First fix started at the beginning of September. Josh and Mark of M J Plumbing are completing the plumbing and under floor heating (UFH) and are great guys to have on site. Easy to talk to, efficient at work and happy souls to be around.
We were due to lose the equivalent of three tall cupboards in the utility room to house all the plant required to run a house this size however, we were delighted when it was suggested we house the boiler, water softener, and hot water tank in the generous loft space enabling us to redesign the utility so we can include that large bottle fridge (perfect for wine, gin and beer).
As you’ll see from the photos, the copper pipes are a work of art in themselves. Those of you who know me will know how I like a tidy space and this ticks all my boxes. UFH was installed to the first floor in early October and the ground floor is being completed by the end of this week. Next Tuesday we will have mains heat in the house which is much needed now Winter’s arrived. The insulation on top of the screed floor is 150mm depth. Cold is not a word that can be applied to this home!
The initial design of the heating and plumbing included a Mechanical Heat Recovery System (MHRS) which recirculates air around the property. This means you do not need trickle vents on windows but you have to install a quantity of extraction and pumping vents in ceilings throughout the house. We decided not to go for the MHRS for several reasons; we were not convinced by our research and that provided by our builder, that it would prove a cost effective solution and it was not recommended by the Heating & Plumbing Engineer who looked at the specification for the house. We also didn’t like the amount of vents that had to be housed in the ceilings (ceilings look so cluttered in a new build with down lights, built in audio and a MHRS system). Following further research into the proposed Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) heating system, we also decided to change that to mains Gas and have fitted a recommended Worcester boiler. We’re advised they’re the best on the market so feel confident with our decision.
Renewal energy and energy efficiency is a huge item when you’re building a new home but you have to really look into everything thoroughly as it is not always the most efficient or cost effective solution. If you’re not on mains gas then ASHP or Ground Source Heat Pump is a serious option, however the latter comes at a huge cost so you need to be sure you’ll be living in the house long enough to recoup your investment. ASHPs are somewhat cheaper to install however you have to look at their efficiency throughout all the seasons to check it really would work for you.
We have energy assessors appointed who pass relevant data through their systems to check we meet the standards set. Type of heating, lighting, insulation, U Value of windows are some of the items that are used to check your build meets requirements. At the end of the build they will air pressure test to ensure our home meets the regulations.
Dan Small of DTS Electrical is completing most of the electrics (with some help from Peter White Electrical, known as Chalky in the trade). We are continually astounded at the amount of cabling being run through the house. Cat 6 cabling is being installed throughout, some we will use immediately to suit our purposes but we’re also future proofing the house so future owners can easily add to it. The images below show the cabling as it stands today but there’s still more to come.
Smart Systems is now massive in new homes and far you decide to go with it is not only down to what you’d like but a lot is down to what you can afford. It’s a highly skilled job and finding the right people/person to work with has taken us a lot of time, mind numbing research and me drawing more mind-maps and flow charts than I care to admit to to try to get to grips with this subject. We have eventually decided on a mix of solutions; Dan will install a mix of lighting control using the Hamilton Mercury system, Wez of Prestige Electrical will install a Control 4 system along with audio. I’m currently looking at automated window blind solutions and have yet to decide exactly what to have. We have selected the rooms where we are automating lighting, audio and TV control. Some of the house will stay with traditional methods of flicking on a light switch and manually lowering a window blind but my goodness there’s some clever stuff out there, the hard bit is deciding what you’ll actually use and what will be expected from new owners when you decide to sell on. Of course all this comes with a hefty price tag which will easily blow your budget especially as none of this is included as part of the initial ‘build cost’. It truly is a big subject so allow plenty of time to scope it.
First fix of the security system as also been completed by CIA. Second fix to come.
Ray (Ray Hunt Plastering) and his team have started the plastering. What an efficient team they are. It’s a masterclass in plastering watching them work, they’re proud of the work they do and are enormously skilled. This house has very clean lines and the final finish has to be fantastic or it’s going to show. We have every confidence we’ll be happy with their work.
I’m very excited to see tiles arriving. We’re using porcelain tiles on every floor surface as they’re a great conductor of heat for the UFH. They’ll be wonderfully cool in the summer and warm as toast in the winter, I’m going to have fun choosing rugs to soften the look. Another bonus is that the stability of colour. Although we’re having UV coating on the glass to prevent damage to furnishings, we’re having large expanses of glass and much as I love the look and warmth of wood, it does not work so well with UFH. You have to like the colour change that will happen over the years with a natural product like wood. I initially decided on wood doors for the first floor but, on visiting a showroom and seeing the product new and how the much the colour changed after three years exposed to UV, my mind was completely changed. What started life as a beautiful nutty brown Walnut, became orange. I’ve now opted for a painted finish so I can control the colour. The other advantage of tiles is that damage by stilettos is not something we’ll have to be concerned about! I have several friends who have beautiful wooden floors, accepting the wear and tear is not easy and it’s something they worry about.
I’ve spent hours, no actually days, sourcing tiles. There is such a fabulous selection out there. Some wood effect tiles are so beautiful in their ability to look like the real thing it’s quite amazing. After visiting many showrooms and searching online, ordering copious numbers of samples and compiling enough scraps to tile an large room of mix and match finishes, I am relieved to have made my choice. Deliveries are frequent and the tiler Alex of A P Ceramics has started preparation of the floors. Not long now until I see tiles on walls and floors and I can’t wait.
I have had brilliant service from the Ash Vale branch of HTW. The team there grasped the look I’m after and have sourced tiles within and outside of their usual stock. So many tile shops now charge for each sample however HTW did not. They recognised that I needed to be able to take many samples away with me, to walk around them over a period of several days, before making my decision. They have received the bulk of our business due to the service and quantity discounts they provided. I highly recommend them.
The cost of tiles varies hugely and I’ve become expert at sourcing the look I’m after at a price I can afford. Other companies I’ve sourced from are: Tiles4all and Mandarin Stone. Be prepared to negotiate hard for best prices and give time to your search, there’s no replacement for the hours I’ve given to this.
Lastly for this post is that work on the balustrades for the external balconies has started. Railing London are supplying the balustrades and also the helical stairs. So far the stainless steel channels have been fitted, quite some job with fixing required through the steel to give it structural support. Glass balustrades will slot into the channel. We’re going for a clean streamlined appearance with no handrail to interfere with our sightline.
I’ll leave you with a few images taken a couple of weeks ago:
The UK weather has played havoc on some days. Last week rain stopped play, this week the below freezing temperatures have affected some jobs.
Next post… windows