Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Decking, decking everywhere

We don't like commercially available decking, easy and cheap though it may be.

At Lawson Park we designed and built a long boardwalk last summer, of this rough-planed '2 by 1' green larch and so far it's stayed reasonably unslippy and has aged gracefully. So we have decided to use it on the walkway and decks here too, brad-nailed with our lovely new nailgun and setting each bit about 3mm apart for drainage and to add grip. It's a slow process with a certain rustic-ness from the timber's variability - occasionally pieces are narrow or warped and you kind of get used to working around these defects.

Below this carpet of decking pictured is a simple grid of joists and bracing made of larch and recycled timbers, with larch uprights driven directly into the ground. This approach was also approved by the local Planners as it protects the roots of the trees on site, arguably more than a lawn or gravel area would.

The nature of the timber gives scope for all sorts of patterning and we have frequent discussions about whether to 'chevron' the wood, to line it up with the house etc etc. As you can see here we think we'll offset it at an angle, quite Japanese-y. I'm thinking of dropping the odd potted tree into the surface too - maybe an acer or similiar.

Despite the many interior jobs left to do we have taken advantage of any recent sunny day to get on with this external decking as when done, it will offer us a much-needed 'clean' and flat space on which to do everything from painting the odd bit of wood, brushing the cats, Tai Chi (when Nina's next here), or God forbid, relaxing......

Mmmmm - Corian

Regular readers will have endured our search for the perfect kitchen surface along with us, and the end result is shelling out a slightly embarrasing sum for this gorgeous Corian worktop in 'Bone'. It's looks a bit like that roll-out icing you can buy, and has the advantage of a seamless sunk-in sink and lovely details like this upstanding edge pictured - which we designed to join up with the cedar trim we're using throughout the house. It's very warm to touch and - Adam tells me - makes for a very nice wiping experience too.
(Actually I did wipe it - for the picture...)
PS The uncluttered but still cute hob kettle behind is called Nio, by designer Oliver Hemming

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stairs - are they rocket science?

I've mentioned the hell of our house's 3 staircases on this blog before....I know thats a lot of steps for a one bedroom house but if you want views you need to get up high! I lost count of the number of builder conversations about the steps, I nearly had to ban it at one stage from discussion and would have if it wasnt such a fundamental part of getting on with things (have you ever tried accessing 3 floors with no stairs? It's...interesting, and hard on the knees)

Basically 2 builders we were using disagreed on how to construct them and this is where the problems start. This set pictured are the main ones into the open plan living room, and were made mainly in a workshop, by laminating the oak floor tiles to treads and risers of the structure before joining them and positioning them in situ. The issues started with warping once brought in to the house, but with a lot of wood you can live with it, and when our backs were turned one day they seemed to go in ok.
Or so we thought.

We immediately noticed how cold the house was around the stair area, despite our builder reassuring us that they had insulated around them as they went. Some weeks later we started to notice worrying 'flex' and gaps and realised that the booked-in flooring contractor (who needed to floor up to the steps and do all the sanding / varnishing) was about to start and we had a big problem on our hands.
Aforementioned builder eventually told us he couldnt come back to examine the problems in time, so Adam opened them up at the weekend to find all this gubbins in the picture. Not only is there a laughably inept and wobbly triangular 'support' (thats where all the screws are hanging out) there was almost nothing actually holding the tread and riser together at the joint. No wonder it was flexing. Now I'm no builder but even I can see that this job is what my dad might call 'a bugger's muddle' - I can only guess the builders never imagined we'd go to the lengths of digging it all up and would settle for their effort.

After much swearing Adam spent a weekend reconstructing the innards but his neccessary butchery sadly had consequences as regards the finish of them and we will probably have to get them re-filled sanded and varnished in the near future.

Oh, and after that we poured over 100litres of vermiculite in, the whole area warmed up nicely.

So the moral of the story? Well, maybe build bungalows?

Our nicest neighbour

Yes I know this has absolutely sod all to do with house-building but this little guy (or lady?) gives us much more morning entertainment than James Naughtie ranting on the Today programme.
My brother suggested he may be a Planning Authority robot equipped with a spycam - and I thought I was paranoid.