In order to keep costs down, Lee is doing the majority of the work himself. Obviously he works full time, so he has to squeeze this into weekends and evenings which means there isn’t that much time. We have the due date looming – and the last thing he wants to have to do is build an extension after the baby arrives, so he has literally spent every spare minute outside.
Lee always says that the biggest problems with construction is groundwork: once you’re ‘out of the ground’ everything is fairly straight forward. You know how many materials you’ll need, you already have the designs… you can plan and prepare for most things.
Groundwork’s however – you never completely know what you’re going to find, and this was certainly the case with this build. Luckily for us, Lee is a Civil Engineer, and this is one of his areas of expertise. He literally saved us thousands by being able to do this himself.
I’ll warn you now and say that these are not the most inspiring pictures! Unfortunately ground work is rarely pretty (one of the many reasons I’m really glad we’re now passed this stage).
All we had to do was get to the point where the foundations were in and the slab for the extension was poured. At that point the builder takes over. We had about a month to do all of this, which in reality was around 10 actual days.
I say ‘all we had to do’…
We had to move all of the drains for the house. We have a septic tank that they run into, but the existing drains ran under where we’re planning to build the conservatory and the last thing we want is to have a problem with the drains in a few years time and not be able to get to them because there is a building on top.
My father in law getting stuck in.
Most of the drains we were luckily able to dig with a digger, but in a couple of places they were too close to other services so Lee had to dig by hand.
The drains at the front of the house weren’t moving, but didn’t have the correct fall, so lee replaced all of these too. He also added new connections ready for when we move the waste pipe from the front of the house.
It was as we were replacing the ones at the front we discovered that despite all of the water supply to the house being plastic, the tiny piece of pipe that connected our house to the main supply running down the road was still lead, (effectively meaning we had a lead supply) so we had to change this too.
This section is right next to our electricity supply so had to be dug by hand.
As we were clearing away the old extension slab we discovered an old septic tank under the old conservatory (this is why Lee says ground works are unpredictable – you never know what you’ll find!). We hadn’t managed to locate the drains for the old outside toilet until this point, so it was a mystery solved, but it needed emptying and then filling in. (I was so grateful to be pregnant at this point as it meant I had to stay well away!)
The grey cabinet houses the new power supply to the house – we chose an external supply so that we didn’t have to pay the £1000 fee twice to move it back inside the extension once it was built.
After all the drains were moved it was a case of filling things in and leveling the plot. (I got to help at this point! You’ll be able to see my huge 37 week pregnant bump on the next photo).
Ignore the horrific outfit – it was so hot (9 months pregnant in August isn’t fun) and there was nothing i could get comfortable in. My shoes are the ones I usually canoe in – I couldn’t fit anything else on my feet that day as they were so swollen from the heat.
Once the plot was level Lee started marking out the footprint for the new extension. We did the footprint of the conservatory too as although it will be years before we can afford to build it, we’ll not need to churn the garden up again with diggers.
It was then more digging to get the foundations to the correct level, followed by concrete being poured and then our builder did the first three courses of block work for us ready for us to pour the concrete slab that will become the extension floor.
The rectangle on the left is the house – the shape on the right will one day be the conservatory.
Before we could pour the concrete it needed various layers of sand, insulation, damp proof membrane and steel mesh adding.to meet building regulations.
And then finally we poured about 14 tonnes of concrete onto it, and Lee, his dad, his uncle, my step dad and a family friend worked frantically to make sure it was level (it is, they’ve done a brilliant job!).
The obligatory ‘it’s finished’ selfie:
So that’s us ‘out of the ground’ and ready for the builder to start! Finished five days before the builder is booked, and 19 days before I’m due to pop! Nothing like cutting it close!