Box it Off

Before asking builders/contractors for a quote, you must have the structural engineering plans complete. The structural engineer has a critical role to play in the build as they will specify what’s needed to accomplish your proposed plans. That includes the beam structure, number of beams, size of beams, foundation depth, etc.

A contractor will be unable to provide an accurate quote without knowing what work the project actually entails.

At the start of the project, I didn’t think I’ll be contacting the engineer much. I was wrong. I’ve contacted the engineer several times to confirm specs of beams and for the bay window structure. I initiate the meeting leaving the builders and engineer to discuss the technical aspect.

Back to the box topic. Our rear extension needs a lot of structural support as were breaking two of the outside wall and one side of the house could collapse if not done properly. To accomplish this, the builders had made a box frame out of steel beams.

Check out the images. You can see what the steel has to support and understand why it’s needed.

Missing the Architect :-(

We decided a while back to stop the services from the Architect due to costs. That leaves the builder with a lot of power and me needing to get to grip with learning the technical side of the build.

The builders made out it was an easy build and they could handle, however, it clearly has not been as easy as they initially thought. After talking to a few experienced people about the subject they all had the same opinion, “All builders think they know best and they are the dog’s bollocks”. It’s important to keep this in mind when tendering to builders and not be fooled by the builder’s spiel. Stick to the details of the build. This is where the architect is handy. A good architect knows when the contractors know what they are talking about and if the calculations make sense. It’s worth having an architect onboard to help in this process.

I also miss asking the architect for advice. The build would have progressed further to date if the architect was still onboard as they would have checked the build at certain stages and made sure the builder had the materials needed to schedule.

I’m still in touch with the architect for situations where I’m really stuck.

Here’s an example of how the architect can think out of the box. It’s based on the article ‘Panic Button‘.

I messaged the architect asking how we can resolve the depth issue for the kitchen units and counter to fit between the window and wall. We were short of the 60cm needed. Ideally, we really we needed the depth of 65cm.

The architect replied with an easy fix.

‘You bring the plaster in so you don’t see the frames of the windows internally…you only have to do it to the large Windows, you can do the bay if you want’

Make the windows frameless.

scetch sent in what’s app

Frameless window design

Brilliant Idea. One I would never have thought off.

Architect Details

Company Name: Edite

Tel: 0208 133 7446

Website: http://www.edite.co.uk/

 

Freeze

There seems to be another freeze on the build. There’s been no work for over a week as the builder waits for the steel to arrive. The suppliers do all the fabrication as requested by the builder. We met the engineer on the 18th Sep to go through sections the contractors were unsure of. The engineer explained in detail to the builder and he seemed to understand. Fingers crossed it’s measured correctly as it’s a big part of the cost for our project. For the record, this should have been completed at least one month ago. It’s another reason why it’s worth having an architect involved if it’s your first time as they would have overseen the project needs in advanced.

STA Electrics in Slllooooouuuuuggggghhhhh

Thanks you to the lad’s (and lady) from STA Electrics. These guys know what  their doing. I purchased the plug sockets and switches for the first floor from these guys. My brother recommended them. They offer all sorts of electrics including AV, lighting, CCTV, etc.

My brother was adamant I went for a brand called Varilight for the dimmers, stitches and plug sockets. Apparently their the dogs *******. My wife preferred another brand as they offered a better colour, black nickel. The Varilight range doesn’t have the colour yet. I feel really bad for still going ahead with Varilight, however, there’s good reason. A few of our switches require to have dimmers and switches on the same plate. The black nickel brand only offered only dimmer switches on one plate which meant the dimmer would have acted like a switch. Seems minor but I didn’t like this idea. I want a switch to be a conventional switch and dimmer to be a round knob only used to dim the light. I also think the brushed steel I went for is more of a neutral colour.

If you have not been to STA Electrics in Slough, GO. Check out the fully automated Cinema room they have implemented. Wow

Note: I purchased switches/plug sockets with screws. After seeing screw-less switches/plug sockets in store, I’ll most likely order it for the ground floor. Varilight do offer screw-less. To install it you have to make sure the plastering is spot on.

All Lighting in the Cinema Room was implemented by Kam from Onlight

 

Update: Changes to the First Floor Layout

We have made changes to the internal layout of the first floor. The good thing is once you have your plans finalized and given the go ahead, you’re able to make amendments to the internal layout as long as it’s not changing the look of the property. You must also consider building regs when making changes, e.g. you can’t move the stairs location, change the head height from the stairs, etc.

Below shows the old and new plan for the first floor. We had a big debate regarding having an en-suite. At the end, I’m glad we have it (I always wanted it). We managed to convince a certain someone by stating that an en-suite adds value to the property and explained scenarios where an en-suite will be ideal, e.g. kids using both bathrooms, wanting to be ready before the guests, etc.

Old

First Floor without changes

New

First Floor with changes

Off Days

I don’t have a clue what the contractors were thinking on the day of laying bricks. I got a message asking “how high the window sills should be?”

I was baffled by the question and said I’ll get back to them. I then thought they were referring to the bay window and asked them to check the plans.

I was wrong. We get photo updates at the end of the day. They had laid too many bricks.

Below is a photo showing what they completed that day.

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Notice something wrong? The below may give you a clue.

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Why are there bricks where the floor to ceiling window is? The builders had bricked up to a height where a standard window will be installed. That day they also asked me how many bricks should be on either side of the bi-fold doors. They sent me a picture (below) and I wasn’t impressed with their suggestion. Two and a half bricks on either side to make it look symmetrical. I was at work and couldn’t check the plans at that point in time. I replied saying fewer bricks on the left leaving the bi-fold door and window around the corner closer, giving it a narrower frame. I still wasn’t happy about it. Something was playing in my mind but I couldn’t pin it down. It was only when my wife asked about the floor to ceiling windows and I checked the plan did it dawn on me that it’s not right.

The photo below was sent to me at the start of the day before they had laid the bricks.

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When they undid their work it looked like the below on either side of the bay window.

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Unfortunately, the drama didn’t end here. I looked at the architects and engineers plan to find there should be a steel post in the corner. I tried to study it and find the solution online.

The next day was a Saturday and we went straight to the house. Another mistake. They have wasted expensive bricks on sections that will have aluminum cladding. The builders say it will give us the option to take the cladding off in the future. Mmmmm, it’s a little more complex than that but I’ll explain in another blog post.

The list gets a bit longer. While we were there I measured the height of the bay window only to discover they had put one extra row of bricks. It was not to the specification of the drawing which states 500mm height from ground level. Looking at the photo below with the measuring tape, the ground level starts from the top of the engineering bricks (membrane layer).  They had to remove the layer.

Below is the final image of the day and the plans. The contractors decided to wait until they get all the posts and beams before continuing as it will help them understand it better.

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Bay windows with one row of bricks removed. The bricks were up to the same level as the insulation before we arrived.

20170902_134933 Below are the architects and engineering plans.

Let’s re-evaluate and see what happens from here. That was one hell of an off day for the builders. Shit happens. It’s important we move on. The contractors are still very good and one of the best teams I’ve seen work together.