trades and diy

Ian Rock be­gins phase two of his ex­ten­sion project as he re­places the heat­ing sys­tem and takes on more of the man­ual work him­self, start­ing with the floor­boards

Homebuilding & Renovating - - ON SITE -

With all the ex­ter­nal works now signed off, we’ve been busy pre­par­ing for the sec­ond phase: trans­form­ing the crude shell of the ex­ten­sion into a liv­ing space. The in­ter­nal works have been di­vided into jobs where spe­cial­ist trades will be needed and tasks that I can man­age on a DIY ba­sis. Tak­ing per­sonal con­trol of a build­ing project means you need to draw up a de­tailed pro­gramme in the form of a flow­chart high­light­ing key stages which are de­pen­dent on other tasks be­ing com­pleted in ad­vance. This helps iden­tify which jobs are time crit­i­cal.

Mind­ful of the fact that de­cent trades­peo­ple are gen­er­ally booked up well in ad­vance, we ac­tu­ally started the ball rolling a cou­ple of months ago by invit­ing quotes. Choos­ing to run your project in this way has the ad­van­tage of putting you firmly in the driv­ing seat, but you need to de­vote a lot of time to track­ing down com­pe­tent trades and sift­ing through quotes. Luck­ily there’s no press­ing dead­line to get our ex­ten­sion com­pleted so we can fo­cus pri­mar­ily on qual­ity and price.

Heat­ing tHe House

It’s of­ten the case when ex­tend­ing your home that the ex­ist­ing heat­ing sys­tem turns out to be a bit wheezy and past-it. Our boiler has done good ser­vice but is in the au­tumn of its life. It’s also in the wrong po­si­tion now that the house has been ex­tended, so a pro­vi­sion has been made in the bud­get for a new heat­ing sys­tem to serve the en­larged house.

I had orig­i­nally hoped to de­ploy the lat­est eco-friendly tech­nol­ogy, but work­ing to a fairly tight bud­get meant that the sums for al­ter­na­tive heat­ing sources like so­lar hot wa­ter and heat pumps in the fi­nal anal­y­sis didn’t add up. The most eco­nom­i­cal and prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion was sim­ply to in­stall a more pow­er­ful oil-fired boiler aug­mented by a new ‘so­lar di­verter’ to chan­nel sur­plus elec­tric­ity from our ex­ist­ing so­lar PV pan­els to the hot wa­ter cylin­der.

Prices quoted just for in­stalling a new boiler ini­tially came in at well over £5,000 which struck me as a bit on the high side. So it made sense to cut out the mid­dle­man and buy our cho­sen Worces­ter Danes­moor 25/32 on­line along with the man­u­fac­turer’s fil­ter and flue at a to­tal cost of £2,238 (inc. VAT). After fac­tor­ing in the cost of labour to in­stall it, we ended up sav­ing over £1,200 on the ini­tial quotes.

I was lucky to find a lo­cal heat­ing en­gi­neer called Ed­ward Smith trad­ing as Helix Heat­ing; a young, qui­etly spo­ken guy who clearly knew his stuff and wasn’t too proud to lis­ten to the client’s re­quire­ments! Ed made some sen­si­ble rec­om­men­da­tions, and aided by his ap­pren­tice took three days to do the job, even tak­ing the trou­ble to of­fer us some tem­po­rary heaters while the heat­ing was cut off.

While you’ve got the sys­tem drained down, it’s worth check­ing for signs of ero­sion and seep­age stain­ing too, so we took the op­por­tu­nity to re­place the old rusty pump and a de­fec­tive mo­tor valve fit­ted to the hot wa­ter cylin­der.

“We all have our favourite pieces of kit and my per­sonal weapon of choice is the de­mo­li­tion con­crete breaker”

Although mod­ern con­dens­ing boil­ers are far more ef­fi­cient and com­pact than those from pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, it’s strik­ing how much they weigh — ours tipped the scales at a heady 112kg, and some ex­ter­nal oil boil­ers can weigh twice as much. One fac­tor that some­times gets over­looked at the de­sign stage is the po­si­tion­ing of the flue. For oil boil­ers the min­i­mum dis­tance from any open­ing win­dows is 60cm (dou­ble that stip­u­lated for gas boil­ers).

Ed re­turned the fol­low­ing day with the com­pleted pa­per­work for the five-year man­u­fac­turer’s war­ranty and a copy of the OFTEC doc­u­men­ta­tion he’d sub­mit­ted to build­ing con­trol. But that wasn’t quite the end of the story be­cause we’d stum­bled upon one of those clas­sic ‘grey ar­eas’ that af­flict build­ing projects. None of the heat­ing guys we got quotes from were too keen on do­ing the re­lated wiring, re­gard­ing that as a spark’s job. So we agreed to post­pone Ed’s elec­tri­cian in­stalling the new clock pro­gram­mer, util­is­ing a makeshift timer un­til the first fix electrics were in place.

Hard graft

It’s slowly dawn­ing on me just how busy I’m go­ing to be with a mon­ster list of DIY jobs, so to make time I’ve backed out of a whole bunch of non-es­sen­tial pas­times like bell-ring­ing and yoga classes. The first DIY job I wanted to tick off the list was fin­ish­ing fit­ting my tra­di­tional Vic­to­rian red­wood floor­boards up­stairs (cost­ing about £700 in ma­te­ri­als for 40m2). It’s hard to beat real wood floor­ing for warmth and char­ac­ter but it needs to be laid with care, leav­ing 10mm ex­pan­sion gaps at the edge of the room which can later to be neatly con­cealed un­der the skirt­ing boards. I’ve known cases where builders have failed to leave suf­fi­cient ex­pan­sion gaps, com­bined with us­ing tim­ber that wasn’t fully dried out, re­sult­ing in floors dra­mat­i­cally bow­ing. To se­cure the boards I use su­per-slim lost-head floor screws rather than tra­di­tional brad nails which tend to split mod­ern kil­ndried wood.

Some DIY jobs hold more ap­peal than oth­ers, but the ad­vent of cord­less power tools has been a tremen­dous boon. I guess we all have our favourite pieces of kit and my per­sonal weapon of choice is the de­mo­li­tion con­crete breaker. One of my best buys to date has been an ex­cel­lent mini SDS breaker which cost the grand sum of £60 and does the job of power tools thrice the price. True, after more than 20 min­utes of power-chis­elling the vi­bra­tion can be­come a tad weari­some (risks of ‘white fin­ger’ and hand-arm vi­bra­tion are well doc­u­mented for long-term use), and pick­ing fights with heavy chunks of ma­sonry ob­vi­ously ne­ces­si­tates tak­ing sen­si­ble pro­tec­tive mea­sures, but a spell of cre­ative de­struc­tion brings its own re­wards.

First up was the re­main­ing lower wall where our kitchen has been en­larged and par­tially knocked through into the new rear ex­ten­sion space. This needed to be cut down to size so it could host a new oak work­top to form a neat kitchen is­land. To my de­light the breaker cut through hard ren­der and dense con­crete blocks like a ray gun through pro­bi­otic yo­ghurt.

The most ur­gent DIY job on my list is to con­struct the stud par­ti­tion walls ready for the first fix elec­tric ca­ble runs. In my ex­pe­ri­ence it’s a false econ­omy to use thin 65mm studwork and I’m not a fan of flimsy metal stud par­ti­tion­ing used by de­vel­op­ers, pre­fer­ring more sub­stan­tial tra­di­tional ‘four-by-two’ studwork (100 x 47mm). How­ever, it’s es­sen­tial to select the tim­ber very care­fully in store be­cause it’s easy to get lum­bered with lengths that are bowed and warped, mak­ing it all but im­pos­si­ble to build true and level. next montH: first fix, in­su­la­tion and drylin­ing

tHe ex­ten­der

de­mo­li­tion and new studwork Ian has now de­mol­ished the wall be­tween the kitchen and new ex­ten­sion (above), and has be­gun to con­struct the new studwalls (left) else­where, ready for first fix.

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