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Essex Barn Renovation

Friday, 28th June 2013 | by: Justin Burns

Having talked about it for many years my family and I ‘escaped to the country’ in October last year; specifically to a converted barn on the edge of a little Essex village.

When we started our search we laid down certain criteria, the property had to be:

  1. Within a 1 hour drive of Peter Barry’s North London office.
  2. In a rural location but reasonably close to a village.
  3. Set in at least 2 acres of land.
  4. Not a new build property.

Black Barn

We weren’t specifically looking for a converted barn and in fact we avoided viewing barns in the early days of our search but as soon as we saw the setting of The Black Barn we knew we’d found what we were looking for.

The barn dates from the 17th Century and is Grade II listed. It consists of six bays with later midstrey to the front and was originally used for hand threshing wheat. The roof is half hipped and consists of a queen post, collar and purlins with arched braced tie beams; the covering had been changed to corrugated iron by the time it was converted. The walls are oak framed with black weather-boarding.

It was converted in 1986 and with the exception of a re-fitted kitchen has remained the same since.

The planners seemed surprisingly lenient in what they allowed to be done. The timber frame was propped up on a brick plinth, a brick chimney stack was added over the main living room and a single storey extension was added to one end.  The changes detracted from the straight lines of the original barn and have given the exterior a more residential appearance.
As it’s been almost 30 years since the conversion the interior is starting to look dated and the services and insulation values are well below modern standards. There is oil fired central heating fitted but for most of the very long and cold winter that we’ve just been through we had additional portable electric heaters in most of the rooms.

We will therefore shortly be commencing a significant remodelling and refurbishment project. The works will include changing the layout to the ground floor, new heating, 4 new bathrooms, re-wiring, a new kitchen, changes to external windows and door openings and a new roof covering. Only about a third of the roof space was converted in the original scheme so we also plan to utilise that space as part of the upcoming work. We will continue to live in the barn during the works.

I will try and post weekly updates on the work here and look at a different element of the work in more detail in each post.

Work is due to start on July 1st and the 20 week programme will take us up to mid-December. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that these things rarely finish on time so we’ve already accepted that we won’t be having Christmas at home this year to avoid a Grand Design’s style ‘will it be finished in time’ drama. So these posts will therefore focus on the detail of the renovation and the challenges of working with a protected 17th century structure more than the personal drama as I’m sure everything will run smoothly!