Ever since we moved in nearly 3 years ago now, we have been wanting to demolish the horrible old 'conservatory' that was built by the original owners in 1986, one year after the house was built. Twenty years later, after 6 years of neglect by the second owners it is now completely rotten, and leaks like a sieve. Not only that, but it blocks so much light out of the kitchen, and really spoils the garden, being in the middle of the rear wall.

So, as of today (21st September 2006), we have made the appropriate arrangements to borrow a horrendous amount of cash in order to build a nice new conservatory in a much more sensible place. It will take some time for the money get here, and then a bit more time for the thing to be made, so no more updates for a while, but as a start, here are some photos of the existing mess...

(All photos enlarge to a new window)

24th October 2006
Abbey finally pulled their collective fingers out and got the money to us in record time. I posted our acceptance of their offer yesterday morning, and the money appeared in our account today. Not bad, until you consider the several hours we spent on the phone last week trying to correct their mistake, and also paying a visit to their head office in Glasgow to sign some forms (although, in fairness, we were in Glasgow anyway - they would have faxed the forms to us wherever we were).
Whatever, some poor chap found himself on the receiving end of a very scathing and vehement e-mail from me, but it did the trick, because...
I ordered the conservatory today! What's more, because of a cancellation, we don't even have to wait very long. 20th November is when the builder comes to start the base slab and dwarf wall. I'm told that that will take a week, then a week of nothing, then the fitter comes to fit the rest of the conservatory and the new kitchen door and window. That takes a week too apparently. Then the sparky has to work his particular brand of magic before it's finished. So, as I write this, I'm pretty happy, because it looks very much like the whole thing will be finished before Christmas.

Of course, it does mean that I now have only 4 weekends to put up the new shed (for my arch-nemesis, The Rabbit), and demolish the existing lean-to thing. I'd assumed that I would have more time, but 4 weekends should be enough.

Well, it will have to be won't it...

26th October 2006
Bought a shed today. Not terribly happy about that because its primary purpose will be to house The Rabbit:

One hundred and seventy five notes, two weeks delivery. Me and Dan will be building a base for it this weekend, a few others will join in the following weekend (provisionally) for the demolition party, which will hopefully leave the following weekend to put the new shed up. The weekend after that will then be left to tidy things up for the builder to start the following Monday. That's the plan anyway.

28th October 2006
Dan & I built a base for the shed:

It's not quite finished yet as it will most likely need some extra strengthening bits, but until I see the base of the shed I don't know where to put them. I've put some temporary paving slabs down for now. Eventually, (i.e. January 2007) the decking will take this whole area up to the same level as the top of this frame.

4th-5th November 2006
The weekend I've been waiting for for a couple of years now - demolition time. Thanks to Dave, Mum and Keith for lending a hand, especially Mum for carrying all those bricks down to the skip!

Photos (click for full size view):

Anyway, I'm totally and utterly knackered, aching all over, and still shaking a bit from using the sledge hammer and the SDS drill. By the way, I'm going to have a pour a forty on the floor for my poor old SDS drill - it's developed a massive crack in the metal casing, so I've decided that it would be prudent to not use it again. Still, it put in a valiant 6 years of service, and I only paid 23 for it, so the poor old chap can rest happy.
Anyway, we got two weekend's work done in two days, so I'm well chuffed. You never know, the next update may well show some building work...

12th November 2006
Just minor stuff this weekend. I ran power out from the lower shed to the new one, so the tumble drier works, and we also have light in there. Mel also fitted the vent for the tumble drier, although I realised at the last moment that it would have to go on the opposite side to avoid blowing warm air directly at the weather station. I also rewired and refitted the outside lights, including stripping all the redundant (and dangerous) wiring that had been there since we moved in. We had a mystery light switch in the kitchen that didn't do anything obvious. It turns out that it was switching a loose wire in the loft on and off. All is safe again now though.

20th November 2006
The builders started work today. Click the photo below for more information:

21st November 2006
I took these photos first thing in the morning to show what had been done the previous day. The builders aren't coming today so the footing can have a chance to set:

22nd November 2006
The builders were back again today, although no actual building work got done. Instead they brought all the bricks and blocks plus a load of sand up the side steps from the front of the house. No mean feat, and I'm glad it wasn't me doing it.

24th November 2006
The best day so far in terms of actual building work that you can see. The builders left half an hour ago (12.30), and this isn't bad for a morning's work (I'm home from work after a physiotherapy appointment for my shoulder went a bit wrong):

28th November 2006
The builders finished yesterday, so we now have to wait until possibly next Tuesday for any more progress. It's looking really good at the moment though:

2nd December 2006
I've had to dig out a sizeable chunk of the garden this morning. The builders only dug out as much as they needed to (see the first and third photos above), so there was quite a bit left to remove, in order to get a useable path around the conservatory. I've dug it wider than it needs to be so that I can rebuild the stone wall.

5th December 2006
The fitter's first day, and they've done a huge amount:

7th December 2006
The fitters have another half a day to go. All the glass is in, and the back door has been replaced, they just have the interior window cills to fit.

9th December 2006
I made a start on rebuilding the stone wall today:

16th December 2006
The builders finished yesterday, although the fitter needs to come back in order to fit a uPVC panel to the soffit above the french doors. The plaster is almost completely dry, so I can start painting that next week. The floor has little dry spots in it, but it has some way to go yet.

22nd December 2006
I spent this afternoon putting together the framework for the upper part of the deck:

27th December 2006
Not much progress today, but I decided to level up the decking framework prior to removing it, attaching a batten to the house, and replacing the framework. As it turns out, it's now too dark and drizzly to attach the batten, and I didn't need to level the framework because I'm a flukey bugger:

So all I've done is chop up some bits of wood to act as shims to make up the gaps. We also ordered the deck boards today (and had them delivered 2 hours later), and bought the laminate flooring for the conservatory, although I don't think we'll be able to lay it yet as the floor is still a bit damp.

28th December 2006
I pretty much finished the upper part of the deck today:

Still to do: Cut and fit the side panel, insert some shims to take up a couple of small gaps under the framework which appeared after we moved it out of the way this morning to fit the batten to the house wall, cut and fit some small filler pieces... that's it I think.

29th December 2006
As if my knees didn't suffer enough yesterday, I abused them again today while I laid the flooring:

6th January 2007
Another finishing touch today. My neighbour Johnno went and picked up 380Kg of gravel from a local quarry for me. It took me about an hour to lug it all up to the back garden, but it's well worth it.

13th January 2007
I started on the second part of the deck today, with help from Mel and her Dad. We did pretty well too:

14th January 2007
Not much got done today as the joist hangers I ordered from Screwfix on Wednesday still haven't turned up, despite them plastering "Next day delivery" all over their catalogues and website. As a result, all I can do is finish up the framework as much as possible. Still, I now know exactly how many extra steps I'll need to put in (2), and how big the step in the middle of the deck will be (not too big).

20th January 2007
Got loads done toady. Dan came over mid morning and we made quick work of getting the framing done. By lunchtime it was pretty much finished except for some detailing work around the top of the steps, which I nearly finished after lunch, but a huge downpour and a flat battery in my drill put an end to today's effort:

Unfortunately, Jewson don't have any decking boards in stock, so this is as far as we could go today. I'm told they'll be here next week, so hopefully we can put them down next weekend. Until then I've put down the two huge pieces of plywood I salvaged from the old conservatory roof to walk on, although I'm very worried about the rail across the top of the steps as it will be very easy to trip over it.

21st January 2007
Not much today. I thought I deserved a bit of a break after yesterday's progress. I managed to get the steps mostly done, although I gave up when it started raining again. Plus it's windy as hell at the top of those steps and that was getting a bit tedious.

26th January 2007
I built the very necessary fence around the lower part of the deck today. I think it it turned out pretty well:

This had to be done before the deck boards go down, so hopefully I can crack on with that tomorrow. I think I might have left things a bit difficult in places, but we'll see.

27th January 2007
I made good progress today putting the boards down. Not quite as quick as I would have liked as a lot of the boards needed notching, and we had to be a bit creative in taking up some non-parallelness here and there, but it looks good. Hopefully finished tomorrow:

28th January 2007
So close to finishing... All the decking boards are down and that's all done. Just some very small bits of trim, and the rail and baluster between the latch post and the house to go. I could do it now, but I'm knackered. Thanks to Dan for all the help today. As usual, we got loads more done between the two of us,

2nd February 2007
I got home from early and it was still light, for the first time year. So I got on and finished the last little bit of fence between the latch post and the house wall. I've also moved the patio heater out of the garage and put it on the deck:

11th February 2007
I've decided to draw a line under this now. there are still some very minor things left to do (a gate, and a bit of gravel), but those, together with the new lawn will get picked up on the main Home Improvement page. Not only has having the conservatory built changed the way we live, but I've also really, really enjoyed building the deck. It's the second one I've done, although this one is much bigger and more complicated. I've already arranged to do another one in the summer for my brother Simon in Bournemouth.

Edit: as of the end of April 2007, that is now built. See photos: Before, During, After

I can happily recommend Haven Conservatories.

Dave Bellamy, November 2006-February 2007