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The Fallen Bough

Category: Barn Conversion Journal June 21st, 2012 by mbc

Earlier in the year, with much help from a neighbour I cut-down a partly fallen bough from the large Scots pine tree that stands at the top of the yard. It was damaged during a storm last autumn when high winds caused a large bough from about two-thirds of the way up the tree to break and partially fall.

I was going to go into a long, lengthy and inevitably dull narrative about how we dealt with it, but I think the following three pictures tell the story far better. I’ll just add that pictures of a Land Rover, lengths of rope pinging under stress and an ably wielded chainsaw could have been inserted between the second and third pictures, if anyone had thought to take them…

From Barn Conversion 2012
From Barn Conversion 2012
From Barn Conversion 2012

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Building Progress ~ March 2012

Category: Barn Conversion Journal April 13th, 2012 by mbc

…finishing touches…continued (slowly)…

Hhmmm, wondering exactly what I did achieve in March…

Painting the door frames: I made a start on this back in February and some slow progress in March. I’ve chosen a simple white painted door lining, frame and architrave that I think looks good partnered with untreated, natural oak doors.

I used an ‘eco’ soya oil paint (I think the brand is eco2, but it’s not entirely clear from the packaging) for the first trial doorframe – the one between the kitchen and the utility room – but I wasn’t happy with the finish. In fairness the paint was a couple of years old, having been used on downstairs skirting boards then resealed, but it left a grainy finish and tended to slide off the primed architraves. So looking around and with some advice from @charliebudd on Twitter I selected Little Greene paint for the job – a combined primer and undercoat then a white oil (vegetable) based eggshell. I summary, it is lovely paint, coverage and application are great and it makes the task of painting the frames slightly less onerous (yet still hardly soul lifting!).

Early Welsh Summer: We’ve had some lovely weather of late and we all suspect an even earlier summer than usual with drizzle expected from May onwards! The good weather has driven me outside…

I’ve started to rearrange or remove some of the debris in the yard and around the garage, mainly wood and stone from the barn, with the aim being to achieve more home-like / less building-site-like outside spaces.

With some much help I also managed to remove a partly fallen bough from the large scots pine tree that stands at the top of the yard that was damaged during storms last autumn – pictures coming soon.

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Biomass Boilers

Category: Essential information May 6th, 2011 by mbc

With a small patch of woodland containing mainly young ash trees, a patch of willow around the pond and plenty of hedges I’ve long been interested in the potential for burning ‘home-grown’ biomass, from chips, through twigs to logs. So I thought a review of the domestic biomass boiler options was in order…

There are two types of biomass boilers – those fed with pellets and those fed with timber. Pellet boilers can be manually or hopper fed, with hopper feeding allowing a certain amount of unattended operation. Couple hoppers with high degrees of efficiency and the workload for the owner in keeping the boiler running is minimised. For example, Treco claim that the Guntamatic Biostar W boilers will “hold enough fuel for up to a month ….[and are] self cleaning and have ash boxes that only need emptying every 6 – 8 weeks”.

Pellets are small lengths of compressed sawdust, there is no need for any additive to bond the sawdust together as lignin, an organic binding substance present in the wood does this when the pellet is formed under compression.

There are a wide array of boilers available, I’ll concentrate on two of the main ranges available in the UK at the moment…

Baxi offer a number of biomass boilers. They offer two pellet boilers – the Bioflo is manually fed (there’s no hopper so you need to feed it like a traditional boiler) and it can modulate output depending on demand between 3.8kW and 12kW. Then there’s the larger Multiheat boiler – available in 15kW, 25kW and 43kW versions with an integrated hopper. There’s also the Solo Innova, a log fuelled boiler that comes in 20kW, 32kW and 48kW thermal output versions.

Treco supply a wide range of boilers, including those from the Austrian manufacturer Guntamatic. For domestic purposes I’ll consider the Biostar that is available in four different fuel supply options; the Flex (the fuel store can be physically distant from the boiler with the two connected by a flexible vacuum tube), the Box (similar to the Flex, but with the fuel store included in the price), the W (with a large hopper that only needs filling Weekly), and the Biostar Duo (which also burns logs). There are 12kW, 15kW and 25kW versions.

So how much do they cost?
A web search for the Baxi boilers gives me a lowest price of just under £9,000 including VAT for a Bioflo (I’ve also seen them priced over £11,000), with Multiheat boilers at just over £6,000 for a 15kW model and £7,000 for a 25kW version (although I’ve also seen them priced at more £2,000+ more) and Solo Innova at £4,800 for a 20kW model and £5,300 for the 32kW model (again I’ve also seen these priced at around £1,500 more). Treco / Guntamatic Biostar boiler prices range from just over £11,000 to just over £14,000 (excluding VAT).

You’ll also need to pay for installation and a suitable flue if you haven’t got one already.

Pellets v Timber
Personally I’m not keen on the idea of pellets. Too proprietary and too vulnerable to volitile markets for my liking, but I can see their value as an alternative to oil or gas where a local source of timber is not available. Additionally, they take a lot of the manual labour away and reduce the time demands made by logs in their splitting, stacking and seasoning. Pellets also offer the convienience of hoppers and unattended heating. My ideal of a biomass boiler that will burn any type or condition of biomass seems to be some way off as the biomass boilers I’ve been reading about require, seasoned, sizeable, well prepared timber.

Costs and benefits
For comparison I looked up the statistics for my current multi-fuel stove. It’s a Charnwood Country 16B Multi-fuel central heating boiler with output statistics as follow:

  • Space Heating Output (BTU) – solid fuel = 5.5kW (18,779) wood logs = 7.7kW (26,291)
  • Water Heating Output (BTU) – solid fuel = 13.7kW (46,778) wood logs = 8.2kW (27,999)

This cost something over £3,000 fitted for 15kW or so of combined output.

At a guess I could get a 20kW Baxi Solo Innova installed for somewhere between £6-7,000 and if I wanted the full ‘hands-off’ luxury of a 15kW Biostar boiler I’d be looking somewhere around the £13-14,000 mark. So not cheap in comparison to more traditonal heating solutions such as my multi-fuel boiler/stove. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) tell me I can get a standalone pellet stove for £4,300 installed – I’m just not sure who from!

So how and why am I going to pay for this?
Treco claim that “Your fuel bill will drop by at least 30% when you make the switch from oil [to biomass]” so there’s an immediate saving when switching from oil of several hundred pounds a year based on current fuel oil prices (and it looks like that saving is only likely to grow). Even with prices as they are, as of writing the annual costs of a biomass system are likely to be more that those of a mains gas powered system.

The main advantage in comparison to more traditional heating and hot water solutions such as wood burning are the relatively low amounts of ash and the opportunity for unattended operation. You can get that from gas (if you’re on the mains) or oil, but if you want a greener (albeit currently more costly) solution then perhaps a biomass boiler is what you need…

You may be able to get some financial support under the Renewable Heat Incentive, although as of writing details for domestic schemes will not be available until next year (2012).

Further information is available from:

http://www.baxi.co.uk/products/biomass-boilers.htm

http://www.treco.co.uk/domestic/domestic/

http://www.treco.co.uk/guntamatic/

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Building Progress ~ March 2011

Category: Barn Conversion Journal April 8th, 2011 by mbc

It’s been mainly outdoor work this month thanks to the pretty good weather.

I completed the flag-stone patio and I’ve concreted a top onto the dry-stone wall that runs along one side of it. I have built my (not-quite-as-deep-as-I-planned) barbeque pit and started to build a flag-stone fronted raised bed at the bottom of the main garden slope.

I’ve not made much progress in the wood with clearing trees to let the sunlight in, having been diverted by cutting and splitting logs that were kindly donated from my neighbours wood-pile. Next winters fuel is hopefully pretty well sorted. An additional benefit is that I’ve managed to get my chainsaw cutting much more efficiently by a combination of sharpening the blade and figuring out the correct tightness for the chain.

Now I’m back on to pointing with just a couple of patches to finish and hopefully no interruptions from the weather. I nearly made a start last weekend, but wasn’t happy with the mortar mix which was too yellowy as I used a new kiln dried sand, so I used that mix to start pointing the garden walls instead.

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Building Progress ~ February 2011

Category: Barn Conversion Journal March 3rd, 2011 by mbc

I completed the retaining great wall at the end of the path at the back of the barn and got on with putting in a mortared masonary wall to the garden side of the path that leads along the back of the barn through the gap in the wall that was one of my first acts of destruction at the barn. I’m also rearranging the rock garden that sits above this wall – it’s quite hard to describe so I’ll post some pictures shortly. This work has started to tidy things up but there’s still plenty to do. I began to lay the flag-stone patio last weekend, but rain-stopped-play as it so often does.

I made a start on clearing some of the trees and branches from the thick hedge that runs along the south facing edge of our little patch of woodland to let more sun-light into the wood and to make a contribution to next winters fuel supply. A blunt chainsaw chain and poor weather put paid to completing this job at the end of the month. A set of chainsaw sharpening files and the cold but dry weather that’s hopefully around the corner should let me crack on in March.

I had a visit from building control that’s given me the need to review my to-do list (coming soon). I had a bit of a concern about safety glass, but thankfully the bedroom hayloft door glass and the glazed arch in the bathroom are safety glass (the little safety glass symbols were obscured when we were looking for them by the masking tape that had been on the windows since last summer). The need to establish if it was safety glass or not made me get on with painting the bedroom hayloft door and the large yard side window (the top of which forms the glazed arch in the bathroom) so that I could remove the masking tap so that’s some painting unexpectedly done.

Inclement weather drove me indoors a couple of times so the main bathroom has had more tiling done to tidy up the joints in the shower cubicle, the walls have had holes filled and a spruce up of the paintwork, I put up a couple of hooks for hanging clothes on with the aid of my new stud finder (for finding wall studs – essential to get a good sound fix to the wall) and all the tiling has been cleaned over again.

I was also visited by a family of fellow barn convertors – good luck to Debbie, John and family; I hope you found some inspiration!

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Progress

Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter… https://twitter.com/barnconversion/status/368427314868396032

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

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Barns

Barns Gallery on Remodelista

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Barns – the Balancing Barn

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De-assembled, re-assembled, re-cycled barns

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Design

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Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

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Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

Architecture

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

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Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

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News

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The property roller coaster – planning reform to be rethought

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Energy policy, smoke screens, fracking, confusion and big bucks

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Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on the green belt…

Green Deal Launch

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Plaid Cymru’s Green New Deal promise

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Permitted development extension limits to be doubled

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Lloyd Khan, making shelter simple.

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Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

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Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

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