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

Windows

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

Floors

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

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

For more detailed information about what Earthouse do, please browse our website or have a look at our Blogs page.

Pinterest – amazing pics that we love!

Amazing inspiration on Pinterest!

We have recently discovered Pinterest – and we love it! There are so many inspirational ideas on there from all over the world. We have pinned some amazing images that are relevant to us.

What we like:

  • Cob: cob houses, cob ovens, cob huts
  • Lime: lime render, lime plaster, lime wash, different colour lime
  • Plasterwork: decorative plaster work, Venetian plastering
  • Tadelakt: we just love this stuff! Amazing images of Tadelakt rooms, bathrooms, pools – beautiful!
  • Lots of inspirational images!

If you see something on Pinterest that you think we could help you achieve in your property, please share it with us.

In the meantime, have a look at our pinboards here

Pin our photos!

If you like any of our photos, you can Pin them by hovering over the image and clicking on the red PinIt! button.

Just the formal bit: Pinterest is not formally associated with Earthouse as a brand and in no way sponsors anything we do!

We haven’t used any of the images from Pinterest on our webpage, but here are some of our examples showing creative cob, lime and plasterwork.

Photographs below belong to Rowan Pettitt.

Blue lime wash in Jodhpur   Blue limewash, Jodhpur

Brilliant blue limewash in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

Cob and thatch huts Cob and thatch huts, Rajasthan

Cob living and working hits in Rajasthani desert. Amazing carpets are spun here!

Painting on lime render

Painting on lime plaster in Udaipur, Rajasthan.

Brithem Bottom – Lime Render

Lime rendering process

Brithem had substantial cob repairs and a large number of structural timbers replaced including the inglenook beam. The final touches were the re-rendering and lime washing of the property.

Lime render removal at Brithem Bottom

Lime render removal at Brithem Bottom

In this photo, we have begun to remove the old sand cement render.

Scaffold erected ready for lime rendering

Scaffold erected ready for lime rendering

This shows the property with old sand cement render removed, ready for repair to the exposed cob and once this has been completed, for lime rendering.

Brithem Bottom - completed lime render

Brithem Bottom – completed lime render

The completed external works on the property with a lime render finish.

Internal timber renovation and lime rendering

This job also included the replacement of windows and extensive internal repair work.

Fire place prior to restoration. New oak lintel recently installed.

Fire place prior to restoration. New oak lintel recently installed.

Fireplace at Brithem Bottom after restoration.

Fireplace at Brithem Bottom after restoration.

We were really pleased to receive the following testimonial form this customer:

‘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

The Walronds, Cullompton

External restoration of The Walronds

Earthouse Building Conservation Ltd was the only contractor carrying out cob and lime renovations at The Walronds in Cullompton, on behalf of the main contractor Splitlath Building Conservation Ltd. This was a lengthy project backed by English Heritage in order to restore this Grade 1 listed property in the middle of Cullompton High Street. This property was built in the early 1600’s and is of great historical value to the town, so we were very proud to be asked to assist in its restoration.

The Walronds is now open to the public with various events taking place. For more information please visit the website by clicking here.

Below you can see some before and after photos.

Rear aspect of The Walronds prior to restoration

Rear aspect of The Walronds prior to restoration

Rear aspect view following restoration of The Walronds

Rear aspect view following restoration of The Walronds

This photo shows the rear aspect of The Walronds prior to work commencing and the same view following the restoration work undertaken. Earthouse carried out conservation and restoration activities both internally and externally, before lime rendering the whole of the exterior and a large percentage of the internal areas.

Front aspect of The Walronds prior to restoration

Front aspect of The Walronds prior to restoration

Front aspect of The Walronds following restoration

Front aspect of The Walronds following restoration

This was the front aspect which looks out into the High Street. Little attention was paid to the building by the general public and many people assumed it was being left to fall into decay. It was shielded from public view whilst work was completed, but most agree that the wait was worth it! It was opened to the public in summer 2014.

Some of the damage and neglect to the property prior to its’ restoration can be seen below.

Plant growth damaging the walls of The Walronds

Plant growth damaging the walls of The Walronds

Restoration work to be done!

Scaffolding up ready for restoration work to commence

Damage to external window surround

Damage to external window surround

The photos below show some of the before and after photos; there are hundreds of photos that interested parties have taken throughout the project so people well into the future will be able to appreciate the conservation work that took place to restore this beautiful building to its former glory and more!

Internal restoration at The Walronds

Damage to decorative plaster work

Damage to decorative plaster work

Fully restored decorative plaster ceiling

Fully restored decorative plaster ceiling

Earthouse assisted with the decorative plasterwork and was responsible for restoring this ceiling.

Lime restoration at The Walronds

Lime restoration at The Walronds

A restored and newly furnished part of the suite of rooms upstairs. Earthouse worked on the lime plasterwork, restoring the laths where required and lime rendering the plaster.

Window place restoration - The Walronds

Window place restoration – The Walronds

Restored window place - The Walronds

Restored window place – The Walronds

The Walronds has some beautiful old windows, some original. However, the window surrounds were in need of a lot of work. These are some of the finished windows.

Bedroom - Before restoration - The Walronds

Bedroom – Before restoration – The Walronds

The Nun's Room after restoration

The Nun’s Room after restoration

The room above is a bedroom known as The Nuns’ Room. The first picture is prior to restoration. The walls and floor were restored along with the window surround. The walls have been lime rendered to create a soft textured finish.

Fully restored bedroom at The Walronds

Fully restored bedroom at The Walronds

Bedroom restoration - The Walronds

Bedroom restoration – The Walronds

Bedroom restoration

Bedroom restoration

Examples of the restored bedrooms.

Ongoing restoration work - The Walronds

Ongoing restoration work – The Walronds

Restored stairwell - The Walronds

Restored stairwell – The Walronds

The stairwell was fully stripped and restored. The first phot shows the work part way through, with first coats of lime plasterwork applied and new carpentry in place. The second photo shows the end result.

It is great to see that The Walronds is now being used for community and private events regularly. Recently local companies such as The Bakehouse and Pickle Shack have advertised events there, amongst others.

 

Lime Rendering

Lime rendering and plastering specialists

Lime is an amazing product; it is breathable so buildings release any damp, it is natural, it is versatile and although it is a traditional material used for thousands of years, it can also look very modern.

Earthouse can offer a range of lime rendering from hydraulic setting to traditional lime putty render.

External finishes are designed to be highly textured, which not only creates a tactile effect, but also ensures that the exterior achieves maximum breathability due to the larger surface area.

Internally we can create highly polished lime plasters or beautiful textured lime render finishes. We will always discuss your desired effect and we are able to give advice to ensure the integrity of traditional properties is maintained.

Examples of three different effects can be seen in the pictures of our recent projects below.

External lime rendering

Lime rendering

The Walronds – Grade 1 listed building in Cullompton – rear aspect

The Walronds - lime render

Front aspect of The Walronds facing into the High Street

Church lime rendering

Contact us - restoration of window surround

Westwood Church – old lime render removed

Lime render and plastering

Westwood Church – new lime plaster applied

Lime render and plaster

Westwood Church – newly lime rendered, plastered and lime washed.