Short Stories

Norfolk New Build

Posted on: 11 January 2023

  • Number 6
Originally on SLB Building Services Ltd website, this tells the story of building a house in Norfolk.  I have removed some of the technical information, but left the dates of each post.  


12/12/2012 The Beginning

In October 2012 Stuart and I purchased a bungalow in Docking,  North Norfolk. The property came with full planning permission to demolish and replace with a  3/4 bedroom house. In December 2012 the original plans were resubmitted  with minor alterations.

18th January 2013, the electricity meter was disconnected but the removal of the overhead electricity lines couldn’t be booked with the electricity company until 11th February— finally  leaving the way clear to demolish the bungalow.    


10/4/2013 Planning permission

The planning process was relatively straightforward.  The property had been purchased with full planning permission. The estate agent had supplied us with the drawings.  We liked the look of the proposed project but wanted to make some changes. The first stumbling block was when we applied for revised planning permission we received a letter from the council saying that the original planning permission was void because the person applying for it had never actually owned the property. We had to reapply for planning permission but fortunately in reality all this meant was paying again in full, rather than the lower fee due for revised planning permission. The changes that we wanted to make were all fairly minor.  We wanted aluminium windows instead of wood, the proposed utility room seemed unnecessarily large and by halving the size we could add an en-suite in the third bedroom on the ground floor. We wanted a balcony on the first floor to make the most of the view across open fields towards the sea.

The architect listened to our needs then went one step further.  He gave us a balcony but put it over a wide porch over the front door and to fit this in the whole building had to move back a metre on the plot.  This resulted in objections from the neighbours, when the revised planning permission was submitted. Until we read the objections on the council website, we hadn’t appreciated how much the building had moved on the plans. A quick word with the architect— leave the balcony but remove the porch, and the building  can move back to its original position.  Planning permission was granted, without a murmur, on 28th February 2013.    


10/4/2013 Demolition

28th February was also the first day of the demolition. At 9.30am Stuart received a call he had been half expecting but really didn’t want. The contractor to say that the main construction of the bungalow included an asbestos skin. Negotiations and an agreement for a further £3000 to clear the asbestos and demolition got underway straight away. Within a week there was no sign that a bungalow had ever been there.                                                                                                                                                       “GONE”      



Setting out

Setting out – the process of transferring the image on the plans to the ground that the bungalow is to be built on.

The only reference point we had was the manhole adjacent to the right hand border, but the position of the manhole on the plans did not match its position in reality. This meant that we had the opportunity to have a discussion with the neighbour, before hammering the first marker into the ground, to make sure that the position of the building met with his approval too.

The laborious process of marking each edge with wooden stakes followed before joining the stakes together with string, until the ground looked like it was covered with a giant “cats cradle”. Every measurement had to be scaled up from the drawings, every angle was checked with a huge set square to make sure it was a right angle. When the layout was complete, the line of the centre of the brickwork was marked on each of the stakes. The strings were removed one by one and wound back up—to be re attached when the contractor was ready to dig the footings.


Clearing the site and the first delivery”

3rd May – The chainsaw went silent. The chain had broken cutting down the sixth of the eleven leylandii, but there was no peace, as a 44 ton articulated lorry was attempting to get round the tight bend in the lane.  The delivery driver who was bringing our 10,000 bricks, was about to give up. With a little encouragement the lorry was coaxed into position alongside the plot. Once the bricks were unloaded, we followed the lorry down the lane to make sure it got away safely and then took a trip to Heacham to get the chainsaw mended. By 4pm the remainder of the leylandii had been felled and burnt, and the neighbourhood was left to the peace of the Bank Holiday weekend, birdsong replacing the racket we had produced.  












Rainwater Harvester

16th May -The 4800 litre rainwater harvester was gently lowered into the carefully prepared hole at the back of the site.  Once the connections are all made, it will provide the water for flushing the toilets, washing machine etc.





Work Starts    

20th May – Work starts in earnest and the footings were expertly dug by Coastal Groundworks. The result was more like an archeological dig than the start of a new home but that  all changed, when the concrete arrived.











23rd May – Six lorries, a massive pump and the concrete is poured into the footings, without a hitch. 

















Next stage.

The super insulated beam and block floor is put in place.  

The lorry load of insulation arrived, looking like giant lego.  







The concrete beams having been manhandled into place act as a frame for the insulation blocks.   





Like the floor the walls are super insulated to ensure that energy consumption is as low as possible. The cavity between the block work is filled with 100mm fibreglass batts.









Concrete blocks line the load bearing walls and the outer walls use thermalite blocks to give a low U value (the U value is the  measure of the thermal performance of the building , a low value indicates high levels of insulation). The blocks are attached to the steel frame with metal ties.  









A brick skin was used for the side walls and traditional cobbles to face the front and back.  







First floor joists

We used Easy joists which are made up of a 3×2 batten top and bottom held together with a metal webbing. This was in an effort to eliminate some of the creaking associated with solid wood joists but the biggest advantage is the ability to run all the services including 4 inch soil pipes through the joists.    





The Building Grows                    




Work on the Roof

On the 26th September the glulam beams arrived so that work could begin on the roof.  The quarter ton, eleven metre beam was manhandled into place by Stuart and his men.  


That’s the first one in place only another ten to go!


The hand cut roof started to take shape, a veritable forest of wood.      










When complete, sterling board was nailed on to add strength to the structure.  











Work Continues 

Work on the roof continued in spite of  heavy rain and high winds blighting December.




The Roof is Finished  











3 Months Later  

I hadn’t written anything for sometime, not because nothing had happened but because there hadn’t been anything to photograph. Outside the cladding (cement fibre based cladding that never needs painting or maintenance) has been applied to the balcony and porch leaving a space for a small window for that all important sea-view.


The windows had finally arrived after eight weeks but were well worth the wait, powder coated aluminium in peppermint green. They look fantastic and integral blinds in the bifold doors and upstairs bedroom mean privacy and shade are ensured.



Meanwhile inside, the first fix electric was nearly completed, with miles of cables snaking in and out of the walls and joists. One hundred millimetre thick insulation between the joists and fifty millimetre on top mean the the plaster board  had to be secured by very long screws!





Another 3 months

Finally the reason for those odd joists becomes clear when the first fix electrics and plumbing happen.  





What a difference a plasterer makes

Things started moving very rapidly. Outside the patio had been laid using Indian limestone.




 Inside two hundred sheets of plasterboard  had been fixed to the walls and ceilings. The decorator applied the first coat of paint, as soon as the plaster was dry in the kitchen/living area transforming it from a building site to a beautiful room.   And the bedrooms started to take shape too.    

And the bedrooms too

Work continued apace in other areas. The solar panels were connected, first fix plumbing and electrics completed.



IMG_1367Underfloor heating  was laid throughout the ground floor, in preparation for the Flow screed to be pumped at the beginning of October. It would finally be safe to walk on the floors without fear of falling through the polystyrene insulation between the beams!


The “plant room” was starting to resemble the bridge of the Starship Enterprize and we hadn’t even started on the air source heat pump.






20/5/15 May

2015 Update

Another six months have passed. Three bathrooms have been installed (one more to go), the beautiful bespoke kitchen has been installed by Jem Lake Kitchens Ltd, the stairs are in complete with bannister and the glass balustrade has been added to the balcony.          







And just to make sure that it was strong enough a few of us tested the bannister that New Year!


2023 Update

The house continues to be wonderful and appreciated by all who stay there.

We took the air source heat pump out three years ago.  Nothing against green energy sources but it was expensive to run, the house was never warm enough and if there was a power cut it did not restart, resulting in frequent visits to Norfolk to put it right—which completely negated any carbon saving!.  The house is now warm and the heating controllable.

Everything else seems to work well and the position is perfect.

When we are not using it, Number 6 can be rented through Barefoot Retreats.  


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