Friday 11 December 2015

Screed and Garage

This week the screed was laid. We had an appointment with the manager of the contractors sent to do the work at the end of last week. We told him we don't want screed laid where the bath and showers will go so we can set them lower in to the floor making it easier to get in and out.  He told us to measure out the areas and mark them by placing wood or similar around the edge or where the screed should end. We went up to Lehningen to do this on Sunday and hopefully measured it all correctly.

The main work started on Tuedsday. We assumed it would be similar to pouring concrete and come pre-mixed on a lorry to be pumped in, but it wasn't like that at all.  The guys had a delivery of sand dumped on our driveway and mixed the screed on site. (Annoyingly they didn't ask where the sand should go and the garage is due this week, but with a huge pile of sand now in front of where the garage will go we were worried we might have to postpone delivery of this. We talked to the contractors who assured us it would all be gone before the garage comes on Thursday Morning.)

The mixed screed was fairly solid and could be moulded in to shape. They used a wooden plank to flatten the top.

By the end of Tuesday the first floor was finished and half of the cellar and ground floor.

By late Wednesday afternoon they had finished the whole house.  We also had a call from the guy delivering the garage late afternoon to say he is ahead of schedule and can deliver the garage in about an hour.  Steffi drove back out to Lehningen to meet him, hoping the sand was all gone, which fortunately it mostly was, so the garage was delivered. The foundations were not quite in the right place but were close enough, fortunately.

The Garage:

The screed:

These photos were taken earlier today. We are able to now walk on the screed without leaving marks but it will take a month to dry completely. We are supposed to ventilate the house three times a day for a month.  I'm not sure how that will work but we will try to get out at least once per day to give the place an airing.

Under-Floor Heating

More progress! Last week the under floor heating was laid. We didn't realise quite how this would be done but were amazed there is so much polystyrene involved, about 20cm thick base on which the heating pipes are run. This makes the total thickness of the floor about 50cm once the screed is in.

The pipes themselves are set out in several spirals covering the entire ground floor with a small gap where the shower will go. Eventually there will be thermostats in each room to control the temperature individually.

Despite telling us they would, the heating guys didn't come back to hang the solar panels so they will have to stay in the house when the next company come to put in the screed. They will come back once the screed is in to fire-up the boiler as this has to run to dry everything out.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Allkauf and Moebau Inflexibility

We decided fairly soon after the house was built that we wanted to plaster the walls rather than put up wood-chip wallpaper (fairly standard in Germany). We already agreed this with the contractors that will complete the final renovation and called Moebau, the company contracted by Allkauf to deliver the hardware, to request this. They informed us they don't have the plaster so can't deliver this, and we can not remove the wood-chip wallpaper from the delivery.

We accepted the fact they don't deliver the plaster so we will have to buy this ourselves but called up our Allkauf contact to remove the wallpaper from the delivery so we don't pay for wallpaper for the whole house that we don't need.  They said from their side this is fine but we need to arrange this ourselves with Moebau.

We once again wrote to Moebau to request they remove the wallpaper and stated Allkauf were ok with this but again they send a no nonsense reply basically saying our order is final and we may not now make changes (despite the fact it won't be delivered for another 6 - 8 weeks).

Poor show Moebau and poor show Allkauf - we are paying you for the goods so why can't you deal with Moebau directly and have this removed? What are we supposed to do with Wallpaper for a whole house we don't need?

Plumbing, Ventilation, and Some Issues

Another couple of weeks have past and there has been lots of activity at the house.

The main work has been the installation of the ventilation unit, plumbing in of the heating and all the pipework for water and drainage. This was started on Monday 23rd November and finished on Wednesday 2nd December.

The start of the work immediately highlighted a problem as the radiators that were delivered would not fit under the windows once the screed is in. New, smaller radiators were ordered but this made us look more closely at the hight of the windows upstairs and it looks like they will be just 70cm high once the screed is in, which is very low. Looking at the plans from the architect, the windows do appear to be planned this low on the blueprints, although there is no actual measurement in the plans showing the hight.  It seems unbelievable to us that an architect could plan such low windows without mentioning this. After a bit of Googling it looks like windows under 80cm require extra safety bars so we really hope they are at least 80cm high once the flooring is in.

The new radiators needed to be hung extremely high up, right under the windowsill,  in order to be far enough from the floor to allow for circulation of air.

As you can see, this looks a little odd and the windowsill itself is blocking the airflow from the top of the radiator.

After discussing the radiator issue with our Allkauf contact and their sub-contractor they agreed to allow us to upgrade the windowsills (that were damaged during the installation) to stone ones that are not as deep so they won't hang over the radiators. We also made it clear we were very unhappy that we were not made aware that there were other windowsills available at the sampling day.

We only have to pay for the difference in price to the original ones.  This will hopefully resolve the circulation issue and look less odd. We haven't yet addressed the 70cm high windows as we want to wait for the screed to see just how high they are and how this looks before we decide what to do about this.

The rest of the plumbing seems to have gone fairly smoothly. There was an issue that the plumbers built in the frame to hold the bathroom sink too close to the toilet but we spotted this and asked them to move it (not easy as none of them spoke German or English, just Bulgarian. - quite frustrating), which they did.

Here's how the work progressed:

1. They started by hanging the boiler and ventilation unit in the cellar, then laid the water and heating pipes.

Ventilation unit:

Boiler and water tank:

Pipes in the kitchen:

Pipes in Sophies room:

2. They then laid the pipes for the ventilation unit that will pump in fresh air to every room.

3. Next were the frames for the bathroom suite

(Before they widened the gap between the sink and toilet)

And in the downstairs bathroom:

4. The radiators were hung. Annoyingly the pipes are outside of the wall and bright red. We assumed these would have been in the wall considering the walls are hollow. We can probably paint them but is seems like a simple thing to do and makes a big difference to the end quality.

5. Finally three layers of polystyrene were laid on the ground floor and the pipes for the floor heating then tacked to the top layer in spiral patterns.

We had never thought that there would be such a thick layer of polystyrene under the screed, making the roof of the cellar to the floor of the ground floor around 50cm and very well insulated!

The plumbers tell us they have tested the pipes for leaks and will return to finish connecting things up and hanging the solar panels once the screed has been laid.

This will be poured next week on Tuesday and Wednesday and will make such a difference to the look and feel of the house, hiding all the workings and finally making it feel more like a home.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Stairs - Going Up

On Tuesday the stairs to the first floor were put in. It only took a couple of hours and it makes things so much easier now we don't have to climb up on the ladder.

We celebrated by carrying down about 100 of the around 200 excess roof tiles Allkauf left after they finished the build (they said these are our problem, not theirs). We have to take them all out of the house before the scree is laid. Another frustrating point Allkauf could easily deal with at little-to-no cost but a big undertaking for Steffi and me.

Interior Construction

It's been a busy few weeks on site. On Monday 2nd November the interior construction company arrived. They took delivery of more plaster boards and the rockwool insulation bales and when we arrived they quickly talked over what they will do and let us point out where fittings like sinks and the toilet will go.  One surprise for us was that they said that although in the architects plans, the wall that is supposed to be set forward for where the sink will go (next to the toilet in the upstairs bathroom) is not included in the house price and we would have to buy the frame for this ourselves. Strangely the toilet will be set forward and is included in the price.

It is these small things that don't cost much that are a little frustrating with Allkauf. We have no idea what we need, how big, etc. so it's not so much the cost but the time researching and finding where to buy it.  In any case, we said to plan for there not being a wall set forwards there, although this might look odd having the toilet set forward and the sink next to it not. We can hopefully still add this later.

The soon got started and by Wednesday the ground floor was fully insulated.

Kitchen/dining area

Part of the living room

Downstairs bathroom & utility room


The guys said they didn't need us to go on site over the next couple of days so we decided to take a spontaneous holiday to the UK and drove over the same night for 5 days!

We drove back on Sunday night and as we were just crossing the German border received a call from the builders manager to say that our cellar was flooded. After our previous flood we feared the worst and made a detour straight to the site to see the damage.

On arrival they were already pumping out the water, which was from the mains so at least it was clean. We were given a story as to why the water was left on over the weekend (which may or may not be true) but they accepted responsibility and will cover the costs of the clear-up so we left them too it and tried our best to put it out of our minds.

By Thursday they had finished and the cellar was dry again. We inspected the work, which to our untrained eyes looked fine so we signed off on on it. Here's how the house looks with walls:


Dining area

Living room

Entrance hall

Sophie's bedroom

View on to the landing from Sophie's room


Master bedroom

Spare bedroom

Spare bedroom in the other direction

There were some issues we noticed:

1. All the windowsills were damaged
2. Some of the electricity and network cables were damaged (but not down to the metal)
3. Some of the network cables had been cut shorter meaning the labels on them are gone. It will be guesswork to find out which cable goes to which room.
4. there were some panels with too few screws that they are a little loose.

After talking to the manager and our Allkauf contact, the windowsills and panels will be replaced/repaired.

Monday 2 November 2015

DIY Cabling

On Sunday Joe and I headed up to Heimerwegwiesen to lay some additional cables in the house. As the electrician wanted an extortionate amount for laying the cables to the satellite dish I decided we could do this ourselves. It didn't take long as we just had to measure out eight lengths of cable then bundle them together and poke one end outside under the wall, which was not yet sealed. We then left the other end taped together and hung next to the internal TV cables where we plan to put the sat TV multi-switch.

I also bought 100m of Ethernet cable with the plan to run cables in to the living room and downstairs office but with so much cable we decided to wire up all the rooms in the end.

Along with the Ethernet cable I bought 30m of speaker wire to run cables to the four corners of the living room for a surround sound system.  Unfortunately as we couldn't manage to nail in wire holders to the concrete floor to run the cables directly from the fromnt to the back of the livingroom so we had to run them parallel to the electric cables that went a long way round the room.  This meant we were about a meter short of  cable so had to literally cut a couple of corners to make it work.

Friday 30 October 2015

First Allkauf Expansion Pack

At 5pm yesterday as we were on our way back from Lehningen to meet friends for dinner when we received a call from the delivery lorry driver saying he would be on site in about half an hour.  This was a surprise as he was supposed to come today. We told him there was no chance we could get back out to Lehningen yesterday evening but fortunately this was no problem for him as he needed to stop for the night anyway.  He wanted to get an early start in the morning though so he asked that we meet him on site in Heimerwegwiesen this morning at 7am. Not easy with a little one but there were no other options so after a very early start and trying not to wake the baby we made our way over to Lehningen to meet him.

As we arrived the lorry was there waiting and the driver was opening up the sides ready to offload with the mini-forklift mounted on the back of the trailer.

After a brief discussion as to where he should put everything he got started, promptly unloading five pallets of plaster boards and one long pallet of wooden beams topped with tools, containers full of various liquids, a loft hatch, plastic sheeting, and the tools required to fit them all.

Allkauf only deliver to the outside of the house so we had to carry in the valuable items that are easy to move but we left the wood and plasterboards outside as there was no way we could move them all by ourselves. Fortunately the weather is supposed to be good for the next few days so we hope they wont get too wet.

It only took the driver about 30 minutes to unload everything and within an hour he was gone, leaving us with a garden and living room full of building material.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Scaffolding Gone and All Cabled Up

The scaffolding was removed today so we can see the house properly for the first time and we love it! With its modern "Landhaus" style it is so different from all the others in the street, most of which follow the current grey roof and windows and white walls trend. We hope it will be a timeless design that ages well.

The town council is also now planting trees and plants in the beds along the street making the whole area look much better. We can really start to imagine living in Lehningen now.

Inside the house the cables have been laid and we were happy with the work.  They are not yet connected up to the mains. This will happen once the scree and walls are in.