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How much does a barn conversion cost? Part 3

Category: Essential information July 1st, 2010 by mbc

Here I’ll consider the actual costs of converting your barn and making it habitable.

The Conversion
So we’ve safely purchased our pile of stone, slate and wood and it’s quietly decaying away in the corner of a farm-yard somewhere, how much will it cost to convert it to a place a person (rather than a pig) could live in?

When I started out on my project I shied away from those cost-per-square metre charts that building books such as The Housebuilder’s Bible Eighth Edition (8th Edition) and Building Your Own Home are so fond of. To my inexperienced mind averaging the cost of the roof, floors and other works across the whole of the building made very little sense. I preferred a schedule of works, with each individual item costed and an overall total. I could then grapple with these and manage the individual components. To be honest usually finding that when the bills came in I’d under-estimated so needed to juggle the books or put other things off until later.

I can now see the value of a per-square-metre costing as an additional tool in managing costs. A per-square-metre cost provides an easy rule of thumb to see just what you’re getting for your money – and perhaps question it. Let me try and explain…

A total cost is a big budget and directs you to the question how much money do I need and where can I find it? Your thinking becomes goal oriented, you look for ways to achieve that goal and value for money can quickly become neglected and your flexibility compromised in pursuit of your budgetary target (…and of course, if you can find the money somewhere you probably will and therefore your budget becomes an (upward) moving feast – a far from ideal way to manage your finances).

Per-square-metre costs make you ask different questions, both when looking at the project as a whole and also at parts of the project. It helps address the over-riding big question of is it worth paying that much per square metre? … when I could have a new build / self build / existing house for less? (We could be optimistic and say perhaps more but the one thing most convertors discover quite quickly is that conversion is one of the most expensive ways to get a place to live). Also helping with the smaller questions – when you think in terms of per-square-metre costs the effect of the £200sqm marble flooring on your budget is pretty obvious.

So whilst a total cost is essential and individual costing of scheduled items of work is necessary, I think the per-square-metre cost is a handy yard stick for day-to-day practical purposes and decision making.

Once my conversion is completed I’ll calculate my own per-square-metre cost and see how that comes out (gulp). (Don’t be surprised if I chicken out on that one).

There are many factors to bear in mind when considering costs. Not all conversion projects are created equal. There is a scale of complexity and costs with conversions, at the hard and more costly end those conversions that need under-pinning, a new roof, rebuilding of unsound walls, have no utilities on site etc. and at the easier (never easy) and less costly (never cheap) end those that are structurally sound, have a workable roof and pre-existing utilities etc.

scale of complexity

scale of complexity

Back to answering the question at hand, how much will it cost me to carry out the conversion:

You can’t really put an upper limit on costs, but I’ll chance my arm here and give a range of per-square-metre costs. I think as a minimum, for a project at the lower end of my ‘scale of complexity’, with decent finishes and materials, some work undertaken by the owner and no major headaches along the way, there’s a minimum per-square-metre cost of £800. Further along that scale you soon get in excess of £1000 and I’ll put a more complex project with better finishes at £1500, with the sky being the limit at the top end.

So, my neck on the line, per-square-metre cost, Summer 2010 is: £800 – £1500+ …and you need to add a further premium to that in the more expensive, southern parts of the UK.

In summary I think the cost of a barn conversion is currently (Summer 2010) going to break down, as a minimum, something like:

  • Barn with permission – £150,000 to £200,000.
  • Plans and planning (no architect, self project managed) – £3,000+
  • Conversion work – for 100 square meters – £80-100,000

So, in answer to:

I am thinking of buying a barn for myself … could [someone] give me a ballpark figure as to how much this is lik[e]ly to cost?

My answer is basically, £250,000+

Please feel free to agree, disagree or discuss further…

Previously>>
Part 1: the building, Part 2: architects & plans

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How much does a barn conversion cost? Part 2

Category: Essential information June 2nd, 2010 by mbc

Here I’ll consider architects, architectural technicians and touch on the other potentially pricey professionals such as structural engineers, that we’ll need to employ to bridge the link between the unconverted building and the building work that will convert it.

The Architect
I spoke with some lovely architects when I started this project. They seemed to share my enthusiasm for the project and helped to provide me with the confidence to proceed.

Costs can be a little tricky to pin down for architectural services since the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) did away with scale rates some years ago. This is a step that’s opened up the negotiation of architectural fees to market forces. What the scale rates did, was make architectural fees transparent (at least when working with RIBA architects) and I could have stated an exact percentage cost for the type of work we are considering here. Instead we’ll have to consider a range of fees, that after some research, I can estimate at between 6% and 15% for full project ‘lifecycle’ involvement – from project initiation, through plans, planning, contracting & overall project management. Many architects will also work for a set, prearranged fee or an hourly rate; this is especially useful when you only need limited services at the start of your project, such as an initial design consultation and some outline drawings. Bear in mind that those percentages will often be of the total project cost, including contingencies that may not be spent during the project.

Most architectural practices will offer a range of services, usually including:

  • Providing ‘scheme’ level outline drawings.
  • Applying for statutory consents (planning, permitted development and other required permissions).
  • Producing detailed drawings.
  • Drawing up the schedule of work and other associated documents such as the contract preliminaries (that details prerequisites and general project requirements) and a specification document (that details acceptable levels of workmanship and materials).
  • Contracting builders and other service providers for you and administering those contracts.
  • Project management.

Bear in mind that it’s is not only qualified architects and their practices that can provide you with these services, there is also the complementary industry of ‘architectural services’ providers. These are companies that are not structured and staffed as traditional architectural practices (usually lacking a fully qualified architect) but that can provide many of the same services.

Beyond my initial discussions way back at the start of my project, I made no use of the services of a ‘pure’ architect. Instead I opted for the less costly more limited option of employing an architectural technician. I say limited as the service offered by an architect tends to be broad and encompassing, whilst architectural technicians offer a narrower more focussed service. In my case my architectural technician was able to provide me with plans, a schedule of works and dealt with my planning applications, all for a set fee. I was lucky in that chap who drew up my plans knows the planners well and was able to make recommendations that would ‘work’ best not only with building regulations, but with the local plan and the local planners preferences – we got the few amendments made to the original plans through relatively painlessly. The only drawback was that because I was using a one-man-band I had to manage those aspects of the design that required input from a Structural Engineer myself. This work – the correct sizing of the oak beams that carry the first floor and the exact detail of the work to make good the one largish wall crack, was pretty straight-forward, involving no more than a couple of phone calls, a site visit or two then the receipt of a written report followed by parting with several hundred pounds. Nothing too stressful, but one aspect of work that a full service architect would cover for his client and that I (a skinflint NOT employing a full service architect) had to cover for myself.

As with most products and services, it’s best to shop around and always seek recommendations from colleagues and acquaintances. You also need to ensure that all your trades will work together (and I include the architect in that), so if you have a builder in mind speak to them and see who they often / prefer to work with (some builders will only work with certain architects as they know they’ll provide workable, understandable plans and so on – although they may not be so picky these days).

<<Previously … Part 1 – The Building

Next we move on to the heavy liftingPart 3 the conversion and how much it will cost you>>

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How much does a barn conversion cost? Part 1

Category: Essential information May 7th, 2010 by mbc

A general question that’s long been asked and as yet never answered on My Barn Conversion was summed up by miss dee ennis back in 2006:

I am thinking of buying a barn for myself … could [someone] give me a ballpark figure as to how much this is lik[e]ly to cost?

miss dee ennis on where-have-all-the-builders-gone

One of those how long is a piece of string questions – short question with a indeterminably long answer. Furthermore, a fair amount of traffic comes to this site with ‘barn conversion costs’ or something similar driving its Google search (to be precise 67 visitors over the last month alone), so I felt I’d better pull out my finger and start to try and address the question.

I have thought about this before – way back in 2006 when this site first started I came up with a figure of a minimum total cost (barn, plans, building work) of £250,000 as a guesstimate and saved it away in an unpublished post. On rediscovering that figure I began to wonder what I based it on and if it really stands up to scrutiny, especially in light of all the crashing, crunching and banker bashing that’s gone on in the meantime.

So what are the constituent parts to the total cost of a conversion?

As I started to write this post it grew to such I size that I’ve split in into a number of parts. In this, the first part of the series I’ll consider the barn itself, part two will relate to the costs of architects and other professionals and costing the conversion work itself will be covered in part three.

The Barn
Before it can be converted it needs to be bought but how much will that cost? I’m only going to consider buying a barn with permission in place – the process of getting planning permission isn’t one I have any experience of. Firmly placing ourselves at the bottom end of the market, the sky being the limit in any property purchase, how much can I get a barn for?

The answer to that currently (May 2010) is upwards of £150,000. For example, at this end of the market barnsetc.co.uk has a detached, stone built barn ten miles from Llandovery for offers in the region of £170,000 and barnconversionsforsale.com have a brick and pantiled Barn with full planning permission ripe to be ‘converted into a magnificent contemporary really spacious home on a plot of just over 1/4 acre’ in Lincolnshire that is ‘priced to sell’ at £179,950. Beside those and a few others there’s not much else around.

[As an aside – it’s noticeable how many barns in my area are now subject to planning that allows conversion to ‘commercial, tourism, sport or recreational use only’. I guess this is a reaction to the way that many conversions (my own included) result in the splitting up of a once viable farm into several habitations each with a small amount of land. Having spoken to several people on this it appears that offering a barn for sale on those terms at a reasonable price, then if it has not been sold after a year reapplying for conversion to a permanent residential property is now the only route to that type of planning permission in many cases.]

A further element of cost to be considered is the utilities – usually, water and electricity for a barn, sometimes sewage and gas if the barn isn’t three miles down a dirt track in the middle of a field. My take on utilities is to make their inclusion a part of the initial deal to purchase the barn. Make the vendor connect water and electricity before you exchange contracts. Connecting utilities is time consuming and costly and the vendor will be far better placed to carry out this work than you will be when living in a caravan or commuting to the site. Making utilities part of the purchase price will also help with your budgeting (you won’t need to include the costs in your build budget) and financing (the costs will be lumped in with your mortgage if you have one).

So we have a building with utilities and planning permission, now we need plans, schedules and contracts so we can start to get the place converted. In Part Two I’ll consider architects, architectural technicians and the other potentially pricey professionals we’ll need to employ to bridge the link between the unconverted building and the building work that will convert it.

…Read Part 2 – architects and other professionals…

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VAT for barn convertors – Update March 2009

Category: Essential information March 8th, 2009 by mbc

It’s been a while since a VAT update so I thought I’d review the current position, especially in view of the pre-Christmas credit-crunch fuelled reduction in the standard rate of VAT from 17.5% to 15%.

My own VAT reclaim will be due soon – by early Summer at the latest, so I thought I’d review the rates in-case anything had changed. I’m pleased to report (from the point of view of change being likely to cause more work and / or hassle) that the VAT reduction does not effect conversions and the 5% rate remains as it was…

Only standard-rated sales are affected. There are no changes to sales that are zero-rated or reduced-rated for VAT. Similarly, there are no changes to the VAT exemptions.

Read more

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Cleaning oak beams

Category: Essential information November 29th, 2008 by mbc

I wanted to minimise the use of steel in the building and I like the texture and appearance of untreated hard woods – that led to the importation of two eastern European oak beams for use in the barn.

That long journey (let’s not worry about carbon footprints for now) and a few weeks sitting outside on my yard left their marks on the beams. Both were water stained and blackened and in this state were installed into the barn and the first floor was built ‘on’ them.

Based on a combination of hind-sight and time earned experience here is the MyBarnConversion guide to cleaning oak (hardwood) beams.

If at all possible, clean the beams with a pressure washer prior to installation, that will save a lot of effort later.

If you’re unable to clean the beam before construction, then get out the elbow grease.

  • Wash down and scrape the beam to remove surface dirt and mold.
  • Use a steamer cleaner to open up the grain and clean into the beam, this will also have the effect of sterilising the wood. A wall paper steam remover will work fine.
  • Steam cleaning will begin to bring engrained dirt to the surface. You will find that badly stained wood will need to be scraped to remove the worst of it.
  • Using a combination of scraping and washing down (preferably with warm water and detergent) your beam will slowly become clean.
  • Rinse and repeat…
  • The wood may take some time to dry out, you’ll not be able to tell the final colour and finish until it’s dry, so don’t panic yourself into unnecessary cycles of the cleaning process.

Sand to remove particularly deep stains, splinters and scruffs.

[UPDATE]
I’ve read in a couple of places that sugar soap works well. Will give it ago as I have some other beams that need cleaning.

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