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.
We returned from our holiday to find that the foundations had been dug but not filled with concrete. It did look as if they had found next doors water main pipe (!) as it runs underneath barn 3. It was a bit of an unknown as our neighbour believed that it ran under barn 2, but that was clearly not the case.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!