Can we move in yet?

Can we move in yet?

We’ve seen so much progress in the last month that it really doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait much longer until Big Sky HQ is finished!

All of our rooms are now almost complete and are just waiting to be painted. We’re doing all the decorating ourselves in between work and managing the project so it’s not the speediest of jobs but we’re making progress. Most of the base coat of fireproof varnish has been applied to the ceilings and we’ve also made a start on the walls in a few places.

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This will be our main bathroom upstairs, love the lino floor and can’t wait for the bathroom to be installed this week! Our plumber Bob, (who’s business is called Royal Flush by the way) has already almost finished the other guest bathroom and all it needs now is a lick of paint. (I’m thinking pink but Jonny’s not so sure it will be manly enough.)

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Our joiners have also finished laying the downstairs floor which is a beautiful engineered oak floor. It has underfloor heating beneath it which is going to be just the thing for a freezing Highland winter.

My light fittings which I bought absolutely ages ago have finally come out of their boxes and look just as shiny and glamorous as I imagined. Can’t wait to turn them on!

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We have stairs! No more wobbly ladder for us. They are fantastic and even more beautiful than I was expecting. They will look even better when not covered in bits of cardboard boxes.

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The kitchen fitters have also made a start but seem to be mostly mucking around in my cabinets. Our kitchen is from Ikea as we just wanted something very simple and Scandinavian that suited the rest of the house. Jonny is assembling it with some assistance from my Dad who is a flatpack veteran, and Rosie, who isn’t much help at all and keeps running away with the spirit level.

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Next week we’re hoping to have the water and electric connected so the team from Black Isle renewables can get our heating system fired up.

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They’ve already installed this shiny beast of a hot water boiler, (More lovely copper pipework) and will return to connect the air source heat pump as soon as the electricity and water are a go.

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I will post again once the water and electricity are on. Hopefully by the end of the coming week… Still so many things to do including our Stonehenge tribute finally becoming a deck!

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Insulation installation!

Insulation installation!

I haven’t posted in a while as its been all about the insulation here at Big Sky HQ for the last couple of weeks. So much so that for a little while I thought we were building a spaceship rather than a house. At least we’ll never be chilly again. I might have to throw away my extensive collection of jumpers, hot water bottles and throw blankets that I’ve accumulated in years of caravan living. We’re making progress though and almost ready for the second fix.

The insulation installation involved a huge amount of cutting and trimming. It all had to be fitted between all the studs and rafters so it was pretty time consuming but our team of joiners and their dedicated labourer Gordon got there in the end.

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Jonny couldn’t wait to try out the new bath… However, much to his disappointment the joiners requested that he keep his clothes on.

Our team have also been working hard to install the beautiful tongue in groove timber ceiling paneling. We could have had a plasterboard ceiling but the timber ceilings are one of the things I love the most about our other Big Sky Lodges so I had to have them in our house too!

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We had Dougie and his diggers back to landscape the garden and driveway and the exterior of the house is pretty much complete. Dougie will return once the decking and access ramp are installed to finish leveling off the front garden.

Everyone loves a digger, even our three wee Highland coos who managed to escape, not once but three times, so they could explore the new garden. After lots of sliding around in the mud we managed to persuade them back in their field. Jonny is now a master fence repairer.

Back inside and we now have rooms! All the plasterboard is up and the tapers are in this week to create a lovely smooth finish on the walls.

The joiners have done a beautiful job and have even made a little Rosie sized window in her room so she has a fun place to play. Next to be completed is the outside decking and Jonny and I have a seriously heavy painting schedule ahead of us. Yippee…

It’s festival time!

It’s festival time!

The Big Sky team have always been fans of musical festivals and here in the Highlands one of the very best is Belladrum Tartan Heart festival. The fantastic Lesley Strang event production team behind Belladrum book out our Lodges at Big Sky every year and were kind enough to give us tickets! Even better it’s just 20 minutes drive along the road.

img_90681.jpgSo, equipped with every piece of camping equipment ever made we headed on down for a fantastic weekend of music, fabulous local food, family fun and wacky sculptures. Belladrum estate has been hosting the festival for the past fourteen years and it’s probably one of the most family friendly festivals in the UK so it was perfect for our littlest team member to come too.

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We took along our trusty tent ‘le Chateau’ and pitched it in the family campsite which is set in a lovely meadow surrounded by ancient woodland . Unfortunately Le Chateau was showing it’s 15 plus years of use and half our tent poles snapped within 5 minutes. So with the help of some friendly campers in the next tent and several rolls of duct tape we managed to get the old girl up.

One of my favourite things about Bella is all the amazing sculptures and quirky stages dotted around the festival. The main garden stage is in a huge walled garden, one stage is in a potting shed, another in a circus tent, a wild west saloon and there’s even a Victorian style pub and theater.  The bars and food stands are stocked with local organic brews, drams and whisky cocktails, Highland game and shellfish and so many other treats.

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The heart stage at the Burke and Hare pub.
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The Belladrum chapel with a wee family of deer, just after a wedding!
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Team Big Sky HQ!

img_9125.jpgThis year’s line up was a cracker with performances by Sister Sledge, Franz Ferdinand, The pretenders, Feeder, KT Tunstall, First Aid Kit and many more.

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The Mighty Franz Ferdinand headlining on Saturday night.

If you ever find yourself in the Highlands at the beginning of August then Belladrum is a must! After a top weekend of tunes, far too much food and lots and lots of mud we headed back home to find this! Big Sky HQ has shed it’s scaffolding at last!IMG_9190
The exterior of the house is pretty much finished and the builders have been busy lining the inside with so much insulation it looks like a space ship!

This week the joiners are starting to install the ceiling paneling and landscaping the garden so expect lots of pictures of diggers coming up!

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HOLIDAY SEASON AND UNDERFLOOR HEATING.

HOLIDAY SEASON AND UNDERFLOOR HEATING.

 

We’ve had a mini holiday too and set off to visit the Grandparents at a lovely little holiday cottage near Loch Morlich with multiple trips to the Nairn and Loch Morlich beaches for sand obsessed Rosie. It was great to get away from the building site for a bit and spend some family time together.

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In the meantime we have had some good progress in other areas. Our slate roof is complete and we finally have a wind and watertight house with loads of insulation. Our dormer windows have been clad with log profile timber and we have an electricity connection!

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Our windows also have some lovely new framing. It’s looking beautiful and it’s great to see the exterior nearing completion. All that’s left is the frames on the big glass wall, guttering and doors. I’ve been giving the windows their first coat of Osmo UV protection oil today. It’s pretty much non stop painting here at the moment!

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We have also had a visit from fantastic local heating company Black Isle Renewables who came by to install the pipes and manifold for our underfloor heating system. As a family who have lived in a caravan for six years with only a wood burning stove to keep it cosy, a central heating system was definitely one of the most important things to consider when building a house. Black Isle Renewables have been fantastic at offering advice and options and designing a heating system that works with our house and will keep us toasty all winter long.

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We have chosen an air source heat pump to supply us with hot water and power the underfloor heating. The air source heat pump works kind of like a fridge in reverse. It extracts energy from the air outside the house and the heat from the air is absorbed by a fluid which is pumped through a heat exchanger. This fluid passes through a compressor, and is concentrated into a higher temperature, capable of heating water for the underfloor heating and hot water circuits of the house. The pump can extract heat from the air even when the outside temperature is below freezing so it should work really efficiently  even in the depths of a Highland winter.

The heat pump won’t get installed for quite a few weeks but the pipes have to be in place so the floor can be built on top. The pipes are then covered with a dry screed mixture of sand and concrete which protects them and helps distribute the heat. This is then sealed under a chipboard floor and then eventually a lovely engineered oak floor.

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Below is a super nerdy video for anyone interested. It was really satisfying to watch the underfloor heating pipes being filled and tested. The liquid is a mixture of antifreeze and water and is coloured green so you can make sure there are no air bubbles.

This week our window framing will be finished off and I heard a rumour that the front and back door might be going in! As for me, I’ll be doing more painting and collecting a beautiful specially made slate hearth for our wood burning stove.

Slates, floors, windows and The Wizard of Osmo-ing

Slates, floors, windows and The Wizard of Osmo-ing

Ailsa has been busy making sure all the guests at Big Sky Lodges are well looked after and juggling all the details of the house build so this post is brought to you by Jonny (or Ailsa’s husband as the builders refer to me.) The house build has been flying along since the last post. We now have floors, although our underfloor heating is still to go in so it is just a plywood base downstairs. However, the wooden floor upstairs looks amazing and Rosie thoroughly enjoys the bouncy dance-floor like quality of the ply. There has also been a lot of insulation going in. This is going to be one seriously cosy house, especially when compared to our caravan!

Having just finished my first year of teaching I was looking forward to relaxing in the hammock watching the builders… Alas it was not to be, as Ailsa soon had me hard at work, making sure our house was properly protected under two coats of Osmo UV protection oil. The Osmo will protect the logs from the sun and moisture, and preserve the beautiful natural colour of the timber.

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The windows are pretty much all in now and it is really starting to feel like a house inside. The big glass wall is my favourite, and is the central feature of the house. The view out from the gallery is really impressive. I can’t wait to sit up there on a moody winters day and take in the view out to the hills.

Our Slater Paul has also been hard at work and the roof is quickly taking shape. Most of the lead-work is on and the slating is under way. The dark colour works really well with the golden wood finish of the house, and it looks lovely from across the field, where it peeks through the trees. The joiners also did an impressively smooth job of laying the rubber roofing on the upstairs bathroom dormer, where the angle is too shallow for slate. Big thanks to our neighbour Gary and his tractor who helped Ailsa move three pallets of slates to the front of the house (and his nephew Ian who happened to be visiting.) I arrived just in time to help with the last handful. Daddy duty definitely has its advantages!

This week the underfloor heating pipes will be laid and the electricians will be here to do the first fix wiring. The roof should be completed by the end of the week (and Ailsa will hopefully have time to post!)

 

 

It’s roofing (and plumbing) time!

It’s roofing (and plumbing) time!

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It’s been another busy week at Big Sky HQ. At the beginning of last week our rafters and dormer windows were fully formed and ready to be covered with sarking.

Once our joiners started, the sarking went on quickly and within a few days the roof was covered. The sarking is made up of pre-treated rough sawn boards which strengthen the roof and provide a base for the slates. It’s great to see the final shape of the roof and ceiling inside. It gives a good indication of what the finished space will be like.

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Next comes a breathable waterproof membrane which will protect the sarking and the rafters once the slates are laid on top. It also keeps the house dry until it’s fully wind and watertight. Our dormers below are really taking shape. The two front ones will be slated and the back bathroom one is almost flat so will have a rubber finish instead.

Plumbing begins!

We have also had some exciting developments in the plumbing department! Is it just me or is this some particularly satisfying pipework? No… Just me then.

These pipes are for the main hot and cold water supply and the underfloor heating. The underfloor heating will be especially luxurious after living in a chilly caravan for six years!

Preparing to move in.

It’s going to be a few months until we move in, but Rosie has already been practicing her home improvement skills. This weeks training was on gardening and decorating. We can’t wait to have so much space, although Rosie was very pleased with the living dimensions of her cardboard house.

Now the roof is nearly complete the joiners are moving on to finishing touches before the windows go in. The big front window has been clad in log profile boards to tie it in with the rest of the house and the soffits and facias are being clad in decorative timbers.

Next week our slater will arrive and I’m also hoping for some windows…

 

Beams, rafters and Highland grafters.

Beams, rafters and Highland grafters.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been so lucky with the weather that our small team of Joiners have made amazing progress on the house. Once the external log walls were completed it was time to get some floor joists in place and begin work on the internal framing.

The external log walls provide the main weatherproofing and protection for the house but don’t actually hold the entire weight of the roof. The roof is supported by a number of chunky laminated pillars which in turn support a huge ridge beam that effortlessly holds the weight of the rafters, sarking and all the slates which will arrive in a few weeks.

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First the logs are lined with a damp proof breathable membrane and then the load bearing pillars are attached to the logs using sliding brackets which will allow for any settlement in the logs. The settlement occurs in the first few months of the house’s life as the logs dry and lose moisture and also the massive weight of the logs squash them down until they are tightly locked together.

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All the logs are kiln dried in the factory to ensure the minimum level of moisture remains. Our logs are also glue laminated from two pieces of timber with the grain going in opposite directions. This makes the logs incredibly strong and durable and helps prevent any shrinking, twisting or cracking.

 
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Another handy feature is that every log has two strips of insulation running the full length of each log which is pre-installed in the factory. This provides protection from water and drafts. It’s also much easier than previous designs where you had a giant roll of insulation that you had to stick on as each log was added to the wall. Not easy in windy or rainy weather when it blows away or refuses to stick to the wet timber!

 

Now that we have some internal framing going on the house is really taking shape. I love that I can look in the back door and see all the way through to the office door.

Next, WINDOWS! No glass yet but there will be soon!

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So we have floor joists, downstairs and upstairs, window openings and rooms (kind of) all we need now is a roof. The trusty forklift, which unloaded the kit a few weeks ago, returned and helped the boys lift the massive, 13 metre long ridge beam high enough so they could shuffle it into position using sheer Highland muscle.

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Now we have a ridge beam to support the whole roof it’s rafter time!

As well as the rafters there’s also the tricky dormer windows to construct. Two at the front for the bedrooms and a long one at the back for my giant bathroom which is now complete. Very excited about the bathroom as it will be pretty big with plenty of room for a huge roll top bath! Which I bought before the house even started and now lives in the shed…

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DSC02788I can’t wait to see the rest of the build come together over the next few weeks. Hopefully the weather stays dry!