Friday 28 August 2015

Slow Progress and More Mud

Not much has happened this week.  On Tuesday we met with the ground work company on site to discuss next steps.

Once we arrived we could see the site had flooded again although not as badly as the first time. There was less sludge in the hole around the cellar this time although it will still need removing again.

The main issue was the insulation had come away around the base of the cellar so we will now need to stick it all back on again. You can see this in the below photos.

Good news is that the light shafts for the windows are on so the cellar (other than being full of mud and missing some insulation) is finished!

 We agreed with the ground worker on the following steps:

  1. On Friday (as in today) they will dig out the sludge and lay the drainage pipes.
  2. They will organise the connection dates with the water, gas and electricity companies (after we passed on the details and received quotes)
  3. Next Monday they will dig a second shaft in front of the house. This should act as a soak-away to direct rain water away from the house and will be able to have a pump placed in it to remove any standing water.
  4. On Monday they will continue laying the drainage and start filling the cellar hole with gravel.  We can't fill it with the clay they dug out as it settles over time and will potentially not be safe for the scaffolding required to build the house, or any good under a driveway as it will sink further.
  5. By the end of next week they plan to have finished and have all utilities connected up in to the cellar.

The other big task is cleaning the mud out of the cellar.  This will be done next week too.   We sent a clame for the floodded cellar to the insurance company but they have refused to pay!  They say that the weather was normal so we should have planned for it.

Just to be clear, it rained 24 litres per m2.  The insurers say that this has happened 6 times in the past 10 years in the region and therefore is normal!  For us, normal weather would be something you could measure by how many times it happened per year, not decade, so we will fight this.  Not that we really have the energy or time to but we can't let them get away with that.

We will go up to Lehningen tomorrow to see how things have progressed.

Friday 21 August 2015

Cellar Progress

We have made some progress in sorting out the cellar this week.  The first positive step was that we organised for the sludge to be removed from around the outside of the cellar. This was vital as for the ring earth electrode, drainage and insulation we need access to the outside of the cellar. It only took a few hours and cost a few hundred euros.  The same troop also covered the hole in the roof with boards so they are flush with the roof of the cellar. This is a requirement of Allkauf for health and safety reasons.

We were on site today and progress was good, the ring earth electrode has been laid and the cellar is clad with insulation. You can see both in the pictures below:

Inside, the water level has dropped further revealing the extent of the sludge that needs removing. After looking through our documents we think we are insured for flooding of the cellar during the build so have put in a claim. We are waiting for the insurance company to get back to us but have already found a company to clean out all remaining the mud and water. They are the same company that will be working on the house once built, laying tiles, installing the bathroom suite and wallpapering/painting. They can come out next week to clean the cellar and we can hopefully send the invoice to the insurance company. We will take a risk with this as we want to get the mud and sludge out as soon as possible.

Here's how the sludge is looking today:

House Delivery Date

The big news this week is that we have our build date for the house!

Unfortunately this will be 20th October which is 10 weeks away.  We were extremely disappointed with this. Contractually it is allowed as there is a maximum of 10 weeks wait after cellar handover and it is 10 weeks to the day that our house will be built.

The main issue we have is that verbally we have continually been told it takes 6 weeks from the cellar completion to the house build.  Allkauf say it is due to summer holidays causing delays to the schedule but whatever the reason it completely disrupts our plans for the rest of the year as I have a month of paternity leave planned in September specifically for when the house will be built and we have a kindergarten place lined up for Sophie from February in Mühlhausen (next to Lehningen). Not to mention that we are in the process of selling our flat. If we can't move in before the end of January we will have some major logistical issues to deal with and Steffi may not be able to go back to work as was planned in March.

Maybe Allkauf can take some of our issues in to account and move the date forward. We will have a chat with them next week to see what's possible.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Flooded Cellar 2

We went up to Lehningen again today expecting the worst as it rained all night. Fortunately when we arrived there, surprisingly there was no water in the hole around the cellar. On closer inspection we saw the cellar builder had dug down to the sewage pipe which was capped waiting to be connected up to our house. He had removed the cap so the water could flow away meaning no more standing water.

He also mentioned he would bring a pump today to start pumping the water out, but there was no sign of this and we can't really complain as it is Sunday after all. However, not wanting to leave the cellar full of water another day we decided to try out our syphoning idea. It took a couple of attempts and a lot of sucking but we got the water flowing out at a decent speed through a 4cm diameter piece of hose.

In order to try and get as much sludge out as possible I spent the afternoon sweeping the sludge through the water to allow as much as possible get sucked out.

After around 4 hours the water level was down to around the width of the pipe and as soon as air got in it stopped working. However, most of the water is now out although there is still a lot of sludge to remove.

Before leaving we used a bit of narrower hosepipe to start syphoning out the rest of the water but this will take a while so we left it running and headed off home (picking up a hard earned Indian takeaway on the way)!

Saturday 15 August 2015

Flooded Cellar

We had our first big setback today.  Yesterday evening there was a huge thunderstorm with rain of epic proportions causing flash floods across the south of Germany.  Unfortunately one of the floods was in Lehningen and more unfortunately, in our cellar.

We are in a fairly exposed position in the new build area, down-hill from multiple plots that have not yet been built on.  This means when it rains there is nothing to stop the water running down the hill on to our own plot, or in this case, running in to the hole around the cellar.

More unfortunately, our cellar builders didn't cap the holes where the drainage pipes will come out of the cellar, about 60cm above ground level outside and 40cm above the floor in the cellar.

Looking at the outside wall we can see the water filled the hole well over a meter high so flooded in to the cellar through the open holes filling it up to 50cm high, the water then drained out to the level of the bottom of the holes so there is now 40cm of water in the cellar.  On examination the is a good 2cm to 3cm of sludge at the bottom of the water too so it will be a big effort to clean it out considering we have no built in drain in the cellar.

We considered syphoning out the water through one of the holes as this would save us having to organise a pump on a Saturday afternoon (not easy in Germany as most local shops and suppliers close at 12 on a Saturday for the rest of the weekend), but when we arrived back on site with a piece of hosepipe, one of our cellar builders was already there examining the site and muttering expletives!

He said he would bring a pump tomorrow to start pumping the water out of the cellar but much worse is that the hole around the cellar is full of sludgy clay up to 40cm that was washed in from other plots and also from our walls dissolving (now the cellar hole is about 50cm bigger after some of the walls collapsed in to the hole).  This all needs removing and the cellar walls cleaning before they can clad the cellar with the insulation panels.  He thinks this will take at least 4 to 5 hours and push everything back as they planned to be done on Monday and have another site to attend after that.

We managed to clear a meter of the sludge in 30 minutes,it is ridiculously heavy and so wet that more just runs in to the hole as you dig so there was no point continuing today. We now have to hope it dries out a lot until Monday, although it's raining outside now.

In the end the builder said they would spend Monday removing the sludge from around the cellar and pumping out the water, then return on Friday to install the insulation. We would then have to get on to our ground workers to lay the drainage pipes and fill the hole as soon as possible in case there are any more storms. Unfortunately they are on holiday until the end of next week so can't help with the current crisis.

Obviously there will now be more costs involved for the extra work but how much, we have no idea.  We just hope the ground dries out by Monday and it doesn't flood again.

Here you can see how high the water was:

The water ran off of all the plots behind us and straight in to the hole:

Lots of sludge was washed in to the hole, over 40cm in places:

Looking down in to the cellar:

Lots of muddy water to pump out, this is the smallest room: 

Thursday 13 August 2015

Cellar - Day 4

We had an appointment in Heimerwegwiesen at 8:30 this morning with our Allkauf site manager so excitedly drove up to Lehningen to see our (almost) completed cellar.

On arrival the cellar builders were already there adding the waterproof sealing that ensures all the joints are watertight.  We also saw the insulation panels and light shafts for the windows had been delivered. As the Allkauf site manager was busy doing some measuring and the concrete was set, we took the opportunity to take our first steps in (on) to our new house!

Here you can see the insulation panels and plastic light shafts ready for installation in the background:

And the black waterproofing on the joints:

We could also go down in to the cellar to get a feel of the size and layout. This will be our hobby room:

Here is the smaller equipment room where the heating and electricity fuse box will be. You can see the hole in the wall pre-cast ready for the pipes and cables:

It was well over 30 degrees in the cellar and still very damp so it wasn't pleasant to stay in there long but good to get a first impression.

Once the tour was over we met with the site manager who ran through the handover protocol which we had to sign to say we were happy with the cellar.  He also informed us we will need to order a larger crane than the planned 30t rig for the house build as they would need to position it on the same street used by the cellar builder's crane.  This means the house segments have to be lifted further and higher (over the roof of the house) so we need a 40t crane. This will cost about €400 more and is not covered by Allkauf.

The builders are taking a day off tomorrow but will be back next week to finish things off, then we have to start organising the next steps like placing the ring earthing electrode, connecting up the utilities and filling in the earth around the cellar.

Still lots to do but we're feeling very pleased we've reached this stage so successfully and without any major snags.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Cellar - Day 3

As we couldn't make it to the site today we had to hope all would go smoothly but as the builders have been so professional so far we're happy to let them get on with their jobs and look at the results tomorrow morning.

One of our future neighbours kindly took some photos of the freshly concreted cellar and sent them to us.  All looks good.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Cellar - Day 2

Day two of the cellar build and according to the plans the concrete should be poured today, however, this is now planned for tomorrow as there are still some things to do before the concrete arrives.

We could only spend a couple of hours on sight and visually nothing much had changed, just a few extra metal grids laid on the roof and some sanding of the wall joints.  Inside the supports were put in place to take the extra weight until the concrete sets.

Tomorrow is the big pour, unfortunately we can't get up to the site to watch but we will be going up on the morning after to meet with our Allkauf site manager so we will see the results then.

Monday 10 August 2015

Cellar - Day 1

We wanted to head up to Heimerwegwiesen early today to be there when the guys arrived with the cellar and see the first walls going in but we got away late after sleeping in as Sophie decided to play a screaming game between 5am and 7am!

We arrived in Lehningen around 10am and the lorries with the cellar were there along with a couple of vans and two builders, but there was no action on site.  It turned out that the crane broke down on the way so an alternative had to be arranged at short notice.  Unfortunately the second crane also couldn't make it so a third had to be organised.

Lorries with the cellar waiting for the crane:

After a surprisingly short wait the third crane arrived and work started at around 11am, about 3 hours later than planned. Respect to all involved for getting a new crane booked at such short notice.

Firstly, they installed the pillars to hold up the bay extensions and to support the garage foundations.

These pillars are much more substantial than we thought but that's fine with us!

Next came the first wall.

The guys worked through without a break until all the walls were up.

Next up was the floor plate for the rear bay extension.

Then the rest of the ground floor plate.

Finally they installed the floor plate for the dining room bay extension. You can see this in the foreground in the above picture.

At quarter to four they were done with the heavy lifting and they had their first break, we supplied coffee and cake.  They then just had to prepare the site for tomorrow before finishing for the day.

Here's how things looked when we left:

Other news is that we bumped in to our Head Builder who was in Lehningen to oversee another Allkauf build opposite ours.  We arranged to meet him again this Thursday once the cellar is finished to plan our build. We also met our heating installer and our chimney sweep who were also on site to plan our neighbours installation.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Final Preparations for the Cellar

With the cellar due to arrive on Monday we headed up to the plot today to check all is ready for the builders on Monday morning.  We hoped the signs we need to put up for the road closure would already be there but unfortunately they weren't.  We have to hope the ground workers will remember to deliver these early on Monday morning.

There have been a few deliveries of hardware required for the build and the rooms were marked out on the floor plate so other than the missing signs it looks ready.

Joe brought his quad-copter up to take some aerial shots of the site and surroundings, here are the pics:

Here's the Allkauf house from our neighbours, built on Friday:

And a shot of some of the other houses in the area:

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Laying the Floor Plate - Part 2

More progress with the floor plate, now the concrete has been poured so the cellar can be delivered! Construction due on 10th and 11th August.

Here are the latest photos:

A close-up of the batter boards with nails to mark the exact corner point

And the completed control shaft:

Monday 3 August 2015

Laying the Floor Plate - Part 1

With the blinding layer of gravel laid, the next step is to build the floor plate of the cellar.  We were expecting this to happen between 3rd and 7th August but it they were able to start early as the surveyor had already marked the exact position on the batter boards.

The floor plate is basically a reinforced concrete slab made by laying a metal frame and then pouring concrete over it.

Here's the progress as of 2nd August:

The control shaft partly built: