Ten weeks of blood, sweat and Irn Bru

Week One

So, having contacted Building Standards to advise them of the start date of the job, two weeks later, on the agreed start date of 1st June 2009, at 7.55am, Danny and the guys arrived on site, raring to go. The sun was shining, it hadn’t rained for days and we got off to a flying start. After a chat with Danny and a briefing on how to deal with the cats if they got in the way, (the cats were sitting on the excavator already, in that “non-plussed” way only cats can pull off), I left for work with setting out well underway. It was frustrating not being able to be on site for the start but it was a good way to gauge how things were going to go for the next ten weeks. By the time I arrived home from work that evening, three skips full, (thirty tons of soil), had been removed from site. A fourth was in the drive, almost full. Because of the nature of the site, there were some minor issues with collapsing trenches, so some moderate shoring was required. Nevertheless, the majority of the foundations were excavated in one day. A good start….and the cats weren’t buried alive, despite their curiosity bordering on a death wish. That evening, Danny phoned to give a briefing on the days progress. It had gone well but the ground conditions meant that the trench to be excavated for the dwarf wall which ran down the middle of the extension, was liable to collapse, meaning extensive shoring and/or far greater concrete costs. The Structural Engineer had already specified C35 instead of C20 for the foundations so any limiting of costs was welcome. Danny suggested that since this wall was in effect only supporting the ground floor joists, a steel beam on concrete pads would be able to do the job. This would require an amendment to the Building Warrant at a cost of £50.

The following morning, after checking with the architect that it could be done asap without having to stop work and with the engineer that the SER would not be affected, I calculated a £200 cost saving, not to mention the time saved as well. I advised Danny we would be going ahead with this option and the first problem was overcome. Excavation was completed that day, bottoming out onto to hard compacted clay and good load-bearing ground.

That evening I also received the last quote I had been waiting for, for the french doors and windows. The news was not good. The quotes I had received so far were, frankly, a joke. £21,000, £19,750 and £16,500. The final quote was an improvement but still way off the mark at £11,000. To put these in perspective, my entire build cost without these elements, was £38,600.

So, Plan B was initiated. If all else fails, do it yourself. I undertook to make the lot myself, from scratch. Luckily, my best mate worked for a glazing company, so was able to get me excellent quality, argon filled double glazed units for a very good price. Basically trade. All I had to do was work out how to make the frames……. Subsequently, every spare moment was now spent on doing drawings for these components.

On the morning of the third day, the Structural Engineer arrived on site to inspect the foundation level formation and see the original house foundations. He was happy with what he saw and work was approved to continue. Shortly afterwards, the first of the concrete mixers arrived to pour the foundations. As agreed, Danny provided an invoice for the week’s work. All seemed to be going according to plan. This is usually the cue for something weird to happen…..and so it did.

On the fourth day, Danny and the guys arrived at 7.55 as normal, in their two vans, only to find the visitor spaces in my street occupied. With no spaces available, the vans were parked on the street instead. There are no double yellow lines or restrictions and they weren’t causing any obstruction. No sooner had this been done than one of my “neighbours”, (ahem), three doors up the street, came rushing out of his house, shouting abuse at Danny for daring to park his van outside his house. Somewhat taken aback at this unannounced verbal onslaught, Danny soon recovered and the neighbour was given both barrels of the “Look pal” conversation. For anyone not au fait with Scottish regional parlance, this is akin to a verbal tongue-lashing from Vinnie Jones, Regan from the Sweeney and Gene Hunt from Ashes to Ashes combined. The resultant withdrawal of said neighbour was testament to the power of the spoken word….

However, the situation was disappointing. I had gone over and above the neighbour notification procedures stipulated by planning legislation already. The line had to be drawn somewhere. That line in Scotland is “4metres from the boundary of the application property”. The boundary of a neighbour three doors away, who can’t even see the proposed extension would seem reasonable, yet here was someone still making an issue. Further investigation revealed that not only was this neighbour unhappy at a van parked perfectly legally outside his house, he and another neighbour even further away and even less affected, had taken it upon themselves to ensure that the visitor spaces were occupied every morning, even boasting that they had done this.

Nimby-ism isn’t new and will never go away.

In this situation there is only one thing to say…….Get a life.

So, having got off to an “interesting” start, day four proceeded apace, with the concrete lorry arriving on time and finishing the foundations. By the end of the day, work had commenced on setting out for the blockwork.

Day five began without any fireworks, although the parking issue was unresolved and would stay that way until the end of the job. Thankfully, work was able to proceed normally, the first few courses of blockwork rising quickly out of the foundations. By the end of the day we had walls. It was also the end of the week and the first money changed hands, settling the weeks’ invoice. Strangely, handing over the cheque was not as painful as I thought it would be, perhaps because there was tangible progress already.

Over the weekend, I was able to get on with work inside the house, removing the old kitchen, stripping it down to the bare essentials. It’s amazing what you can learn to cook with just a microwave, a kettle and a wooden spoon. Week two Week two was more of the same. Rainwater drainage was excavated. The Building Standards Officer visited the site for the first time. The dpm and concrete sub-floor was laid. The steel beam and supports for the ground floor joists were fitted. Then came the fun bit. Construction and erection of the gable end steel frame. Now, I did have a section written for inclusion here that described this adventure in full and glorious technicolour. However, unfortunately due to our modern age of political correctness and libel laws, I’ve been advised that I can’t actually say here, precisely what went on that day. All I can say is it was hilarious, there were three builders, a body-building dwarf, a garden shed, a lot of steel, a lot of sweat, a lot of swearing and by the end of the day, a steel framed gable end to the extension had been built. Make of that what you will….

The last day of week two was a bit of a come down from the hilarity but was still productive, with the rainwater drains being inspected, passed and back-filled. Danny called that evening to go over the progress and check I was happy with everything so far. There endeth week two.

That weekend, with little for me to do on site at that stage, I had a day off and went to Ikea to order my new kitchen. Luckily, we had timed the extension to tie in with an offer that Ikea were running at that time, so we got £100 off. As a well known retailer is fond of saying, every little helps.

Unfortunately, this meant the kitchen would be delivered too early in the build, so we would need to find somewhere to store it. Luckily, my aunt who lives around the corner from me, had an empty garage which we were welcome to use. Problem solved.

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