No So Grand Designs Part 4

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here

Happy New Year. Well it’s 2013 and the blog has suffered because we’ve been hunkered down for the cold weather in our temporary accommodation. The building work was meant to be finished by the end of November but has been delayed by the anhydrite screed not drying out fast enough. It was meant to take 60 days but has still been measuring around 12% moisture in places. It needs to be around 0.5% for tiling. However, after spending the Christmas break grinding off the top surface of the screed with a grinder it has started to dry quite quickly and we are hoping that the builders can start tiling the floors on their return after the New Year break.

The photos below are now out of date but show some of the progress since the last posting.

Water Services
The water services are installed, sleeved in conduit and you can see the start of the bathroom stud wall.
UFH1
The Underfloor Heating Pipes Come together at the Manifold Position
UFH2
The Underfloor Heating Pipes are Laid in 10 Zones on Celotex Insulation; with Perimeter Insulation
screed
The Anhydrite Screed is Pumped in to Cover the UFH Pipes, note the ‘tripods’ that are Positioned Before with a Laser Level.
Bathroom Partition
Bathroom partition is in place with lots of sockets for the Hi-Fi and TV!
Shower Wall with recesses
Shower Wall ready for tiling with John’s patented bottle recesses
Sunroom Window
Sunroom Window in position
Kitchen
Kitchen leading through to the sunroom, awaiting plastering.

Part 5 is here

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No So Grand Designs Part 3

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

By the beginning of August 2012 the concrete has been poured into the footings, the below ground block work done, the slab poured and block work is starting to rise above ground.

The blockwork to the utility room and porch starts to go up
The block work to the utility room and porch starts to go up
The sun room also starts to rise from the ground.
The sun room also starts to rise from the ground; note the 80mm of insulation.
New drain runs for surface and foul water
New drain runs are installed for surface and foul water.

Meanwhile inside the original bathroom floor for some inexplicable reason was finished above the height of the bedroom floor. This means that the bathroom floor needs to be broken up to lay a new slab at the correct height. It turns out to be fortuitous as the subfloor is full of water from a leaking pipe.

Meanwhile inside we 'Kango' up the bathroom floor
Meanwhile inside we ‘Kango’ up the bathroom floor and deposit the concrete in what was our bedroom. Note the new steel joist.
Roof Construction
The Roof to the Sunroom Starts to Take Shape

Part 4 is Here

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Not So Grand Designs Part 2

Part 1 of our building project is here.

The builders Jones and Maher of Carmarthen have continued demolishing the interior of the house and by the first week in July they had inserted the new structural steelwork to support the new mezzanine level and where we are extending our bedroom into the existing bathroom (which is really too large).

The New Beam is Inserted to Support the Mezzanine
The new steel beam is inserted to support the Mezzanine

John tends to see Phil the site foreman most days and we’re pretty sure that he (Phil) now thinks that he has a client with OCD. We’ve spent the best part of a year planning this work to include the extensions, underfloor heating, increased insulation in the floors and vaulted roof, solar hot water, and a new kitchen (as we are relocating some of the old one into the utility room). So getting is a ‘right’ as possible is one of our main aims.

Much of our time is spent just trying to think ahead; for instance it is necessary to decide on the floor finishes as the finished floor heights for the extensions will need to be calculated taking these into account. As the windows and front doors are being ordered from Rationel, a Danish company (with manufacturing plant in Poland) and come pre finished it is necessary to decide on colours at the outset; so that they can be ordered in advance to arrive at the correct time.

Of course having decided to start work in summer the weather has remained extremely wet, which hasn’t helped with digging the foundations for the new extensions.

The foundations are dug for the new sunroom
The foundations are dug for the new sun room

The new concrete is then ‘tied’ to the existing footings by inserting and resin bonding steel bar into the original concrete foundations.

The excavations for the porch and utility room
The excavations for the porch and utility room show the steel tied into the existing foundations. The vertical steel bars denote the level of the finished concrete. As the house is sat on solid shale there is no need for excessively deep footings.

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No So Grand Designs Part 1

After moving here to Wales we had the idea of building a porch to help reduce the draught into the house in Winter. This was quickly followed by the idea of building a ‘sun room’ on the other side of the house. Oh how naive we were!!

Realising that this needed to be done well we set out to find someone to could put our ideas on paper. This lead us to  local architects Llewelyn Lewis Sennik (Gareth and Anita) who also concluded that if we were going that far we might as well have a Utility Room as well and also do any other upgrading at the same time.

We did consider installing a ground source heat pump but ultimately decided against this on the grounds of cost. As we already have solar PV providing some free electric and indexed linked payments of around £1500 per annum and our own woodland providing us with free wood for the woodburner we decided that a few hundred pounds of oil a year will be all that is needed to keep us warm in the coldest periods (I think that is what economists call a cost benefit analysis!) with all the extra insulation we are installing. I estimate that we should receive around £600 or £700 a year more in payments for the PV panels and solar HW than we will payout in energy costs.

Yes we are going to gut our home! This is how it looks now.
Yes we are going to gut our home! This is how it looks now.

To cut a long story short, after a 6 month battle with the planners (including having to employ Planning Consultants) we ended up with Planning Permission to build two contemporary timber clad extensions. In addition we would ‘gut’ the house to add underfloor heating throughout, upgrade the already good insulation to ‘super standard’ and refit most of the house. In addition we would be improving the heating and fitting Solar Hot Water Panels to compliment our recently fitted solar PV Panels.

South Elevation
Proposed South Elevation Showing 'Sun Room' window

So after 18 months of design, trauma and an ever increasing budget we moved out of the house on the 11th June 2012 (into rented accommodation) and the builders moved in to start gutting what most people would see as a perfectly adequate dwelling. Mad or what?

The House Before We Started!
The House Before We Started!

And after a week or so the builders stripped out the house now the long process of putting it back together starts! It now looks like the photo below.

The Gutted Interior
The Gutted Interior

Part 2 is here.

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A Glorious Evening in May

Today has been another glorious day at the beginning of summer; the weather has been spectacular for the last few days. It has probably been the hottest day of the year so far and it was one of those lovely summer evenings that you remember nostalgically in the winter. The daylight slowly fades into the late evening twilight as the sun sets and the wood pigeons ‘coo’ in the trees.

The sun was setting in the valley as we set off for an evening walk from home. You can just make out the slate roof of our house in the trees in the bottom left of the picture below. The land beyond the trees running up to the skyline belongs to us.
Sun Setting in the Valley

The valley is spectacular with wild flowers our route takes us around the valley, crossing the river twice on a circular route.

Harebells are amongst the myriad of wild flowers on the roadside.Harebells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hedgerows are alive with wild flowers, the primroses and bluebells are just starting to fade but soon there will be wild strawberries that we pick and eat on our walks.Wild Flowers

The whole valley, with virtually no traffic or road noise is a very special place.The valley

We cross over the river in the bottom of the valley via the small footbridge.River

It is cool in the woodland by the river.Wood

The evening sunlight starts to fade across the floor of the valley.Valley Sunlight

Look at the ivy on the old clinging wall
Look at the flowers and the green grass so tall
It’s not a matter of when push comes to shove
It’s just an hour on the wings of a dove
~ Van Morrison

Ivy

Almost the last sun of the evening falls on the recently cut fields. The small road beyond leads down to our house. Three Red Kites honoured us with their presence and soared overhead nearby.valley curves

We cross back over the river by the small metal road bridge that leads to our house.cothi (9 of 11)

Liz lingers on the bridge that leads back home to look for Dippers and Wagtails.Cothi Bridge

The very last rays of summer light fade as we walk home.cothi (11 of 11)

 

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Making Marmalade in a Slow Cooker

John had a hankering for ‘real marmalade’ so as Seville oranges are in season we decided to have an attempt at making it. The first task, not having made it before,  was to track down a straightforward simple recipe and the second to adapt it for the slow cooker to cut out on the ‘faffing about’.

So as the weather forecast wasn’t great today – we made marmalade and damn fine it is to as you can see in the photo below!

Home Made marmalade

Here is our marmalade recipe. Makes 6-8 jars
1 kg Seville oranges
1.7 litres near-boiling water
Juice of 2 lemons
2 kg  sugar

Wash and scrub the oranges if you are obsessive; then cut them in half, squeeze the juice and keep it somewhere for later. Remove the membrane, pith and pips etc. with a spoon (you can slightly warm the cut oranges in a microwave if you want to make this easier) and tie all this up in a piece of muslin. Slice the orange peel into strips (removing as much pith as possible), chunks, or whatever you prefer.  The slices you cut at this point will determine the size of the shreds/chunks in the finished marmalade don’t feel you have to put it all in. We tend to put about two thirds of the rind in.

Put the peel and the muslin bag full of pips and orange flesh in to the cooking pot of the slow cooker. Pour over the water and lemon juice. Cover and switch to high, leave for 6 hours. Alternatively we reckon that you could put it on low and leave it overnight – but we haven’t tried this yet.  The peel must be really soft before adding the sugar.

Remove the muslin bag and leave it until cool.  Squeeze the liquid from it into a large pan.  Add the rind and cooking liquid from the slow cooker and then add the sugar.  Finally pour over the orange juice you squeezed from the oranges earlier.  Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. 

Put a plate in the freezer at this point to test the setting point later.

Bring to the boil and keep boiling rapidly for 15 minutes until the marmalade reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer.  If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, you can put a few drops of the liquid onto your frozen plate out of the freezer, and leave it for about a minute.  Push it along a bit with a finger.  If it leaves a ‘wrinkly track’ then it has reached the setting point – if not, keep boiling.

The setting point was a learning curve for us (and we don’t have a thermometer) but get it boiling gently. You don’t want a big ‘frothy’ boil – more of a point just beyond a simmer. For the first 15 minutes or so it will look a bit watery, as it gradually thickens it will become more viscous and you should have what other recipes describe as a ‘rolling boil’ (this is sort of how you imagine an Icelandic mud hole bubbling away). Keep stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn. Ours actually took about 30 minutes in total before the it left a ‘tacky track’ on the plate test.

Once the setting point has been reached, turn off the heat and skim off any scummy nastiness from the top.  Leave it all to cool for about 15 minutes.

Put your clean jars into the oven, at about 120°C so that they are sterilised and warm when the hot marmalade goes in later; alternatively get them hot (and dry) out of the dishwasher when it has finished.

Stir the marmalade to distribute the peel evenly, then ladle into the heated jars. Seal with waxed paper, clean and leave to cool with a cloth over the top.  When they have completely cooled, top with jam pot covers and lids and label. 

Store somewhere cool and dry and use within a year.

Actually it tastes pretty good. Next year we’ll experiment with some variations; perhaps adding some grapefruit juice to make it a tad sharper or even some whisky for a more adult flavour. Anyway, it certainly beats that crap in the supermarkets.

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