Foundations and retaining wall progress

The foundations for the east and south side of the garage wall have been poured and the first section of the east and south side garage walls have been built and then filled with cement around the re-enforcing iron bars.

Garage Retaining Walls:

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There was a mistake where the vertical re-enforcing bars and wall return for the eastern edge of the garage (just visible in the above photo are the vertical bars to the left of Sam holding the vertical measure) was started about 1m short of where it should be. This was taken down, the steel bars cut. It means the eastern wall will need to be tied into the exiting wall and foundation later on. The communication error between the site team and the chap doing the site layout (Matt) has been highlighted to avoid a similar mistake later on.

The ground side of the eastern and southern garage retaining walls have been SBR waterproofing coated:

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Simon (project administrator) noted that some of the re-enforcing bars had insufficient cover (the gap from them to the inside edge of the external block wall), so the wall was taken down and the bottom block or two moved out at the bottom (a slight bulge of 1cm or so) in those areas.

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To reduce the risk of this in the next sections of retaining wall a weak cement mix blinding will be put down, so as to create a more level surface on to which the re-enforced mesh and angle bars will lie.

Ben, Nicky & Sarah on site to see the progress:

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Filling the garage retaining walls with concrete:

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The next section of the garage walls is going up:

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House retaining wall foundations:

Site excavation below “top of foundations” level for the retaining wall foundations:

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Blinding of a weak cement and sand mix to make a more level surface for the house retaining wall foundations:

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 There have been a chunk of autumn weather with lots of wind and quite a bit of rain. Evident from the blown up plastic sheeting and damp ground in the photo below. 2013-09-17 10.39.21_smaller

 The steel bars that are attached to the ground steelwork are a lot more lined up than they were for the garage retaining walls. In part helped by the blinding layer:

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When Simon arrived to have a look at progress pre the next concrete pour, he OK’d it all straight away and started discussing how high up the walls the retaining walls would go.

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Project Management

A nice article by Charlie Laing on Project Management at:

They talk about a  Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) contract between builder(s) and client. Going through it and both signing it, so that there is a pre established way to control the work and exchange of money that is fair to all.

For changes during the project, their advice is that:

  • contract changes can only be made by the project manager / contract administrator (which should not be the client).
  • the builder should quote for the changes
  • the contract manager uses this to get client approval. If given, passes this on to the builder.

As I’ve read elsewhere, informal approval changes from the client is the most common area for problems when the consequent bill for this arrives.

A Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) contract, brings with it an agreed adjudication / arbitration route, but in most cases, a common sense, sit down and come to an agreement solution is best. Here the contract manager can mediate.

For this, Charlie Laing have some suggested questions to cover the conversation over what is being claimed. Is / was it:

  • described within the contract?
  • described as a revision to the contract and the contract sum?
    – if yes, was it requested, quoted for and approved?
  • related to completed work? Is there any evidence that it has been done?
  • related to work that the contractor had to redo through no fault of his own?
  • requested directly by the client?
  • raised by the contractor to the client directly as an option that they may choose?
  • clearly confirmed by the contractor to the client as being at extra cost?
  • carried out with an element of risk by the contractor through not following procedure?
  • in line with market rates for materials and labour time used
  • related to the actual labour time used

In light of the answers to the above, is full payment of the claim considered fair and reasonable?

This all re-enforces the idea I’ve read elsewhere abut keeping a site / project diary. ie keeping your own notes and other records.


Second pre-app meeting with Cornwall Council

Today, Robert (the architect) and I had our second pre application meeting with Cornwall Council.

The first pre-app was great. We felt the verbal meeting and post meeting written response were both very positive. They wanted some tweaks / work done on 2 small areas. The first was more that we hadn’t covered that we were making all the considerations we should. We did have it all covered, but this was written up in the pre-application we made. The second was that they felt we could change the treatment of one of the areas to visually improve it.

So this second pre-app was to go over our submitted suggestions and ideas. The planning officer had a preferred option, which, in our view, looks great and lets us crack on with finalising plans.

The next step is to run the general scheme past a few potential builders, and probably a structural engineer and probably a Quantity Surveyor (QS) so that we can confirm it’s all feasible to build and that the budget is sufficient for the current plans and ideas.

Choosing a builder

The Housebuilders Bible outlines how to choose a builder on page 88.

This will, in part be determined by the building method.

Simon Crabb (planned project administrator) has suggested that in terms of managing the project cost, to get each of the contractors to provide a separate quote for the groundworks as this could be done by an additional separate contractor.

It seems to make sense to get builders / contractors to break down the quote, so that they can be compared with others.

Contractors / Routes

There are a LOT of companies that have a variety of full service or part service systems to consider:

Homebuilding & Renovating magazine are piloting a new service within My Building Project, and have teamed up with HBXL to create a unique network of builders local to you to help build your dream home. So when looking for estimates, a local builder etc. could be worth looking at

Have a look at this blog post, on companies that will off-site build the house (usually with SIPs).


  • The Cornwall Sustainable Partnership ( provided initial information on local energy experts and green roof suppliers.
  • The Association of Environmentally Conscious Builders ( is a British-wide network that promotes sustainable building; find local professionals and product suppliers via its website.
  • The Green Roof Centre ( is an independent research hub founded by the University of Sheffield that has excellent general information about green roof uses.

Partial Builders Short List:

Also see this post re What to do, with who.