Tricks with Bricks


Our monthly (5 weekly even) update 😉 is here……yikes time flies! I am supposed to be getting better at this… haha… (I blame school holidays)…..

‘Lets go and see progress on our house’ is a term that I am still getting used to having referred to it as ‘the plot’ for years as we trawled through the planning system not wanting to become too attached for fear of planning rejection. Vince’s persistence, never give up attitude and bloodymindedness has got us where we are today (…with maybe a little nudge from me along the way 😉 and yes… this can be a pain in the ……….backside to live with at times) BUT.. here we are staring at stairs, walls, and builders bums (talking of backsides).

Anyway enough about bottoms….

Progress on ‘The House’
If/when it rains onsite we actually have somewhere to duck for cover now… not in the form of a proper roof yet… but the Ground Floor above! So yep our Upper Ground Floor block and beam floor has now been laid (our current roof)! This involved hiring a crane (and crane driver) for a full day in order to get the steels, blocks and beams up to ground level. It was a lot of heavy duty work but the boys grafted and it was done in the day.. this meant we saved on having to pay another day of crane hire (as you can imagine not cheap-£800-1000 a day)

The Ground Floor block work wall and brick skin is now up to First Floor level & the long awaited plinth bricks have finally turned up!!! these were on a 12 week delay (I may have forgotten to mention this in previous posts)…..I have to admit though that this external detail is one I had majorly overlooked the importance of… & looking at them in context, built in, they add gorgeous detailing, interest and originality whilst helping to break up the height of the building! It does help that we have some awesome brickies that take real pride in their work. Two of the guys have won awards for their brick work so we are super lucky to have use of their skills!

We now have steps up to the front door! So….. when I first realised that in order to deal with the levels on the plot & to allow for the additional space in the basement level we would need steps to the front door I was not crazy on the idea, particularly as at the time manoeuvring sleeping babies in buggies and heavy car seats was (and still is) a daily exercise……negotiating steps with either of these would preferably be avoidable (have you lifted an empty car seat let alone a chunky baby in one?!)! however I think with the access into the basement via the garage (no steps involved) and the way in which the steps have been dealt with deals with this slight inconvenience, I know it’s a small price to pay for the additional square footage! Vince also believes it adds an interesting feature to the front elevation…

Thankfully Builder Ben took his own initiative to widen these stairs slightly when it came to building them- thank goodness!! If they were any narrower I think we would have struggled to have passing room!! He also made sure the depth and height of the stairs were manageable for… little legs 🙂 ! each stair feels quite shallow and fits nicely with your stride getting to the top without feeling exerted, obviously this will be made even easier once the railings are there to hold onto aswell. Just to point out…two sets of our Grandparents have tried and tested them minus stair railings too and…. no broken hips…… so all good :-)!!

We can now really start to get our head around the levels that IMG_8105we are contending with and attempting to make features out of them! For example where the retaining wall had to be we now have a beautifully curved brick wall- Vince is rather proud of himself on how this has turned out! and BIG compliments to our brickies, particularly Ed who actually laid the perfect curve!! We are planning to include a few living walls to help breakup the points at which we have large expanses of brick (stairs to front door) and the curved wall in the garden that I just mentioned, this will also help integrate the building into the landscape.

Lots of other decisions have had to be made on the go this month to do with external design features (I am assuming there will be more of this over the next few months, problem solving on the go) ……..One of which; we decided to add an additional window to the east elevation last minute (I had privately contemplated this for some time). This was partly because it seemed a shame not to make the most of the views out onto the wooded area but mainly because I know what our boys are like!! and I know they will be living outside playing up there building, climbing, digging … basically being boys, so practically in my ‘mummy mind’ I felt it was important to be able to keep an eye on them when I am in the kitchen/ living area. I have to say at the moment the window does seem a little out of place, it will however be aligned with the window above, so we are hoping it will tie in nicely.

In an ideal world, with my love for symmetry & balance in a design, we would have been able to fit the same size window the other side of the chimney- however we were just too tight for space to squeeze another one in. We drew up elevations to consider other options before finalising our decision; a tall slim window to tie in with the sliding doors but again, due to the supports necessary at the corner of the house, we were unable to fit a matching window the other side of the chimney, so although internally the open feel would have been great the over riding decision was that externally it would have looked very odd and be a contrast to the more traditional design features.

Anyway decision made, practicality won! and window cavity/hole in; (to clarify we are going for a standard window as per rest of the house) instead of no window at all……I know I will be thankful for the additional natural light internally too!

Big decisions and changes on the chimneys have been made too! It appears that there was a discrepancy on the plans which lead to the chimneys being installed differently to our master plan (another boo boo on the structural engineers part) unfortunately at the time, we had escaped for a few days over the school holiday to the coast so it wasn’t until on our return we noticed this mistake. By this point the chimneys had been built up to first floor level so we were faced with the decision of ripping down the newly built chimneys or coming up with a redesign….having spent an evening thrashing around ideas…. we finally came up with a solution that we think makes the most of what could have been a potentially bad situation. We feel the new chimney design actually makes a positive impact to the house as opposed to our initial fear of it looking bulky and out of place. Our redesign involves some detailed brickwork to make them a real feature! We have discussed this with ‘master brick layer’ Craig and he is super keen to do this :-).

To breeze over another minor issue that was resolved, yet again to do with the structural engineer, this time involved us making an amendment to the steel design which supported some of the brick work by the front door that had worryingly been overlooked, Builder Ben flagged this up and dealt with it narrowly avoiding any major set back……

I actually can’t wait for my interior bits to start coming to life!! .. although this is also a bit nerve wracking for fear of something not looking as you had imagined…
It’s the challenge with interior design (that I love) as apart from samples, sketches and scale drawings you really can’t tell what it will all look like in situ until its paid for and installed …. part of the reason why I love it (and admire other designers) I still learn something new with every job I do…. anyway ….. back to this project… this month has been spent predominantly focussing on the staircases, yep! still on staircases! However I think I have finally nailed it!

Next on the agenda first floor level—over to the carpenters now, block & beam floors are complete, timber joists for the next two levels!

Wish us luck for the next month… everything has been running super smoothly so far (a little worryingly so) but Builder Ben is off on his travels for a few weeks so we are left fending for ourselves….what could possibly go wrong?!

If you fancy checking out our monthly vid ‘round up of month 4’ is here…….

Lucy & Vince 🙂


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