' the Woodlouse: May 2012


Friday, 18 May 2012


A brief walk-through Aquarium Bungalow, during a rare quiet day just after the new VPM (moisture-Vapour Permeable Membrane) had been fitted:

The darn roof is now finally within inches of being finished, or at least as finished as it can be until we start connecting the extension and conservatory roofs to it, once built.  In some ways it would have made much more sense to build those first and then tackle the existing roof, but in other ways it does make sense to do the existing roof first, as the structural changes and new supporting timbers are easier to do without the new roofs in the way, and without the weight of the heavy tiles.  This is an academic discussion in any case; we've done it this way now, largely because of the Bat Plan (see Of Bats and Bureaucracy Part 1 and Of Bats and Bureacracy part 2).

The roof is once again weather-tight, the new roof-windows are in and it's looking good.  We're way behind schedule and getting everything in place before the straw courses in July is going to be a rush, but I'm blindly telling myself it's possible.  I think that's the only way it can happen.  Next up is putting most of the ceilings back to make the loft a dark space once more, and simultaneously the solar thermal and electric panels will go on the back of the roof.  Then the scaffold comes down and the ground works begin.  The exact order of these events is still to be resolved and I'm far too frazzled and hazy to resolve them just now.  I will have to in the next few days though.

It's been a draining month or so with the build and with life in general!  The build is going pretty well really, no major surprises have come along.  The main delay since the start was my impeccable timing with the roof in relation to the weather.  Not having had everything in place to begin roof-work during the driest March on record, we stripped the roof just as the weather broke and turned into the wettest April for 50 years.  There were a lot of days when outside work on the roof just wasn't realistic, and keeping the driving rain out with rubbish plastic sheeting was a losing battle.

Meanwhile Anna's been struggling with various health flare-ups and I haven't been able to help her as much as would have been ideal because I've been trying to keep on top of things with the bungalow, so her recovery is slower as a result.  My dad's health has also been deteriorating and this week he died - mercifully quickly and at home, and during a patch where his sometimes-miserable mood lifted and he seemed really cheerful despite obvious ill-health.  I think that is still sinking in.  Thankfully the roof this week has been in the hands of the experienced roofers who mostly knew what they were doing, so I've been able to get away with brief visits up there to check on things and explain bits of the plans.  Most of the time has been spent with Mum and my two sisters getting to grips with funeral arrangements, and just piecing together Dad's history.  This has been draining but really good to do - some things I knew and some things have been new to me but it's great to fit it all together and just to spend that time on Dad.  We've been laughing a lot too.

Anyway, here're some photos of the "blue-phase":

Parallel battens and counter-battens: these allow greater ventilation of the space between the VPM and the tiles to prevent moisture building up as it "breathes" through the membrane from inside the loft

Roof-windows will go here

The land of many rafters

Aquarium Bungalow

yaay - tiles! See how clean of moss they are.

So she is included in the build I pushed Anna up onto the scaffold while one of the roofers pulled, and she fitted a few tiles.  Note sticks in corner of picture... Anna was very satisfied with her work, as was Gary the Roof.  Needless to say Anna's pain levels were much-increased afterwards but it was worth it.

valley taking shape.  I had dilemmas about least harmful flashing to use and settled for Aluminium.  It does have a high embodied energy but I think it has less overall pollution associated with it than lead (the standard material used) and is certainly much less toxic

Triple glaze roof-windows with thermally insulated flashing

UPDATE 19.5.2012: they finished the roof this morning.  I'll point up the verges later once extension roof is connected.

Lovely bit of leadwork by Gary the Roof, using lead recycled from the chimneys I removed.

Finished front roof :-)

Finished (for now) rear roof, with solatube and rooflights.  I had to get in some new tiles in the end, to replace damaged tiles, those cut to edge the roof-valleys on the front, and the 'bottom-tiles' previously used at the bottom edge of the roof (these couldn't be used as they have closed ends which would have blocked the necessary ventilation above the VPM)

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Soon we'll have a roof.

There's probably too many photos for one post here really, but if I don't put them up now it probably won't happen...

The builders have just about finished the work on the roof structure and on the incredible number of rafters needed to form the sloping ceiling and contain insulation.  As I write the roofers are finally in starting to lay the breathable roofing membrane and battens, ready for tiles to go back on early next week.  We've now missed the planned deadline of end of April to have roof back on and Bat Loft boarded out, which is a shame but was unavoidable due to the heaviest April rainfall in years.  It's essentially been exactly the wrong kind of weather for roofing.  The horrible blue plastic was never meant to be on the roof for as long as a month, but it has just about held up - mostly.  The number of leaks has increased, especially in the torrential downpours combined with the winds,  and almost inevitably one of the ceilings I was hoping to save was trashed by water.  Oh well.

While the builders have been working I've been managing to do bits and pieces in between, taking out internal walls that are no longer holding anything up, lifting paving slabs in the garden in preparation for groundworks, removing the rest of the manky insulation from the loft, and the like.  Also bits of general project managing, trying to make sure I'm ordering things in time for them to be on site when needed (biggest of these recently is the rainwater harvesting tank and paraphernalia), and answering queries about design as they come up.  There are so many decisions to be made about every last detail!  I'm getting quicker at making them now, but I think by the time I get home, even simple decisions (such as "what to cook?") are too much.

I would still prefer to be doing more of this stage myself, but the time restrictions imposed by the Bat Plan - and by needing to get back on schedule so that I have some chance of doing the rest of the preparation in time for the strawbale courses in July - mean that a burst of professional activity is necessary.  I do have to admit as well, that having seen how complicated some of the carpentry turned out to be: I would never have done as good a job as these guys or in anything like as little time.

Here's the latest progress photos:

Preparing openings for roof windows: doubling up rafters, and fitting trimmers (rafter sized timbers to hold top and bottom of window). This photo from before I pointed out the windows weren't that big...

Apple trees recovering from their brutal but necessary pruning

Kit and Simon contemplating the rooflight openings

Most satisfying demolition yet.  Knock three bricks off, cut through one timber, then wobble and shove right over.  It was a doorway to nowhere that had been irritating me for a while, but the wall supported a beam that held up a large amount of ceiling until recently.

Rooflight openings trimmed to correct size

Collected future firewood in one place, so it doesn't get buried under a mound of earth when the groundworks start.

So many new rafters.  Bottom row support plasterboard ceiling, top row to contain insulation.  Top end of top rafters also acts as load-spreader to spread the load of the main roof rafters across the top of the new glulam purlin.

The Bat Loft taking shape.

A phenomenal amount of timber went into the soffits.  This is to act as a wall plate for the strawbale wrap - we need a solid structure to compress the bale wall down from, using bottle jacks.

Gable roof extension, to cover the thickness of the bale wrap.

Accidental self-take on scaffolding.  Switching from looking like this to looking clean and respectable for massage work in the middle of the build is odd.

Rafter extensions to cover bale width at back corner of bungalow.  The conservatory roof will start on the closest side of these three rafters.

front soffit/eaves work finished, including fascia-board.  The OSB offcuts between the rafters are to contain the recycled cellulose insulation which will be blown in from inside the loft later on.

Soffit/eaves detail.  This cavity will be filled with insulation to help avoid thermal bridging where the strawbale wrap joins the roof.

Ceiling stud-work complete

This will be main living area and kitchen.

Loft-hatch!  One of those little things that I found disproportionately satisfying when it was done.

'Flying gable'.  Eventually the wall will follow the line down from that stud-work.

I was hoping to save this ceiling to minimise old plasterboard waste, but the rain got in.  The plastic went back on less than brilliantly above it after work on the roof, with the result that it funnelled rain straight in here rather than off the roof.  In fairness, the amount of rain that fell was ridiculous.

Bat roost.  Getting it up into that position was hard work on my own.  In the course of being sensible and safe about it (I never like working at heights), sitting securely on the sloping ceiling rafters on the cross timbers I put in to support me - I managed to thwack myself in the forehead with the sensible and safe prop I was wedging the bat roost up with... Doh.
Bat roost: two scored boards separated by battens, with a few battens horizontally inside to create niches for the bats to hang-out.

Valley boards, to support the felt and flashing in the join between the two bits of roof.  Left hand board needs cutting.

Massively pleasing sight: permanent roof covering going on at last ("breathable" Vapour permeable membrane/VPM, underlay which original tiles be replaced on top of).

The Bat Mesh in place at the apex of the roof.  The VPM is lain on top of this.  The mesh allows bats to crawl down the underside of the VPM without the layers of VPM separating and entangling the bats.

Gary working alone on a bank holiday weekend and on his birthday too.

Glimpse of the roof through the trees

Spring on Watton Hill