Cellar restoration project, Devon

Cellar restoration project

Prior to us becoming Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd, we were just plain old Earthouse. One of the first projects we undertook as Earthouse in 2002 was this fantastic cellar restoration. The customer rang us the other day to discuss another project at her property and when I went to visit I couldn’t resist asking for another look at the cellar! Unfortunately in 2002, I don’t think I had a phone that could take photos and I wasn’t keen on lugging a camera around building sites, so I don’t have any before photos to show you, but this is what the cellar looks like now.

Cellar restoration using lime render, Devon

The cellar restoration was part of a larger project at the house. Myself and the owners were unsure of the history of the house and the reason for the niches in the cellar – was it used to store food? Wine? Someone even suggested it looked like a morgue for infants. I am not sure about this theory! As you can see the owners now use it to store wine, a great use for a unique space. For more information about cellar restoration, there is an article in the Building Conservation Directory.

Lime plasterwork

The niches in the cellar have been carved out of an extinct riverbed, we could see the layers of silt when we started restoring the cellar. There were a number of structural repairs we had to carry out prior to the rendering, which we did using cob blocks, lime mortar and then coated with lime render. This was then lime washed. Limewash is a great product but it does need redoing relatively regularly to keep it looking fresh and to maintain its’ protective qualities. The cellar has not been lime washed since we did the original work, hence why it is looking a little tired. We will post an update once we have carried out the new lime washing.

If you have a project you would like to discuss further, please Contact Us.

Cob cottage restoration and external lime rendering, Mid Devon

Cob repair to external walls

As with many beautiful cottages we come across in Devon, this one had been coated in a sand and cement render and painted with a non-breathable plastic based paint. As we know very well by now, plastic paints are not good for the environment…well, they certainly aren’t that great for your house either! This cottage is located on a busy road so had a few challenges in that respect. We carefully risk assess all our jobs prior to commencement and ensure that we take appropriate safety measures.

We began by removing the cementitious render, uncovering a few damaged patches of cob in the process. The owner had contacted us because they had signs of damp and were well aware that they needed to remove the existing render in order to stop the problem getting any worse. Once the cob was patched using cob blocks supplied by Scott Parr, we prepared the substrate for external lime rendering.

External lime rendering

For this job we used a three coat build up of lime render. External lime rendering should only be undertaken at certain times of year; lime render that is caught out by frost before it is fully dried out or ‘cured’ can be problematic later down the line. Be aware of this if any builder suggests they can lime render the exterior of your house in the UK during the winter months! This work was undertaken last summer.

Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd - External lime render

This photo shows the cottage after the first coat of lime render had been applied.

The photograph above shows the first flattening coat of lime render before if has fully dried out. There are gaps around the windows as the customer was having them replaced, but we were able to work around this. We ‘made good’ around the windows once they were installed. The stone buttress is a great feature of the house and was left revealed; in later photographs you can see this has been cleaned and re-pointed.

Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd - External lime render on grade II listed cottage

Exterior lime rendering (first coat) on the south elevation of the cottage.

The lime rendering was completed with a final coat of rough scat finish. This rough scat finish has a large surface area and allows the structure to breathe more efficiently.

Silica paint decoration

New lime render painted in Sto silica paint

The customer chose to paint their newly lime rendered cottage using a silica paint system produced by Sto Ltd.

The photograph above shows the road facing side of the cottage. The customer chose a vibrant shade of silica paint, produced by Sto Ltd. Paint colour is a very personal choice and whilst some customers prefer to independently make their decision, Earthouse can help advise on shades and colours in order to make the very best of a building. On this occasion and on our advice, the customer has changed their mind and decided to repaint at a later date in a more subtle colour. The photographs below show the completed lime rendering and silica paint decoration on the cottage.

External lime rendering and cob wall repairs, Mid Devon

The stone buttress has been re-pointed with a lime mortar, with a locally sourced red sand from a quarry just three miles away in Uffculme. The pointing will aid in preserving the stone work. This lime mortar is an NHL 2 hydraulic lime mortar, which is suitable for the soft Heavitree stone of which the buttress is constructed.Lime render on thatch cottage with silica paint decoration, Mid Devon

The final photograph below gives a closer look at the rough scat finish of the lime render. You can also see that the new windows have been fitted with oak timber sills. Below the chimney you can see the lead apron; on this occasion the lead work was done by LA Leadworks, who we work with regularly.

New lime render on a thatched cottage in Mid Devon

Our customers were kind enough to write us a lovely review on our Google page. We have also posted it on our Customer Testimonials page for you to read.

For more information about our building restoration and conservation projects, please see our Blog posts. If you would like to discuss your own project please Contact Us.

External lime rendering, Devon

Lime rendering, Devon

Our customer asked us to undertake the external lime rendering on the rear of her cob and brick cottage in East Budleigh, Devon. At Earthouse Building Conservation we work on both large and small building restoration and conservation projects. We were pleased to accept this job as we had previously done the front exterior lime rendering and some internal works inside the cottage.

Preparation of substrate for lime render

The substrate on the cottage is a mixture of old cob and newer red brickwork. We removed the sand and cement render; fortunately the cob below was in a good condition so we did not need to do any repairs on this occasion. The timber lintel above the downstairs window was rotten and full of woodworm, which meant that the wood was flaky and crumbling. We replaced the rotten wood with a new oak lintel.



The photo’s below show the flattening coat of lime render and the final application. The window frames will be cleaned to finish the job. The render used was a hydraulic NHL 2 mix, which takes approximately 2 weeks to dry out and it will then be decorated with a silica paint system.



To see more examples of our work please visit our Projects blog.

A guide to Cob and Lime Maintenance

Cob and Lime Maintenance

We talk a lot about restoring cob and lime buildings on this site – probably because by the time Earthouse has received a phone call, there is already a problem! In this blog we are going to talk about maintaining your building so that you do not get to this point.

Unfortunately, if you can see the problem, it generally means there is something underlying. In the worst cases we have seen, this has been severe damage due to complete deterioration of the cob structure. The most common reason customers contact us is to say that there is a crack in their plaster, or a damp patch has appeared. When we hear this, we know that the issue will be that a cob or stone wall has been rendered using modern cementitious render. Modern cementitious renders have their place; on modern buildings with a damp course and effective air circulation systems. They were never meant to be used on cob or stone walls and consequently cause problems.

Water damage to decorative plaster

Water damage to decorative plaster

The damage is almost always caused by water ingress. Modern cementitious renders are waterproof; this means that if water somehow gets in it cannot escape, so it remains within the structure and moisture builds up over time. The frost and thaw process aggravates this deterioration, resulting in the cob degrading into a topsoil-like substance.

However, cob buildings if treated correctly can last for hundreds or even thousands of years; as long as you are prepared to spend money putting right what previous generations have got wrong, there is no reason your building cannot last for a similar timespan. In addition to this, conservation officers will no longer allow you to render cob in sand and cement, as this does not conserve the integrity of the building.

Cob and Lime Specialists

As a cob and lime specialist, if we can see cracking or damp on your walls, we will assume that there could be issues with the underlying cob. They may also say that they cannot diagnose the extent of any damage without being able to see beneath the plaster. As a guide, if you have excessive or large visible cracks to the render, you should expect a number of cob repairs.

Whilst it is straightforward to give a cost for lime rendering per square metre, it can be difficult to provide a quotation for remedial cob work. Generally Earthouse advises customers to allow a 15-20% contingency for cob repairs, although this may differ depending on the situation. There is no steadfast way to deduce the state of the cob without taking the render off; we have worked on properties where the render looks fine, but the cob is really badly affected underneath. Conversely we have taken off badly damaged render expecting the worst, only to find that minimal cob repairs were required.

Structural repair to cob wall

This shows an extreme example where the cob structure had been undermined at the base of the wall and was subsequently repaired by Earthouse

How to avoid cob deterioration

If you have a cob property there are things that you can do to maintain the integrity of your building.

Cob cottage with cementitious render removed

Cob cottage with cementitious render removed

  • Prior to buying a cob property, you might consider asking a cob and lime specialist to accompany you on a site visit. If the property has been rendered in anything other than lime it may be that you can negotiate on the price, as ideally you would re-render the house.
  • If you suspect a cob property has been plastered in cementitious materials, ask the surveyor to confirm the render material and the paint used.
  • If your house is cob, always consult a builder that has specialist knowledge of cob and lime render.
  • Remove aggressive creeping plants at the earliest opportunity as they can damage structures. Be aware that any plant or tree that touches the building can affect the render negatively, particularly if it is windy.
  • Damaged or blocked guttering is probably the most common cause of water ingress; check your gutters and ensure they are cleared regularly.
  • Thatched houses tend not to have guttering; ensure there is an alternative way to drain excess water away from the house, for example via a French drain soakaway.
  • If you have anything other than lime render on your walls we would suggest that you remove this internally and externally. If you have a cob property, this will then need to be re-rendered in lime based products. Stone or brick properties without a damp course will need to be treated with lime based mortars throughout.
  • If removing the render internally and externally throughout the house is not an affordable option, it may be that there are key areas that you could restore to prevent further damage.
  • Use the correct decoration on walls that have already been lime rendered. We recommend lime wash or you could choose one of the excellent silica based paints internally. Externally you also have the option of using a casein distemper or a clay based paint. Please see our blog Lime Wash vs Silica Paint for more detail.
  • If you decide to use lime wash, bear in mind that you will need to re-decorate within 3-5 years to maintain your aesthetics.

Finally if you are concerned about your property, please contact us. We are able to provide free advice about the best way to approach any remedial or preventative work.

Tadelakt Bathrooms

Tadelakt Bathrooms and Wet-rooms

Earthouse recently worked on a new Tadelakt bathroom in association with Parker SW Ltd. Although it is an ancient plastering material, Tadelakt can create a contemporary look. When applied correctly, Tadelakt creates a waterproof surface meaning it is ideal for bathrooms and wet-rooms, reducing the requirement for tiles and unsightly grouting. It is also superior to regular plaster in bathrooms, which simply soaks up water, causing potential damp issues and mould.

View of the Tadelakt bathroom wall.

View of the Tadelakt bathroom wall.Traditional bathroom tiling has not been used here because it is simply not required. Showers and sinks can be fitted straight onto the Tadelakt walls. 

Polishing the Tadelakt

Tadelakt can be mixed in a range of colours and shades. On this occasion, a light grey was chosen. This is the largest area we have plastered in Tadelakt and required a lot of polishing. Tadelakt is hand polished with a polishing stone, we use porcelain polishing stones which can be purchased from Mike Wye Associates.

Once the Tadelakt has been polished it needs to be sealed. This is a three stage process; initially olive oil soap is used, followed by punic wax and finally carnauba wax.

Tadelakt is low maintenance once is has been sealed; it will require re-sealing periodically, but this can be done by the customer as required. It is best to avoid using harsh chemicals on the plaster; soap and water will clean it effectively.

Bespoke Tadelakt

Earthouse can create bespoke bathrooms, wetrooms and feature walls. Due to it’s versatility we can create unique baths, seats and beautiful storage features. Tadelakt is not limited to bathroom usage; it can be used throughout a house, injecting colour and an interesting fresh style. It can also be used externally.

For more information, please see our previous post about Tadelakt plastering.

If you are interested in creating with Tadelakt, please Contact Us.

Threshing Barn Conversion – Central Devon

The Threshing Barn

Cob Barn Conversion Project

In May 2016 we commenced work on a cob barn conversion. The old threshing barn is located rurally, in the heart of Devon’s countryside. When we began work the building was derelict. The tin roof was failing, thereby allowing water to seep into the cob walls, causing more damage with each soaking; if our customer had not rescued the barn, it would have slowly deteriorated until it crumbled completely.

Crumbling exterior of the cob barn prior to restoration - Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd

Crumbling exterior of the cob barn prior to restoration

So commenced the project to convert the barn into a traditional living space with a modern twist. The plans allowed for a three bedroom barn conversion of the main barn with a modern extension and an attached thatched linhay.

The end result will encompass a mixture of old and new, combining traditional materials such as cob, and specialist lime rendering techniques. The use of glass and metal will create a modern contemporary feel with careful consideration to the surrounding environment.

With a project such as this one there are many elements involved. We work closely with the customer, architect, and various subcontractors on each part of the project.

The threshing barn covered by a temporary roof.

Threshing Barn covered by temporary roof

Removal and repair

The first job was to remove the superfluous tin roof. This in itself an easy job; the repair to the damage its inefficacy had caused, more demanding! The cob walls required extensive repairs. We commenced work on the south facing wall and worked our way clockwise around the building, removing any inadequate cob and replacing and rebuilding with cob blocks and earth mortar. Overall the work took around six months to complete.

The commencement of cob repairs to the walls in the main barn

The beginning of cob repairs to the walls in the main barn

External wall repair using cob blocks

External wall repair using cob blocks

The roof

After we completed the main barn’s cob walls, the oak wall plate was fitted. Four oak trusses, hips and purlins then soft wood rafters were put in place, with the insulation installed between. The insulated felt was overlaid and battens made ready for the first slates to be laid.

The slate used for this project was a natural slate called Glendyne. We used a local company, Kilbride Roofing Ltd, for this element of the project.

Oak trusses in the roof of the main barn

Oak trusses in the roof of the main barn

Partially laid slate roof

Partially laid slate roof

Following the completion of the slate roof, the soffits, fascias, guttering and downpipe details were added.

Slate roof with guttering in place

Slate roof with guttering in place

External Lime rendering

Whilst there was activity on the roof, Earthouse was busy rendering the exterior with a traditional lime render. Lime render allows cob to breathe, allowing moisture to travel in and out of the cob without damaging it. An insulated lime render was used for the first three coats.

External lime render on the barn conversion

External lime render on the barn conversion


The main barn has two windows of note. Both are floor to roof, a height of 4.5 metres each. The window frame is made from Douglas pine, sandwiched between 80mm of oak either side. Aluminium windows will be fitted.

Window being installed in the main barn

Window being installed in the main barn


Next was the excavation of the interior floors. Then came the laying of insulation (glapor) and the installation of underfloor heating pipe. The main barn has a cut back pumice limecrete screed, not dissimilar to polished concrete, but with different shades of grey and white tones and a matt finish giving a more subtle look.

Limecrete pour finished

Limecrete pour finished

A closer look at the limecrete floor in the main barn

A closer look at the limecrete floor in the main barn

Modern Extension

The floor in the extension is a polished concrete, which has a beautiful shine when sealed and is more in keeping with the modern element of this part of the building. Again, the concrete is warmed by underfloor heating.

Concrete floor just laid in the extension

Concrete floor just laid in the extension

The extension itself is a single storey lean-to attached to the north and east elevations of the main barn. The external walls and roof are ultra-modern dark grey crimped zinc. We are seeing so many buildings using crimped zinc now.

Commencement of the contemporary extension

Commencement of the contemporary extension

The extension with a crimped zinc roof and cladding and large glass sliding doors

The extension with a crimped zinc roof and cladding and large glass sliding doors

The extension spans two walls of the main barn conversion. It is 50% glass, comprising both doors and windows supplied by Aspect Windows Ltd in Exeter. The photo below shows the far end of the barn conversion, with the extension; these rooms are ensuite bedrooms.

Inside the Threshing Barn

The interior of the barn on completion is large and light. The main living space is vaulted double height, overlooked by a timber mezzanine floor.

Work in progress in the interior of the barn conversion

Work in progress in the interior of  the barn conversion

Upon the mezzanine is the office. Below the mezzanine floor lays a hallway leading to bedroom 3 and the staircase leading up to the floor above. There is also a passageway leading to the ensuite bedrooms 1 and 2 in the extension.

The mezzanine wall in place in the main barn

The mezzanine wall in place in the main barn

Upon completion, the mezzanine wall and timber was painted with Farrow & Ball paint in many different shades of grey. The majority of the lighting is from a fantastic shop in Exeter, Amos Lighting, which we highly recommend.

The woodburner and flue was supplied and installed by Woodwarm near Cullompton, who offer a wide range of contemporary and highly economic woodburners.

The almost completed mezzanine in the main barn conversion

The almost completed mezzanine in the main barn conversion

Wild complications

No project is ever without its own unique set of complications and whilst at Earthouse we are lucky to work in some beautifully remote locations and we regularly see fantastic wildlife, our barn owl invasion was by far the most spectacular.

Midway through the cob repair process of the walls in the main barn, we came across a nest in a hole in the cob containing two young barn owls. We were first alerted to their presence by the malodourous smell, presumably from the owls eating and digesting numerous small creatures. (We had a good rummage through some of the furry grey pellets they had discarded at a much later date with a vet friend of ours who identified any number of tiny mouse and bird skulls and bones!)

The young owlets were snuggled up in the wall which was in the worst state and without attention this wall could crumble, crushing the birds.

Barn Owl chicks nesting in a cob wall

Barn Owl chicks nesting in a cob wall

Barn Owls are a protected species which we were well aware of and we sought immediate advice from The Barn Owl Trust. In order not to disturb the creatures we stopped work until the Barn Owl Trust had visited site and specified where and what we could continue. A temporary owl box was erected closely in the vicinity of their original nest and they quickly took to this, the droppings making their use of it evident.

Many people would be disgruntled by owls stopping work on their site and to a degree it was frustrating. However, the owls enchanted us and the owner, who now has a fantastic extension of a large owl box which the owls began using almost immediately, obviously not concerned by the continuing building works going on around them.

Permanent owl nesting box built into the roof of the house

Permanent owl nesting box built into the roof of the house

Another view of the barn owl nesting box at the top of the threshing barn

Another view of the barn owl nesting box at the top of the threshing barn

Before and after – a drastic restoration project!

The final parts of the project are always vital; the construction is obviously key, but these are the bits that the customer living in their home will see. As I write, the site is once again a building site as work commences on The Linhay, so I don’t have the beautiful landscaped photographs of the finished barn quite yet. Below you can see the stark contrast of the barn when we first started working on it, and the newly lime rendered conversion and extension in the wonderful Devon sunshine.

Interior of cob barn prior to restoration - Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd

Interior of cob barn prior to restoration

Crumbling exterior of the cob barn prior to restoration - Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd

Crumbling exterior of the cob barn prior to restoration

The barn looking stunning in the sunshine with a tree-lined backdrop

The barn looking stunning in the sunshine with a tree-lined backdrop

View of the barn conversion and extension

View of the barn conversion and extension

The owners spent Christmas in their beautiful barn conversion and we hope to have more interior and exterior photos to show you very soon.

If you would like to know more about the work we do, or to discuss your barn conversion project, please feel free to contact us.

To be continued…The Thatched Linhay

Customer Testimonials

Customer testimonials

We always work hard to ensure that our customers are happy. This means working closely with the customer from the beginning right through to the end of the process. We are delighted that some of our customers have been kind enough to write us testimonials following our work on their properties.

If you would like to hear more from our customers, we have a number of people who are happy to talk to you about Earthouse and some have even offered to allow new customers to visit their property and see some of the work Earthouse has done.

Please do have a look at the testimonials below and visit our Blogs page for more detailed information about our work.

Grade II listed cob cottage, near Cullompton

Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd - External lime render on grade II listed cottage

When our grade II listed cottage was hit by a car it seemed like a disaster, but in fact it was a huge blessing. Sean was contracted by the insurance company and bent over backwards to ensure that the cottage was repaired and renovated to an extremely high standard. Earthouse was extremely helpful in negotiating between the planning office and the insurance company and helped us insist on only the very best. A potentially stressful process was made so simple with their help and the results are fantastic. First repairing the impact damage from the crash they also corrected water damage issues in the walls we did not even know we had. Then they replaced the existing concrete render with lime to an excellent finish, something we had wanted to do for years. The cottage is far more stable than it was in the first place and is properly surfaced and finished.
Finally they put in new windows and completed the finishing touches. Sean and Tom were friendly, professional and just good to have around… not what we expected from two months of building repairs. We already have and will continue to recommend Earthouse, thank you Sean!
Tom & Jo Neusinger, near Cullompton

Internal Remedial work – Devon Longhouse, East Devon

We are absolutely delighted with the work Sean did on our house. We have a cob constructed Devon longhouse and Sean did some remedial work on an internal section of wall which had worn and disintegrated over time. We were really impressed with the obvious care Sean took over his work and the finished result is truly beautiful. We’re very much looking forward to the day when we can get him in to do the rest of the house!

EH, East Devon

Large Cob Cottage, Cullompton

If your building is in need of repair, Sean’s team are excellent; I stumbled across them on the Internet when searching for someone to re-render my cob house. I had researched and spoken to a number of specialist cob companies, but Earthouse were the most passionate about building conservation.

Sean offered advice and guidance without any obligation to use him on the final job; his approach is very personal – he listened to what I wanted and talked me through all the different approaches, understanding the budget I was having to work within. He was always around if I had a question, needed something explaining, or had simply changed my mind!

There are bigger companies out there with bigger reputations, but this is a growing company with a growing reputation. The finish on our house is exceptional, and people in the street (including some builders down the road) often comment on how good it is. Indeed…..another house in the street has already had Sean render their house too.

James Brough, Cullompton

Farmhouse near Bradninch

We contacted Sean because he was on a list of builders given to us by our structural engineer. When he came round to see us he showed real interest in our plans and a willingness to offer advice. Sean has continued to give us the benefit of his expertise and honest advice to ensure that the end product is of a high standard and achieved in the most cost efficient way possible. He has an excellent eye for detail and finish. We are pleased that we followed his suggestions. He personally visited the property at the weekend to make sure that the internal lime plaster was setting properly. We have found Sean and his team to be honest and trustworthy. They repaired and rendered our main chimney, reinstated a lime plastered ceiling which had collapsed, created a replacement pad for a large structurally significant elm beam, plastered and rendered many walls including our north facing external wall. We think the window reveals they worked on have been beautifully executed. They also lime washed the external render the had applied. We would have no hesitation in employing Sean and his team again, and plan to do so. Another benefit of having Sean on your side is that he has a variety of contacts in the conservation trades who have proved equally talented. The local building control and conservation officers have been impressed by their standard of work.

Tony Rendell, near Bradninch

Honiton Grade II listed townhouse

Testimonial - lime render

As the owners of a grade II listed building, we not only wanted to respect the regulations governing the nature of the work we can carry out, but also ensure that we ‘did the right thing’ by our building and worked with high quality craftspeople in its restoration. The first project was to re-render the front façade of the building in lime, a high profile project in that the building is on a very public high street. Having seen the work undertaken by Earthouse on a neighbour’s property, which was highly recommended by the owner, we were keen to discuss the project with Sean and his team. From the outset it was clear that Sean had a great feel for the work we required and was able to clearly understand what we wanted to achieve. An added bonus was that Earthouse’s strong reputation in working with listed buildings, and good relationship with the local council conservation department, meant that the officers were immediately reassured that the project was in safe hands. Sean and his team did an excellent job and also worked in a very accommodating fashion with the other trades we used on the project. Thank you Sean and I have no doubt that we will be using Earthouse for our next lime project.

Tony Hollox, Honiton

Exeter listed townhouse

Testimonial - The finished kitchen in the Exeter town house

The walls and ceiling of the kitchen in our listed town house were in a really bad way and we were relieved when Sean was recommended to us. His mastery of traditional techniques and materials is second to none! He carefully restored part of the ceiling which had collapsed, building up layers to recreate the original pattern of the plasterwork by hand. A ceiling rose was also meticulously stripped of old paint to reveal the delicate detailing. The walls came in for similar treatment – rotten lathes and plasterwork were replaced where necessary and the existing lime plaster was repaired where it could be. Sean came up with a brilliant alternative to a tiled splash back, labouring over a panel of Venetian plaster until he had achieved a perfect finish. He also advised us on suitable paints to decorate the room, which is now the centre piece of our home. Sean and his team completed the project over a number of months and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. Thank you, Sean.

Sharon & Richard Lawrence, Exeter

Cob cottage, Brithem Bottom

Brithem Bottom - testimonial

Earthouse do what they say they are going to do, in the time scale and do a great job. Sean Parker, who heads it up is straightforward, and knows what he’s doing with a wealth of knowledge and experience. He really understands what is required, especially with period buildings, listings etc. and how to do the work without the faff so often found amongst so called experts. I’ve been involved in doing up old buildings for years and Sean really is up there with skill and plain hard work. There is a great team around him, and all good to be around – watching them work was a real learning curve for me around lime render, lime wash, and the cob in our very old thatched cottage which really did need expert hands. I trusted them and always felt confident, and this trust wasn’t in any way misplaced. Highly recommended!

Steve Jamison, Brithem Bottom

Devon Longhouse near Cullompton

We had a serious emergency with our rubble build house. A large section proved to have become disattached. Upon removing render and surveying a developing crack we discovered that there was was a separation you could almost put your head in! It became  apparent that the cross passage extension in our Devon Longhouse had fallen down 3 times before during its very long term existence and had various methodologies used to try and keep it together. There was also separation of the inner and outer skins on one aspect. Earthouse were able to achieve an initial stabilisation of the structure and then repair using a mix of modern and traditional techniques whilst retaining the original that was salvageable. The end result is a stable structure that retains its original features and hopefully will remain so for very many more hundreds of years. We had seen works carried out by Earthouse on other buildings and were impressed with the results, plus they were able to help with the emergency. The quality of their work upon completion is impressive.
Robin Hopkins, near Cullompton

Grade II listed cob farmhouse, Cullompton

My wife and I owned a Grade II listed cob farmhouse that had little work done to it for many years. Sean from Earthouse worked on various projects for us over about a five year period. These included a complete restoration of a kitchen and the room above (replacement floors, plaster work, stonework, tiling, etc) as well as the restoration of a hallway and cloakroom. External work included stone walling, block paving and fencing. Sean’s friendly and consultative approach to the work was really appreciated. His eye for detail, care and pride in his work and meticulous approach to getting things absolutely right shone through in everything that he did. We were always delighted with every project that he undertook.
Paul Young, near Cullompton




Earthouse Projects – Cob, Stone and Lime

Earthouse Project Management and Site Work – Cob and Lime

Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd has been fortunate enough to be involved in a diverse mixture of projects over the last twelve years and we wanted to share a few of these with you.

Our work takes us to private residential properties, commercial properties and even ecclesiastical buildings. We work closely with insurance companies and the local councils, particularly the Planning and Conservation Officers. If you are not sure where to start with a project we can often point you in the direction of the right person.

We project manage our own sites and we have also worked on sites managed by other contractors, most notably The Walronds. We also work on sites where customers want to manage their own property and we are able to assist them with this.

Cob, Stone and Lime Restoration Projects

Please have a look at some of the properties we have restored. The work was different at all of them , some needed more work than others. Primarily these buildings were cob or stone constructions, rendered in lime.

Lime rendered cottage

Medieval court farm, near Cullompton. Earthouse partially lime rendered this property.

Cob and thatch cottage restoration

Re-rendered Devon longhouse

A typical example of a Devon Long House in Westwood. Earthouse did all external restoration work. On the right of this picture you can see a partially worked portion of lime render, which we completed later.

A lovely property near Broadclyst. Earthouse applied a lime render finish and pointed the stone work, leaving it exposed in contrast to the softer lime work.

Stone and lime render finish

Stone and lime render finish

Completed restoration project

Full renovation and re-rendering of this Devon cottage.

This beautiful chocolate box near Honiton needed a full overhaul. The photos below show the works on the property to take it to the newly rendered condition shown above.

Cotleigh cob restoration

Cob repair to the end of the cottage

Repaired cob and lime render

End of the cottage following the repair and re-render

The photos above show the extent of the repair to the side of this cob cottage. Fully rendered in lime with an exposed stone plinth. This part of the property required extensive cob block and earth mortar repair.

Cob and brick repair

Cob block repair to the other end of the cottage

Repaired and lime rendered

Completed render on the end of the cottage

This shows another angle, also requiring full repair work to the existing cob, brick and stone work. Lime rendered to complete.

Long house conservation - near Honiton

Lime rendered and lime washed Devon farmhouse

This property is near Honiton; we have worked here for periods over the last five years. Earthouse installed limecrete floors throughout and completed all internal and external lime rendering.

Ecclesiastical Restoration Project – Westwood Chapel

Below are some pictures of the restoration work Earthouse did at Westwood Chapel. This involved stripping off the existing plaster work, and reapplying lime plaster and finally lime washing a stunning white.

Westwood Chapel - plaster restoration

Lime plaster applied

After stripping, following plaster and finally after lime washing. Similar work was undertaken around the chapel door.

Lime wash in white

Lime plaster and render around door

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Project Pizza Oven!

No cob in this blog – Our experience building a Pizza Oven

Being a bit of a foodie and a builder I thought it would be unforgivable not to build my own pizza oven!  In fact, this is not just a pizza oven – you can cook anything in this beast! You’re probably wondering why I chose not to use cob, what with being a cob builder by trade…There are a couple of reasons. Cob ovens are lovely and often beautiful rustic structures, however, they tend to be temporary. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing me talk about cob you probably know that the worst thing that can happen to cob is for it to get wet. Damp and driving rain can ruin a cob oven.

Cob ovens are not difficult to build as long as you have the right base. Once you have established a base you need to have a dry place to keep the oven if you want it to last for a long time.

I wanted this oven to be an integral part of the house; here for us, and hopefully those who come after us, to use for as long as the house is standing. And sometimes, just sometimes, I like to do things a bit differently!

So instead we have a reclaimed brick oven! It started like this:

Pizza oven - external base

External plinth for the oven

The plinth for the oven is built from light weight celcon blocks and lime mortar. When we pulled out our old night storage heaters we had plenty of bricks so the cooking hearth is laid with these, which allows it to retain the heat. Another material we had a-plenty was wine bottles…Its true! We laid the wine bottles under the base of the hearth with a leca limecrete insulative layer; the trapped air within the bottles keeps the oven hotter for longer. The cavity below the oven is our wood storage area – handy!

Rather than just have the oven tucked away in the back yard out of site I wanted it to be incorporated into the house, but more than that I wanted it to be accessible from inside allowing for all year round cooking.

Hole in the wall!                 Pizza oven, from inside to outside!

After a few weeks of having a rather draughty hole in the dining room all, we progressed. Going to work and building all day then coming home and doing more building was taking its toll…at the time we had just had our second son and my girlfriend was making disgruntled remarks about my paying more attention to the oven than the new baby, so it perhaps didn’t progress as quickly as I would have liked!!

Next came the building of the internal cavity, this curves from the internal door in the dining room out through the hearth and opens into the back yard on the other side. We recycled a few more storage heater bricks and I managed to get a bit of lime mortar in there too!

Internal pizza oven

The oven looks quite big from the outside, but it is mainly due to very thick walls built in a curved shape. It contains insulating layers between the internal fire bricks and the external brick outer layer. The inspiration came from a fantastic trip to Puglia in southern Italy where the countryside is prolific with ‘trulli’, most of which contain built in ovens.

Pizza oven

Inside the pizza oven

In order to stop us from being smoked out completely (and having seen a rather fancy chimney flue at Fagins Antiques) I had to install a proper chimney. I want to use the oven all year round therefore it is beneficial to keep it dry. I erected a small lean to roof against the house; this stops the oven from getting wet and producing  steam, rather than dry heat.

Partly built pizza oven

At the external opening we have used a stone curb, again found in the depths of Fagins. We like to use materials sourced locally after all! The ‘floor’ of the oven is made of storage heater bricks. You need a nice smooth surface for the base of your pizza to cook on, otherwise it will stick.

Ideally the base and the air temperature get very hot together, you want it around 450C for pizza, but you can get away with cooler temperatures for other food such as roast meat (my mouth is watering at this point!)

Pizza oven

Door disaster 1,2 and 3

We tried a number of beautifully crafted wooden internal doors; unfortunately we were so efficient in creating a nice hot oven that they all caught on fire. Callum Vellacott, a local carpenter, made us a fabulous wooden door, which I backed with thick layers of fire proof board – it didn’t work. The first door was a gift (well, repaid in pizza!), but after about the third he started charging! Despite how aesthetically pleasing the timber doors looked, we had to give up on this idea.

Wooden door

We now have an iron door – it’s rather Lord of the Rings, but it keeps the smoke out. This was built by another contact – luckily we haven’t quite got it hot enough to melt!

Pizza oven door

Cooking pizza pies!

In order to cook in this particular oven we build a fire inside with wood, the cooking takes place in the same area as the fire. Woodsmoke really makes a difference to the taste of your food and certainly enhances the flavours of the food.

Once the oven is hot enough, sweep the fire back so it is all contained in one area – be careful not to brush the ash too close into the fire otherwise you may find your broom catches on fire…this has never happened to us, honest! With pizza, we liberally coat the bottom of the pizza dough with dried polenta, this stops it sticking to the hearth. You can then pop the pizza onto a pizza paddle and just slide it in – this takes some practise, I have dropped a few I have to admit!

You can buy pizza paddles inexpensively at Pizza Equipment Ltd, this is where we got ours, they have a few different styles you can choose from.

If you are cooking in a pot or on a baking tray you can just slide these in. Roast meats will need wrapping in foil in order not to char the outside too much. The best crackling I have ever tasted came out of my pizza oven, so a bit of charring is delicious in some cases!

Future Pizza Oven Plans

Following our pleasant, mainly dry, summer months of much pizza eating, I am now looking forward to Sunday lunches and a Christmas feast being cooked in our oven.

I am hoping to get involved in a community project to build a cob oven next year – more updates on that at a later date!

We will also be updating you with deliciously tasty pizza photos, the problem is we’re normally too busy burning our mouths on them in our haste to chow down that we forget to photograph them – sorry!

Please do let us know what you think and tell us about your own experiences of pizza oven building!