a long time, but it also requires an inordinate amount of “stuff”. Every person working on the house arrived with a huge pile of tools and equipment. The level of dedication, diligence, effort and skill that everyone has shown has been remarkable. These photos show the level of “stuff” that’s been involved.
I wrote in the last update about the ground source heat pump. I will admit to being a little worried that, like so many green and environmental initiatives, it would be a lot of work and then wouldn’t work! Well, it was certainly a lot of work. Even once the trenches were built, the plumbing, pipework and general equipment levels were very extensive. However, once the system was plumbed in and fired up in March in order to start drying out the plasterwork, it certainly proved its worth. The house became incredibly warm as the underfloor heating kicked in, and as a bonus the heat exchanger and pumps are incredibly quiet and pretty much inaudible. We also have an advantage in that all the equipment is in a plant room in the basement, which hides it well away and also meant the installation was easier due to the space available. This week Karin and I also had a lesson from the nice guys at isoenergy who installed the system, so we now know how to operate it, deal with emergencies and check the filters. For those of you who know us, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s usually Karin who handles things like this, but even I managed to understand the instructions. I just hope it never actually goes wrong….
And then there’s always a little bit of wiring….
Wooden Wonders – Doors, Stairs and Floors
A really exciting part of recent months has been the fitting of the doors and stairs. These have somehow really started to bring our home to life. You may recall in an earlier blog that we wrote about Meer End, the family owned joinery that produced our windows. We really love their work, and the way they work with us to ensure that we get exactly what we want – so we went to them for the interior doors and staircases too. The doors are a simple, but relatively modern design in solid oak, and we’ve chosen simple, stainless steel handles. The doors were all produce in the joinery and then have been fitted to the door frames on site. We love the colour of the oak as it’s warm and we hope will blend perfectly with the engineered oak flooring which is being fitted to the ground floor and basement and stained on site to match.
We have three staircases in the house. The main staircase from the ground to first floor, which is made of concrete and the back staircase from the ground floor to the basement, which will both be encased in wood. We also have wooden staircases from the first to the second floor, and from the ground to the basement, via the atrium. It is the latter two which were constructed by Meer End, together with a wood and glass bannister. We had originally chosen a wire banister, but we suffered from one of the very many restrictive building regulations that we are subject to in the UK. There is a wonderful website, called houzz, which has thousands of photos of all aspects of houses, from rooms to shelving to doors to banisters. It’s a brilliant resource, but unfortunately uses mainly, although not solely, photos from the US. The danger with this is that when you choose a beautiful banister which is perfectly legal in the US, you may discover that the small-minded, health and safety tyrants in the UK have decided that such a design is way too dangerous for us British types…. Still, we do love our bannisters and the team at Meer End have done their usual thorough job!
Having lived in the US a couple of times, where hardwood floors are the norm, we have grown to love them – practical, clean, good-looking and robust; come to think of it, that’s how Karin describes me….. So it was a no-brainer to go the same way for this house – at least for the ground floor and basement as they will have the most use. Due to the underfloor heating, we had to go with engineered wood. It looks exactly like a solid wood floor – at least to us – but is actually made of 3 or more layers of real wood with an upper layer of genuine hardwood. Its core strength comes from each layer being stacked in opposite directions, which helps avoid any issues with contraction or expansion, so it can be used in conjunction with underfloor heating. We went with Elka flooring, due to the quality of the finish and, importantly for us, they are committed to ensuring the majority of the timber they use has a certified chain of custody for the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification® (PEFC), and the rest is from well-managed and sustainable sources.