Welcome to our amazing journey and self-build.
Our amazing journey starts here.
In 2010 we decided to give up working in the City of London and move to the country.
We now enjoy the rural lifestyle with chickens, horses, and dogs. And also rent airline approved bike cases.
Living the dream.
However, in June 2015, we started on a dream self-build project.
Replacing our old wooden garage with a new modern luxury living apartment with a double garage.
How did we get from this to this?
Every journey starts with the 1st step, then the journey begins
Planning application approved so ready to start the build.
We wanted to build a 2 storey Oak Frame building, with a luxury apartment and large double garage below.
The first step was to pull down and remove the previous garage.
I was worried about dismantling the old wooden garage by hand so I hooked a chain to my 4 x 4 and pulled the garage to the ground.
My original timescale to build this myself was based on “a finger in the air” to test for prevailing wind guessing 6 months tops
Clearing the Bank and digging the footings
Pulling the old garage down with my 4 X 4, I could now start excavating the bank and footings using hired heavy machinery.
As I said, working in the City as a project manager obviously gave me all the skills and experience needed to start using:
- 3 Ton Diggers
- 3-ton dumper truck
After 5 minutes induction from the delivery driver, I was off digging, taking extreme care looking for cables, etc.
The Digger and Dumper, were great fun
As I was working by myself, with safety as my main concern, each step was planned and actioned.
So excavating the bank and loading the 3-ton dumper truck was a skill learned very quickly.
After the 3-ton dumper was filled I now needed to spread the soil by driving it up to our paddock, this took some time.
Finally, 4 days later, finished digging out the footings.
Then I needed to arrange for a cement lorry to pour the footings so we can put the brickwork down for the frame
Choosing our Oak frame builder
We found Rob Swift from Swift Oak-based near Ashford in Kent to provide a bespoke oak frame and erection service.
Rob provided an excellent service and gave advice and consultation and made this smooth and trouble-free step of the build.
Within 4 days the mainframe was up and we could see what we had to work with.
June 2015 the barn frame was up and looked huge
Although we had pegged out the size of the floor space in our garden to get a gauge of what size barn frame we needed, standing looking back at the new Barn was a moment of mixed feelings.
Oh my goodness,what have we done …, it’s so much bigger than we imagined!
Oh my goodness,how fantastic will this be once finished!
Now it’s my turn to make the dream a reality
The build begins.
With my initial expectation of completing this build within 6 months, work started from the ground up.
Working 7 days a week, mostly by myself one month rolled into the next, winter rolled around into summer, work was only a few steps away.
However, what an adventure, as every day is different.
This slow organic pace helped reduce costly errors as we had time to review the previous days work, and offered the chance to make any changes, ensure that the ultimate objective of building the Barn was done right.
I would start work at 8 am and continue through to 5 pm, only stopping when our dogs Poppy and Sophie would come and find me and pester for their 12 o’clock walk in the woods at the back of our property looking for deer, and those pesky squirrels.
With careful planning and close attention to the quality of the supplies and build finishes, each day we moved on to the next stage of the build and something new.
We worked together with local Building Control at each step from foundation laying through to final sign off. Due to my inexperience there were some unforeseen changes but they offered great advice and encouragement.
First example the roof had been designed by our architect, Building Control (BC) challenged and recommended adding Oak braces to the inside of the roof and 2 steel tie bars across the 1st-floor section.
In the living area, I spent 2 weeks installing rigid insulation boards measuring and bespoke cutting individual sheets prior to fitting the plasterboard and plastering.
However I decided to arrange a visit from the BC team only to have a setback as I had not used the right spec’d, rigid insulation boards.
Painful lesson after buying reclaimed insulation sheets, but a good lesson to check with building control before moving onto other critical phases of the build and losing money and time and effort.
Luxury living in the middle of the countryside
Our Barn was now a blank canvas.
We knew we wanted to create an aspirational lifestyle living area reflecting the surrounding countryside
So with the open plan living area I wanted a luxury shower room and kitchen area which I believe we have achieved.
After 4 years of working daily on the Barn all the jobs were completed and we were really pleased with the finished result.
We are very fortunate in where we live, being only 1 hour away from London in an area where there are so many National Trust homes and gardens, vineyards, dramatic scenery such as the Ashdown Forest where you can play Pooh sticks on Pooh Bridge, surrounded by wildlife with great cycling routes.
The barn overlooks our garden and when you are sitting on the terrace at the end of an inspired shopping trip, courageous walk or sitting watching the sunset with a glass of wine you can feel the harmony of living with nature with all the luxuries of the barn.
Wonderful friends and neighbours
Bearing in mind we live in the middle of the countryside, we are so blessed with a community of friends who offered help when needed which was gratefully received.
For example one of our friends gave up two weekends to help with the weatherboards making sure everything was perfectly level.