Barny Update – Then and Now

Barny Update – Then and Now

Midway through (our budget at least) I thought I’d share a few ‘then and now’ pics of our barn conversion.

All this has happened in the last six months…

We’ve kept the door on the left (an upcycling project maybe, any suggestions?) and the Sister covets the nifty (temporary) sliding doors for her shed.

The beautiful bricks are insulated now (and waterproof too!)

Almost unrecognisable! The inside has changed a bit too – upstairs…

… and downstairs.

But it’s the outside that knocks me for six every time I walk past it.

I can’t wait to see what the next stage brings.

Barny Update – Interior Design

I’m not getting ahead of myself. This isn’t me adorning my 3D designs with cushions and trinkets (though I might confess to having played that game. Once or twice).

No, the plumbers have to know where to run the pipes (all 400 m of them) for my bath and everything plumbery (including the kitchen sink) before the floors are laid. The electrician will thread cables through our walls ahead of plaster-boarding (I think they call this the ‘first fix’. Get me, learning the jargon.)

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It all feels rather premature, but I need to decide what I’m having and where I’m putting it all. Right now.

What fun! Let’s crank up the 3D designer.

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The 3D design of my bathroom had everything slotted in, but it was quickly pointed out  by the experts that I’d altered the room’s dimensions to suit my intentions. Apparently, that doesn’t really work.

Back to the drawing board.

This is when those quirky features I thought were so cool come back to taunt me. Like the full height vista of rolling fields I’d imagined myself enjoying while I steeped in my bath with a view. What I hadn’t imagined was a garden table below a picture window which beautifully framed my upstairs toilet.

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We played ‘puzzle-my-bathroom’ for several days, me and the builders. We shifted a couple of walls (the builders’ idea, not mine. Bless ’em, they’re learning). They even made plastic templates of basins and bogs and bath tubs in an effort to hasten my decision making. I’d love to show you a photograph of the ‘hallelujah’ templated bathroom but no sooner had I said “That’s it!” than they ripped up the temporary floor to start shoving the pipes in.

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Do it quick! Before she can change her mind!

And so… on to the kitchen.

I’ve found a nifty online kitchen design app…

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… and I’ve cautioned the builders that my initial ideas may not take full account of the room measurements.

Another bloody great window. Sockets to place. A feature wall and feature stairs to accommodate and the wishlist is long. I might need more templates… dishwasher, fridge, cooker, sink, island, larder unit, microwave, spice rack…

Hell. And I thought the bathroom was tricky.

 

 

 

 

Barny Update – Weatherproof by Winter?

Barny Update – Weatherproof by Winter?

With the days drawing in the push is on to wrap our barn up snug before winter arrives. Waterproof, windproof and hopefully a bit more comfortable for the builders who will be working away in there through whatever the dark months throw at us.

I got up close and personal with our beautiful corrugated-steel roof this morning.

That meant scaling this ladder…

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… and taking lots of photographs because that climb was only happening once.

Except I forgot to take my camera up.

So I had to do it again, to gather proof that I’d braved the scary ascent.

Here’s me scampering about like I was born to be off the ground.

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I wasn’t and thankfully they didn’t photograph me trying to get back on the ladder. Coming down is the worst. I’ve promised the builders they won’t have to nurse-maid me up there a third time.

BIG TICK – roof finished and conquered. (NOTE TO SELF – chase guttering order while the scaffold is still in place.)

The gutters are going to be galvanised steel as well, and we’re slightly concerned that we might have gone a bit too cheap rustic with them…

 

… but, hey,  this is meant to look like a barn, right? (And have you seen the price of cast iron or aluminium gutters??) At £5 per meter for steel versus £27 per meter for ali or iron, they’ve got to be worth a shot.

Next BIG TICK, the gorgeous, feather-edge cedar has been delivered to clad the external walls. Our most expensive single purchase so far, but just take a gander at this:

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The barn is stacked to the rafters and it smells like an evergreen forest but the builder’s aren’t getting much chance to appreciate that. They’re masked up and spraying all 1118 linear meters of it with a weather protection oil. And it’s all got to be done twice… front and back. I feel like I should be apologising.

By the next barny update I should be able to show you some on the walls. 🙂

But it’s a BIG (angry) CROSS for the windows. After six weeks of chasing with no encouraging response from the suppliers (they were “very busy” and it was “mad there”) I finally got my order confirmation with a delivery date 7 weeks later than originally promised. Which takes us to the end of November. They’ve allowed me a generous 4 days to confirm the nitty-gritty or risk losing that slot…

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… measurements, colours, handles, trickle vents, fire escapes, transom and mullion alignments (no, I don’t know either).

So that’s probably what I ought to be doing right now, instead of writing a blog post. I do hope that winter holds off. (NOTE TO SELF: order scarves and gloves for the builders.)

 

 

 

Barny Update – my stairway to heaven

Barny Update – my stairway to heaven

I’m all about stairs this week. It started so well because, for once, I knew (almost) exactly what I wanted. And I thought my vision was simple:

  • Black
  • Metal
  • Open treads

Like these pictures I pinned to my Barn Living board…

 

Aren’t they gorgeous? And not too complicated. It’s not as if I’m asking for this…

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… or this.

super stairs 2

I liked the original stairs.

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But they wouldn’t meet building regs and I’m not sure I could scale them balancing a tray of hot choccie and biscuits.

This is a budget staircase for under £2K

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It gets you to the first floor and it looks perfectly nice. If I wasn’t hung up on my ‘vision’ I’d happily settle for that.

But onwards and upwards. The first quote for my visionary staircase came in at £18k. And it wasn’t even truly bespoke, just off the shelf parts screwed together. I should have been alerted by the supplier’s Kensington address and the website with artful pictures but zero information.

And as if the price wasn’t outrageous enough, when I told them my budget was less than half the figure they were quoting they offered to meet it! No, thank you kindly. I’ll find someone who hasn’t set out to shaft me.

I’ve whittled it down to four options now…

 

  1. Buy a cheap (all things being relative) wooden staircase. Paint it black, fit and add the balustrade ourselves. My guess is about £3k all in. Yay, under budget.
  2. The only ‘economy’ metal staircase I found online (Max Stairs). They measure and fit but it crept over budget (plus, I don’t really like it).
  3. This beauty from Challenge EngineeringI’m still waiting for the quote. Pigs might fly, but I’m hopeful.
  4. And my current favourite from Abbot-Wade (by far the most efficient of the companies I’ve spoken to). It comes measured, engineered and fitted by them. A quality product in black stained oak… and well over budget.

I’ll finish off with a news-flash pic of our barn wearing its shiny-new, under-budget roof. Hmm, maybe I can afford that Kensington staircase after all.DSC_0272

 

 

Writer’s total lack of inspiration

Writer’s total lack of inspiration

Ah, book three. It’s not so much a question of ‘will it get finished’ as ‘will it ever get started?’

I’ve dropped right out of the habit of sitting and writing this summer. There are a lot of reasons for that. My physical fitness is back after years of being limited by a dodgy hip and subsequent surgery. There’s a puppy in the house to make full use of my time (and my resurrected walking skills) and we’re converting a barn on the farm to be our new forever-home, which is keeping me mentally occupied and absorbing every drop of my creative thinking juices.

I’m walking and riding and project mismanaging… I’m loving the time away from my desk. I’ve shed half a stone just by being more active (author’s bottom be gone!) and in my downtime, I’m reading lots of lovely books that other people have written. (It’s so much easier than writing one yourself).

I’m asking myself some deep and meaningful questions:

  1. Does it matter if you never write another book? (Answer: No, not a jot.)
  2. Will your finances be adversely affected if you give up writing? (Answer: No. The opposite is true, in fact.)
  3. Do you want your author’s bottom back? (I don’t need to tell you the answer to that one).
  4. Does anyone but you give a fig whether you’re writing or not? (Answer: Yes and No. A dozen or so people do. I was accosted this week at an Uncle Funk gig by a couple of  mates avid fans of my Draymere Hall Series who wanted to know when the next book would be out (Er, probably not this week). That happens surprisingly often and I’m always terribly flattered. But, contrarily, the Farmer is happy that I’m back in the real world; that there’s dinner on the table and the washing is getting done).
  5. So… WILL THERE BE ANOTHER? (Answer: Hell, yes! Just don’t ask me why. Or when.)

I know there’s another book in there. In fact, I’ve started several…

  • A tentative foray into detective stories with a nerdy (female) PI and a dollop of quirky love interest.
  • A WWII historical Anglo-American romance set on a USAAF airbase.
  • Another Draymere Hall romance (with Zoe as the heroine, you’ll have met her if you’ve read Brambles. You know, the one who worked with Hettie… one of Julian’s ‘volunteers’.)
  • A brand-spanking-new contemporary romance series.
  • A complete departure from any genre, with a narrator who’s already dead…

Dear Lord. What I need to have written is several K words of one book, not one k words of several. Is it any wonder I’m in a muddle?

I’ll pick it up in the autumn.

Oh, hang on, that’s today.

But the sun’s still shining and I must walk the puppy down to the barn. There’s a tractor parked up outside with my name on it and I’m riding this afternoon…

Maybe this winter, then. Watch this space (but not with too much anticipation).

 

Barny Update

Barny Update

I realise it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted progress on our barn conversion and I’m not sure why, given that it’s steaming ahead and I’m rarely thinking about/talking about/looking at anything else!

I was hoping to do a ‘poll’ on here to ask readers opinions on a few of the crucial design decisions I’ve been grappling with, but the technicality of WordPress plug-ins beat me so I made the decisions myself (which is probably what I would have done anyway.)

So… we’ve opted for black for the interiors of the window frames (which still feels nerve-wrackingly brave!) Windows ordered, so no going back now.

black windows

… and black metal stairs (if I can source some we can afford).

steel stairs

After veering away from a tin roof in fear of noise and heat a last-minute U-turn returned us to traditional corrugated steel (also ordered).

corrugated tin roof

And those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know that we’ve chosen gorgeous Western Red Cedar for our exterior cladding.

Wester red cedar

(Only ours will be horizontal feather-edge. God, doesn’t cedar smell gorgeous!)

Our house won’t be as trendy as those in the pictures, we don’t have the flair or the budget, but I’m still collecting ideas-above-my-station and pictures of stuff I can’t afford over on Pinterest.

I’m trying to design the kitchen now, ahead of electrical wires and plumbing pipes being laid through floors and walls, and I thought I’d settled my bathroom but I’m in a dilemma over whether to place a freestanding bath in front of the window or offset to the side (first world problems, I know):

(Yes, the glass will be clear but there are only fields out there. I might provide a blind for the coy). Your opinions are welcome (but please know that I’ll probably ignore them).

Back in the real world, the builders are hard at it creating partition walls, inserting noggins for plasterboard and crafting beautiful lead-work…

They’re about to start wrapping the whole package in a breathable membrane and scaffold for the roof work arrives in a fortnight.

Our little Chaff House is forming (and hasn’t the dog got big!)

 

 

Plain Barny – Project (mis)management

Plain Barny – Project (mis)management

I’ll admit I’ve snorted at the fees demanded by architects to project manage a build.

I’m not snorting now.

I’ve just spent 30 minutes providing a detailed explanation of our roof cladding requirements to a bloke who, it turns out, I’d asked to quote for our stairs. He must think I’m barking. He asked for a picture of where it was going.

Bemused, I sent him a photo. DSC_1196

He tried to explain the coarse, sharp-edged character of galvanised steel… did I not want a powder coating?

I robustly rejected that option.

When I finally twigged and confessed with horror that while he’d been talking stairs I’d been talking roofs, he admitted to wondering why I’d been going on about an overhang and a 30° pitch.

I nearly ordered a corrugated steel staircase.

And then there’s the ongoing saga of those bloody windows. Supplier selected, deposit paid, FULL AND FINAL DETAILS to be submitted by the end of the month to secure our October production date(!!) for these beauties from Velfac:

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That isn’t our barn by the way

Decisions and questions and details which are sorely exposing my limited knowledge. Stir in half a pound of building regs and a cupful of *SAP requirements and combine to create the perfect soup of confusion.

*The Standard Assessment Procedure for the Energy Rating of Dwellings (SAP) was developed by BRE based on the BRE Domestic Energy Model (BREDEM) and was published by BRE and the Department of the Environment in 1992. In 1994 it was first cited in Part L of the building regulations and it has now been adopted by the UK Government as the methodology for calculating the energy performance of dwellings.

The most recent version, SAP 2012, came into force for building regulations compliance on 6 April 2014. The 2009 version SAP 2009 may still be used on projects for which transitional arrangements apply, see 2013 changes to the approved documents for part L of the building regulations for more information.

You stopped reading that definition after five words, didn’t you? So did I.

I asked the window suppliers to make sure I’d met the building reg requirements for fire escapes. Their emailed reply was somewhat cryptic:

  • Study 1  can be used as means of fire escape

  • Study 2 cannot be used as means of fire escape

  • Bedroom 2 west elevation cannot be used as means of fire escape

  • Bedroom 2 west elevation can be used as a means of fire escape

Given that Study 1 and study 2 have exactly the same windows… and that bullet points 3 and 4 are actually the same window, and bedroom 2 faces south-east… um, does anyone think that makes sense?

Here’s a flowchart to illustrate my current confusion:

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My project management has become as disordered as my thoughts.

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So, here I am, looking for answers.

 

How much did that architect want? Trust me, it’s a steal.

Trusses and purlins and joists… Ooh, look at that view!

Trusses and purlins and joists… Ooh, look at that view!

We’ve got them all in the barn, but I struggle to pinpoint exactly which one is which.  The line “Run that by me again…” has become a response that I use to delay while I try to work out which bit of the jigsaw the builders are talking about.

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I do know that the wood is beautiful. I just love the symmetry of it, the airiness and the different views through the lines of the structure. Craft with purpose. It was sad when the plywood went up, screening the skeleton of the building from sight.

But the barn does begin to look more like a house.

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And with the arrival of those mahusive steels that I told you about…

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… the big build reached first-floor level. The builders are eyeing the roof now and the timber discussions are becoming ever more complicated. Trusses and purlins and joists, lintels and collars and plates…

It’s a relief to talk about bricks for a change.

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I know what they are, they’re Cambridge Whites. I knew the barn they belonged to as well. The Farmer probably had a den inside its walls, back in the eighties, before the building was demolished.

We had to move this beast to extract our bricks from their 30-year hiding place:

And their reuse has justified The Farmers belief that you should never chuck anything away (damn it).

My bricks are beautiful too, but nature wins the day and it’s the views out of our soon-to-be windows that really take my breath away.

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Plain barny – Grand designs, less than inspiring vision

Plain barny – Grand designs, less than inspiring vision

In hindsight, maybe I should have learnt how to read a plan before we started building.

We went window hunting last week. The Farmer and I scaled the east on a mission to source our glazing. I’ve seen Grand Designs (and Building The Dream and The House That 100k built… Restoration Home, Big House, Little House… I could go on. I fear I do.) so I know that windows take an age plus a month to construct and I’m not intending to get caught out by that little build-stopping trick. Clever ol’ me.

Next job, measure the windows for a quote (I need to shave 70% off that dashed Crittall dream).

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Taking careful account of the changes I’ve made (I’m holding my hands up to that) and the lintels/steels/trickle vents that the structural engineer and building control seem to think are essential, I set to work with my scale-converting ruler. (We’re four weeks into the build and I’ve only now discovered that scale-converting rulers exist. What joy!)

Or maybe not…

I’ve seen Grand Designs (did I say that already?) so my wonderful plans include all the modern essentials – patio doors and wide-portal vistas, Juliette balconies, en-suite wet rooms, open plan living and corner windows on (almost) every angle. (Those windows are giving the builders a headache. I’m told that ideally, every angle should be 90°. They aren’t in our tilting old barn. So the builders are jacking and propping, bracing and levering… or something like that. I tend to tune out when they start talking technical at me.)

I’ve got my ruler.

But this can’t be right.

Our architect has drawn patio doors opening off the master suite (Grand Designs talk for ‘biggest bedroom’). Building control notated these glorious doors as a ‘means of escape’ and demanded a Juliette balcony.

The structural engineer wanted mahusive steel beams (to span the open-plan living) and mahusive lintels (to span the expansive glazing).

With the girding beneath and above it, my bedroom wall appears to have shrunk to a measly 1600mm (that’s 5 little feet in English).

My patio doors are hobbit height.

Not exactly the grandly-designed, awe-inspiring vista I am envisioning.

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Oh well. I can see through them. The Farmer may have to limbo.

 

 

Building the dream ~ solid foundations and sewage pipes

Building the dream ~ solid foundations and sewage pipes

“They built them to last back then.”

Our sturdy little barn got the thumbs up from building control for her rather impressive foundations. She’s planted in the ground to a depth which exceeded our building regulation requirements, and that’s saved us a heap of time and money (not to mention the backs of our building team who would still be shovelling earth from beneath her walls, or laid up in traction somewhere if she hadn’t been “built to last”.

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Clever little chaff barn, I grow fonder of her by the day.

As it is, things have raced on apace and that’s caught me on the hop. You see, I might have decided where those wind chimes are going but I hadn’t placed the bogs and sinks with any final-decision conviction. They’ve been tested on every wall in my 3D simulation (those walls are still moving at whim) and I’ve looked at lots of pictures… but now, suddenly, my water and waste pipes must be positioned in actual real life.

I was advised that, in an ideal world, the pipes should emerge in the vicinity of my sanitary fixtures. Funny, the things you don’t think of. Or I could make a feature of the plumbing, of course, and run drains through every room.

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Hmm, maybe not…

It’s dawned on me that the builders and I are viewing the building plans from slightly different perspectives. They think what’s ruled on the paper is what they’re meant to be building. I see the drawings as more of a, erm, serving suggestion.

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There has been muttering in the ranks. Something along the lines of “if we build it fast enough she won’t be able to change anything…” 

Now the buggers want to know where the entrance doors are going. I caught them trying to chop the brickwork out while I wasn’t looking…

So I sent The Farmer down with my changes, and let him take the flak.

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This week I’m thanking my lucky stars for solid foundations and very forgiving builders.