Starting a project has never been easy for me, or anyone I expect. Those first moments before I make my first actions, I reflect on the endless black hole of responsibility, painful compromise and sacrifices knowing if I stop now I can avoid it all. It is daunting and terrifying that I cannot start those first days on the project alone. I draft in some help to force me out of hibernation. Once awake the visions of all you had planned for so long seem one step closer and the end is not as far away as you thought.
As a self builder, I try to choose my battles wisely. Some tasks just cannot be done alone or in short bursts and it is important to identify those you can physically do yourself and those you should manage. Demolitions and ground works are painful work but relatively easily done in your own time under an engineer’s guidance.
The Clean Out
In December, during a gap in the cold weather, I ventured down to clean the building out of 30 years of neglect. The windows had blown out long ago allowing all means of wild life to occupy the structure. The house was full of old abandoned furniture, doors with wood worm, farmyard bags.
For demolition, I found a long six foot metal bar, and a firemans axe or Splitting axe to be the best. The long metal bar acts as a cantilevering wedge while the splitting axe with one sharp side and one side like a sledge hammer makes minced meat out of most things.
Bear Grills speaks of the moral boost of a good fire after a hard day, and after this day we rekindled the existence of life in this home by lighting the first fire in 30 years.
The Gig Dig
The existing concrete floor was as I expected only a few inches thick without insulation or damp-proof course. Initial pilot holes indicated that it would be an easy job. However our holes were lucky picks and an easy job turned into a nightmare.
The depth of material I need to clear was guided by the floors U-value of 0.1w/m2k which I wanted to achieve. This would mean I would need to insulate the floor with 190mm insulation and require a total dig depth of 300mm.
We removed the 50mm concrete top layer with a standard heavy duty Kango powered by generator. It was an easy enough job. Under the concrete was a 50mm layer of sand and then mixed rubble of 100mm which was manageable. After this we hit stone which broke us eventually. I was left with two options reduce my floor U-value expectations or dig more. You can only insulate once so we decided to dig more. After 3 days of rock, we completed the dig exhausted with a blank canvas.
Follow my next blog where I set out the building services, install the radon barrier, insulate the floor and pour the concrete slab.