A thousand things

It seems that there are always a thousand things to think about at any given point in a house build project.

At this precise moment we’re appointing a Quantity Surveyor to manage and oversee the build quotes, and get a more accurate projection of build costs for budget. We’re hoping to have costs through and an idea of possible build start dates in the next few weeks.

We’re also looking at flooring in more detail again. The bathrooms, entrance hall and utility room will all be tiled for practicality, and although I started off considering stone floors, the maintenance requirement for regular re-sealing has put me off a little, and I’m now thinking more of big, matt finish porcelain tiles.

Samples will be winging their way through the post over the next few weeks so that we can narrow down the selection.

In parallel, we’re waiting to hear whether the Forestry Commission managed to get out to the croft before Christmas as they were hoping to in order to survey the land from a tree planting perspective.

It all feels as if it’s on the very cusp of happening. Just a few inches further…☺️

Building Warrant Approved

Building Warrant came through a few days before Christmas. It was a great start to the festivities!

This is what we are building. It’s a 1.5 storey larch clad eco longhouse with traditional slate roof.

The front door is actually at the back of the building, nestled into the hill at the back of the croft. The picture windows are at the front, overlooking the Sound of Sleat, and hopefully providing much light.

Once the architects are back after the Christmas break we’ll start looking at build schedules. Can’t wait!

Christmas Mojo

As the days tick around to the final approach to Christmas, it’s been a slow burn this year in starting to feel the usual joy for the season.

This has been mainly down to health, having undergone a knee replacement operation a few weeks ago and now living the prospect of a long, slow slog back to pain-free existence. It’s been a tough few weeks.

I know that the operation was necessary to allow me to live a full, active life on the croft, and I embrace and am thankful for the opportunity to do that.

By now I’ve usually baked a Christmas cake, the Christmas pudding, put up a tree and am onto an annoying Spotify loop of Christmas carols. I haven’t felt like doing any of this so far this year.

As we enter the final few days before Christmas, I’ve rallied a bit. Tradition holds strong, and in the end I couldn’t envision a Christmas without some of these things.

So we’ve decorated the bay tree on the balcony, lit some candles, and bought presents. The fridge is full, and the annual charitable donations have been made. We’ve got new books to thumb through over the break in preparation for our new life, and each page promises new knowledge. Family arrives tomorrow, which is really what it’s all about.

This will be our last Christmas in London and we will make the best of it. Skye beckons next year, and we simply can’t wait, but every day is precious and living in the now is important. This year is about using our waiting time fruitfully, but it’s also about enjoying the company of family, and relaxing into the seasonal embrace of Christmas.

Wishing you all a warm, relaxed and happy festive break and a wonderful New Year, wherever you are reading this from.

Christmas Mojo is being wrestled back on as we speak 😘.

Naming the house

Skye is a Gaelic speaking island, and is rightly proud of its culture and protective of its language.

As such, we’ve been thinking carefully about naming the house, and have decided that we will give it a name in Gaelic, however much we may struggle initially to pronounce it…

The lane running up to the croft is an un-named, single track road with several houses connected to it, each with long, winding access roads of their own. I have no idea how the Postie works out what post goes where, but many of the houses appear to be un-named or un-numbered, and we don’t want to add to that confusion.

Advice from the local Gaelic College on our doorstep, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, has been both helpful and free. They’ve suggested that using the term Taigh (house) rather than Croit (croft) for naming purposes is more in keeping with local practice.

We considered Stone House, but that was a bit misleading, as it’s a house built of wood, a larch house. We looked at the Gaelic names for Rowan House, Larch House, Woodland House and many others, but all were either taken already by houses close by, or didn’t feel quite right.

The house is up on a hillside overlooking the Sound of Sleat, and at the back of the croft we have a community of crows or ravens nesting in one of the big trees next to the stream. Ravens have always been special to me.

As such, we’ve decided to call it Taigh an Fhithich, or House of Ravens.

We’ve also found a local stone carver who will make us a house sign from stone. I’ve admired his work for ages. As such it was stone and font selection this weekend, and he’ll work on the house sign over the winter in readiness for the site preparation next Spring. Exciting!

 

 

 

Building Warrant Submitted!



At long last, what feels like a major milestone has been achieved – the building warrant pack is complete and has been submitted to the Highland Council for review and approval!

This has been so much more of an effort than we ever imagined.

Every SIP panel, roof tile, larch board, power outlet, plug socket, door material, light switch and window frame has had to be specified, documented and checked.

We’ve had the SAP assessment completed by the Energy Consultant and we’re very pleased with the energy rating for the house. It should be snug and cheap to heat, with an Air Source Heat Pump, underfloor heating and tons of insulation.

We’ve had our challenges with the access road. The gradient of the croft leading up to the building plot is pretty steep, and the engineer has had to wind the road around the plot much more than we’d originally thought to keep the gradient of the road useable and within building regs. That means more road, more excavation and more expense, but it has to be done.

Now we sit back and wait, hoping for a smooth approvals process so that we can finally start looking at the build itself next Spring.

We are creeping forwards! Slowly and painfully, but progress is being made…

 

The insidious pull of consumerism

The weeks are flying by.

Gorgeous but expensive floorboards ….

Progress is at last happening with the building warrant submission, and we’ve been busy with power points, drainage, guttering, flooring and window specifications. We are almost there, and with a following wind and a call with the energy consultant we should hopefully be able to submit final warrant drawings in the next week.

I think that the hardest thing about this time is stopping myself going crazy trying to make this home perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

It’s our home.

I need a serious dose of pragmatism and a bit of a reality check at times. This is difficult whilst being constantly bombarded with images of stylish, deceptively simple design, which is usually fiendishly expensive.

Actually, my husband doesn’t suffer with this – it’s just me. I want to reuse, simplify and recycle, but I’m often conflicted because I buy into the aesthetic. I want our environment to be restful, and natural, and beautiful…

Every time I see a gorgeous wood floor (the latest one was wide-board limed Douglas Fir) .. it’s way over budget. I need to keep telling myself that there’s no need to spend that kind of money. What we think is reasonably priced is perfectly fine. It really is.

It’s even worse when it comes to furnishings. For the most part, the furniture that we have is perfectly usable. However, it’s a bit of a mash-up of styles from many previous homes, and the temptation to sell it all and start again with a clean, new, streamlined home is very strong.

This is both unnecessary and potentially financially ruinous, so we’ve been looking at a few key things that we may need to change (sofas, rugs) and are working out how we shed the rest via eBay or charity shops. We can always recycle some of the other things like side tables with a lick of paint. Repeat after me, you do not need that designer birch strip side table. You really don’t …

I don’t want to be part of the consumer bubble replacing perfectly good things for the sake of it. We already have too much stuff.. and it’s key that we resist the constant and insidious pull of commercial consumption.

Growling Woman

Things have been very quiet on the house build front recently.

Too quiet.

Once we’d hit two months post the receipt of planning approval and still hadn’t seen the building warrant drawings, I couldn’t contain my impatience and frustration any longer.

Even with the inevitable summer vacation delays, it simply seemed too long.

It seems that our architect is leaving the company. This week.

He has apparently been in the process of handing over our build plans to a new architect in the practice who will need to pick everything up, and who has promised that she will finalise the building warrant drawings next week.

It’s not the change of staff that frustrates me. It’s the lack of communication. What does it cost to phone your clients and tell them the news? Surely that’s much more reassuring than them discovering that they’re losing their key person after weeks of hassling for a response?

We make contact with Lara who we discover has not been given everything necessary in the transfer – of course – and will need our help to ensure that everything we had agreed with her predecessor is made known.

Poor husband now has a growling woman in the house who is not looking forward to losing a precious Saturday re-marking up plans with changes that should already have been incorporated.

We’re on Skye next week though. I don’t care if it rains and we get midged to death all week. It will just be so good to be back on our little plot of land on the island for a bit.

Deep breaths. Breathe…