The Oak Frame Starts Going Up

Mark Jones self-builder
by Mark Jones
15th May 2015

Mark and Julia’s self build dream starts to take shape as the erection of the oak post and beam structure gets underway.

The self build journey certainly enables you to engage with a whole host of people that you may otherwise not have met. Passers-by are more likely to speak to you as the project progresses and will want to know about the route you took to get there. A house build fascinates just about everybody to some extent, and it’s nice to see cars slow down outside the plot and people coming over to have a chat.

Different characters & contractors

I can’t thank the tradesmen we’ve taken on to date enough. My respect for some of them runs deeper than I previously ever thought possible. From our groundworker to the bricklayer, scaffolder and joiner, they’re all colourful characters to say the least and I have learnt so much from them in just a few short months. They’re working in horrible mud and freezing cold conditions and it simply doesn’t seem to faze them.

Perhaps working directly with self builders is light relief, as opposed to the personalilty-less multiple housing estate builds or commercial project work many labourers do. Because as much as there are plans and designs to follow, there is still scope for each individual trade to express themselves and put some character into our build.

I have, so far, been blessed with a decent set of tradesmen and I would advise other self builders to choose their contractors based on people’s recommendations, as I did. It’s also worth working with contractors that are located as close to your plot as possible in order to avoid long travel times to the site. This way they’ll also be familiar with the area, too.

Something else that has helped our project is the fact that I’ve made sure the trades are paid on time, plus we bring them warm bacon butties mid-morning. General good manners and saying thank you will also encourage the team to go that extra mile for you.

scaffolding and footings

Choosing your product

If you want a quality finish you need to provide the right quantity of good materials at the right time. One of the worst things that can happen is running out of cement for the last mix of the day, for example. A good quantity surveyor (QS) can help you with this and save you a fortune. Remember that you will need to know quantities not just for materials purchasing, but also to get quotations for the work to be done.

Restrictive hours & unhappy neighbours

I wrote last month about the setback we received in the form of a restrictive hours notice being put in place by the council. Well it’s kicking in now and the extra cost is being felt. The elements of the build that I wanted to do myself on evenings and weekends, I have now had to shell out for others to carry out during the week.

I am beginning to wonder how much ‘self’ building is actually going to happen on this project, which is really heartbreaking. I just wish that the site location was a little further afield than the 6m strip of road we have between us and the neighbours.

Our every move is being watched and it’s pretty unpleasant. Last week someone came out ranting at an unsuspecting delivery man from Travis Perkins who was barely on site for 10 minutes. Then later on in the week when the oak got delivered Krzysztof, our site foreman, got an ear full, too, which actually upset him. As he concluded, the quicker we get on with it the quicker we are gone.

The highs and lows of self building are incredible. I must confess this aggro sometimes does makes me wonder whether it’s all actually worthwhile.

The one thing that all of this has done is force me to accelerate the build program, so the ‘dry shell’ should now be complete by the end of April. This means that while we’re ‘inside’ the building working, we’ll at least have a degree of privacy and the noise levels will be lower, too.

workman building oak frame

Our home emerges

I must confess that having stared at my new dream house in 2D format for the best part of 12 months now, finally seeing the oak superstructure going up is nothing short of awe inspiring.

The Welsh Oak Frame erectors are one hell of a team, and within just a few days the lads – along with our trusty crane man Robin – have raised the structure out of the ground. It is now truly starting to become a house and eventually our dream home.

Julia has been saying all along that the place looks small, but I’ve recently asked her what she thinks and all she can say is that “it’s amazing!” The very purpose and appeal of an oak frame property has started to make so much sense now. I always knew the outlook to the rear was going to be special, and like a work of art the picture-perfect view is framed in oak.

I’m also really beginning to appreciate the previous tradesmen; their accuracy and skill have shone through because when the frame was placed it fitted like a glove, much to mine and Krzysztof’s delight.

view from the bedroom

In the next entry: Mark and Julia have managed to take a well-earned break from their self build project, but is everything as it should be when they return to site?

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