Choosing a builder

The reality of this project is that we have permission for much more than we can currently afford to build. This is because we had an overage payment when we bought the site which will be applied to every planning application for a number of years to come and therefore we did not want to face the situation of outgrowing a home and having to pay an additional overage. This has presented the issue throughout the project whereby many contractors see the plans or visit the site and think that they have a licence to print money. In short we do not, but it does take a lot to convince them that we are, at then end of the day a run of the mill young professional couple at the start of their married life and not the proud owners of the winning euro millions ticket.

It was therefore crucial that we chose a builder who was fully in tune with our circumstances and approach – an approach that has seen us do the site preparation and will continue to see us do the less skilled tasks on site. Graham and Gary Bere run Groundwood Developments and have a huge amount of experience. They have converted in excess of 15 barns and recently build from scratch a 7000 sq feet award winning contemporary eco home. Their wealth of experience will prove invaluable in ensuring the detail ties this project together. They have come with numerous excellent references and are willing to price the build by stage or work on a day rate plus materials.

As the south west was bettered by storm after storm, the JCB and dumpers rolled in to begin the reduced dig.

Archaeological Condition

To be compliant with one of our planning conditions South West Archaeology were present on site to check that there was nothing of archaeological importance below the buildings when we commenced the reduced dig. They documented the excavation with a number of photographs and produced a report to discharge this planning condition.

First Alarming Call

The following day we received a call from the builders to say that as they continued the reduced dig in the mill they had hit the bottom of the foundation in about 20% of the building and that we maybe into an underpinning situation.

Having completed numerous inspection pits during the structural engineering package we were under the impression that this would not be an issue, however as one end of the Mill has rising land against one exterior wall it was always going to be a risk. Quick phone calls to Simon Bastone, our structural engineer and Iain Allars our building inspector ensured that all were able to discuss the issue openly.

As the foundation ran out only a few tens of millimetres below the level at which the stone backfill was to be inserted Simon and the building inspector agreed on a partial underpinning as shown in the diagram below.

structural engineer drawings from Simon Bastone Associates

On reflection this grown up approach has helped the project continue with minimal additional cost, especially as Simon was able to adjust the footings between the pillars in the long barn to raft slabs which are cheaper and less time consuming to construct.

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