can’t tell you how exciting it is to finally get down to some building work. For the best part of three years my wife Sarah and I have spent time planning, designing and budgeting our remodel project on paper. Well, finally, the project became real for us last week, with builder Ben Schuck and his team at Timbuild unleashing all sorts of fury on our house.

Work to be Done

So far, some eight days in, the work has involved lots of digging and a not inconsiderable amount of fiddly work to the home’s existing drainage. This is the bit of the build that everyone is most nervous about: you never really know what you’re going to find when you start digging away, and our home has a rather mysterious network of pipes, the purpose of which isn’t entirely clear.

The builders’ first job is to get enough of a foundation to build the new external cladding off. On most of the ground floor elevations we’re adding a new brick skin (from York Handmade) and external insulation. To minimise the build-out we’re adding 30mm Kingspan Kooltherm with a cavity as well, which gives an added wall thickness of 150mm or so. The foundations for the original walls are not wide enough on the whole to accommodate the latter, so the task is to expose the footings, and add concrete where possible.

The builders are using a digger where they can, but one of the walls isn’t particularly accessible, so there has been significant sighing and occasional grunting as Ben’s team go at it by hand.

The house is really being taken back to its shell and is in – I hope – its least attractive state, with adjoining garden walls taken out to gain access to the footings, and the front resembling exactly what it is at the minute — a building site.

Drains are being taken out and moved around, and in one case, an existing soil drain has been refitted to run downwards: no wonder that particular toilet never flushed properly! The building inspector (we’re using Approved Inspectors MFA) has been out and demanded a bit more depth to some of the footings, but we’ll soon be pouring concrete and laying bricks. The work is being done almost entirely outside for now, so we can just about shut ourselves off from it at night.

Quantity Queries

Just one tip I’ve already learned: get your order quantities right. I managed to order bricks based on the wall areas of the existing walls but didn’t factor in the removal of the small garden walls around the main house, which left another 700mm or so of wall exposed. Recalculating my brick quantities, I calculated that out of 2,772 bricks I would have four left — on reflection a perhaps less-than-generous wastage amount.

These being bespoke handmade bricks, the lead-in time was eight weeks. Luckily, when I phoned up in a slight panic, York Handmade had an extra 600 in the yard, which they shipped down to me within two days. A lucky escape — this time.

But, this slight mishap apart, is there a better feeling than seeing physical progress each day, meaning you’re getting a step nearer to your dream home? I don’t think so. I love having the guys around, hearing work taking place — I even love having to jump out of our back door to avoid falling in a 4ft ditch. We’re finally getting stuck in.

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