Friday, December 12, 2008

A little progress on the loft conversion

The spindles should be delivered this weekend and now I can see the finish in sight. I've started making the shelves for the landing area. However time is running short, with another house to do up due in January, finishing the Loft stairs etc. is going to have to go on hold. I'm determined to get the bulk of it done before Christmas...

These Christmas deadlines keep cropping up.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sprial Stair for Loft Spindle turning price

I've ordered the 25 spindles in hemlock. Total price inc. delivery and Vat £195.
Not much dearer than the local chap but it leaves me with 25 planed up blanks in redwood sitting doing nothing. Oh well, I live and learn.

Let me know If you want details of my supplier that can get the turning done on a copy lathe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alternative spindle turning for spiral stairs

I went to see the chap about the spindle turning. I think he's not so keen on doing 25, however he's put me on to local stairparts place who can now send a spindle out to someone with a copy lathe. I should get price for these tomorrow for doing in hemlock and for using the blanks I've already got.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Come On

Today I am going to vist the man about turning. There, I've said it so now I've set a deadline and it will happen.

Also, I've just found a photo of the side of the stairs with the panneling on.

Motivation is what I need !

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Note to get off my arse.

I need to go and see the man about turning the spindles. He can be getting on with these as I'm working on the windows. It's always a stumbling block for me, when I have to use others help.

Now there's a thought the spindle turning will cost me about £150. If I could get hold of a second hand wood lathe...hmm

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tandem projects sprial stairs & Sash windows

Progress on finish the stairs has come to a halt. I'm waiting for my man with lathe to recover from an ankle injury so he can turn the spindles for me. The timber is prepared and ready to go but he's not rung me yet.

In the mean time, the first of the Box sliding sash windows is taking shape. I'm recording progress on this in extreme detail so I can follow my blog and make another 7.

If anyone is interested have a look at

Monday, September 29, 2008

Loft Landing Area - the forgotten zone

The Loft Landing area is going to be last bit to finish. It will be a really interesting space when its done. The space under the purlin is a large cupboard area. The doors I've fitted are recycled from Wendy's mums old kitchen. After about five years down our cellar (I knew they would come in handy for something) they needed some drying out and some tightening up.

The pile of wood in the picture is acclimatising, it has been for months now and will be for a few months more. It will eventually make book shelves that form the rest of the cupboard front and round on to the party wall. We'll then be able to pretentiously call the landing area, our library.

It looks like the new windows are going to come first, but when in gets cold in the garage I might make a start.

Loft spiral Stairs -Date carving for Posterity

Just above the door under the Stairs I needed to have a panel to cover an unusable bit space. Rather than a plain bit of timber, I thought it was good place to have reminder of the build. Who knows, future generations may might find it interesting.

So with my surname "Bell" and the year, I spent a few hours on a design, another hour or so practicing then I carved this.

I used a Bosche electric chisel. It's very satisfying to use and produces a good clean cut. It took about 1 1/2 hours to cut. I'd be concerned about hand-arm vibration if I was to use it for extended periods.

Sprial stairs with cupboard underneath

Having got rid of the airing cupboard, we've missed having somewhere to but the laundry basket and that bit of extra storage. The space under the stairs I've used by build a side to staircase, and now I've fitted the door.The door is traditional construction with wedged mortice and tennon joints. The pannels are fitted into rebates and mouldings applied to the outside face. It's worked out very nicely and it look like I'll be making a new front door sometime in futue.

I've yet to fit the cupboard out with some shelves but it's already filling up with spare bedding etc.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Total DIY loft conversion costing so far

I've posted a link to this blog on a forum . a few people interested in the costing so:

Fairly accurate costing for DIY 16m2 loft conversion room with 4m2 landing area

Not counting the complete new roof in slate with breathable membrane done by a contractor, cost including supply and fitting of steels and installation of velux £6000 plus vat. I’ve included the material cost of steels and velux.

4 velux, 3 off 1140 x 1180, 1 being escape spec, 1 off 780 x 980 - £1188
Rockwool Flexi to bring fire resistance of lathe and plaster ceilings up to spec - £322
Chicken wire to support above - £80
Celcon blocks, sand cement for fire wall to neighbours -£191
Steels UB’s 230x90x32kg/m PFC 1off 4900mm 1 off 4000mm - £150 est.
Joist hangers - £47
Timber for structural and stud walls - £265
Radiator and various hardware - £298
Chipboard flooring P5 grade plus some PSE - £157
Kingspan for roof and ashlar - £348
Kingspan drylining K17 for brick walls - £305
More assorted hardware - £162
Electric, cable and high spec fittings - £180 est
Timber for stairs - £450 est
Plaster board - £129
Skirting and architrave - £99
Skim Plaster, bead and plasterer for 2 days - £165
Assorted other bits and bobs - £120 est
1/2hr fire door and frame - £122
Flooring Oak veneered laminate, underlay, edging -£332
Estimate of others, eg. smoke alarms, paint, lost receipts - £300

Structural engineers calcs - £264
Building control submission - £130
Building control inspection - £283
Electric certification - £80
(all work under supervision of electrician (father in-law)

If I’ve missed anything obvious let me know.

Total cost - £6167

Monday, September 15, 2008

Paneling on the side of the spiral staircase

The paneling hides all the ply wood I used and is designed to match as much as possible the existing stairs.
I've been working on this stage for a while now. It took me ages to finally order the timber, I order all I needed for shelves that are going in the landing area and for the sliding sash windows I'll be making next. I cut the timber to approximate size and left it stacked up on the landing for a couple months to season and acclimatise.
Hopefully nothing will shrink and show up. I've allowed for movement of the wide boards and the panels.

One part that did stump me for a while was how to make the panels thin enough. I ended up sawing by hand 250mm wide boards and finished them with a belt sander. It would have been easier if my thicknesser took more than 200mm. With some time end effort they came out OK at about 6mm and flat enough on the visible side.

If I'd had worked out how much moulding I needed to finish of the paneling I would have invested in a bit for the router. At around £7 for 2.4m from Wickes its extortionate.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Loft Conversion Finished Room

With a set of stairs to the DIY loft conversion now in all I needed was the final decorating and the Half Hour fire door fitting.

Fitting the door was is just like a normal door but with three hinges, and I've done plenty of those in the past. The only problem was cutting a corner off to match the ceiling slope. It is a solid timber core door but the cut went through the hardwood edging. I routed out about about 15mm and set in a new piece. The brush seal that came with the frame didn't fit the slot so I had to open it out. On this door I used a real "Pergo" hidden closer, which I must say is much better quality than the other versions I've used in the rest of the house. You cant hear the chain as it pulled back into the barrel.

Some picture of the finished room a few days before Emma moved in, it's never been tidy since.

The deep window ledge allows the window to be positioned far enough down the roof to meet building regulations for the fire escape (The loft conversions regulations have changes since). The bottom of the window opening being 1.8m from the edge of the roof.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Next part of spiral stair construction

Fitting the centre post was simple. I first fitted an off cut of the 100 x 100mm timber into the floor with half joints in to three joists to spread the load. The notches in the joists are only 700mm from the wall and the joints are tight so I wasn't worried about weakening the floor. The bottom of the centre column is bolted on to it. The column at the attic floor level is mortice and tenoned to the end of a floor joist I had left sticking out.

I wish I could find the pictures I had taken at this stage, but thats the down side of digital pictures. I think the camera was borrowed and the card wiped before I'd transferred them.

The next pictures should give an idea of the construction methods used. I screwed stringers on to each of the two walls, after some final measuring. Then made the the side/stringer that goes over the existing stairs. This fits on to the other vertical post I put up. Followed by the last two bits of stringer. All of the stringer are flat, no recess or grooves to take the risers or treads. All these I cut from 18mm Birch Ply, its good to cut with a smooth edge, no voids and should finish well for painting.

The risers and treads are cut from the same ply, 3 off 8x4 sheet in total. The risers needed cutting at an angle to meet the stringers and the inside ends fitted in the slots of the column. On the wall stringers I shaped brackets out of ply and screwd and glued them on to suit. The other risers are screwed and glued directly on the outer stringers.

The steps are individually cut to fit. Almost every one tricky to mark out because of the number of angles. But seeing it go up one step at time kept me going and I eventually got to the top.

If any one wants to know more about how I built these, please leave a comment. It took me ages to figure out the construction method to suit my skills, a minimum of tools and materials availability.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Spiral stair central column - a once in a lifetime experiance

This was one of those challanges I like to prove I can do, but am glad I only have to do once.

The design calls for a central timber that the stairs can fix on to. BUT I wanted it to look good and so did Wendy. Therfore:

Thirteen slots to take the risers need to be cut in the square post 100 x 100mm at exactly the right angle. After much designing I made a jig to take my router, by unbolting and moving the matal slider frame round the pre-drilled holes I could get the right angles. The carrier for the router fitted both ways in the frame and was sized so that turning it through 180 degrees gave me the right width of slot. The frame was sized to give the length of slot with screws in the router carrier for fine adjustment.

It worked a treat.

Next I wanted an Acorn on the top to match the existing newels. None are available off the shelf so how to make one? and do really want to just stick one on the top.

NO make a 14 foot long lathe

By using a router to do the cutting I don't need to spin the timber fast. So one pivot on the garage door and another on the Workmate, a jig for the router and I'm all tooled up. Almost

Spining by hand is a little tricky while guiding the router so I made it into a foot operated pole lathe, with a motorbike inner tube as the return and tensioner a piece of rope and a bit wood for the treadle.

I was enjoying it so much I carried on and turned the complete newel.

Stairs - not the easiest design and harder construction

I set of spiral stairs has bee a fantasy of mine since childhood. So spiral stairs up to the loft conversionis was always on the cards. But bought ones would look naff in our house. The design brief was starting to come together.

Sprial Staircase, matching the existing stairs and meeting building regs.

This is first visual sketch after many elevations etc. prior to the final designs and full research into Building regs and a trip to library to consult the British Standards.

The regs and standard basically say its OK if you can get down it withou falling over and if you do fall, you dont fall far (and gives minimum measurements) and its not going to colapse. Ask if your intrested in more details.

The plan consits of a Sprial stair or you could call it four kite winders. Two sides having banisters and spindle matching the existing stairs. Two sides with streachers against the existing walls one side over the existing stairs panneled to match in timber. This gives us a cupboard space underneath to keep the wash basket etc.

The proper plans drawn up where aproved no problem.

Now to the building to the build of the staircase so it coinsides with the room being finished in time for christmas.

Electrics and negotions with Central Networks for a PME

This is a saga I'll condense, it could be useful for anyone else in the same position. I did loads of internet searching and found it crops up quite a bit. On this occasion I won and got the result I wanted.

The electrics for the loft have to be certified for the Building regs approval. The testing includes an Earth continuty reading at the consumer board - a ZE reading, this was too high to pass. Our system is a TNS, this relies on an earth supplied by the supply company. Ours had an earth strap bonded to the outer sheath of the incoming mains cable.
Two ways to rectify this
1. Fit a earth spike and have an RCB - not always reliable as the quality of the earth depends on the moisture content of the ground.
2. Fit a PME that uses the Neutral supply as Earth - The supply company has to fit this and wanted to charge £75.

Me not happy, my Electrician believed its the responsiblity of the supplier, and 17th edition regs backs his opinion.

Lots of negative/ blocking tactis from central networks lead me to get a case started with Energywatch. I then got escalated to specialist customer services team and my own very nice but not technically minded young lady to talk to.

After many calls and two visist from engineers I was still getting nowhere. The engineers just tested the supply and said its fine and I could apply for a PME to be fitted. I eventually got a goodwill gesture of a half price PME.

No Deal. I started getting tchnical again and explained they changed the wiring in road years back and fitted the rest of the street with PME, they missed us out and had left us with a potentially dngerous supply for the last 20 years. "Before privatization, thats not our responsibility" yeah that line didn't last long. I then got to talk to an engineering manager who understood the problem'ish.
He visted, had a look and without admitting liablity, fitted a PME in about twenty minutes to shut me up and close the case.

So persistance paid off, they could have done it earlier and saved us all alot of time and their expense.

Electrics where plain sailing after that, using a supply cable (from a previous shower instalation) to a two breaker box, one for sockets and one for lights. All works and up to spec.

The Finish Straight loft conversion

Not a sprint finish more of a fast marathon. As a result I didn't stop to take many photos. The only interesting bits where cladding the the wood between the double window and making the window ledge seat.

And the door to the storage part of the loft.

This is 50mm thick timber planed and edge glued to make a board. I fitted cross pieces on the back with slotted screw holes to acount for movement and keep it straight. It did fit beautifully, but it didn't 3 months latter. The timber has now shrunk across the width by over half an inch. Its still straight but I'll have to add some on at the hindge side so the latck will engage. Oh Well its all a learning curve, and now I've got piles of wood stacked up in the house to aclimatize and fininsh seasoning for the next prodjects.

Skirting Board, achitraves, door fitting, painting, varnishing and fitting flooring - all easy stuff but time consuming. Being a loft conversions there's a lot of angles.

Loft Electrics would have been simple - next post.

And some stairs and the room was habitable

Getting Plastered - Plastering the loft conversion

This is where I cheated. I now how long it takes me to plaster, so I asked around and found a local chap who would charge me £60 per day and take 2 days to do it. His other plus point was he could fit me in within two weeks.

To get that price I had to fit all the corner edge beading and buy all the materials. No problems.

For my loft conversion it took : 5 bags of Finish plaster , three rolls of sticky backed skim, many cups of tea and two days on the job. He did a great job for the price, so for a change I was happy with a trades man.

Plaster Boarding the Loft Conversion

I've not been abducted, I am still trying to finish this attic off, I have been doing bits - but slowly and I've not been keeping this blog up to date. In my defence I've started other projects and keeping busy.

So to plaster board. A pallet full delivered of the tail lift by Travis Perkins, in the road and rail, so I had to carry it all in and its heavy. Should be a two man job with the 8' x 4' sheets but I managed without it getting too wet and with little traffic disruption. I did enlist help getting it all up stairs to loft.

Fitting it is fun puzzle as I calculated quite precisely what I needed to have minimum joints. It eventually came together with very little scrap. Its fixed with plaster board screws 70mm on the loft ceiling to go through the insulation to the rafters.

TIP. Don't hold the screw with bare fingers whilst drill driving. Your thumb and forefinger will be full of tiny metal splitters.

Plaster board to the Loft conversion velux windows

Looking more like a room and getting neater all the time

Lots of screws - at about 300mm centres to hopefully avoid any cracks aphearing in the finished plaster . This pic shows the wiring in an labeled

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chance to catch up

Now I might have chance to catch up with progress because I've finished the room, got most of the stairs constructed and Emma has moved in. This was another deadline I'd set that I manged to meet (well to within a couple of days).
I'll shortly fill in the details of:
Plaster boarding/skiming
Starting Electrics saga
Stair case building

Wiring for loft conversion Reminder

Thought it best to record in photos where the wiring in stud wall goes. This was whilst I was plaster boarding it all out.

The photo also shows the aluminium foil tape I used to seal all the joints and edges of the insulation.

Finishing the loft conversion Insulation

How I insulated my loft conversion-

The next layer of insulation had to be fitted up to the battons on the rafters. This final 35mm layer of Kingspan TP10 over the top of the 75mm TP10 brings the total roof insulation up to 110mm . These were easy to fix up using long clout nails but again some very careful cutting required to get a good fit.

I also had to insulate the party and gable end walls. For this I used Kingspan Kooltherm Dry Lining board K17. This has 60mm of insulation with 12.5mm plaster board bonded to it. Heavy and awkward to get up there and cut being 8 x 4 sheets but it was relatively fast progress. I dab fixed in place with normal board adhesive

Showing the Insulated wallboard fitted aroung the chimney breast with a bit of skirty foam filling the gaps.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Finishing Loft conversion stud walls and starting insulation

First part of Loft Conversion Insulation

A few photos here showing what was the start of lengthy process fitting the ridgid Kingspan insulation between the roof rafters and the stud wall. Every piece individually cut to fit.
By this time I'd finished the majority of the floor so stand was easy and safe.

This pic showing the the tricky bit of stud work to for the escape window cill. This had to project back over the steel to give the minimum distance from the eves to the window opening required by the regs.

Here we can see the little access corridor to the rest of the attic space taking shape. Included here though as it shows the insulation around the Steel.

Plenty of rockwool insulation went in behind the structural studs, just cheap wickes stuff this time as no additional fire proofing was required. So the total depth of ceiling insulation is about 400mm.

I had to fit battons on the rafters to ensure the air gap of 25mm to the breater mebrane was maintained , so i didn't push it too far up. Surprisingly it was cheaper to buy PSE timber from Wickes and rip it down with my bench saw than it was to buy rough sawn direct from a timber yard. Fitting it was a doddle after I made a jig to getting the spacing and I purchased a cheap electric brad nailer, well worth it.

Another batton then had to go on the under side of the rafters to give something solid for the next layer of Kingspan to attached to.

Here are just some on the trick angle to be cut. They need to be tight to keep the insulation up to spec. Only a few bits needed a squirt of foam filler.

TIP Use a jig saw with a long blade to cut them, far easier than a knife and less messy than a hand saw.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Loft Conversion Wiring, plumbing and the first floor board

A bit of a cheat counting the first floor board at this stage as I had to fit the wiring and plumbing under the floor first. But it was up there giving me a more stable platform to work off.

The Loft wiring was a simple ring for the sockets the lighting to go in walls later. Just because it would be neater in the long run and it seemed oportune I also wired TV coax to go the 1st floor bedrooms, down into the lounge and into the cellar.

The timeline drifts a bit here but I wasn't taking many photos. I must have done the plumbing for the radiator around this time. This came off the 15mm feed and return under the floor in the girls room (shifting stuff round in their bit to get at the floor is a job in it's self). From there it goes up the lathe and plaster stud wall, only one noggin so I only had to cut a small square out at the bottom of the wall and one in the middle .

It comes up about 300m from the radiator down pipes, so that plan came together quite nicely. After a wet test I took the rad back off. Just realised I must have built the stud wall by this time.

and so I had

Also by that time I'd taken down the airing cupboard, another couple of days covered soot and dust, not just me but the house and its contents.
With it out, the landing really opened up.

The flooring came up the stairs and the ladder then got laid. A bit of a no brain job putting it down apart from the tricky bits round the edge. I used, I think 14 sheets of 2 x 8 x 18mm Wickes best T and G chipboard. 300 screws latter ( I dont want a squeaky floor) it was down and giving me a more relaxing stance to start on the rest of the dividing wall and the insulation.

The wiring down to the cellar fuse board went up the underneath of the stairs wiggled across the landing and up the old stud wall along from where the plumbing went in. Conviently emerging close to where a fuse board for the attic has been fitted. Whilst the opportunity was there I also put in two telephone cables, the coax (I might use for DAB as I've lost radio 4 in the dinning room), and the cable for the downstairs smoke alarm.

Loft Conversion - Building control structural inspection

A moment of truth..... had I completed all the structural work on the steels, joists and purlin replacements to the required standards?

Of course I had, with total confidence I rang building control for an inspection, no problem with the next day service. However the inspector I was expecting had move areas so a the new chap wasn't familiar with the project and effort I'd put into the planning. Still no nerves, I was confident.

The very nice man came halfway up the ladder, had a look round and was impressed. What a good excuse for a beer that evening.
A few days latter the bill for the inspections came through, Unavoidable beurocratic expense. ho hum.

Loft Progress upto Jan 08

I've final got round to adding a bit more. I had set a deadline of Christmas to finish the room off ( building wise anyway). A pat on the back for myself because I did it. There's nothing like a deadline to get a job done.

Just the Stairs to make the room habitable and a few bits and bobs like electrics connecting and certifying, a door, decorating, flooring and blinds for the velux. Not take me two mins.

I had a couple of weeks off to tile the dining room fireplace and instal a log burning stove in time for christmas.

It's full steam ahead on the stairs with the center post machined and installed.

The next posts cover what ive been upto.