04 Jan 2016

Finishing touches on Will Anderson's self build


i-build follows Will Anderson as his self-build journey unfolds. This month, he reflects on the moving in process and reveals how spending time on the finer details has made the world of difference.


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Moving house is always a stressful business. When you are still building the house, however, the complications inevitably multiply. It’s tempting to wait until everything is finished so that you don’t have to live with dust and noise and the general mess of building. But if, like us, you are paying through the nose for rented accommodation and your money is running low, you soon begin to reflect on what the minimum requirements for domestic life actually are.

We have begun to move in to The Orchard but we’re not living there yet. We have decided to move over a series of weekends so that we can manage the disruption and not end up living in an incomplete house stacked high with boxes. We have hot water and a flushing toilet but not yet an operational kitchen, which we really want to have in place before we make the final move. Tiling around the bath and shower might also be a good idea.

We began with our books, which we have rather a lot of. Our first floor library has a double height bookcase, so we have lots of room for them. Nonetheless, it was a big job shifting them and getting them on the shelves. I made the shelves myself, about six months ago, before I plastered the room. They are a bit special because the actual shelves are made from sycamore boards that came from a tree that once grew at the front of the site.

The sycamore tree was dead before we started building so I felled it and saved some of the logs. I then got these milled and stacked the planks up to dry. The time it has taken to build the house – eighteen months so far – is just about what you want to dry one inch planks. So they are now dry, oiled and in place in the birch ply carcasses that I made to fit the space precisely (a bit too precisely as I had to get my electric planer out to get them to fit).

As you can see, I have retained the wavy edges of the sycamore planks and installed them in such a way that the shape of the original logs is retained in each bay of shelves. It’s a great way not just to use the wood but also to retain the memory of the tree and give it new life.

All this room needs is a balustrade for the gallery and a decent ladder and it will be complete. The parquet floor – reclaimed Lebombo with a beech border from Parquet Parquet – is looking particularly lovely. Other rooms, however, are not so advanced. Right now I’m really rather glad we decided to build a relatively modest house. Every room equates to a hundred jobs, all of which need to be done by me – regardless of how many boxes of belongings I have to work around. It’s going to be a dusty new year.

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