home of the Sliding House

   The website of Ross Russell and Sally Morris:
   documenting progress on our project to design and build our house in Suffolk in the far east of England.

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Diary Archive: 2007

It is in reverse chronological order - latest news first and earlier stuff later.

December 2007:   Iíve not got many new pictures to show, but I thought Iíd give an update anyway.

Weíve finished the internal plastering work for the main house.  All the walls are plaster-boarded and with a skim coat of plaster.  All the ceilings have the expensive ďAperturaĒ acoustic plasterboard fitted.   Most of it is now waiting for a coat of paint. Gordon, who did the plastering, mentioned that there were no pictures of his handiwork on the website so one is shown below!

Sallyís kitchen has arrived and is mainly installed. We are waiting for the glass work-tops to arrive and to be fitted, which will be after Christmas.  See photos below.   Before this was done Ross laid and grouted the quartzite floor to the dining room and kitchen area and we got organised with the laminate panels which will make up the panelled walls to this part of the house. The laminates are proving to be something of a headache. In accordance with my unintended trend to take the path of most resistance we are not buying panels ready made, oh no that would be too easy, we are buying the decorative laminate panels, bonding them to plywood substrate and then sticking the plywood composite panels to the prepared walls.  The only trouble is getting the laminate to glue fully without distortion.  A good few from the first batch were glued in the courtyard where there is lots of space and then brought inside to fit.  That meant bringing them from a cold to warm environment, and since plastic laminate expands by far more than plywood, Iíve had a few bubbles developing.  So all my clever plans to minimise wastage by using every last offcut of the laminate boards have gone out of the window!

The big problem has been getting the heating sorted. You will recall the the ground loop for the geothermal heat pump was laid over two years ago and pressure tested to ensure it was intact.  Then the foundations and drains were laid over the top of this pipework. Only recently has the internal underfloor heating and hot water been finished and the heat pump commissioned.  And only at this point did we find that, somewhere in the 360 metres of ground loop there is a sizeable leak. This means that, for the moment, we cannot finish setting up the heat pump so it can only run on expensive full-price electricity using the back-up heating element.  On the plus side we have identified where the leak is (by connecting up an air compressor and then listening for the hissing and bubbling of escaping air through the clay soil)  with and even better we find that it is not buried under the foundations where it would have been wholly inaccessible.  But on the downside it is in the middle of one of our newly laid lawns. I looks as if someone put a spade through the pipe while fitting the connections from the main drainage to the Klargester sewage treatment plant.  Iím waiting for better weather before we dig further to repair the pipe. 

Oh, and Ross has nearly finished making his third staircase - this time an oak one for the main house. Iíll show a picture of this when it is complete and lacquered and looking all shiny!

kitchen 1

kitchen 2

main bed plaster


October 2007: A couple more pictures below:

The first was taken by Dave Avery, the guy who erected the steel frame for the sliding roof. It turns out that he is a micro-light pilot who flies from Beccles way and has taken a few trips over the site to check out the project. Heís been kind enough to send a few photographs through to me and here is one of them. This is after we had some landscaping work done - note the newly planted (but still very bare) lawn areas.

The second is a group photograph of the team from dRMM (Alexís architecture practice) who came up for a site visit / works outing last weekend.  It was good to see them all there, especially the two that I have worked directly with. Alex is on the far right and Joanna is second from left.

So what is new in terms of progress on the build?  Well we have completed most of the plastering work downstairs in the main house and much of this is ready for painting. There is no picture of this - frankly one newly-plastered wall looks very much like another! We have done most of the plumbing work so that the geothermal heat pump can be commissioned and we can have running hot water and heat throughout (but more urgently in the annex where we are spending many of our weekends).  And we now have most of a quartzite floor laid in the main house.

Beyond that, and strictly out of cycle for any serious build, we have done some more work in the garden including planting some 4000 crocus bulbs (laid before the lawns were seeded) and making the raised beds for the vegetable garden ready for planting.  Sally has been very busy looking after the garden and making good use of the crops it provides  -we have shelves full of chutney, jam and jellies and even blackcurrant gin.  Not a bad output for what is still after all a building site!


From NE02


September 2007:

Weíre on holiday shortly so Iíve updated the site with a few pictures before we go.  Itís been quite a slack period - some work in the garden (to get lawns set-out and seeded while it is still warm enough) and some internal work. Also most of the cladding is complete on the garage and all of it is done on the annex (the black building).

annex viewstaircase02

garage doorsgarage


August 2007:

New this month:

Most of the wood cladding is up - enough that we have been able to get rid of the scaffolding. I still have work to do at the ground floor level (not least to make up panels to cover the electric motors and drive wheels) but that is less time critical.  I guess that means we have far enough to justify a ďtopping outĒ ceremony, although we missed the occasion.

We have nylon covered boards on the inside of the sliding roof.  This has turned out to be something of a problem in terms of the quality of the finish and supply of materials. It is pretty hard to have the boards covered and laid flat so that the seams look neat.  And it is easy to damage the nylon when doing so. And to cap it all we are a few square metres short of the nylon material and we can only order more in 200 square metre rolls at a ridiculous price. We are considering our options.

And the motor drives are all in place and working well apart from one battery charging circuit that needs replacement. Hence the photos on the front page showing different position of the roof (with my lovely assistant holding the manual control box)! Sometime we will make a short movie clip of the roof in motion, although I am not sure I know how even then to load such a thing onto the web site.

The main house has not moved much internally.  But we are last ready for the plasterers to do their work which will make it look much more like a finished house.  I have been concentrating on the annex building which is now inhabitable (running water, electricity, flushing toilet, etc) and indeed is being periodically inhabited.

Two new photos below - although I cheated on one (the picture of the kitchen) by just updating the previous July version.

shaded terrace

July 2007:

So whatís new? Lots of progress on the guest annex, rather less on the house and a whole bunch of problems with the railway / sliding roof mechanism.

The guest annex first. It is now fully plaster-boarded and plastered. It even has two coats of white paint on the walls. We have clever acoustic plasterboard panels in the ceiling (to stop there being too many echoes).  The quartzite floor is laid and grouted.  The staircase (made of expensive and incredibly heavy engineered walnut timber) is partly made and in process of being assembled in-situ. And we have a kitchenette and bathroom partly fitted and waiting for me to do some tiling work and carpentry to finish the jobs. There are a few photos below, although even these are not fully up-to-date. 

quartzite floorkitchen

sklylight shadowannex walls and ceilings


As for the main house, I have concentrated on getting the cladding fitted inside and out.  Outside the cladding is Siberian larch rain-screen in a natural, unfinished, state. The pitched roof sections are mainly done (using contractors - it is definitely a two man job!).  I am doing the vertical panels myself when weather permits.

On the inside the cladding is a nylon fabric stretched over large plywood boards.  There will be over 100 large sheets of board and 300 square metres of nylon in there! Again there are a few photos below.

The other thing Iíve been working on is the motors which open and close the roof.  These have proved to be temperamental.  After fitting and commissioning the motor/gearbox units, the first thing that happened was that I destroyed three of the gearboxes. The motors are not that powerful (24 volt DC motors, each of about a third of a horsepower) but the gearboxes have a huge ratio so the torque fed through to the final gears of the system proved too much.  I have had them fixed under warranty and we have since been very careful about electronically limiting the power fed to them. The next issue has been how to set those controls so that the roof works well but with limited power being used. I have had several days when it seems I am permanently on the phone to Rob, the engineer who designed and built the control system, having instructions relayed to me so I could do on-the-spot diagnostics and repairs.  It does now work, but still with some snagging to do.

roof boards

nylon innerpartly timbered02

May  2007:

Here are a few more pictures as an update. The red membrane is on the roof now, with all the rain gutters and the like in place. See photo below. Weíve also got some landscaping work started so the whole place looks more like a muddy field than ever before. And the  results from last summersí sowing of wildflowers in the meadow is apparent!

And Iíve been insulating the inner structure with high specification foam and foil panels. Itís a horrible job - the insulation boards make dust when you cut them and it gets into your lungs and eyes.  But boy will it be warm when done!  Work on plaster boarding the inside has started with a view that when we have the annex building complete we can move into it.

red membrane on roof

insulation insideinsulation inside 3

house and landscaping02

April 2007:

No time to draft many words but here are some pictures.  The roof is up and infilled with timber and boards and being weatherproofed.  The leak in the annex is fixed. The larch  cladding which will cover the sliding roof arrives on site next week. And you can see several tons of quartzite tiles newly arrived from China and waiting to be laid on the concrete. The landscaping work started last week also, so pretty soon weíll have lost that pile of spoil and topsoil that has dominated the last few months pictures.  No rain for the last few weeks so we are making hay....

covered terrace

sliding roof with infill 202

sliding roof with infill

March 2007:

Well, progress is beginning to get more rapid as the weather improves. So far what weíve done this month is this:

Weíve done much of the wood cladding on the main buildings - from the first floor upwards including the roofs. I got some help in for this part of the job - the bad weather put me so far behind that it was getting more costly to do this myself than to get an expert in to do it for me. Iíve left the areas which can be reached without a scaffold until later - itís a job we can do when the weather improves. Meantime, like a nudist on a cold day at the beach, the house is naked from the waist down. 

The scaffold has been removed and for the first time we can see the shape of the buildings without obstruction.  All of Alexís fine work on proportions can be seen. It looks good!

Having got shot of the scaffold we have been able to take delivery of the steel structure for the sliding roof. This went up in four days flat, including fitting the motor drive units and wheels.  This was a big test - there has to be reasonably consistent space between the sliding roof and the buildings underneath - planned to be 50mm throughout, but because of manufacturing tolerances and movement in the structures it actually varies from about 30mm to about 80mm.  But I am very pleased to see it in place and very pleased that it does actually roll as it should, albeit that it takes several people to push it along its rails.  I hope that the electric motors will do the job more easily, although they look far too small do any serious work at all.

Youíll see from the picture below that we have also made a start on the timber infill work. This is to support the boards inside and outside that takes the wood cladding.   the chippies I am working with had a couple of weeks free in their diaries so I have grabbed them and asked that we push ahead at speed. 

And finally we have the Klargester sewage plant in place and ready to connect. Iíll be glad to get rid of the smelly temporary toilet on site and connect up our own bathroom to the drains, even if this is done as a short term fix while we do the interior fit out

The only bad news is that the black annex building leaks - I think when fixing the cladding on the roof I must have put a screw straight through the batten and through the membrane underneath.  I can identify where the leak is, but it does mean that I have to remove many of the roof boards in that area to get at the membrane to repair it, and that means more scaffold.  I will have spent a fortune on the scaffolding by the time I finish - I really should have just bought all the scaffold I needed outright and employed people to put it up (and then sold it on e-bay I suppose!).


steel framework

black and red claddingpartially clad buildings

February 2007:

Jobs done this month:

Most of the first fix of the electrical wiring has been done.  I have a working supply in each building and nearly all of the wiring for lights and sockets etc. The only outstanding jobs in the first fix relate to kitchen appliances - we need to decide where things go in the kitchen and despite being at this for over a year, we have no final plans yet. Weíve also got the supply changed from single phase to three phase so that the power surge from the heat pump does not dim everyoneís lights for miles around.

The concrete slab has been fully tanked to make it waterproof. This was supposed to be done by painting on two coats of thick bitumen sealant (brand name Aquaseal) but in the end I didnít have a long enough dry spell to enable me to do this fully, so some of the house has a plastic sheet damp proof membrane instead. I was then able to get 90mm of insulation onto the floor and pour the floor screeds - 90mm of expensive self-levelling cement screed. The house looks much more finished now that the floor is at the right level. Pictures shown below.

The first fix of plumbing is also mainly done, including all of the underfloor heat pipes throughout the buildings.  Again there are some small matters to be decided upon before they finish this work, not the least of which is the exact make and model of bath and shower so that we put the drains and taps in the right place. 

And I started work on insulating the walls with Celotex panels - an awful job given that cutting each sheet creates lots of irritating dust. But it does look very pretty with foil backed panels lining the walls!

UFH pipesscreedscreeds being poured

January 2007:

Well, we have at last finished the weatherproofing work, which means I have two buildings which (apart from the fact that one of them is open to the sky where the bathroom will be) means that I am nearly weatherproof.  When it rains the buildings still leak, pending fitting the cover flashings to the skylights and I still get rain in the main house via the bathroom (which will not be sealed until the sliding roof cover is in place)


Continue back in time to 2006

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