It’s going to look worse before it gets better.

A few scary “progress” details from this week. I say progress but there’s going to be less and less of this barn left over the coming months as all the wobbly bits are removed, repaired and finally replaced.

First the slates and then the structure of the roof came off. Sarking boards followed by rafters, purlins then trusses. All done very efficiently by our wonderful team, with hardly a shimmy from the unstable North gable.

The day after the roof was gone, the pike (pointy bit) of the gable wall was dismantled, along with any other precarious bits of brickwork.

Slates purlins and trusses are all being reused, but unfortunately none are in great condition. Something to do with being original and therefore subject to 240 years of British weather perhaps.

You remember the “three times as many brick as we need” scenario? Well, this is slightly different because the builders managed to rescue only a third of the slates. There was a three in there somewhere.

Optimistically we could have expected to save half, but most just crumbled as they were removed. In the spirit of recycling/saving money the broken bits will eventually be used on raised planting beds in the garden. And anywhere else I can think of that would benefit from the addition of twenty tons of slate fragments. All suggestions welcome.

The purlins (the huge beams that run from gable to gable under the rafters) are in various states of decay, dry rot and woodworm so are not suitable structurally to support the new roof. They are beautiful in my eyes though, with uneven makers’ tool marks, pegs, and graining, so they will be treated to remove crawlies and replaced in the same positions, while the roof will be secretly supported by less beautiful but much stronger steel.

Ditto the condition of the two king post trusses (technical term for the big triangle bits). The plan is to leave these exposed in the entrance hall and master bedroom. We found a lovely detail on one truss – carved initials of some long-ago carpenter, TC. Some day when I have time I’m going to try to find his name.

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Next job – dismantling more of the wobbly walls and laying foundations for the rebuild. Everything is now happening scarily fast, as we’ve become accustomed to waiting weeks for the smallest change. At the same time we feel so lucky to be able to do this, it’s all getting very exciting. And my part is just beginning to hot up!

Oh 😉

Let me rephrase that.

What I mean is, my role in all this is about to get more full on. In the next few weeks I’ll be cleaning mortar off bricks and making multiple design decisions – the first of which has to be before the concrete slab goes in next month – choosing exactly what flooring I’d like. No pressure, then.



3 thoughts on “It’s going to look worse before it gets better.

  1. Exciting times Annette. I’m glad you’re saving some of the materials even if they’re only decorative. there’s something about living with a piece of history.
    When we were renovating this house we found someone had carved the date 1682 in one of the floorboards upstairs. We’ve still got casement windows at the back, sash at the front, and lots of old thin wavy glass 😉 also original brass handles and a few very old doors, some more recent (maybe only 150 years old!) paneled doors but a couple that are like wood planks with latch type closure.
    Re twenty tons of slate fragments: great for pathways, look good and after all the heavy machinery you’re going to have lots of mud and thick layer of slate over some tough membrane, with rubble etc underneath will help with that.


  2. Absolutely. The chance of saving something from the past is really why we’re doing this- the barn existed before the Napoleonic Wars! We are lucky all the builders are on the same page as we are regarding conservation of the history. In fact, some are even more zealous than me. If you’re reading this James, I’m still to be convinced that saving the barn doors as a garden feature will look good. 😉


  3. Pingback: Tom, you’ve been chucked | barn conversion blog

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