Barn Conversion - Settling In

Early mist barn viewblog.jpg

It feels like not much has happened over the summer and yet we have been really busy. The landscaping has really moved on with lawns and trees planted. The courtyard garden for the first barn now has a patio, a lawn and pleached hornbeam hedging. The hornbeams are to provide privacy from the farmhouse next door without being too overpowering. Ultimately they will look like a hedge on stilts so that we can peep through to the drive and the fence and make the garden look bigger.

It has been such a pleasure to have somewhere to sit outside in the summer, although it can be a bit of a sun trap - I found myself chasing the shade around the patio. There is still work to be done as the neighbour’s oil tank is yet to be moved away from the house and fence panels and stone caps to finish the brick wall. One day we will have new garden furniture as well, instead of our cast off plastic chairs………although they have been useful as both indoor and outdoor furniture over the past 4 years!

The front landscaping has also been underway through the summer and is almost finished. The track now has kerb edgings to delineate the track and parking areas and we have sandstone paths to the doors. Grass has been sown and at the front of the barns is almost complete with the last lot of seed being set last week. It is all a matter of watching the weather for rain before sowing the grass seed. It has been done in the rain a couple of times to make sure that the ground is wet when the seeds go down as the first lawn was bit of a bird feed fest until it rained. Dratted pigeons.

Landscaping at the front of the barns

Landscaping at the front of the barns

The canopy’s over the front doors appeared whilst we were on holiday. They aren’t quite finished yet as the tiling is yet to be done. The painting has been started but so far just undercoat ready for the final painting to match the doors and windows. The ‘unfinished’ theme continues, but sometimes you just have to take a step back and see how far we have come.

Inside we are still decorating. In an attempt at keeping the costs down, Richard elected to do the painting and he is doing a fantastic job and it’s coming on. Just the downstairs bedrooms and utility to do now. We still have stuff in boxes and storage so that we can keep the furniture to a minimum. It does make for a certain frisson of anxiety when we can’t find anything, but hey, there are worse things to worry about. I have been beavering away making roman blinds. Now we have blinds in the bedroom, utility and living/dining room. It’s beginning to look homely!

The main living area of kitchen/dining/living room isn’t looking like a show home and probably never will, but here is a sneak peak of our progress so far.

And finally, just to say that it’s been a long journey to get here and there are still some challenges to face, but we love it here!

Barn 1 getting close to completion


Barn One is getting tantalisingly close to completion. This coming week is make or break week as we are hoping that there will be a full complement of trades finishing off. Everybody has had a dabble - some electricity, some heating, some sinks and toilets. A good start but never a finish.

Let’s talk progress - water has been connected and drains have been the big deal of the last 2-3 weeks. The foul water drains are in for all three barns, ditto for the rainwater soakaways. It looks like a battleground at the front of the barns now, but we are hoping that the landscaping is not far away.

The boiler is in action warming the floor and hot water tank in barn 1. It’s all a bit temporary in that we don’t have the 10 tonne silo yet. Instead we have a small internal hopper and lots of bags of pellets so hopper feeding is a regular task. It’s great to have that comfortable warmth from the underfloor heating as soon as you open the door. The first time it was all powered up we didn’t have thermostats on the u/f zones so the temperature got up to around 25c which was too warm even for me, now it’s running at a much more sensible 18c. It’s a good job too - at the moment it’s snowing!

The drains and soakaways have been interesting to see being laid. Normally, you don’t see them so you don’t think about them

Barn 3 has nearly all it’s windows and doors in now. We had a bit of a hiccup over the window sizes as they are slightly small. It won’t be noticeable when they are sealed and finished, but it has taken the shine off it a bit……so much time and effort went into the measuring and style selection. I think they look stunning though, but I am biased!

Electricity update


It's getting very close for a final go ahead for electricity.  We thought we had passed the finish post after all the documents were signed and we had paid a kings ransom for the privilege and had a date from Western Power for installation in September. However, after instructing our builder to start the groundwork it has now transpired that we haven't had the final go ahead and there a more bills to pay. Funnily enough, starting the work seems to have prompted some action. Talk about a tortuous (and expensive) process. It has been a traumatic time with a 3 way solicitor exchange and deeds discussed and signed by board of trustees at their quarterly board meetings. It has been beyond a joke, but we are looking forward now to completing barn 1. We may actually move in this year!!!!!!

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!

Check and re-check the plans against the building!

The building is progressing for barn 2 but not without the odd hiccup. Due to a misunderstanding with the versions of the plans some of the joists were ordered incorrectly. This meant that more had to be ordered causing a week's delay to the first floor boarding out and consequently the continuation of the block and brick laying on the first floor. It's such a shame because the weather has been so good for building. We took the opportunity in the lull in building activity to have a good scout around in barn 1 by manoeuvring a ladder into place so that we could get into the first floor bedroom. We haven't been up there since before the rafters and boarding were fitted and barn 1 only has one first floor bedroom and en-suite, so is a small part of the building as a whole. We then discovered that one of the roof windows was in the wrong place. Again a later change to the plans hadn't been included so when the staircase was changed to bend around at the top of the stairs rather than just go straight up, it meant that the bathroom became a bit larger. Now the bathroom has an extra roof window and the stairs none! Fortunately, this is not a disaster because neither the roof or the windows have been fitted. Phew......we are so glad we checked now rather than later.

The window lintels are looking great in plot 2 with a mixture of brick arches and original stone lintels.

More brick cleaning and barn building

Bringing order to chaos, the pallets of cleaned bricks are getting bigger and the brick mountain is gradually getting smaller. 

The good news is that barn 2 is gradually growing but the not so good news is that there has been no further progress with barn 1. The plan is that the roof will be done on both 1 and 2 at the same time. The rain last week didn't help as the builders don't play in the rain. Today, however, the team have been at work in the beautiful July weather. Most notable today is that the cambered heads have been made and fitted ready for the brick arches over the windows. I'm looking forward to seeing these as the mixture of original stone lintels and brick arches really make it look interesting and of course are true to the original barns.

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.