Lots of progress since my last post which has kept me incredibly busy, hence the lack of posts in the interim.
Over the winter I was really struggling to make progress on the build, the weather was relentless, I had the old wall fall down on the site and there was a lot of unexpected extra expenditure. I’m now happy to report that the superstructure of the building is finally complete! The block work is all done, the beautiful stone work by Nathan Eade the stone mason is completed (complete with a great big piece of granite I had engraved with the date and my initials to go in the gable), and the amazing great big oak roof by Carpenter Oak is erected, insulated and slated! The house is almost water tight now, with the sliding sash windows and doors all hand made by JJ Smith joinery going in next week.
So what have I learnt along the way so far?
Too much to write down in this post that’s for sure! But… A few thoughts which may be helpful to those embarking on a similar journey…
If you’re building in the winter, especially the main superstructure, allow extra time and money. Things will take longer and inevitably cost a little extra.
Invest in quality materials, and I say invest deliberately. When you are building a house remember you are not spending money, you are investing it. Instead of having it in the bank you are putting it in a house, which I think will give you a better return and if you invest wisely will make you money in the long run. In my opinion you really can’t scrimp on the materials and finish during the build. I could end up eating my words when I’ve finished but I’ll wager the house will be worth a lot more when it’s done because of the materials and quality craftsmanship I’ve employed. It has cost a lot more in the short run but I think it will pay off.
For example, the stone I’ve used is a lovely buff coloured granite from Castle-an-dinas quarry (I don’t know anywhere else you can get this colour granite from, it looks like a cotswold stone colour) which is far from cheap compared to some of the other stone available down here. Obviously there is no point spending a lot of money on the stone and not getting a quality craftsman to lay it, which I did with Nathan Eade. I certainly can’t fault the quality of his work and work ethic, if you’re building in stone in Cornwall I can highly recommend him. The house looks like its always been there and fits in perfectly with the old cottages that surround it in the centre of the village.
My piece de resistance however (I think!) is the chunky oak roof I had made by Carpenter Oak. Again another massive investment, it is easily the most expensive part of the house, but I think it was worth every penny. It’s really made the house and sets it off from any other ”normal” houses in the area. The huge beams and vaulted ceilings really give you a feeling of space and size and I think will be the talking point of the house. Each one is lovingly hand crafted by the carpenters at Carpenter Oak and they truly look amazing. I’m so pleased with the result. If you’re considering an oak frame house, or oak roof as I did then I can highly recommend these boys. If you want to have a look at a little video of the oak frame process have a look here, it’s a lovely little video and I found it very interesting:
The roof went up in a little under 3 days with the aid of a crane and 3 of the Carpenter Oak boys. The only word of warning I will give you if you are considering using oak, is you need to get it sandblasted after is installed and then you have to protect it for the rest of the build to make sure it doesn’t get marked up. This is fine but the sandblasting is expensive and a real nightmare. It’s noisy and messy and everything around your oak also gets blasted with sand so you need to board up around it to protect everything. Once done however it looks stunning and you can see all the beautiful grain in the oak. The oak porch they made for me really helps to break up and add character to the front facade of the building.
Because I’m building in a conservation area I have to have traditional sliding box sash windows installed. Again, I’ve plumped for quality, local craftsmen to build these. Another piece of advice I can offer is hire people you like and get on with, don’t always go cheapest. I’ve found in the past buy cheap buy twice. This is why I went with the team at JJ Smith joinery. A lovely bunch who I get on with well and couldn’t be more helpful. They weren’t the cheapest joinery firm to quote for the work but after now seeing my finished windows I’m so glad I went with them. They’ve made some lovely, traditional box sash windows. I’ll put some pictures up once they’ve been installed but they slide perfectly and smoothly! What’s more they are even coming to install them for me and hopefully they will be making the traditional cottage style kitchen for me and stairs as well. I think it’s important to buy locally and support local craftsmen wherever possible and this is certainly something I’ve tried to do throughout the build rather then just shopping on the internet for everything.
If you’d like to see the build process of the house so far, about 6 months or more work, cut down to about 4 minutes I’ve put together a little video using a time lapse camera and my iPhone.
Now the main structure of the house is completed and I’m (almost) water tight I can start to crack on with the slightly more fun part, the interior! The upstairs floor boards have already gone down and the next job is to get the radon membrane downstairs down, floor insulation in, underfloor heating installed and the screed down. Then its first fix and electrics and plumbing, plastering, decorating and second fix. I will try and update you more frequently with progress as this goes on! If anyone has any questions or comments I’m happy to receive them.