precision was extraordinary – he had both large and small grapplers, but he could pick off the tiniest things even with the larger ones. My parents turned up every day to check the progress and my 84- year-old mum was on photo and video duty. It was handy because Andy and I were away on business for three days of the five they were onsite. The demolition team made sure my mum got the best views. As long as you don’t listen too closely to the soundtrack, it’s very impressive. (It included mum saying helpful things like “I’m on the video, Robert!”) She managed to perfectly film a window being picked out of the wall and placed with care into the window recycling pile.

The demolition of the house has certainly been a big talking point with neighbours and passers-by. There wasn’t a lot of love for the old house, so I’m really hoping that they like the new one as much as we do. Within a week the house was completely gone: the relatively flat site is cleared and ready to start. Before the foundations could be laid, we had to get the tree specialist to look at whether the build would impact on the roots of either

the large oak or the Cypress tree. Although there are lots of trees at the side of the house, these two are the ones we have to take care of. Because we had deep tree roots and heavy clay, it was agreed a raft system would be the best option. Strip foundations would have to be dug to 1.8 metres and when the trench to locate the water mains was dug water was pouring in at one metre. That meant we would have serious problems with water ingress, and a big risk that the sides would collapse. We looked at several off the shelf raft systems, but it was difficult to find one that addressed the issues of cold bridging. We want to build in a traditional block and cavity wall – because surprisingly it’s still working out the cheapest option for us. We wanted to find a solution to address the cold bridging because the raft was better suited to the plot. It also needed to work on heavy clay and achieve the low 1.1 U-value without breaking the budget. After much discussion between Andy, Paul and Dan, they came up with a system that would give us everything we needed.

Interestingly it’s a traditional raft construction, with high insulation with innovative insulating blocks, and plasterboard to eliminate cold bridges. It requires very little excavation compared to strip foundations, so there is less rubble to remove from the site. Currently we are waiting for some

structural calculations and as soon as we have these, we will be starting on the raft. This means that the next stage of getting the walls built will be quick and we should start seeing the house take shape. We are looking at options for the roof, windows and doors at the moment to complete the super-insulated box. It’s so important to us to get this right because the fabric of the building gives us passive energy efficiency and ensures that the costs of running the house are greatly reduced.

It may have taken Andy and I a long time to get here, but it really doesn’t get more exciting than realising our dream to build a house to live in for the rest of our lives.

Read the next instalment of Sarah and Andy’s story in the September/October issue of Selfbuilder + Homemaker


may/june 2018

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