Following the Topping off ceremony we entered the exciting phase of first fix for our house. This involved a number of trades working on the site simultaneously: electricians, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, solar technicians, all together. At one point there were over twenty people on site – a huge buzz and it was very entertaining moving from one part of the house to another as according to the trades the music changed – so the Chippies (carpenters) had laid back folk punk and rock; the plumbers were more into chart music; and the sparks (electricians) favoured Indie. Interestingly it was the demolition team in the first phase who favoured heavy metal rock…

Ben the plumber and John the Chippie discussing the merits of different music genres!

It was also both exciting and nerve wracking to begin to see if some of the items I had purchased for the house met with the experts’ approval. So I was greatly relieved when Ben Chant (plumbsouthwest) expressed his satisfaction with the RAK products from Tap Tiling ( and the JTP products from Bathroom Village ( He was particularly impressed by the built in spirit level for the RAK valve fittings and the solid stainless steel of the JTP Inox range. Also the electrician gave his approval to the Schneider range of light fittings we had selected, noting they were well made and good value.

The spirit level in the tap valves

Very rapidly I saw the layout of the house come to life as the fittings went into place. Although at this stage we are talking copper pipes, and valves and junction boxes; I will provide more detail on the finished products following the second fix.

Two very important parts of the first fix were the ducting for the Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery system (MVHR) and the underfloor heating. The first involved putting in miles of white tubing which increasingly began to resemble a very messy Alien octopus like creature in the ceiling. The second involved miles of rubber pipes throughout the entire ground floor that all had to be brought together into one control unit – creating a particular hot spot where all the pipes meet which I am sure will become Tom the dog’s favourite place to sleep.

Ducting for the MVHR system in the plant room – glad I don’t have to sort it out!
Underfloor Heating going down in the open plan area
Tom’s hot spot where all the heating pipes meet!

Meanwhile the roof had to include the fixings for our solar panels – putting these in at the same time as doing the roof was critical to ensure that the integrity of the roof structure was not compromised, This involved lots of exchange of drawings and details between our designer, the roofing company and Callidus who we engaged to install our system.

I will be writing separately about the detail of all these renewable systems, the choices we faced and the decisions we reached, over the next few weeks.

Effective delivery of the FIRST FIX requires strong coordination of all the trades, employees and sub-contractors on site, to ensure complementarity and harmony. A management challenge that Lee and Phil (HM Construction Ltd: handled with consummate authority making it all look very easy. It was a very happy time and Mark and I enjoyed our site visits when we would take time to join the teams for tea breaks, catch up on what everyone was doing and listen to some cool tunes.

When the First Fix had finished and we were back to the core team the site suddenly felt a bit empty. Little were we to know how much more empty it would feel just a few days later when the Covid-19 Government Shut Down started – but that is for another blog.

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