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It Begins...

Posted by Crofter , 26 March 2015 · 1,825 views

It Begins... Work is now underway at a good pace, getting the access from the public road down to the site. This was one of the conditions of the planning permission, but makes sense anyway, even though the site is only 50 metres from my own house.
It's a steep site and we've had to build up a lot of the access to get the levels right. Fortunately we have found good material on site, which saves transporting it, the nearest quarry being about 40 miles away. It looks like some of this material might even be good enough to use as a temporary surface on the access.

One thing that has been a little tricky is getting a plant guy who understands that this isn't a conventional build- I don't need a huge chunk of hillside removed, as the little house is going to sit up on piers.

In other news, the time has come to nail my colours (literally) to the mast regarding exterior finishes. At the moment this is leaning towards Scottish larch cladding, and a near-black steel roofing material. Window frames will be in a dark RAL colour, possibly aluclad if I can afford that.

Windows do seem to be a bit of headache. Locally the only choice appears to be the ubiquitous Jeld-Wen, who get mixed reviews; resorting to Google turns up companies in essentially two camps- the cheapo outfits whose products are characterised by a complete lack of information about u-values, and everyone else.

If anybody has had a particularly good experience of a window (and patio door) supplier, I'd be keen to know...



I have never understood the conventional wisdom of ground workers. the "normal" seems to be to strip the top 2 feet of soil off the entire site before doing anything.

In our case that is a complete nonsense as the finished ground levels over the whole site will be higher than the original site levels. So my plan is just to strip the topsoil from where the actual house will be built (plus a few feet around the edge for the digger to work). This removed soil will then eventually be spread over the rest of the site around the house to reach our finished levels.

Stripping more area than needed, just to put it back again later just seems a complete waste of time.

Our neighbour who is also building on piles just needed 8 or so concrete columns created. To me the logical thing would just be dig a hole however deep needed to reach firm ground at each location and pour concrete. Minimal work and disturbance. But instead his ground workers must have removed about 4 feet deep soil over the entire site, carted many many lorry loads away as there is no space on site to store it. Then dug shallow foundations and built up the concrete columns. Then load after load of soil was brought back to the site and replaced.

The two window suppliers we are considering are Rationell http://www.rationel.co.uk/ and Tree Craft (in Brora) http://www.treecraft-woodwork.com/
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Fortunately, the plant guy I ended up going with seems pretty good. He's happy to take out the minimum needed to reach firm ground, which with our thin soil isn't a lot. Having a croft also means no problems with storing topsoil. In fact I wish I had more of it.

I'm considering hand-digging the holes for the piers, which will keep the volume of concrete to a minimum.

Regarding the windows etc, it's my patio door which is proving hardest to find on budget. I could go with French doors, but envisage them being damaged by the wind, whereas sliding doors would be less vulnerable.
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Is that the small digger or the large digger you have on site there?
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That's a 5.5t machine, it's just that plus a dumper. I did have a smaller machine on site a couple of weeks ago but that was just because he was trundling past to do a job for a neighbour, and I flagged him down to get a start on clearing away some scrub.
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Russell Timbertech (Glasgow) do decent triple glazed windows and patio doors in timber, factory finished to your RAL colour for less than most double glazed uPVC companies. They are set up for big orders, but if you can get them to quote then I think you will be pleased with pricing and product.
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Nearly had a stand up fight with a technical rep from Jeld Wen. The customer had to step between us. Never met such an arrogant little twerp in my life. A few years ago so it cost them thousands in subsequent lost business.

It was over a door that leaked water through the panels and flooded a (luckily) tiled kitchen. Weeks of hot, dry weather followed by a deluge. The panels had shrunk.

I'd treated the door with three coats of Sadoline, two primer and one finish. The customer subsequently treated it again with another coat after it was fitted.

The clown refused to acknowledge a fault with the door, saying it hadn't been treated. When the customer stepped in and said that it had, by me, and then again by her, he backed down and claimed that the door wasn't suitable for that location. It was an external hardwood door. He said it was on a "severe exposure elevation". I pointed out it was actually north facing so didn't get the sun and faced away from the prevailing winds and weather, actually facing into a communal courtyard. He said it should have had a porch built around it. It was then I took the step towards him.
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