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Diary of a self-builder – Part 11: Reflecting on our progress and planning the next stage

September 6, 2017

Last month in ‘Diary of a self-builder – Part 10’, Mark told us about how he went about creating a well insulted and airtight home. This month, as their neighbours moved into their new home, Mark and Julia took stock of how their own self build was progressing and started planning first fix plumbing and electrics.

Almost exactly 40 weeks after we broke ground last year, our fellow self-builders next door, Chas and Wendy, moved into their new home. For first timers that really wasn’t bad going at all and their house looked amazing.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a wee bit envious as my own completion date seemed so far away. Mind you, this was partly my own doing, as Julia kept reminding me that I stubbornly wanted to complete as much of the work as possible myself.

Making progress

Work on site had been going well, as I managed in just two weeks to pull all the temporary OSB flooring up and lay the new tongue and groove chipboard decking. Almost 80% of my first floor stud walls were in place, too. This is the type of work that I enjoyed the most and that came through in the speed it progressed.

It took a total of five very tough weeks to complete at least the first fix of insulation and air-tightness membrane. It was a horrible job and I hated every minute of it, but we got it done and the feeling of exhilaration I got when I placed that last section of 120mm-thick insulation board into the ceiling was immense.

Most nights I was leaving work after 7.30pm, which was a bit of a limitation. But when I did get on site I found the house fairly warm. I feared the high levels of insulation and the air-tightness of the building were working against me – as it was like walking into a sauna.

It actually started to feel like a home now, with the rooms shaping up in size and form. Julia and I would spend hours at a time in one zone discussing door positions and the general layout – this aspect in itself was quite enjoyable.

We knew that we needed to be mindful of how light comes into the rooms and where bits of furniture would be sited, along with also thinking about the location of electrical sockets and the flow of a room. I must confess that the original plans that were drawn up were modified in places. We’ve made other small changes and adaptions along the way.

Both Julia and I did, on a few occasions, break the rule book in terms of traditional interior design, too. We simply took a very personal view about how we wanted things to be laid out and ignored the usual logic. There are so many approaches towards room layout etc, and plenty of people who would say “you need to think of when you sell it on; would other people like these ideas?” But we don’t intend to put it on the market and were building this property purely for ourselves.

Moving forward

On the neighbourly front all seemed to be pretty quiet, thank goodness, as I didn’t need the added stress! I confess we did have our own little cheer and raised a cup of tea when we saw the removal van arriving to take our problem neighbour away. We just hoped that the new guys would be friendlier – watch this space.

For the next phase of work, I employed an electrician and plumber to get the first fix underway. So in the evenings I was frantically drawing and completing preparatory elements to be ready for them.

Looking ahead

Although the finish line for me seemed very far away, I guessed we must have been getting somewhere close as my dear Julia was now living up to her nickname of chequebook Jones! She is an amazing deal spotter and did really well in buying some of the kitchen appliances.

I suppose it’s a nice position to be in where you have a bit of time to scour the market, look for hot deals and pounce when you see them come around. I guess if storage is not a problem the tip of the day for a self builder is to know what you want, recognise when you see a good price and strike when the iron is hot.

Mind you, this doesn’t apply to the £5,000 settee Julia bought, that sneaked in through the back door. I didn’t see that one in our budget!

Next month the electricians and plumbers take Mark’s project to the next phase!