Wednesday, 8 December 2010

End of year and very bad weather again

Been a bit busy!  Here are a few of my "lines"

Blogging had to take a back seat as the year became more and more busy. As to the weather it has not been favourable “to say the least” but working in the North West has had advantages over those working outside in other parts of our country not to mention Scotland!!!
My own opinion is that “if this is global warming” then let’s starts building more garden offices. No one will be able to get to work if it gets any worse and now we know super-fast broadband is coming it’s time to get planning.

Full spec timber frame 30 sq m building

In September we embarked on one of our most ambitious projects to date. A wooden cabin of exceptional specification:
  • · Size 30 sq m
  • · Insulation value (right up to current house building spec)
  • · Under floor heating
  • · Basic construction (all timber frame with lined internal walls and vaulted exposed timber ceiling) 
  • · Conventional drainage to main property basement 30 metres from site across a busy car-park

It could be accommodation, large office or a leisure facility – it is additional space for 12 children at a busy nursery.

More of our bespoke cabin matching kitchen work. This one has L shaped worktop and a Belfast sink at kiddy level. I guess they can learn here to wash up!

Before and after

A smaller but “I guess” a more enjoyable project followed as the weather let go some moisture and the temperature dropped like a stone.

A hobby workshop replaces a leaky old tin garage. We removed the massive tree and re-landscaped the area. You can see video of the stump removal at 
"what a machine named Carly"  Here you can see before and after shots.

  • 68mm solid timber walls
  • Our own design windows and doors
  • 50mm roof insulation
  • Full electric system

Moving on we built additional living space with toilet and kitchenette for an expanding family.

  • · Less than 2.5m high
  • ·15 square metres
  • ·Small bore waste system
  • ·Full electrical system
  • ·44mm timber walls 
  • ·Floor and roof insulation
  • ·Rubber roof membrane 

The budget was challenging but the accommodation value achieved is super.

Building temperatures on site were as low as –7 but our insulation with a small oil fired radiator will soon solve this for the family over Christmas.

Back in our own workshop it is a bit warmer (today –6 outside but +8 degrees inside. Even warmer near our log burner, which is making good of this years off-cuts).

Another more traditional garden office seen here in first snow of the year:

New Projects to come

Today we are starting kit construction on two projects starting in the New Year. I am hoping that site conditions will be better in St Albans on Jan 3rd.

Interestingly our client who has a business providing 3 dimensional modelling tools and materials made a model of what we should build. The lady next door was somewhat concerned about the development but when seeing the model was re-assured all would be OK. (An interesting approach and one that could be used when neighbours are concerned)

Here are pics of the model – check back in mid Jan for photos of the real thing.

  • · Two rooms
  • · Low pitch roof
  • · Just less than 50% of garden space
  • · Full electric system 
  • · Modification to existing concrete base adding membrane
  • · Roof and floor insulation

Our project of the year:

If I could choose a project for the year it has to be this family building and store where we landscaped the whole area and created a secure store (convertible to bathroom) and a family area with covered veranda.

It is on two levels. We did the whole of design and construction.

Seasons Greetings to all from Richard at Aarco Exclusive Timber Buildings

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Wizard creates Magic doors and windows

Wizard unveils latest Magic!

Dylan known to his mates here in Chester as “the wizard” has been with us just a year. His own workshop is close to ours - an aladins cave of inventions and shoestring engineering magic.

About 6 months ago Dylan took on the task of designing and taking into production a new range of Aarco doors and windows. The criteria was pretty tough but simple.

  • Better quality than our current suppliers
  • Lower cost to us and clients
  • Maximum investment in tools and machinery (£800 only)
  • No requirement for additional workshop space.
You guessed it – the wizard succeeded and on Friday he proudly lifted the doors  (above) off his production line and popped them in to our latest project. The client made good comments straight away.

The wizards melting pot contained:

Wizzard tools came in on budget

1. A 30 year old radial saw bought from a local retiring joiner for £200 to cut precise tennon joints and perfect squares installed in 6metre 2 minute collapsible sawbebch

2. A totally flat worktable made from a second hand palette and a sheet of heavy ply which appears like magic from our workshop roof-space inside 1 minute using wynch and steel cable cost £47 (most of this for the wynch)

3. A 45 year old planer thicknesser weighing in at 250kg (quite a solid job) mounted on castors and threaded floor anchors bought from the same retiring joiner. He is moving to Cyprus to live in one of our buildings.

4. A 200kg table saw which cuts to an nth in seconds without needing to plane the output source ebay expected life another 50 years. Mounted on screwfix hevy cabinet rollers the total cost was £225 found on ebay by the wizard and modified in his workshop to increase speed and accuracy.

The wizzard space saving workbench

When the Wizard came across technical or quality problems he used U-Tube video projection on our new workshop broadband

The oak top router table takes the prize – capable of cutting grooves, rebates and mouldings in finished units this table left the wizards workshop for ours in July for a total cost of £9.60 (that’s not including his time for another bit of magic)

Well done Dylan – the doors and windows will be on show at NEC Glee in a couple of weeks and are available to the garden office market this winter.

See more of wizards latest ideas soon (they just work!!!!!)

Monday, 30 August 2010

Why was there no book with our new computer?

It simply didn't need one?

I have to write about this because I am so excited I feel ready to burst - "enthusiasm is leaking out of my every pore and lying two feet deep on the floor".

For those that don’t know me I have been involved with computers in some way every day for forty years, Our timber building business has changed over the last couple of years and our computer network first installed as a mail order system at Bracken House in 1995 had not totally kept pace. The first step of replacing our workshop systems had been completed some weeks ago and it was now time to bring our home office up to date.

My idea was to purchase a good laptop for Noella and organise our business and personal data in such a way that some of the office space was redundant and could be converted into a nursery for our developing grandchildren to stay.

The Dell laptop chosen by Noella is” fuchsia pink”! And according to the salesman at PC World Chester was a “very good spec” (dual core 500 g’s of everything, total connectivity, built in web cam, audio visual db’s, blue dentures the lot, in fact there was a tea making button and on voice command from the lounge it would transmit anything in breathtaking 3d realism to any device or surface available!!!).

Well you can imagine - as a long, long sufferer having spent 20% of my waking lifetime re-booting windows in total frustration I took this all with a pinch of salt and prepared myself for more of the same.

What a change and what a pleasant surprise / shock / astonishing experience I have had.
I prepared a plan, allocated the time, took off the box seal and looked for the instruction manual usually written in 700 languages of unusable gobbledygook – “the damn book was missing”.
Instead of returning to PC World to protest I did what I had told myself not to do (started without it).

Here is my experience and why I am so excited:

On lifting the lid I spotted a silver button – central over the keyboard and pressed it of course. The Dell laptop sprung to life, asked for me to be patient and answer a few questions. These were simple questions and it gave responses to my answers in simple speak. It reassured me that all was well as it connected automatically to our network and the internet in fact it connected itself to just about every damn thing on the planet each time asking for my permission and apologising when it needed my input to make sure that our data was secure etc.

Over the next few hours “it set itself up”, organising all our last fifteen years of data, photographs, music, business programs, etc. it apologised for making me wait but was visibly working at blistering pace with each request keeping me reassured and truly amazed.

It spotted our son on line in Surrey and put us in contact with video, and sound - it was like being there with the family instead of 300 miles away. We all sat amazed as the smelly vision box (an optional extra) output the delicious aroma of cooking in their kitchen.

On closing the lid it went to snooze but didn’t stop working because on re-opening it had protected our data against malicious viruses. Updated itself with all software upgrades and scanned 125,000 documents and images indexing them in a way that simple searching would find anything and deliver it anywhere virtually instantaneously. It kindly explained that things could be better organised but in reality you could leave everything in a disorganised pile on the hard disk and still recall something from 12 years ago in a couple of seconds.

I sat just now staring at the screen with incredulity and wrote this note:

How far this technology has come – truly astounding!
Straight out of the box The Dell “Fuchsia Pink” laptop combined with windows 7 is a life changing package, well done Dell, well done PC World and well done Microsoft not forgetting intel and Google desktop search. My faith is restored, my sanity saved and our clients will be better served from our home office!

With this computer there was no book and I now understand why “it simply didn’t need one”.

Richard Grace and

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Family Garden Studio

We just finished this project in a small Stockport garden. An unusual combination of bike store and family garden room. Designed and built by ourselves for a specific purpose and now fulfilling it. There are two areas 4m * 3.5m studio with trifold doors and covered entry deck area + 2m * 4.4m bike store. The store is convertible to a bedroom shower area should this be required at a later date. It is on a different level from the studio to suit the small well landscaped garden (landscape modifications by us).

The trifold doors purchased from B&Q are excellent (if you know which checkout to go through with them). Fitting is easy and the quality of these pre-finished ones is very good. You can see here how they open to give excellent access to the Garden.

On site the old lady next door made us a good few brews and we helped her by removing rubbish from her garden (a plastic shed and her old bike). It was a pleasure to see how well the neighbours and someone from as far away as Wirral turned up to help her by mowing the lawn etc. etc. Genuine help and support in this neighbourhood is alive and long may it go on. Well done Stockport!

I am looking at her old bike in the rubbish bay of our workshop - it seems a bit sad she won't ride it again!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

A bit of frustration with our communications (Update)

Today I received a letter on HOUSE OF COMMONS notepaper fro Stephen Moseley MP saying he has written to Ian Livingston Chief Executive of BT Group Plc asking him to look into our case. Jeremy Hunt MP Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Sport and the Olympics has also been asked to comment.

I will update when further info comes through.

Our BT broadband at the workshop is now working fine improving our communications with customers and helping us to do business. The only thing that was a bit frustrating is the difficulty in configuring email through this system to display the from address as It seems that BT has built in to their package difficulty in avoiding the BT brand name. I was however impressed by the way their technician took remote control of my laptop and guided me through the many steps required to achieve this..

I was left with the impresion that:

1. This is a further attempt on monopolistic practice (I might be wong here)
2. The technician was used to my request and knew it was difficult but necessary for businesses to maintain there image + use the system for sending and receiving email from multiple locations.
3. The technician was a true expert at this.

Please don't get the impression I have it in for BT but they did break my contract and leave me stranded without communications and both Noella and I are proud of our 16 year history of great customer service in our small business.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Log Cabin (in need of restoration)

Last weekend Noella and I visited our grandchildren in the South and stayed at my old training school (now a hotel). I couldn't resist taking a walk around the grounds to see the log cabin we used as a changing room some 35 years ago. What a shock!

This once beutiful log cabin built from 120mm round logs has been allowed to start rotting due to lack of repairs to the roof. A lesson I suppose for shedworkers to make sure your roof is maintained. This cabin would cost more than £30,000 today (it was not built by us of course). The roof was covered in ordinary shed felt and has decayed under the trees over a perion of 30+ years.

The whacky A Frame on the same site once featured in architectural magazines has long since followed a similar path to complete decay. An interestingly designed tall triangle rising to 5 metres in height with two floors. (not suitable at all for the average garden)

Next week I will post pictures and information on our current project a 6m Garden Studio with storage. Weather remains good for outdoor building. Our workshop telephone and broadband network is working now after the long battle with BT and Openreach.

More on log cabin visit and A frame at

Saturday, 24 July 2010

A bit of frustration with our communications

We need broadband and fixed line telephone in the workshop.

Telecommunications are a vital service for the progress of mankind. It is appalling that the individual should be denied choice in the selection of a company that can connect or repair communication faults. The cost to our nations progress is colossal. Anyone who has tried to get an openreach engineer will understand this.
This week I have made 120 calls to my service provider BT trying to get an openreach engineer to connect 7 wires. The connection of these wires is important to me so much so it has become a personal crusade.

How can the nations productivity improve when a monopoly control the communications infrastructure. It reminds me so much of the environment I faced when trying to build a photocopier factory in Leningrad in 1990. Where there is no choice there is no progress.

George is so right in his analogy.

George Pitcher is an Anglican priest who serves his ministry at St Bride's, Fleet Street, in London – the "journalists' church".

He says and I quote "It seems to me that BT’s Open Reach is symptomatic of two service-industry ills in Britain. First, it’s a service company that has no direct customer contact; that’s a recipe for sub-soviet style arrogance and neglect. Second, it’s a symptom of the over-enthusiastic privatisation of the Eighties. BT was sold off effectively as a monopoly and has been pretending not to be one ever since to satisfy the regulator. That’s why Open Reach is allegedly “separate” from BT, but can behave with all the disdain for customer-service that the old nationalised industry had."

Back to my comment:

In the Soviet Union there was no concept of competition no advertising, no property ownership, no insurance, no carrots, no windscreen wipers, no tractors, no internet etc etc etc and no hope. Photocopiers were locked in guarded rooms and regarded as potential weapons against the state. Thatcher and Reagan knew that communications through satellite and internet would be an unstoppable conduit for change.

I witnessed this first hand. When choice is introduced freedom can develop and productivity can improve. These are lessons for us all so why can’t I buy the services of a telephone engineer to connect my phone.

There is no way to contact an openreach engineer they have a Soviet style monopoly and will not speak to end users. This monopoly must go if we are to progress and not be overtaken by our Russian friends who have seen the light.


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Our entry for shed of the year 2010

Our entry for the “shed of the year” competition 2010
"A virtual paradise for home-working"

Nestling in the Cumbrian hills at the bottom of a beautifully self landscaped garden, overlooking a 240-degree panorama of arguably the most picturesque countryside in the UK. Our client (a planning consultant) commissioned us to build his new garden office/shed!!

The design a combination of the client’s vision and our own input fits into a discreet area. Separate from the house with views / views and views the building is contemporary and discreet. Small but adequate it floats above ground on a slope with an entry deck cantilevered over a wildlife pond.

Fully insulated and double-glazed windows are placed with uninterupted views of the garden and the 240-degree Cumbrian panorama.

A virtual paradise for home-working and a great pleasure for us to build.

Monday, 12 July 2010

My shopping today

How to buy from B&Q
Richard Grace 12/7/10
B&Q are owned by Kingfisher Group – buying from kingfisher is a bit like fishing – put your bait (money) in the right place – stand on the right river bank. This is how to do it.
1. You need to understand this information first.  B&Q,, screwfix, electricfix, plumbfix and Trade Point are all part of the same organisation. They sell the same products from the same manufacturers packaged and delivered in the same way. They sell to trade and public taking cash, card or bank transfer. Their pricing policy is difficult to understand but if you do you will save money.

2. It is a good place to buy they have good products and good after sales service. If you want to save money visit any one of their outlets or do it on-line. Decide on your product then check if it is available at one of the other outlets or counters and what will be the price will be there. Do not assume that all products are the same price as there can be as much as 40% difference for the same thing.

Here is an example from my shopping today:
1. A Chrome washbasin waste is £32.46 on the shelf in the main store £11.06 + VAT at the TRADE-POINT counter and £9.85 including VAT at the plumbfix counter it is also available at the screwfix and electricfix counters at separate pricing. This is the same product in the same box made by the same supplier.

2. A slide mitre saw is available in store at £106.00 and at the TRADE POINT counter in the same store it costs £69.00 (both these figures include VAT). The same product in the same store taken to a different checkout.

3. A set of trifold doors in store at £1856.00 attracts no discount at any of the checkouts or different outlets – but if you have a Discount / loyalty card or if you are over 60 and buy at store on pensioners day this is £150 cheaper.

My shopping today - the facts:
Today I bought a saw a set of trifold doors and a washbasin waste and a few other things (not typical but true) – I needed them anyway and I made a total saving of £230 on todays visit using this knowledge. I spend approximately £600 per day on building materials. The total estimated saving per year for me at kingfisher outlets using this knowledge is £3000 – with this money I intend to keep on smoking, drinking and wasting my time blogging.

Try it but chose yourself what you do with the money.

Information here has been checked and verified by a journalist and verified with receipts vs store prices.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Small corner garden office

I was asked by a prospective client today about our standard single skin wall electric system and where the wires went. We completed this project ready for painting in North Wales today - here are a few photos including standard electric system:

The wires are between the base / subfloor and the floor (this is a heavy plywood floor being carpeted) Around the perimeter is a bullnose architrave skirt drilled 20mm for all wires to reach the patress boxes in white plastic conduit glanded to the box (lightswitch, consumer or double socket)

Lightswitches shown here inside the entry door are positioned at normal height and the conduit rises to lighting distribution at the wallplate.

Lighting shown here as four bar spotlights are fitted at wallplate height connected by flex back to lighting ditribution. It is easy to add or change lights.

Outside lights are fitted here under the eaves.

Connection is nearly always by steel wired armoured cable back to the main property. Safety systems at both ends of this cable ensure safety on route and in the building.

The building shown here is of similar visual design to the Lugarde summerhouse range (once dominant and still available in UK). Our version of these designs have many improvements. All the timbers are redwood which is denser, more stable and has longer life. The corner post frame structure is rigid and prevents timber shrinkage becoming visible. Most importantly we are able to manufacture these kits at 20% below the imported cost of the Lugarde equivelant due to economic changes over the last four years.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

More on Plum Tree Studio - Belfast sink unit fitted

Our client needed somwher to wash his hands and make a brew.

Here is the Belfast sink in unit designed for the building by us.

Best sink unit in a shed???

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Plum Tree Studio

Weather remains good and World Cup has started. Plum Tree studio is finished - this is a therapy studio working building for a remedial massage therapist. The specification includes - entry porch with wheelchair access - disabled spec toilet, main room , treatment room separated by folding screen and two mezannine floors with ladder access. Floor area is 30 square metres. We have made a couple of videos including an explanation of the sewer system which pumps down a small bore pipe saving cost. see at

We are fitting a belfast sink unit in here tomorrow and then off to build a small garden Gymnasium in North Wales.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Outdoor Kitchens A List Celebrity "Must Have"

Phew weather is about as hot as it gets here in Chester.

Couldn't resist this - it seems I am in competition with Guy Ritchie, Jamie Oliver and Gwyneth Paltrow who all have (according to Times newspapers) see

Here are a few pics of  Ricardo's Pizzeria built in our own garden four years ago! Not practical but great fun.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Rona painted Plum Tree Studio starts heatwave arrives

As I am writing this the temperature outside is 27 degrees (officialy a heatwave in my commentary) I have a couple of pics of the veranda painted and Plum Tree Studio concrete base going in.

This is a good setting for this new project but quite a long way to barrow 8 tons of concrete on a hot day. It is sometimes best to use concrete and this is one of those projects which requires an extra strong floor with no give at all. The building is going into full time use as a therapy studio immediately on completion. I will feature other photos. Weather permitting we should have the roof complete on Thursday. So no excuses - this is what the building looks like today.

I suppose all projects start out as a drawing and a pile of materials - this is the wood pile in our workshop ready to be converted - 5 tons of it to be precise! The redwood tgv boards top right would stretch a full mile if laid end to end.

Alex Johnsons shed book arrives on 29th May and I will feature a review of this on my blog - you can buy from Amazon now use the link to shedworking from our links page.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Rona Veranda complete and Plum Tree Studio starting

Heatwave on the way and Plum Tree Studio is about to start. 6m * 5m therapy studio with two areas and dissabled access. Full plumbing and electrical systems and two mezannine floors. This is a bespoke project designed with the client to function as a treatment room.

The design incorporates a sliding partition to separate of a private area when more than one patient is being treated.

More next week on this - here are a couple of pics of Rona Veranda before painting:



This poject was designed specifically for the property to client spec and provides 30 sq m of covered space for family activities and outdoor entertaining.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Rona Veranda and "iffy" weather + election!

I remember promising costruction photos of Rona Veranda. Here they are our busy season is here and the weather this week has been cold and wettish.

This is a super outdoor coverd space and BIG.

Dylan and I installed the deck/base on Tuesday and the frame today - Tuesday we will complete the project and I will update the blog next week.

It creates an extension.

8.5 metres * 3.5 metres of covered space.

As I am writing this it sounds like David Cameron is acting sensibly - I think we all need him to continue in this way.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Business seminar and Rona Veranda

More weather news - as I said the heatwave came + rain in London for the marathon. A further aside from Garden offices Neil’s seminar on Leading Edge Thinking was a great success here in Chester with Comments like “Very informative, would recommend anyone who wants to be successful in business to come to this seminar”, “Well structured, well researched content, delivered with enthusiasm” etc, etc

Leading Edge Thinking two or Too not sure yet is coming in mid July. For more see

Will comment on this later.

Next week look out for our latest veranda project.

Rona Veranda drawing here>

Friday, 23 April 2010

Bothay is ready for final fit out

Weather prediction for tomorrow is "heatwave"

Just returned from site having prepared "Bothay" whatever that means! ready for second fix electrical and installation of kitchen etc. Here is the view from is surrounding garden:

Dylan is sweeping up whilst I take photos.

This building designed for the site is 10.5 m * 4.0m and has a covered area - you can see to the left. On the subject of weather, yesterday Dylan an I were sitting "grabbing a sandwich just to the left of this photo and a tornado the first one I have experienced at first hand passed diagonaly as you look at the photo - over the covered area.


Inside you can see the complex roof or at least a bit of it as the building opens out giving a massive 30 sq metres of internal space.

Just a shot of the covere area:

A good space for sitting outside in the rain - a bit more space to fumble with keys when carrying ple of papers and a laptop!!

Next week we move a previous building and start work on a huge veranda - bit busy but will keep blogging.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Grand National Barbeque

We built a garden office 2 or three years ago for a client in Chester - Simon (the client) calls me to help out with Covered barbeque structure. Simon had organised a Grand National party having backed the winner last year "do you remember the odds" and was in a bit of a fix to get it installed in time.

I took the opportunity on re-visit to this site and to make video presentation of this tiny covered BBQ project you can see at . As usual totally unscripted with Dave back on camera and me - presenting - starting off in our workshop with sympathetic background and flipchart visual aid!

Our own annual family bets on the race failed to realise a profit this year but business and weather continues to favour us. On the next post you should see our complex roof building installation. Its Sunday afternoon temperature here is in the high teens and we are all loaded up to start sit-work in the morning.

Weather continues to improve - a promising week ahead for outdoor chefs.

If you have been reading this blog I guess you think I am obsessed by weather but if you had been working outside this winter "so would you be". A single wood burner in a 250 square metre workshop doesn't improve the climate very much!

Just a quick plug for my friends business seminar on April 21st you can get details at I am presinting the second session focussing on Differentiation and future trends in business - but may stray off into IT and predictions of coming impact to business. (one of my main interests and my career for 25 years before escaping to garden office design and installation). Event is near Chester and suitable for business leaders needing to review their business plans.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

New project starting (Complex Roof)

First photo on blog taken in our workshop in Chester.

I took this photo to demonstrate how we create complex bespoke structures. The building which you will see on site in the next few days is a large structure covering 40 sq m. It has been designed to compliment a new formal garden and cater for large barbeque parties etc. I guess now you can see why I like it!

The roof is nearly eleven metres long and fills a good part of our workshop as it is created before knocking down into a kit for transport.

Here it is.

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Richard is an experienced business consultant specialising in garden structures design and planning + The UK's leading expert in using Pinterest for business marketing web traffic generation at lowest cost.