Feb Progress report

the brick cleaning Pile and chief technician

the brick cleaning Pile and chief technician

Reclaimed brick and quarry tile hearth

Reclaimed brick and quarry tile hearth

Well, this shouldn't take long as nothing much has happened. Except that is for the exemplary brick cleaning and site tidying efforts of Richard. Also the joists and floor boards have been delivered and put in place in barn 3......mostly.......there is an issue to be resolved around the position of one of the joists to allow the log burner flue to go through to the roof. However, whilst there has been a sad lack of building progress, quietly behind the scenes we have been:- 

  • reworking the bathrooms for barn 1 since the originally requested items are no longer in stock.....arghhhhh. 
  • planning bathrooms for barn 2
  • researching suppliers for engineered oak flooring for barn 1 (and the others if it all works well).
  • researching and buying tiles for barn 1 downstairs loo
  • trying to progress the electricity connection....just waiting for the legals now.
  • building a hearth in barn 3 and a buying a log burner. The quarry tiles were from the dairy in the farmhouse. We found them in one of the barns and wheelbarrowed them over to the garden 'just in case'. I really like them and think we will use them in the next barn too.
  • gently heating and dehumidifying barn 1 to bring down the humidity
  • having the window and door manufacturer fix the locks on the doors and windows. It had been a bit disappointing as the doors looked absolutely brilliant but were all a bit stiff and some we couldn't even open. Now they are almost perfect - just a few more tweaks and all will be well.
  • ordering and picking up a date stone. We wanted a nice big stone above the garage, and decided to go with 2017 rather than 2018 since that was when the build started, and in fact finished on barns 1 and 2. Maybe we will even move in before 2019! (lo).

Barn 3 in January


The good news is that barn 3 has grown up to the first floor. The joists have been placed and the floor boards are going down. A couple of giant steels have been ordered and they will hopefully be craned into place next week so that the first floor brick and blocks can continue.  It was great to see the scaffolding go up at the beginning of the month and now we have views again

January Progress in Barn 1


After the quiet period over Christmas we have quite a lot of progress. It rarely feels as if we are galloping along, but as long as it all keeps moving in some part of the development, it keeps the spirits up. It has definitely been a long haul and there is still a way to go, but this year will see it all finished. Absolutely. Definitely.

A hastily purchased dehumidifier has been working flat out and is gradually bringing down the humidity - today it was at 76% which is a vast improvement on 99% (!) when we first installed it. It has been moving around a bit and has had a little holiday upstairs to dry out the first floor bedroom and en-suite. The good thing about the dehumidifier is that it can be connected into the drains which is essential because it's internal bucket would have needed emptying several times a day. The next step is to get the log burner installed. This is being picked up on Monday and hopefully fitted next week. We are having a hearth for the fire and have today been scavenging around looking for a suitable surface. We were going to use the same slate tiles as in the kitchen but there was just too much wastage to even have enough for the downstairs wc. So, back to the scavenging. We have a few very large pieces of sandstone from the courtyard. Unfortunately they didn't survive too well being hauled out of the ground by the digger so they were no good for the fireplace. We also have some quarry tiles that we 'discovered' in one of the barns aeons ago after removing an enormous thicket of ivy. I think they were from the dairy in the farmhouse. After some mortar cleaning and washing, they are looking like a good candidate for the hearth. They are currently drying in the barn awaiting judgement from the builder.

The MVHR unit has been fitted in the mini loft above the utility room. It looks bigger than I expected and a bit untidy looking so I'm glad it's not on view downstairs. It's such a voyage of discovery, this barn conversion mullarkey!


Most of the tiling is finished. The ensuite bathroom and downstairs wet room are tiled in travertine and it looks absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, we hit a snag with bathroom furniture as the originally requested units are no longer available so we have had to do some rapid rethinking. Also, the electric wiring for the bathroom cabinets has been missed out, so some creative problem solving is underway(!) This has also set us on the case for sorting out the bathroom and shower room layouts in barn 2 to pre-empt any potential 'doh' moments when stud walls are fitted. The kitchen floor slate tiles look really nice too. They were chosen over a year ago and with the intervening interior design research I wasn't sure at all if I would like them when they were first being laid. Now they just need their final wipe down and sealing to really bring out the colours. Phew. We haven't re-booked the kitchen fitting yet, but I hope it will all look lovely together when it's in.

Too wet for tiles and kitchens. Doh!

Well, the title sums it up. Last week we thought we were on course for the kitchen and utility floor slate being laid and then the kitchen fitted. However, the extreme damp caused by the plastering and residual damp in the walls and floors scuppered all that. Well, it's not as though we were planning to move in before Christmas as we don't yet have electricity.......don't get me started. The big relief was that the kitchen fitters managed to find gainful employment elsewhere so we didn't have to pay them to twiddle their thumbs. Meanwhile, the plasterers are continuing to get plastered and we are investigating dehumidifiers. 

Floors and windows and 1st fix

Screed floor and the pitter patter of tiny feet

Screed floor and the pitter patter of tiny feet

The underfloor heating and screed was laid whilst we were away at the end of October so we don't have any photos of the underfloor pipes. It certainly made a difference to the rooms as the floor now is at a sensible height so you don't feel like a hobbit in a human home. What was really funny was that we noticed that a little visitor had checked out the screed before it had set, walking in through the front door, into the hall, around the lounge and kitchen before exiting by the kitchen door (nb no doors fitted at this point).

Shortly after that the windows and doors for barn 1 were delivered and fitted and it just made it all suddenly begin to look like a home. As the nights have drawn in I have only been able to see the changes at the weekends so it takes a weekly leap and bound, although after the windows went in it typically went quiet for two or three weeks. The last couple of weeks have seen a huge amount of activity with 1st fix being finished, and 2nd fix underway.

The ventilation pipes for the MVHR have been installed too. This needed to be done so that the electrician could do his first fix bit. The MVHR pipes are really quite big and there is a pipe to and from each room so there are a lot of them and the space at the apex of the room above the beam wasn't quite big enough so they were fitted below the beam and then a lower ceiling added afterwards. At the same time the plumber has been doing his bit, and the joiner adding the door frames.

The kitchen fitting is due this week so this has given a deadline for the first and second fix, at least downstairs. We have come to the conclusion that this is the way that builders work - to a tight deadline! For so long all our workers have been moved off to finish other sites that we figured it was our turn and just booked the kitchen to give our builder his deadline to work to. So far, it looks a bit tight but they are going to make it. The plasterers have been in and have finished the kitchen and utility area, though they still have loads more to do in the rest of the barn and from tomorrow the tilers will be in to lay the floor. 



Simple pine staircase, beautifully made and fitted

Not forgetting the staircase which went in last week, and the stud walls for the master en-suite. The master bedroom has lost maybe a foot of space as a stud wall will need to go in to hide all the mvhr pipework. It won't make a significant difference to the bedroom which is a really nice size.

The plasterers have been plastering away like mad people to meet the kitchen deadline. The ceiling in the kitchen/dining area is a thing of beauty where the intersecting vaulted ceilings meet. We are so glad that we didn't go for reclaimed beams and kept it simple. The feature brick walls are just perfect as a nod to the origins of the barns. Incidentally, most of the bricks have been cleaned by Richard and he is still beavering away preparing bricks for barn 3, so it is great to see it looking so beautiful on the inside as well as the outside.


This is the master bedroom showing the mvhr pipes. These come in from the vaulted ceiling of the lounge and then up and over the bedroom to the en-suite. We lose a little bit of bedroom space but it will be nice and tidy when the plasterboard goes up.


There have been a couple of hiccups along the way; when the stud wall was put in to separate the master bedroom from the stairs, it became apparent that the velux roof window was in exactly the wrong place and was bisected by the stud wall. Not to worry, the roof window has been moved down - all in a days work. Similarly, the vast quantity of mvhr pipework in the lounge meant that the ceiling needed to be a bit lower which again caused bother with the little window in the gable. Again, it was not a drama - it was just moved down a bit and you can't see any difference from the outside. The party wall between the kitchen and the neighbours utility room almost caused a kitchen fitting catastrophe because the final measurements for the kitchen had been done before the  specially insulated plaster boards were fitted. This meant that the measurements were wrong but were caught just in time before manufacturing commenced. Phew. It actually highlighted that the pantry door was going to be partially covered up by the kitchen cabinets, so again this was moved and the feature brick wall rebuilt (beautifully, I must say). All in a days work.


Not to forget barn 3. This is making steady progress despite the intermittent rush jobs on other sites and the occasional episodes of inclement weather.

To finish off this monster catchup post here are a few snowy photo's from today!

First Fix

Things have moved on since my last post. We now have roof tiles, roof windows and solar pv panels on barns 1 and 2 and work has now moved inside. The water pipes have been laid throughout the two barns and also the flow and return pipes for the heating and now the floor insulation has been laid ready for the underfloor heating, which is next. We have also had a walk round barn 1 with the electrician Mark Sparks to work out where we want everything. I don't think that is his real name, but that's how his phone number was passed to us :)

We need to arrange for the windows to be delivered after the floor is finished. They were made in May I think, but until the roof was on there was no point in having them delivered. Whatever happened to the summer? Then, when the windows and doors are in it will finally be watertight in barn 1.

We also had a visit from the Kitchenworld man to make sure that the kitchen dimensions ended up being the same as the plan, and also to check that we had water and drains in the right places. So, on the face of it, we are seemingly making some good progress. However, it still is very slow. Frustratingly slow. We are getting really fed up in our rented flat and need for it all to be finished so that we can get on with our lives. At the moment we would be happy to move into barn 1 and then get finish barns 2 and 3, but we really would like to be in by Christmas. It's a bit like the war -  it'll be over by Christmas. 


The saga of the electricity

Little has been mentioned about the services needed for the barns. The water is a relatively simple affair as there is a connection just a meter outside of our land.  Electricity should have been the same. Our neighbours are a well established charitable trust from whom we will access the electricity mains. However, when we made the application for the electricity with Western Power a year ago we were unaware that the charitable trust would expect compensation for allowing access known as 'an easement' across their land. This is known as a ransom strip. Western Power expected to make some concessions; replacing old infrastructure with up to date and so on. They were wholly unprepared for the land agent appointed by the charitable trust who came up with an easement compensation figure of ÂĢ30,000. Naturally, we were somewhat taken aback by this. Maybe that's an understatement. We were thrown into a state of panic. The electricity connection was going to cost us about 12k plus the groundwork from the nearby electricity pole to bring the cabling up to the edge of our property. Now we expected to pay much much more than we had budgeted for and indeed more than our contingency allowed. The only thing we could do is appeal to the trust. This seemed like a sensible thing to do, however the trust only meets every 3 months and we only found out about this after the January meeting so we had to wait until the April one before we could even start to negotiate. Hah! Negotiate! They held all the cards. Anyway, we appealed to their charitable nature and eventually heard after the July meeting that they would accept less (in order to not bankrupt us), but with some extra concessions. These concessions transpired as replacement of the entire overhead cables, of a distance of 250m for which we have to do the ground works for. The groundworks are going to take a couple of weeks and will cost us about another 6-8k. It's all madness and a bit of a salutary lesson to anyone out there thinking of self building or barn converting. Check your access to the services early! This has caused such a lot of stress and it feels like there have been more down's than up's this year. These damn barns had better be worth it after all of this. We want our lives back! Hopefully, we'll be able to look back on this and think that it was all worth it. 

Roofing felt on barn 1 and 2

Panorama of barn 1 and 2. You can just see the footings for barn 3

Panorama of barn 1 and 2. You can just see the footings for barn 3


The roofs on barn 1 and 2 are getting there......slow but  sure. The roofing felt and most of the fixing points for the solar pv panels are in place plus the guttering. Next are the tiles which are being delivered this week (and fitted we hope). The roof tiles as per the plan are not available until January. Noooooooo......so plan B was required. The planning officer in charge of our build has agreed to a similar tile to the proscribed tiles as these are available immediately. To be honest, I don't really care as long is it goes on soon. We couldn't afford staffordshire blues so the looky likeys are all very similar to the staffies so I just want them on. 


Barn 3 is moving onwards. The foundations are done and next is the sub floor. We met up with our architect in the week to finalise the plans and made a few last minute changes. I've been doing some pacing around inside the foundations planning where the furniture will go and we made a couple of window and door changes. The main changes are to move a doorway from the courtyard side of the living room side to the garden side and to join it together with the existing one to make a big glass window and move it to the middle of the wall so that we have a view into the garden. This is what we wanted all along but now it's a rebuild, we can make some non material amendments. Additionally, since planning the courtyard garden we decided that we are going to have an opening door from the kitchen into the courtyard to make the most of beautiful evening sunshine for alfresco eating as the sun sinks down in the west. Having sat outside eating the occasional takeaway in the courtyard over the last couple of years we have come to appreciate the sheltered sunny spot outside what will be the kitchen.

After seeing some progress on site and in the plans it has renewed our excitement so this weekend we have been out there tidying and brick cleaning. I've been in charge of brick cleaning which is now at the front of the barns so a much different view. It's also quite sociable as we have quite a few walkers and dog walkers passing either along the lane or on the footpath. It's been nice chatting about the barns. I can bore for hours in great detail about what we are doing and what is happening!