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 £30,000. 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

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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!

Barn update

Blogging has slipped by the wayside of late, although Instagram has filled a bit of an update gap as it is easy to take a photo and upload with just a couple of sentences, but now it’s time to post a more detailed update – anyway as I type it’s raining outside and I am on holiday.

So where are we up to?

Barnarama from 6th August

Barnarama from 6th August

Barn 1 is largely unchanged as our contractor made the decision to wait until barn 2 reached roof level so that the roof could be done on both at the same time. This seemed an eminently sensible thing to do so we agreed without quibbling. However, it seems to have taken ages for barn 2 to get to rafter height. Every time rain stops play or our rather small building team are taken off to do a job somewhere else we have been kicking ourselves for not insisting on barn 1 being pushed to completion.

Barn 2 has now reached roof height – hooray. The beam is in and the rafters, boarding out and insulation is being installed as I type. The final bit of brickwork where the roof level changes is also being finished. It has been slow……..very slow, but it looks absolutely fantastic! The layout is as envisioned, well actually it looks bigger than I imagined, which is clearly good news. And the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms are much bigger than I thought they would be. It’s really hard to imagine it all when it’s just on a piece of paper. To be honest, we have largely been hoping that the room upstairs rooms were going to be nicely proportioned because we didn’t see the cross section plans and therefore the height of the roof until the ground floor was finished. We know that our architect (and builder) are very busy, but we seem to get the plans in a ‘not quite in time’ basis. There seems to be quite a bit of judgement going into this build - thank heavens the brick layer is experienced (our hero), but it passes inspection at every stage and looks great so we are not complaining. We do need a bit of retrospective window altering to take place in the living room of barn 2 as they are set really high which is faithful to the original building, so I want at least 3 courses of bricks to be cut out of the base of each window. I don’t mind them being a little bit high so that they don’t impede on the layout of the furniture as it is quite a small lounge, but I think you need to be able to see out of them! Fortunately, there is a window on the front elevation in that room which is quite low so there will be a view out of this room.

Barn 3 is on the move. Well, not literally but the brick pile (which is still pretty huge) is being moved to the front of the barns so that the foundations can be dug. Whoop Whoop! A lot of bricks have been cleaned. Not by an army of brick cleaners, but mostly by Richard who is losing the will to bash another brick. And there are still so many of the flipping things. So where is the army of brick cleaners? We were promised a youngster who was going to earn some holiday money but he didn’t appear. The trouble is that it is too time consuming, dirty and elbow rattling to tempt any helpers, and we guess that our builder is looking at his budget before taking on anyone just yet and Richard is free! To be honest, we are leaving him to manage his budget and doing our best to chip in and help as any excessive cost on his budget will be passed to us and we want (need) our original quote to stand without getting any bigger.

Courtyard Garden Plan

Whilst the brick cleaning and building continues, we have turned our thoughts to the courtyard garden plans. We decided that we would like to have brick walls to separate the courtyard gardens. We definitely don't have a shortage of available bricks! In total there will be three properties and we need to make sure that each property gets a section of private garden and we really didn't want to have a courtyard  full of fences or hedges, or even worse a mish mash of all sorts. We have been looking at brick walls up to about 1m in height with brick piers and railings to take the total height of the walls to around 1.8m. The reclaimed brick looks so nice and we will have loads of bricks left over after the build so it all makes sense. Obviously, we need to make sure that we can afford all of this so have asked for a quote from the builder! It might yet be pipe dreams, but you have to start somewhere. From much perusing through magazines we have decided upon a low maintainenance mediterranean style for the main bit of courtyard - the bit that the occupants of all three barns will need for access the rear of the properties. This will have a centre piece - probably a simple water feature, with paths radiating out to all properties with the ground covered in pea gravel or similar. To break it up a bit, we will cut out some beds and fill with lavender and herbs. I envisage some planters with tall trees and roses. Sigh........it will look beautiful one day........ The images below were painstakingly rendered in Sketchup - not by me I hasten to add, I spend all day working on computers and couldn't face the time needed to learn new imaging software! The images are based on the planning drawings so are pretty much to scale

Building drawing plans review and more bricks

On the brick and wall front, it's pretty much the same as last time except that the brick pile is noticeably smaller, the brick pallets are bigger and there is a bit more wall. The rest of the joists and the floor boarding have been delivered and we have been assured by our builder that more chaps will be on site on Monday to fit them in place. Meanwhile, next doors walls have been repaired and so the neighbours are happy. The flipping joist delivery man managed to take out a chunk of one of our walls though, so that will need to be fixed at some point! 

barn 3 plans

It's a long time since we reviewed our plans for barn 3. In fact it was 2 years ago! So now the rebuild of barn 3 is (sort of) imminent, we have been going over our previous plans with the architect. It's been such a long time since we started all of this barn converting lark that if it had gone ahead and been finished by now we wouldn't have changed anything. However.......two years down the line and we have made a few changes. Nothing drastic - the layout is pretty similar, but now we know for certain that it is more of a rebuild than a conversion we realised that we could make a few tweaks to the sizes of the rooms and the position of some of the windows. To summarise; the garage is a little bit bigger and the hallway a little bit smaller, the downstairs loo a bit bigger and the pantry a bit smaller. We were really unsure originally how the layout of the lounge was going to work with the position of the windows so we have moved one! It's a door shaped window looking out onto the back garden and it was originally placed in the corner of the room as per the layout of the barn, which is an absolutely useless place for sitting and looking out onto the garden. So we have moved it to the middle of the wall rather than at the end which means that the tv will be able to go into the corner and all the seating areas will have a view out of the window. Phew! An interior design conundrum solved. We are also decided that we are going to have a faux chimney breast so that we can have an inset log burner and wood store. The window move has also means that we can keep the double doors into the lounge from the hall, which is a feature we really wanted to keep but just couldn't work out how the furniture was going to fit. 

Joists and bull nosed bricks and a snake

We are waiting for some of the joists to be delivered for barn 2 but the rest have been put into position along with the 'steels' or rsj's. We have joists with 'holes' so that our heating pipes and MVHR ducting can easily fit through the floor.

I dropped in at the barns on my way home from work and found myself scrambling around on scaffolding almost entirely inappropriately dressed except that I managed to change my sandals for a pair of scruffy trainers. It was such a lovely evening that it was worth it to get some lovely photo's in the evening sun.

Bull nosed bricks have not yet featured in our barn building, but since the majority of them have come out of the big barn, they will all go back into barn 3.

And finally, we had an unexpected moment with a snake at the weekend. Yes, I did say 'snake'. Fortunately it was a grass snake and not an adder which decided that it wanted to snooze in the engine of visiting friends car!