Still Here

An Eccentric Anomaly: Ed Davies's Blog

Oops, it's been a while since I last report on progress. I've kept putting off posting until there's something interesting to see but, while I've been steadily doing stuff, I don't seem to have built up much momentum.

After getting the post base brackets bolted down the next job was to order the timber for the main post-and-beam frame of the house. Obviously, I had lists of what was wanted to hand but still had a little panic that something might have become inconsistent in my reverse engineering of the structural engineer's minimally dimensioned drawings which I'd done in Google SketchUp so decided to take a couple of days to do some fresh drawings to a) check dimensions and b) to have something to hand which would be easier for a carpenter to use on site.

This actually took a little over two weeks as I went into a bit more detail and also updated the design a bit to match the actual positions of the brackets (lots of measuring to check and double-check and a bit of fiddling around seeing if turning round individual brackets on their bolts would help get them closer to their nominal positions). In the end the design update was only to shave 17.5 mm off the nominal length of the main bedroom.

I then went about contacting various joiners I'd come across and also timber merchants which was a bit dispiriting as there was a lot of sucking of teeth, ignoral and off-hand treatment involved.

A little local timber merchant in Wick was more helpful after getting over initial scepticism - he didn't think timber was available in the sizes I wanted until he checked with his suppliers which I found a bit startling from an obviously experienced chap in a business which has been around awhile. I knew the stuff was available as I'd seen it online - but only in deepest England which would have meant a bit of expensive transport.

Still, the maximum length of the purlin timber he could supply was 3.6 metres which was fine for all rooms except the end bedroom which needed, irritatingly, 3640 mm purlins.

The bedroom is one of the larger rooms (together with the study and living room) but with its purlins sticking into the gable wall a bit so these were always going to be the longest ones but there'd been, in addition, a screw up where I'd specified an adjustment to the post spacing for the bedroom to the house designer but he'd interpreted that as the room internal dimensions. In effect, we'd both independently added the distance in from the finish wall surface to the centre of the post.

We caught that one pretty quickly but it was just before the planning application went in so we didn't bother to update it but now the extra 100 mm or so was biting back.

In addition, I'd been a bit worried about the placement of the steel brackets for that gable on their concrete pads. The engineer had specified 300 mm base plates on 500 mm pads so effectively requiring 100 mm of concrete all round the plates.

For this east gable it was not really obvious whether that had been met properly. I couldn't just tell the builders that it was clearly wrong and they should come back and fix it. At the same time, I was a bit worried that a) the building control officer (BCO) would not be convinced and b) the end of my house might fall off (not really - but perhaps some more minor problem in the long run).

I dithered for a while on this, as is my wont, contemplated moving the brackets by the whole rod spacing:

but that didn't really work so I got some advice, bit the bullet, ground off the existing rods and moved the brackets just over 100 mm.

That took a while, what with getting new tools (grinder and SDS drill) and so on, but left me much happier and, incidentally, the brackets a bit more accurately spaced.

A couple of the other brackets also looked a bit close to the edges of their pads but I hammered in a rod and did some similar-triangles calculations to show they were actually OK.

I then asked the BCO to come have an extra look. I'd really rather that any problems he had were brought to light before there was a big timber frame on top of it all to make changes, or even just investigation, a bit of a nightmare. That took a fortnight to get sorted out but he was happy other than suggesting some sort of grout under some of the brackets which were not well supported right to the edge. I got some mortar mix and put a flat slathering under half a dozen brackets.

That was mostly April - the BCO came to look on Thursday 7th of May. I then ordered 12 tonnes of 20 mm Melvich stone chippings which were delivered on following Saturday morning:

I had a happy week spreading it out to blind the house site. Well, it was hard work at first, and I was glad of the excuse of showers to take lots of breaks, but I was actually getting to quite enjoy it by the sunny Thursday afternoon as I was finishing.

In the process I wrecked a wheelbarrow I'd borrowed from some neighbours up the road from the caravan site so had a trip to Inverness to get them a new one. It surprised me how poor the ones available were: you could get ones with galvanized buckets, decent looking fixings and reasonably sturdy looking wheels but not all three in one combination. That's looking in a couple of local shops and three in Inverness. Many were rusting just in the shop. In the end I got them one with a painted bucket which otherwise looked OK. Irritating.

As soon as I had the greenhouse bays covered to provide a clean area for stacking I placed my order for the timber for the main frame of the house and also for fencing round the entrance. The timber for the posts and beams took nearly three weeks to arrive so I've been gently messing with the entrance fencing since. That's been slow as it's been difficult to Curprinol the timber with all the showers around.

On Monday of this week I started going down with a cold so just popped up to splash some Cuprinol around so as not to completely waste a brightish morning. Since then I've had a couple of days of very severe cold but I'm almost OK now.

The posts and beams are at the timber merchants in Wick but I asked them to put off delivery. I could do it today but it's very grey, damp and chilly so I think it'd be sensible to leave to next week by which time I'll be fully better I hope.