Once again it has been far too long since the last blog. Time pressure remains a challenge I cannot solve. I think many self builders would benefit form 36 hour days! An awful lot has happened on the build since the last blog so I will try to bring you up to date.

The external cedar cladding has been completed and looks fabulous. It is already starting to silver especially on exposed areas. I am enjoying watching it slowly fade through the shades towards silver.

northern elevation of an oak frame home clad with cedar

The majority of the work since the last blog has been internal. For various reasons we started the internal fit out from the top down.

The first part of the process was to fit the upstairs underfloor heating system. The floor joists were insulated to help reflect heat upwards. Then aluminium spreader plates were fitted between the joists to support the pipes and reflect heat. The heating pipe loops were fitted and finally the chipboard floor was screwed down taking great care of the underfloor heating below. No longer having to walk over floor joists was a pleasant luxury!

With the floor down progress upstairs was rapid. The stud walls flew up and the upstairs rooms were created. My builder Jack and his team always build to a very high standard and the stud walls were no exception. There was no sign of flimsy stud walls that give timber construction a bad name.

I decided to bring more light into the landing area by adding high-level internal windows in the stud walls from two of the south facing bedrooms. I think these will be an additional feature as well as serving a practical purpose. With the internal walls in place electrics could be brought up to terminations for lights and sockets. Originally the bathrooms were planned with flat ceilings, but I have kept them open giving a far more dramatic space and keeping more of the wonderful oak frame visible.

Next to arrive was the dense wood fibre insulation batts — all 170 bales! To say it was a messy job insulating the roof spaces is somewhat of an understatement. A visiting friend suggested it looked like the scene of a teddy bear massacre but nothing a bit of sweeping and vacuuming did not resolve! A breathable airtightness and humidity regulation membrane was then applied and taped over the top of the wood fibre batts.

Attention then turned to the ground floor. A damp proof membrane (DPM) was installed to cover the block and beam floor then 100mm PIR insulation boards fitted. As mentioned in earlier blogs while not my favourite material PIR boards were a necessary cost effective compromise. A natural breathable floor would have been many more times expensive and potentially more vulnerable to high ground-water levels. A further taped thinner DPM was installed on top of the PIR boards.

Underfloor Heating

underfloor heating upstairs in an oak frame home

Next the eleven underfloor heating (UFH) loops were laid.

UFH screeds tend be either a sand and cement hand applied screed or a pumped, flowing, self-levelling screed. Both are good options but for my project a flowing screed seemed best. It allowed a faster response time from the UFH and provided a very durable surface.

I contacted several companies but was most impressed by Mayhew EasyScreed. Mr Mayhew took the time to come and view the property prior to quoting. He also carefully advised and helped my team plan the correct preparations for the flowing screed.

EasyScreed use an alpha hemi-hydrate rather than an anhydrate screed. The advantage being the hemihydrate does not need to be sanded prior to laying tiles or stone. The very pleasing end result was a perfectly level floor installed in a morning that we could walk on the following day.

oak frame extension with glazing and screed floor

The atmosphere inside the house has taken on a new very positive character now the floors and insulation are installed. It is wonderfully quiet. I am not an acoustic expert but there is very little echo inside the house despite it being empty. This gives a very peaceful calming environment — an ideal place then for a tired self builder to have a little sleep…

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