Building Progress ~ January 2012

Update on building progress during July 2011…

…finishing touches…

Some finishing touches were required to the cabin bed and boxing-in in the second bedroom – here it is in its pretty much completed (there’s always something else I want to fiddle with to get it just right) and fully ‘dressed’ state.

From Barn Conversion 2012

I then started work on some of the finishing touches that need to be made to the internal finishes:

Cosmetic pointing: Two of the most disruptive things we did to the barn in its conversion were to put in two doorways (one each at ground and first floor level) from the main full height section of the barn into the smaller, two storey section that now houses the kitchen (on the ground floor) and a bedroom (on the first floor). These doorways go through an internal wall that has been left as dressed stone on one side and bag pointed on the other. The violence of cutting the openings had cracked some of the mortar so some touching-up and filling of cracks with a carefully blended lime mortar was in order.

Tiling the window sills: With somewhat untidy / unfinished window sills and some left-over travertine mosiac & small brick shaped tiles there seemed to be only one sensible thing to do – tile the sills and in so doing tidy up the sills and finish off the tiles. It was also a nice job to occupy me over a couple of cold, damp January weekends.

Building Progress ~ December 2011

Update on building progress during July 2011…

Due in-part to the warm, but wet weather and in-part by the desire to complete the work by the Christmas deadline I set myself, December has been dominated by work to box-in the thermal store and build a cabin bed in the second bedroom.

These subjects have already been pretty well covered elsewhere – I’ve drawn up plans and posted about the initial construction of the cabin bed. I’ll be writing in detail about finishing the cabin bed soon – there are just a few finishing touches to complete. I also hope to put together a set of generic Sketchup plans for building something similar. All-in-all it’s been a really enjoyable process, I’ve found working with timber to build a large, solid fixture to be really satisfying. As I could have predicted ahead of time, the least enjoyable aspect of the build (as anyone who follows me on Twitter where I’ve moaned plenty will already know) has been getting the two sets of wardrobe doors to hang straight and true (and they still don’t – that’s one of the main outstanding tasks).

But doors aside, I (& most importantly my son) are pretty happy with the results – the pirate ship / cabin bed is almost ready to sail. I’ll leave you with an image of the almost completed build…

From Barn Conversion 2011

Beside that I put up some kitchen blinds and salvaged a piece of wood that I’ll use as the basis for a high-level shelf in the kitchen. Pretty poor show really, but Christmas tends to slow down progress…

Happy New Year!

Building Progress ~ November 2011

Update on building progress during July 2011…

We completed the fencing around the shed in November – the gate latches and catches are all in place. It will certainly be an improvement when the field next gets residents. After much trial and error and eventually giving up only to find it was fixed, I got the satellite dish back into action.

The tile-topped boxing-in in the bathroom (wooden frames, with painted sides and a slate and mosaic tiled top) has stalled. I’ve built all the constituent parts and I now just need to get the impetus up to assemble and finish. The reason for my distraction has been my deviation to the world of wood…

I’ve already written quite alot about my fledgling forays into carpentry. Suffice to say that my first project was to build some shelving to fit in the under-the-stairs area and that came out pretty well even if I do say so myself – under the stairs shelves. The second project, started in the last couple of weeks of the month has been to box in the thermal store and build a cabin bed in the second bedroom. I’ve drawn up plans and made pretty good progress having made a start on the base of the bed and the two large frames that will form the ends of the cabin bed. More on this soon…

Cabin bed – plans

So with the ability to build shelves firmly under my wing (or rather under my stairs) I started on my second carpentry challenge, to – Box in the thermal store and build a cabin bed in the second bedroom. Basically, to enclose everything on the other side of the internal door shown on this photograph…

From Barn Conversion 2011

This is a much more involved job than my simple shelves. As I’ve previously described itThe cabin bed will run along the length of wall … with wardrobe doors on the left to allow access to the tank then the entrance to the bed to the right of that … the header tank that sits above the door and the poor positioning of the roof-light in relation to the main tank are going to make boxing in tidily very challenging“. In effect I’m boxing in the whole of one wall – full height cupboards on the left and a raised cabin bed with shelves underneath to the right.

I thought plans were in order but nothing too complex as I was bearing in mind this quotation…

“It took more brain to put it together than to invent it, I allow.”

Robert, page 106, The Worm Forgives The Plough, John Stewart Collis.

…I knew I didn’t want to over-plan or over-design. The devil was always going to be in detail with this build. So I measured extensively and drew up my plans, always bearing in mind that the hard work was yet to come.

The main plans, on the right page of the first photograph below are the most important as they layout the full face of the cupboards and bed. The rest are my various scribblings, workings and notes.

From Barn Conversion 2011
From Barn Conversion 2011

The main structure will be built with 4×2 timber sourced from a local building supplier – better quality and cheaper than the usual DIY stores. There is some variance in the size of the wood, it’s somewhere around 44mm by 96mm give or take a milimetre or two. But there’s a good mix and it’s pretty easy to marry up similarly sized pieces – I’ll double-up the timbers in the main structure for added strength.

I also ordered shaker style doors, (a full height pair to enclose the thermal store and a smaller pair for under the cabin bed) from this company – Doors Sincerely. They are due to be delivered today so more on them shortly.

The cabin bed will be built as one piece. A solid rectangular box with a sloping top to allow for the sloping roof. Cupboard doors on a basic frame will hide away the thermal store. I then need to think of a clever way to bring the two together semi-permanently – to make it look like a single unit across the whole of one side of the room, whilst retaining the ability to move the bed out of the way to allow full access to the thermal store and associated equipment. That’s where I get into “It took more brain to put it together than to invent it” thinking.

Building shelves to fit under the stairs

My first proper foray into DIY carpentry at the barn has been constructing a shelving unit to sit under the stairs. The shelves are required to provide storage, box in the under-stairs area and muffle the sound from the under-floor heating pumps.

The timber I chose was basic off-the-shelf stuff from B&Q – planed smoothed softwood boards. My original intention was to paint or stain the wood so the appearance of the untreated wood wasn’t of great importance. However, once finished I’m relatively happy with the finish of the wood and the gentle contrast between the whitened oak of the stairs and the clean pine boards of the shelves so untreated they will remain.

I toyed with the idea of attempting fancy joints, inspired by sites such as The Joiners Apprentice beautiful hand-cut dovetails tempted me. But fear of my abilities held me back and instead I decided upon using simple dowelled butt joints for the corners and dado dowel joints for the shelves. I’ll save fancy joints for a future project. I’ve put together this Sketchup model to demonstrate my shelf joints.

You can download this model from my Sketchup library – Dado dowel joint model.

The space the shelving unit needed to fit is pretty standard and similar spaces are found in most homes with traditional staircases. The forty five degree slope of the stairs almost forms a triangle, the exception being the vertical edge of the bottom step. Geometrically in 2D the shelf unit, viewed from the front or back is a quadrilateral trapezium.

The under-the-stairs area had become a pretty handy dumping group for tools, left over materials and my sons toys so a general clearout was in order prior to commencing work.

From Barn Conversion 2011
From Barn Conversion 2011

I started by cutting the four ‘sides’ for the ‘outer’ structure and then the three shelves. The side pieces were cut to exact measurements and the shelves cut longer than necessary to allow for trimming to the correct length later. The two vertical ‘side walls’ have bevelled tops, cut at 45 degrees on which the sloping top sits. Similarly, the shelves have one perpendicular end and one bevelled end, the bevelled end meeting the sloping top of the shelving unit. I did all this cutting with a combination of my circular saw and a borrowed table saw that is stuck at 45 degrees!

I then used my router to cut the three dado joints into tallest side wall. I had a cutter that was almost wide enough to allow me to cut the full width of each dado in a single pass. I clamped wooden guides in place, cut the dado then widened slightly with a hand-saw, then used a small chisel and sand paper to tidy up. One of the dados ended up deeper than intended as the guide for the router depth had worked lose so a little remedial filling with a sliver of wood was necessary.

I then drilled and glued the dowels in place – two per joint. The trickiest joints were those holding the sloping top in place. I eventually settled on drilling straight through both pieces of wood from the top straight down into the upright rather than drilling one side of the joint then marrying it up with the other side and drilling the ‘recieving’ hole.

From Barn Conversion 2011

The final job was to fix the back panels for which I used some external plywood I had left over from boxing in the eaves. The ply had a surprisingly pleasing finish to it so it has remained untreated like the rest of the wood-work. I had already spaced the shelves in such a way that they would cover the joints between the panels, so I simply tacked the back panels into place.

I also built a small rectangular insulation lined box to cover the heating manifold and pumps which I slipped into place before positioning the shelves. The main job of this was to muffle the sound made by the under-floor heating paraphernalia when it was in operation, a job in which it has pretty much failed and that I’ll need to address again at a later date.

From Barn Conversion 2011

From there it all came together – some liberal filling and sanding helped me to paper over the cracks of my inexperienced cutting.

Despite having planned to make the shelves a centimetre or so narrower and shorter than the gap they were to fit in, my measuring went awry somewhere along the line and they turned out to be a very snug fit. Some gentle bashing and a couple of wedges was all that as needed to fix the shelves into place.

Overall I’m pretty pleased with the results.

From Barn Conversion 2011

I’ve prepared Sketchup model of the shelves that you might like to take a look at….

You can download this model from my Sketchup library – Under stairs shelving unit model.