Strawbale House

This blog is intended to chart our progress through the self-build process, from half-hearted plot-hunting through to completion of the build. The twist is that we're building the house from timber and straw (hence the blog title).

Click on the image at the end of each post to see that day's photos.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

The End of the Beginning?

Things really seem to be moving now. Planning is in the bag (I think - we've had a letter giving us the nod, but no final document as yet), the mortgage with the Ecology is agreed and completion on the purchase of the plot and adjoining land is scheduled for this coming week. According to whose solicitor you ask, it was supposed to happen wither on March 30th (yesterday) or April 5th. They really are a shower of bloody charlatans, skivers and time-wasters.
On a more tangible and satisfying note, I visited Peter Darling at the Bowmont Forest sawmill two miles from here and discussed the options for external cladding. Looks very like I'll be able to source larch from there, have it cut and dried at the mill through the spring and summer and possibly taken over to Willie Dobie at Abbey St. Bathans sawmill to have it profiled. I was planning to use it waney-edged, but have been persuaded that in the interests of longevity I should have all the sapwood removed and have it machined into a good rain-shedding profile. A good resource for this sort of thing is the John Brash website, and I'm particularly intrigued by their Therawood cladding.

Also spoke to Peter Darling about flooring, and looked over some lovely Scots pine, which again could be sourced from Bowmont Forest and machined in Abbey St. Bathans. There's a very nice elemental feeling looking at trees still growing in a well-managed forest and knowing that they could well be part of your home in a year's time.
Have also been thinking about windows and external doors, using the Allan Brothers website as a reference. I suspect I've underestimated the cost of fenestrating the house. I took a punt at £10,000, but it could easily be 50% higher.

I drew up a tentative schedule last week, designed mainly to put a bit of a squeeze on the architect in Yorkshire and his structural engineer, as I'm very keen to get drawings into building control and have the warrant in time to start building in late spring. Said I wanted drawings and calculations by April 7th, with a view to getting them lodged, then pressing on with the foundations and the manufacture of the frames while I'm waiting for council to process it. IF everything went smoothly, which it almost certainly won't, that could see the timber frame going up in June, the slating through July and the straw installation immediately after harvest. Still have to source the straw, which might be a challenge as most farmers tend to make the jumbo bales, and small bales are now a bit of a niche and command a relatively higher price as they're aimed at the horsey market. Still, we are on good terms with a few local arable farmers, and might be able to strike a deal somewhere.

Monday, 26 March 2007

March 26th - Progress at last

After a seemingly interminable process, planning have finally come up with a letter giving us the go-ahead to build a house and convert the existing agricultural building to a workshop. Our application was lodged on October 23rd, and they're suppose to decide within eight weeks. It's now over 20! Still, armed with their letter, I've been able to secure a mortgage with the Ecology Building Society for £110,000, which should hopefully be enough to complete the build. Project now n the hands of Chris Peers from Twisted Designs Architecture in Yorkshire, who's charged with translating my pretty but deficient 3D CAD drawings into something suitable for Building Control, and, indeed, for tradesmen to work to.
Completion date for the purchase of the plot is March 30th - a mere 7 months after our offer!
I have heaps of drawings to upload here, but will have to wait until my broadband is up and running, as I'm currently borrowing a neighbour's connection.
Hoping to start the groundworks in April, providing the Structural Engineer gets the foundation details worked out. Dunno how he's planning to achieve that without any knowledge of the soil-structure, but will wait and see!