September was a relatively quiet month on our building site; having got our house to watertight stage, Bruce (my builder, who is not only building our home but his own on the adjacent plot) started to concentrate on finishing the roof of his house. He has chosen plain clay Rosemary tiles, which I must say look tremendous. I’m not jealous though, as I am extremely happy with our choice of slate. The use of the terracotta ridge tiles was a good call though, because it links the two houses visually.

Even though Mrs Snell and I prefer our internal layout, I can’t help feeling that our house is a little plain compared with Bruce’s. His house has precisely the same footprint but the design has a T-shaped roof, bringing gables to each side and presenting dormer windows to the front — it’s just a bit more interesting from the exterior.

Adding Visual Interest to Our Exterior

So what can we do to ‘jazz’ our house up a little?

Well, when the Juliet balcony goes on that’ll make the front elevation more interesting. And then there’s the bow window downstairs. The window company said it would be cheaper to have a ‘standard’ window, and we nearly went along with that idea until Harvey, our little dog, jumped up on the vacant sill to look out and we realised that he’d love it if it was wider and he could sit there all day watching out for passing dogs and horses. So two days before the windows went in, we changed things.

I am always telling people at the seminars I present at the Homebuilding & Renovating Shows that you need to make your mind up on what you’re having, and stick to it if you’re to avoid throwing a spanner in the whole programme. Changing our minds meant that the window company had to order new profiles for the bow window — this caused a three-week delay in us getting the house secure.

In truth, it probably hasn’t made that much difference to the finishing date because all three builders (Bruce and his two sons, Ollie and Ed) on site concentrated on Bruce and his wife Kathy’s roof and only worked on our house when it was raining. In any event, we’re thrilled with the bow window and, now that Bruce has worked his magic with the lead canopy and sill, with its scalloped finish, it looks fabulous.

The thing which has caused me the most joy, however, is our new finial. I’d said to Bruce that I felt my roof could be cheered up with a finial and he offered to look for something for me when he visited the Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair. “Something with wings,” I’d said. “A dragon if it has to be, but preferably a bird.”

He came back with a terracotta buzzard about 600mm tall. I love it and it now graces our ridge, staring over the view. It has been so funny watching people walking past, looking up at it and wondering; it’s so lifelike.

The exterior of David Snell's self build project begins to take shape and is jazzed up with a finial on the roof

To add visual interest to the exterior of his new house, David chose to change the window in the front living room to a bow window — it will provide a place for pet dog Harvey to sit and watch the world go by! A finial, bought from the Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair, also now dresses the roof and provides a talking point for the neighbours

You Get What You Pay For

Nobody expects me to make mistakes, but I made a howler when I thought I’d be clever and buy the woodburning stove online. I’ve always wondered why there is such a disparity in the prices at the specialist shops and suppliers with what I saw on my computer. Why should I spend thousands when there were loads of, what looked like the same thing, for a few hundred? So I ordered one at a cost of just £160.

You get what you pay for. It duly arrived in a tiny box and when we unpacked it, the woodburning stove proved to be just about a foot wide and barely as deep. It wouldn’t have taken one tiny log, let alone three, and yet it was rated at 5.5kW! It would have looked incongruous. So it’s gone back, admittedly after a long tussle and dozens of phone calls. It remains to be seen if I ever get any money back.

In the meantime, Linda saw a Machine Mart advert showcasing woodburning stoves of recognisable brands at reasonable figures of between £300 and £900. I sent for the brochure. Meanwhile, Bruce’s nephew Matt has taken on a contract which means that he’ll have access to second-hand stoves, so we’re both going to wait and see what comes up.

First Fix Gets Underway

On the relatively sober, but nevertheless important note, Bruce’s sons Ollie and Ed have now finished the carcassing for the electrics and plumbing, and Bruce has fitted all of the window boards and door linings. The joists have been infilled with sound insulation and we’re now ready to tack the ceilings and dryline the walls. To that end Chris Higgs, who worked on our last two houses in the area, is arriving at the weekend to install the plasterboard. Our house is going to change radically and, hopefully, by the end of next week Ollie and Ed can start skim coating the walls and ceilings.

First fix gets underway on David Snell's self build project

In order to make it easier to fix curtain rails and blinds, Bruce and Ed, his son, have gone round the house fixing plywood above each window head, prior to dry lining

For those who read my previous instalment, and our troubles with utility companies, I can confirm that BT Openreach did arrive on the appointed day and duly installed the new telephone line to the house, only to then inform us – via Utility Warehouse, our suppliers – that they couldn’t connect it all up because there wasn’t enough capacity at the exchange. I’d expected as much, having been warned of that probability by a neighbour. It’s a good job we don’t need it yet and that we’ve organised this long before we move in. In the meantime, Utility Warehouse has put the meter in and we’ve now got power on site as well as water.

We’re getting there though. I had put the storage company on notice for a delivery of our furniture in mid-November. I was hoping to be in by Christmas. But it’s an unnecessary deadline; in the end it’s just a date in the calendar. We are warm, dry and comfortable in the flat that we bought. So why swap the latter for a house that’ll be barely finished?

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