and the barn came tumbling down

Just when you think that progress is slowing down and you are wondering if it will ever be finished, something dramatic happens. Nope, we haven't finished one and moved in, now that would be ridiculously dramatic........instead we have more destruction than construction as the last barn has been demolished. At first it was really exciting to hear that it had come down, and the videos of the JCB pushing and prodding the building really encouraged a Hooray feeling. But when I went to the site in the evening after work, it just looked like a bomb site. It was really quite shocking that instead of a charmingly delapidated building there was an enormous pile of rubble and rafters. It was a very sobering, 'OMG what have we done' sort of visit. You tell yourself that the new building will be made with the same bricks and to the same layout (but just not irrevocably falling down) as before, but it still made me feel sad that we couldn't renovate rather than rebuild. There really is no going back once the building is down. I'm sure I will feel different about it once they start building it back again. To cheer myself up I had a look around barn 2 which is now up to first floor height with the internal walls currently being built, and I have to say it is coming on fantastically well. So not all doom and gloom. 

The following day I popped over in my lunch break and it already looked much better as the site was being tidied up. Mind you, there is now the most enormous pile of bricks to clean. We went over yesterday to clean bricks and managed a good 250 or so, but that barely made a dent in the pile. There are thousands of them.

To find a 'before' photo I went back through each month until I came to a particularly photogenic month last June. That was when we were desperately wishing that some building would start, although still wrangling with the coal mining surveys and structural surveys so not in the slightest worry free. As a reminder here are a few of those lovely picturesque barn photo's.

Barn 2 growing fast

From foundation concrete to first floor windows is the dramatic (for us) progress over the last couple of weeks. Sadly rain appears to have stopped play today and probably for the best part of the coming week. Dratted weather. It is great to see such visible progress though. Some of the window openings for barn 1 were held up waiting for the delivery of the cambered heads for the windows. Fortunately, these arrived last week and so the windows could be completed. This was holding up the roof so hopefully this will be completed soon. It's nice to see the colour of the cambered heads. We chose the colour months ago and whilst we opted for a traditional cream colour it's a relief to find that we don't hate it after all. There are so many decisions to make that you agonise over everything and then go 'sod it, just pick one'.

We still have issues over electricity connection which we are working on resolving, but it is certainly causing anxiety. Our little plot is an island surrounded by land owned by the charitable trust next door and as such we need access to the nearest electricity supply point, which is of course across their land, and we need to apply for an easement for right of way. It's not leaving us in a happy place at the moment. This is definitely one of the 'downs' in this barn conversion roller coaster.

Roof beams now in place

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We both missed the crane and the installation of the beams which surprisingly took place on Saturday. Hopefully we'll catch the next building beams. I like a video with big machinery! Typically, rain stopped play today so no further progress. The tricky bit with the roof is that the building is a bit wonky, or dog leg shaped, so it will be interesting when the roof is built.

Barn progress

Steady progress is the best description for the barn conversion. Barn 1 has the gables built up and the first floor is underway, and there is only one bedroom and a bathroom on the first floor so it shouldn't take too long. Fortunately the weather has been very kind and I can't recall any time being missed in April due to rain. Barn 2 has been completely removed, mostly brick by brick, and has now had foundations dug and filled with concrete. A lot of site tidying has also been going on with piles of rubble removed and the huge pile of broken bricks moved across the lane out of the way. It's not quite the barn conversion process that we anticipated as a large part of it has been rebuilt so far, but using the original bricks is at least in keeping with the original concept - and they look absolutely fab. You wouldn't know that a lot of the bricks are quite bashed and broken because the broken faces have been hidden so that only the good side remains in view. There has been a lot of careful brick selection going on by our bricklayer and he is doing an absolutely cracking job. I'm pretty sure the barns will be still standing in another 150 years.

Barn 2 progress

A week of rather dramatic progress with barn 2. It is still coming down brick by brick but with some extra help it has made a big difference. The roof was taken down initially leaving just the big beams which were rather precariously held up by the crumbling walls by just a few centimetres of overlap. I think they came down with a bit of a clatter when pushed! The roof is piled up on the bonfire ready to burn (after the scavengers with log burners had taken their pick!). The pallets of cleaned bricks were moved by the big yellow forklift so that it could get to the stone steps to take them down. The steps are now in our back garden with plans to eventually make raised beds out of them. One day we will be gardening rather than demolishing buildings and cleaning bricks. The remaining walls are extremely wobbly and the bricks are cleaning up really easily. I can attest to this because I've been doing it all weekend. Next week we are hoping that the rest of the building will come down and work will start on the footings for the replacement building.

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Almost ready for the roof

First window lintel going in and walls up to roof plate level

First window lintel going in and walls up to roof plate level

It's taken some time to get there but the walls on plot 1 are almost at roof height with the window lintels just being fitted. Meanwhile the laborious work taking down plot 2 continues with the bricks being cleaned as they are removed to save double handling. Any worries about taking the walls down completely rather than repairing them are allayed when so many of the bricks come away from the wall with barely any mortar on them. It makes for an easier cleaning job as well, though there are thousands of bricks to do and it is so flipping boring. Even I can attest to the utter tedium of it all and I only do it at weekends.

Barn 2 half way demolished

Barn 2 half way demolished

The void underneath the stone steps has been intriguing me ever since we bought the barn site. It seemed such a waste of space as there is no access into it. Could be full of buried treasure or dead bodies! The mystery has finally been revealed and it is full of nothing. Rather strangely it is in two separate compartments with a stone lintel over a small opening between them. It's a shame that there is no treasure, but I'm pleased that there are no skeletons.

Hidden under stairs compartment

Hidden under stairs compartment

Brick cleaning tool kit

I don't have extensive experience in cleaning bricks but this is how we are doing it. That was very much the 'royal we'! It's a bit of a laborious process which starts with digging through the piles of brick and rubble to pick out the whole bricks. These are then transported by wheelbarrow to a pile next to the 'cleaning station' which is a stack of old breeze blocks covered in plastic. The bricks then have the mortar chipped and scraped off using a builders hammer or if it is really stuck on, by hammering a cold chisel and hoping that the brick doesn't break. Then the dust and remaining mortar is brushed off, the brick is graded - we have a range of brick sizes (65mm, 70mm, 75mm depth and a variety of lengths) and then the brick is stacked on the appropriate pallet. It's all very labour intensive, but the resulting rebuilt walls are all so reassuringly sturdy compared to the original buildings and of course re-using the original bricks is cheap and eco friendly. In fact we checked on the internet and reclaimed bricks cost £1 to £1.20 each so bearing in mind that approximately 6000 bricks have been cleaned so far it is a significant cost saving as long as we don't place a value on our time - our labour is free!

Building progress is slow

Well, it's beginning to look like a building, the sub floor was filled with concrete and then the brickwork began. The demolished walls are slowly being transformed into sorted and cleaned bricks and then back into new brick walls. It looks really nice but it is oh so slow. We only have one bricklayer and whilst he is doing a lovely job, we can see time drifting away. Our contractor has so many jobs on at the moment I think we are taking a back seat. It could be worse, at least we have 1 brickie gang on site.

Brick sorting and cleaning is a major task which is largely being undertaken by Richard and friends and family and even I cleaned a few bricks at the weekend (I'm recovering from an op so have a good excuse.....for the moment anyway). They are keeping ahead of the brick laying so obviously that is a good thing, and we are all free which of course is great for the budget. However, it's all dragging on a bit more than we would like. 

Now we are in March and the brickwork is up to window and door level on the first floor and the interior block work is catching up. It's really looking like the building on the plans, although I popped up to the site after work today and noticed that one of the last changes to the plans hadn't been incorporated and so the downstairs WC wall will need to be moved tomorrow. It's an 'Oops', but not a major disaster and has only just been built so should come down quickly. 

We have been following up with some of the paperwork, of which there seems to be an awful lot. We are close to signing for a supplier for the pellet boiler district heating system and MVHR, the first order of windows and doors is close to being signed, a deposit for the slate supplier has been paid, and a holding deposit for the kitchens has been paid. An expensive month all round. At least the nice bit has been choosing the work surface and doors for our kitchen, although that was a bit fraught when you are faced with such an array of choice. Hopefully it will look as nice in real life as it does in my head.