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Finishing Touches?

Several of the wall surfaces in the central space of the Long Barn have created quite a stir! Everyone involved has had a view on them, whether positive or negative… and that was before they were applied! The two materials in question are Savolit boards and Cedar shingles.

The Savolit boards are often used on car parks, or as an external wall surface to render on to. They are made from thin strands of wood that are compressed together and mixed with a small amount of cement, which gives them the look of grey spaghetti! If this all sounds rather dubious, they have a really good acoustic absorption properties, which we hope will help to dampen the sound in the living spaces. The boards also have a passing resemblance to stacked straw bales, which is exactly what may have been stored up on the timber first floor of the barn during one of the the building’s evolutionary phases.


The Cedar shingles are a more traditional building material and usually used as cladding. They smell fantastic and have natural oils that mean they don’t need to be treated. Shingles are hung in overlapping sequences to allow water to run off easily. This is not something that will be a problem inside the building, but it’s important that the material construction has a sort of integrity to it, or as the builders say, to ‘look right’.



Together these materials book-end the central space and add to the feel of an external courtyard or street. This is perhaps an unusual thing to say about a house or even a barn conversion, but we hope that it provides a sociable and interactive setting for family life.




With windows in and studwork complete, the walls could be lined with OSB and then plasterboard. This brings everything together, showing the full extent of the walls and surfaces within the building. In order to do this job, we needed to install scaffolding in the central space.





Windows and Doors

It seems to be a situation that always arises… you wait for something exciting to happen on site and then when you go on holiday it all happens and you miss it! This is exactly what happened with the windows and doors. The oak framed units to fill the barn doors were substantial and needed to be delivered in two parts to be manageable. The other windows were fitted in to the new and existing openings. The transformation was amazing, and immediately made a big impression on the development overall. Suddenly the old broken pains and frames were replaced with a beautifully finished oiled oak frame and double glazed unit. The also have a K-glass coating to retain heat, which improves their thermal efficiency.









Reduce, Re-use and Recycle: The crusher cometh!

One of the challenges that we face on our project is the management of masonry material. We simply have tons and tons of stone rubble, bits of old brick and lumps of concrete that have been taken up from old floors and surfaces around the farm buildings.

We do spend a lot of time moving piles of very heavy stuff around the site; thinking about where it should be stored, questioning when and what it will be used for and trying to keep spaces clear for easy use and movement around the site.

No matter how hard we try, we inevitably get to the point where we have too much bulk masonry material! So, what to do with it…? One way is to skip it. This is a typical solution, which is gets rid of the problem and contributes to land fill somewhere else… not very sustainable. Skips would also mean shifting the material to the skip which is another set of tasks. A variation on the theme is to a truck with a grabber, which helps with moving the material to one location… but it all goes to landfill. One alternative is to get a crusher! You often see these machines on huge building sites. They are fed by bucket loads of material from huge earth moving diggers and chew up the rubble, spitting it out as hardcore for re-use on site. It is a simple, cost effective and environmentally responsible way of going about things, but could it work for us on a much smaller level?

After much research and with some trepidation, we hired a crusher for the weekend! It arrived on a lorry, had caterpillar tracks and was the size of a small van. It was easy to drive and very simple to use (once we had sorted out the sensors). The mechanism was simple and the hardcore was then neatly delivered to our muck-truck via a simple conveyor belt. It wasn’t even that noisy really!

It required a large amount of people power to feed the beast, but over a weekend we were able to turn over 10 tons of rubble in to useable hardcore for the base of our plant room floor! The cost of the hire of the crusher was easily off-set by the savings made on not buying in hardcore or paying for the skip! It was definitely a win-win!

Stone walls and studwork

In the past couple of months the build has mainly been focused on the forming of openings and enclosures within the barn. Some of this work is very quick with immediate transformations of space, whilst other processes are at an altogether different pace. The variation in approaches and outcomes is largely down to the nature and qualities of the materials being used.


The stone wall

One of the major pieces of work within the conversion of the barn is the re-building of an internal dressed stone wall. The preparation for this was mentioned in a previous post (Hitting the ground… ) which involved structural, thermal and damp-proofing improvements. Then, the time came for the re-building the wall! The larger pieces of stone at the bottom of the wall were hardest to position due to their size and weight, but then gradually reduced in course size as they got higher up (mercifully!). The patina of the material was a delight to see, and as each piece of stone was laid, the tones and textures formed part of a beautifully unified whole. The markings in the face of the stone were all aligned, apart from one! Can you spot it in the picture? It wasn’t our mistake but that particular mistake was an original one.



Timber stud

Alongide this, the timber studwork for walls reinforced the overall approach of the build – the creation of a timber box within stone walls. Arriving at the end of the day, you could suddenly see the spaces for individual rooms and their interconnectivity with others. The vertical stud gave the impression of prison-like bars and the kids took this opportunity to pose in their bedrooms as inmates!

The timber floor joists were added giving us the 1st floor and an opportunity to start to see what inhabiting the higher level of the barn would be like, with visual connections to other spaces inside as well as outside.



Walls and Windows

Part of the conversion of the barn involved the creation of new openings within the existing external stone walls. 450mm thick stone was never going to be easy to get through! When the builders started the process it became clear that the quality of the existing construction (which we hope will be to our advantage in the long term) was going to be tough to get through. The solidity of the walls was incredible, with no loose rubble in between the inner and outer leafs, but one solid construction! Needless to say the team made it through in the end, forming the reveals, cills and lintels for the windows to sit in.


Having the first floor structure also enabled the windows at this level to be formed and the new openings immediately show the fantastic long and short views that will be created across the valley and beyond. Dean and Kev worked on the two new openings on the end elevation of the building simultaneously. Their dual hammering and seeming competition to break through the walls was reminiscent of a Swiss cuckoo clock!


Now that the openings are formed and prepared, we await the arrival of the windows and doors to put in them!!




Fun at the Farm!

One day we (the kids) built a den. It was so much fun! We made the den camouflaged (by putting moss from the other side of what’s going to be Leo’s house in front of  the swing in the courtyard onto both of our rooves, one blue tarpaulin one black) and used real nails. We used pallets for the walls and we made a treasury. Once, we made a fire by clearing out the prickly brambles from a stone pit. Also, we nailed thin polystyrene to stop the wind from coming in. In the den, there are three rooms: One is a room with a little stone opening and a table and two benches that we nailed together. We made the benches with a thin piece of wood and two small cuboids, which we nailed to each side. the next room is a treasury of slag from iron furnaces which we put on some shelves that we made by hammering nails into pieces of wood onto the pallets. The treasury also has a bench but this one isn’t as sturdy as the two in the first room. We have built the third room much more recently than the other two so we haven’t really put anything into it yet but we hopefully will very soon. We had so much fun that day because we knew that it will be there for a long time and we can always go and play in it whenever we want.

By Raymond (8) and Lydia (7)

Since then we had a super hot weekend with the gym mat being converted into a water slide. More recently the Connors came for a working weekend and the fun continued! Working weekends are the second weekend in every month. All help appreciated! Polly

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Pumping the Slab!

The third  area of floor that  needed a concrete slab proved inaccessible for direct pour-in so we hired an intermediary in the form of a large pump on the back of a lorry.



At one time there were six men involved – only Scott seemed prepared to take a headlong plunge into the ready mix as he waded about on an uneven surface with the concrete lapping about near the top of his wellies. I thought the others were waiting to rush to his rescue should he falter, but when asked what they would do if he fell in, they replied, without hesitation, – “Laugh!”



The process got more technical towards the end!


A Fine Job and no accidents!