We are just starting an existing new project in Dunstable, Hertfordshire which the client himself describes as his own little ‘Grand Design’. A contemporary design built on to an existing victorian house that aims to create a warm and enjoyable expansion of the living space. Modern glazing elements will allow the garden to be brought in to the kitchen and create a seamless transition from one to the other during the summer months and modern rooflights will invade the space with light. To keep up to date with progress as it happens you can view at http://hillviewhouse.tumblr.com/ .BREGS 4 (1)
After a good break we are raring to get going on the roof. First job was to rect scaffolding around the entire building to ensure a safe working platform. Part of the old roof is stripped off to allow the table top flat roof section to be constructed first. Temporary supports allow us to brace the flat roof structure whilst new rafters are put in place.
Building to an existing roof provides the challenge of trying to match the angles overhangs (soffits/fascias) and general look of what’s there whilst ensuring the home owner is not met with water flooding through their ceiling when it rains, and of course it does. Despite the rain turning to snow, work continues and its not much longer than a week before the new roof structure really starts to take shape.
Another team fix the breather membrane to the rafters, swiftly followed by the tile battens.
The battens are now fixed and the EPDM Rubber roofing membrane is glued on to the flat roof deck. The membrane needs to rest for a while before it’s glued to the deck and a number of bodies are needed to stop the membrane from blowing away in high winds (or maybe they’re just having a break!).
A really important part of any project for us is the overall finish. We want this roof to look like it was always this size/shape so the tile choice is very important. Although the Architect has specified new tiles on two sides, a few hours on the internet and calling around finds us 4500 reclaimed tiles that perfectly match the existing. With the sun shining again we swiftly start to cover the roof in the new (old) tiles.
Concrete blocks are a standard method for construction and the thermal properties of aerated blocks, when combined with an insulated cavity, provide good thermal efficiency in the new building. In this instance both the inner and outer leaf of blockwork are constructed out of aerated blocks with an 85mm cavity fully filled with insulation. On this build the outer leaf was constructed six blocks high at a time and then the inner leaf was built up to match with the insulation placed in the cavity at this time. Stainless steel wall ties help to bond the inner and outer leaf together.
Pre-insulated catnic lintels are placed above all the window openings and a cavity tray made from DPC material is formed above to prevent any any water falling through the cavity from penetrating to the internal walls.
At first floor level masonry joist hangers are built in to the inner leaf at 400mm centres. To enable the first floor to be built without the need for scaffold, joists are fitted and a temporary deck constructed to enable work to continue from the inside of the new building.
Despite the worsening weather work continues until the walls are complete and the timber wall plates are in place
On target, now it’s time for Christmas and a well earned rest.
The groundworks are arguably the most important stage of a build and also the most unpredictable. Weather on this build caused numerous collapses and plenty of hard graft with a shovel. At the end of a hard week it is time to fill the tranches with concrete.
The following week we begin blocking up to Damp Proof Course (DPC) The cavity is full fill until 225mm below damp at which point we start the cavity. This gives us the layout for the entire ground floor walls.
Once the hardcore (MOT type 1) is compacted we need to put a layer of sand on top to blind off and prevent any sharp stones from puncturing the Damp Proof Membrane.
The final stage of the groundworks is to lay the oversite concrete and tamp it perfectly level. The finished level allows for 75mm insulation and the screed to be done later.
One of the perks of having traditional plastering skills is coming across some interesting listed and timber frame properties. This week we visited ‘The Shrubbery’ in Aspley Guise. This house is not far from Bletchley Park and provided accommodation for some of the code breakers during WWII. Going back a few centuries earlier, here’s a wattle and daub wall, largely intact but requiring a bit of TLC. Quite a bit of the daub (mostly earth, clay and straw) is loose and crumbling away from the wattle (a fairly crude lattice background of hazel or other pliable wood).
Wattle & daub Lime Plastering in Bedfordshire – this is how we found it.
It is sometimes possible to take some of the failed old daub, add a little water and re-‘knock’ it to use again. Great recycling! In this instance, the daub was missing and we replaced it with some hemp lime (not all that far from daub and great for bulking out deeper voids like on this wall). It hardly shrinks, even at 50mm in one deep backing coat. After letting the new hemp lime carbonate (cure) for a few days, and cleaning up the daub we could save (removing some soot and dust), we could then apply a fine lime topcoat (fine silver sand and lime putty), maintaining breathability.
Wattle & daub Lime Plastering in Bedfordshire – this is how we left it!
We finished the topcoat with a sponge and gently trowelled it up with a steel trowel. The wall looks the part now much as it might have done some centuries ago. It should last a few more centuries now!
Welcome to the world of ME! Through our various trade divisions you can see aspects of our building projects as they evolve. Watch and learn how an extension is made, a loft converted or even simply how to wire a socket outlet.
Check in regularly to see each stage as it happens and add your own thoughts and questions.
Remember, when you need a builder, plasterer or electrician, think of ME!