Friday, December 28, 2007

Not quite wind and watertight after Christmas...!

On our return from Christmas with family down south it was clear that the house had taken some battering during the short festive break. The area and our exposed site had been hit by severe gales on Boxing Day, resulting in significant areas of roof and wall breather membrane being literally torn off.
This was probably no big surprise with regard to the wall, as the breather membrane is simply stapled to the Pavatherm boards which don't have much hold being a lightly compressed wood fibe board.
The roof membrane was a different matter however, this being fixed down temporarily with 3"x 2" battens nailed every couple of feet. Despite being mechanically trapped by the batten and spiked with nails, this was simply not enough to avoid being torn from beneath the battens to expose the sarking board again, by now drying out and shrinking to reveal the (intended) ventilation gaps between the butt joints. As a result, the inside of the house is soaked again!
I left a message with our joiner to let him know, who dutifully showed up a couple of hours later in the middle of his holidays to fix the damage in the dark just in time before the next downpour!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wind and watertight for Christmas!

Yesterday we reached a major milestone with the delivery of the patio doors and main entrance door - the building was made wind and watertight and we now need a key to get in! This means that first-fixes and roughings can continue whatever the weather and the building is drying out nicely inside.

I've been working away from 'home' the last few days which has been frustrating, not least as there are many questions on detail items to deal with. I caught up after a half hour tour round this morning and it's clear that things are really moving on.

First fix electrics and plumbing are nearly all complete, with a few adjustments to make to the underfloor heating in the first floor bathroom and en-suite. Electrics are also nearly there with a few outstanding decisions to make on light switch locations and cooker load (ie. what cooker are we going to install!). The other first fixes remaining are the Heat Recovery Ventilation system ducting, TV/Satellite, phone, DAB (weak signal area for digital radio so need an aerial) and Cat 5 cabling.

Last but not least the slaters are making good progress and the stainless steel chimney for the wood stove looks superb, especially as the installation has been reinforced from the inside thus avoiding the need for external stays which might have spoilt the roofline.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Its Freezing

It is very cold indeed. Last night -5 and today it hasn't hit zero yet, presumably it won't now as the light starts to diminish. Sunset is 1545 today. Sleeping in the caravan was just fine but getting out of bed is much more tricky until the heating has kicked in. The children don't seem to notice but have resorted to putting their slippers on now. As caravans are generally very poorly insulated the temperature difference between inside and outside is very small - yesterday when we returned home it was +3 degrees inside when it was +1 deg outside. Thank goodness it's not our permanent home.

The slating has started and is looking good already. The slates are being double nailed as we're in a very exposed and windy spot. This will help the slates stay in place although does make replacement more tricky should that be necessary in the future. The first fit plumbing is in place and the first fit electrics are in progress. The underfloor heating to the bathrooms is in place but needs adjusting in the ensuite as the installation team haven't taken account of changes since the early plans. There's plenty of activity on site as the final load of pavatherm which arrived on Saturday is being fixed onto the north gable. There is also an artic full of insulation parked on the road incapable of turning...apparently waiting for a smaller lorry to take off the load and deliver onto site.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday morning

Its just turned 9am on Saturday and we've taken a further delivery of Pavatherm Plus insulating board so the joiners can finish off the external insulation layer. There was relatively little activity on site yesterday as we were waiting for this delivery and the sliding door sets (3 off). The latter is now likely to be next week, but apparently has arrived from Penrith. I think these are around 6 weeks overdue and it's dissappointing that the windows from Norway arrived some four weeks ago and are now installed having been ordered at the same time as the patio doors! The main front door is also late and is sourced from Sweden.
The other happening this morning relates to the lame hen. Although it had a couple of better days in the past week it has now gone lame in both legs and is incapable of independent movement. So we had to wring its neck. I thought I could do this yesterday when it probably needed to be done but hen started clucking at me and I just couldn't so now that Steve has returned from working away he did the deed this morning. No, we're not eating it. There's no meat to speak of anyway but as we're not sure what's wrong with it it seems the best move....anyone with greater knowledge please advise!
We've got a fox prowling around. I need to repair/replace a bit of wire at the bottom of the gate to the hen pen before we go out this morning. There are fox prints on the top of the nesting box and on the roof of the hen house so we need to be sure to lock up quickly at dusk.I wonder if that explains the dead hares and rabbit the other week although I thought there would be more damage to the prey?
Rural living!......... we're off to Edinburgh today to see Santa, reindeer, lights, ice sculptures etc.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lots of trades on site.

The underfloor heating folk have been here today. We are not having any heating upstairs except for underfloor heating in the 2 bathrooms. This will be served by the ground source heat pump as per the ground floor, albeit in trays rather than embedded in the concrete as they are on the ground floor. As the first floor is laid the guys have to work from the underside of that floor, I can't imagine that's easy but they seem to be managing just fine.
The 6 joiners who are here are covering various tasks - the exciting one for us is seeing the main first floor picture window being framed out. A number of adjustments have been made to this but it is now looking good. Inside the first stages of first floor interior walls are being established; the children have already decided which 'bedroom' is theirs by virtue of which windows they have adopted.
There are lots of issues we are trying to resolve - the wrong cladding being one. More on that later...
Weather report - its positively balmy here today. I think we are becoming so hardy and acclimitised that we don't realise its December.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wall Insulation

Thankfully we have plenty of storage space as the two main forms of wall insulation were delivered last week. The Rockwool Flexi 140mm batts are fairly standard, bulky, widely available and commonly used. The pavatex 'Pavatherm Plus' woodfibre board in the right of the picture is the non-standard element of our wall insulation. The latter is an insulating wood fibre board which is effective in reducing the U-value ie improving the thermal efficiency, in improving acoustic protection (not that we have any external noise problems!) and providing summer heat protection. It is used as an overcladding system for the timber frame in this application and will effectively 'block' most thermal through the frame and aid airtightness thus giving the best chance of this and the Rockwool insulation working at its best.

Today in the glorious sunshine the joiners made a start on the south gable. Also the suppliers of the Pavatherm board visited to discuss the product and its installation with the guys on site as well as Steve and I. Last winter when we were looking at specification/design issues for the house (that seems such a long long time ago!!!!!!) we had concern about it being an appropriate material in the wet West of Scotland as the insulation should be fixed dry but we were reassured by architects who had used it on self-builds in Scotland. The AECB also provided contacts through their forum which was beneficial in this sort of decision. The joiner had not used the product before but by the end of a very productive day he rated it very highly and enjoyed working with it.

On other matters the larch cladding arrived this afternoon but the timber frame manufacturer has sent the wrong profile so that will need to be replaced. Hopefully they will do this quickly. Also or architect has sent through revised details for the porch so that can go ahead now.

Slates have also arrived. The electrician and the chimney man are due tomorrow. Bathrooms and the 3 really large fixed and sliding windows are due on Wednesday. Bathrooms should have arrived last week but didn't...more chasing!

One Week On

Can't believe we haven't posted anything since last Tuesday....however its because so much has been happening on site. Aside from that we're very busy at home and work.

Saturday late afternoon we had our first snow of the year and there was a fair blizzard that evening. As usual at this elevation it thawed rapidly on the ground but the hills look fabulous. We have beautiful pink skies this morning - ideal for the slating to start today. Since last Monday the whole roof has been sheeted with sarking board, most of the windows are in place, the site has been tidied up, some scaffolding taken away, decisions on finer design detail made.

We had very wild weather and the joiners were on the roof a lot - it was so windy, wet and cold last week which was not pleasant at all.

Here's a few photos.............more news later.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

1st Insulation arrives

Today we took delivery of the first batch of insulation - 140mm Rockwool Flexi for the walls. Tomorrow we expect the 60mm woodfibre board - 'Pavatherm Plus' - to be delivered, which will be used as an outer cladding to the timber frame walls. This is where we depart from conventional timber frame construction where the cladding adds additional insulation and reduces 'thermal bridging' through the timber studs in the frame.
The wall design is based on a detail developed for timber frame buildings by the AECB to meet their Silver standard for energy efficiency and we will add detail drawings alongside photos when the insulation is fitted.

Hens and Hedges

We've had company in the office today as one of the hens can't walk. At this stage we don't know if its a temporary state or permanent injury. Despite the impression created by this photo the hen's left leg has no power or weight bearing ability. So for today the hen has been in the warmth of the office in a box of hay with water and food; we're hoping the easy life will assist recovery but will see what tomorrow brings.
On other matters I spent some time last weekend drafting a brief for tree and hedge planting around the farm. I've had good chats with the National Park landscape officer and trees person and a local contractor so hope to get some prices back soon. The planting season for bare root stock lasts until March time. The other element of this is really to get some trees growing - as to quote the original farmer's son "he didn't like trees" so there aren't too many round here. I'm keen to get a small orchard planted to reap fruit in years to come.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Winter sun, first snow...

It was a chilly, raw weekend, and we certainly felt it in the caravan! I just couldn't get my feet warm the whole weekend, so on Sunday afternoon took a stroll around the fields to capture progress 'from a distance' on ECF2 after so much time focussing on the nitty gritty detail.

What I saw took me back to our architectural brief for a building which had a 'sense of place' in this special landscape, a home which looked as if it belongs to its surroundings. With that in mind and seeing the entire 'mass' of the building through the scaffolding, I felt we were well on our way to realising that brief.

When starting out on this project we were keen to build a contemporary house which was simple in form, yet followed the lines of a traditional highland 'long-house' design.

An architectural practice which has pioneered this design code is Dualchas based in Skye (, not least as a reaction to kit house designs that have been more 'urban-American' than 'traditional Scottish' which have popped up in the Scottish landscape in recent years. We were quite taken by Dualchas's work at the time, whilst at the same time needed a local practice we could 'get involved with' in our house design and which knew what worked for the National Park where we live.