Friday, January 29, 2016

Paving 25 Square Meters

I don't know very much about landscaping.  I have one book on gardening, and apparently don't watch the right DIY programs to learn about how to make the yard look nice.

Also, landscaping is expensive.

I have made so many mistakes on the landscaping during the extension.  Some mistakes cost money, some time.  One not so brilliant idea I had was to put in a french drain along the patio.  (We're extending the patio out about a meter, and I was worried the water would pool as it butts up against the grass, which is a slightly higher elevation.)

Niall (tricked by me) and I dug a trench and I bought a perforated pipe (£15).  But after talking with the Ground Works guys, they told us not to bother, and leave the patio with a gradual slope toward the new extension instead of digging it all out to run into the grass.  I filled in the trench with gravel/hardcore mix and chalked it up to another lesson learned.

The new back patio is costing a fortune.  We are laying it, in part, for a new shed, since we lost our garage to make way for the extension.  It'd read on that it should cost about £1250 to get the work done.  I thought I could surely get the work done for less than that.  Ha!  Right now we're sitting at about £2100.  What a fool!  The supplies alone are £850, plus almost £200 to get rid of the waste.  If we did the job all by ourselves, we could have done it for a little over £1K.  But I could have been digging for a month.  And I can't even lift one of the pavers on my own, let along lay 45 of them!

As a reminder, the area with the paving used to have some random weeds and trees.

And then it all got pulled out.

So we used to be at this point.

And then finally paving!  Do you know what this picture represents?  So much grief and now...happiness!

We lost the garage, and needed a shed.  We decided 8' x10' was the right size and luckily picked up a decent ex-display wooden apex workshop for £500.

The wood wasn't treated and need to be right away.  Cue the child labor.

Ahh!  Water right storage!

So, in conclusion, costly project, but happy with the results. And when the weather and extension conditions are better, we'll work on the rest of the garden.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ground Works: Drains and Foundations

After a three week break over Christmas and New Year, the build was back in action.  It is cold, wet and mucky.  And the guys just workedthrough it.

The existing drains ran horizontally through the new foundations, which the structural engineer said is a big no.  So the guys dug some trenches and rerouted the drains, including a lintel in the foundation bricks.  This was the last bit of the outer foundations that had to be poured before the bricks could be laid.


The foundation brickwork took a day and a half, for two experienced bricklayers.  It's a double course, the interior will have the timber frame, and the exterior will have the (Building Control required) external block work.

The bricks were laid right on top of the cement that had been poured, which is hard to tell from the picture because it's so muddy.

This picture doesn't really show much either at first glance.  Except that the soil behind the wall is ground level.  The brick wall is on top of the concrete foundation, and the soil in front has already been mostly excavated.

Once the foundation brickwork was completed, the guys used a micro digger to excavate the solum.  It was about 20 cm (8 inches) in some places, 10 cm (4 inches) in others since our plot is on a slope.  You can see at the front wall they left an opening for the micro digger to exit.

And look!  The ground is prepped for the concrete slab to be laid.  (View to the rear of the extension)

They put in about seven tons of hardcore, compacting it every now and then.  Then sand, a damp proof membrane and insulation.  (View to the front of the extension.)  

The put steel on top of the insulation, and then because of the weather, it stayed like that for a week.

Last Friday (January 22, 2016...a day to remember because it was such nice weather) it finally was warm enough for the concrete to get poured.  They barrelled it in, one wheelbarrow after another.

And when they were done, we had a concrete slab.  We are out of the ground!  (View to the front of the extension.)

It looks like it's going to be another three weeks (mid February?) before the joiners will be on site to do the timber kit.  In the meantime, the concrete pad is supposedly curing.  It's seems to be turning into a swimming pool, with all the rain.  And the cat managed to leave his mark.


Once the brick foundations were laid and the solum was excavated, the guys dug a trench for the access hatch.  This way, if there is any blockage down the line (please, no!!) then at least we have a straight line to clear the blockage.

Pipes placed, access chamber in situ, and the trench is filled in with the excavated soil.  I wasn't able to get photos of some of the drainage before it got buried, so I hope to get some from the builders in case Building Control asks.

We'll have a gutter and down pipe on the end of the extension, so they built that into the new drains as well.

The ground works to this point cost about £10K, around a quarter cost of the entire build budget.  Once the timber kit goes up, the extension will take shape!  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Preparing for Paving a Patio

Ugh.  So we've made an error in the renovation plan.  Done things back to front.  Lesson learned.

We have a large area in the back of the garden that we want to pave and use as a base for a shed and trampoline.  I spoke to the ground works guys about paving the area, but they didn't have time.  What we should have done is get someone else in to do the paving before the foundations started.  Seriously kicking myself because we had clear access and two diggers here last month.  Oh well.

Instead, we've done things back to front.  We have a 25 square meter area that needed to be dug out by 8 inches/20 cm at the lowest point, and over 18 inches/60 cm at the highest point.  I thought I could dig the area out by hand.   I sadly underestimated the size of the job.  After digging for hours and barely getting one meter square removed.  You maybe can't tell, but the black area by the area represents about six hours of digging.  The kids have enjoyed 'helping' in the process.

I caved and hired a mini digger.

Since it was the Christmas break, my options were limited.  We chose to pay a lot more than we would have normally to get the job done.  

For £280 a day we got a digger, an operator and guy on the ground.  They had to fill in the foundation trenches and use boards to cross into the back of the garden.  They took the spoils to the foundations, drove across, moved the spoils to the front drive, and had a grab hire come and collect the spoils.  The grab hire also delivered 10 tons (way too much, by the way, but it's what the digger operator ordered) of type one hardcore.  

The scene in front of our house, just before Christmas.

The next day, the digger lifted the hardcore into a wheelbarrow, and the guys hand wheeled it to the back of the garden.

In total, our back to front mistake ended up costing £810. 

Digger Hire:  £560
Grab Hire:  £190
Hardcore:  £60

And that's how we got to this:

The next step is to get the pavers laid.  We're going for big (2 feet x 3 feet/ 600 mm x 900 mm) which is a bit too heavy for me.  So we'll be hiring someone to do that as well, hopefully following this guide from Marshalls.  We still have about £500 estimated costs just to get this area paved.  

Since the professionals were doing the back patio preparation, I decided to work on the patio area near the house.  We already have pavers here, but they're old and cracked.  We'll repave.  And we want to extend the patio out about a meter, which meant the final tree stump had to be removed.  (It was too close to the house and boundary fence to have it removed with the JCB.)

I dug and dug, used saws and a pile driver to cut the roots.  And then dug and cut some more.

And then six missionaries came over from church to help as well.  It took hours, but we finally got that beast of a stump removed!


Next up?  Who knows.  Maybe we'll get the drainage dug, perhaps brickwork will start soon, possibly pavers on the back patio.  And rain.  Definitely rain! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Side Extension: Ground Works Week 1

As a reminder, we're in the process of building a single storey side extension off our house.  We had the garage demolished, and this week the ground works started.

When we first started talking about getting an extension, Niall sent me a link to a blog called Ten Square Metres.  Being a novice to building works in the UK, I found it fascinating.  It gave me some insight into what would be required.  In that build, a lot of it was DIY and took maybe a couple of years.  It gave me the idea that perhaps I could dig the foundations for our house myself.  

I honestly thought if I just dug a few hours a day, I could save us some ££.  But then I dug a 1 metre cubed hole (as a trial pit) for the structural engineer and decided that we'd pay for someone else to do the digging.  (It was hard!)   This is a photo of the trial hole, at a depth of about 83 cm.

The trial pit showed that the original house foundations were about a metre down, which meant the new foundations needed to be even deeper.  The ground works crew showed up on Tuesday and spent most of the day digging by hand to uncover the water and drain pipes.  On Wednesday, I spoke with Building Control, the builders and the structural engineer and they decided on a plan of action.  (Dig a new trench, divert the pipe and put in an access hatch.)

With the pipe unearthed, the rest of the foundation work went a lot faster.  The guys got most of the foundations dug on Wednesday and finished on Thursday.  JCB's make work go such much faster!

One thing I continue to miscalculate is the amount (and cost of removing) of unwanted debris.  

There was so much soil that it would have taken two regular skips (dumpsters) that fit in our drive or a large one, that would not have fit on our drive.   A street permit can take up to a week from Glasgow Council, so the soil piled up in our drive and then a truck with a grabber hauled it all away.

And we were left with a moat around the side of our house.

The guys filled it in with Level 1 Hardcore.  (This will be a bit of a photo dump.  Glasgow Council is understaffed at the best of times, but given its almost Christmas and they had a technical mishap this week, there was no chance of getting an inspector, so we'll be relying on photographic evidence if required when it comes time for getting the building certificate.)

And then they put in the steel to reinforce the concrete.

After the New Year, they'll come back and dig out the new runs for the pipes, so for now the section with the pipework is not getting filled in with concrete and aggregate until later.

Today (Friday) the premixed concrete showed up.  The guys wheeled it and poured it into the foundations.  It was a source of entertainment!

The guys were so fast with their wheelbarrows.  There were three running back and forth (I assume they didn't shoot it in due to distance or cost?)  Pretty soon the concrete was up to the right level.

So now the foundations are poured, they're 'covered' and they going to cure over the next two weeks, until after the holidays.

My understanding is the Ground Works team will come in and dig the new run for the pipework and the bricklayer is going to come in and build up brickwork to ground level.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bye Bye Garage

Ahh!  It has been so long coming, but last week the demolition team showed up and has done some major destruction.  Which I call progress!

In the back garden, we has some self-planting sycamore trees that needed to go before they got too big.  Plus some apple trees that no longer bear fruit.  And loads of tree trunks left from the first garden clear-our.  (We left the trunks, knowing we'd have a digger in for the extension.)  The back garden in a muddy mess, but the trees and trunks are gone!

Also, the garage is gone.  The asbestos roof was the first to go, then the walls and finally the foundation.  It has been tons and tons of rubble.

The garage had some serious levels of cement and brick.  But no more.

The garden looked like this at 9 AM.

And this by 1 PM!

We've started the groundworks in the middle of winter.  And a Scottish winter at that, with all the glorious rain!  If the build were done in normal/less-wet conditions, it would likely take eight weeks.  But since we're super clever and started the work in the middle of the cold and wet, we're hoping to be done in five months!  We got a pretty good price for starting the work now, and it's not like we'd be using the back garden much in the winter anyway.

Just in case you like videos, here's a little update: