Tim On Site In Hertfordshire - May 2010
The 3D model, sent to the client showing the frames Oakwrights are proposing to build
Living in Herefordshire this led me to spend my early carpentry career repairing old oak frame cottages and farm houses in the Herefordshire country side. With my copy of F.W.B Charles Conservation of Timber Buildings in one hand and my saw in the other this work helped me to gain an in depth understanding of how traditional oak frame buildings were put together.
Clasped Purlins & Common Rafters
OAK FRAME REPAIR
I spent over ten years repairing old oak frames before my friendship with Nick Price led me towards the starting of Oakwrights and the design and construction of new oak framed houses and buildings. Following the success of Oakwrights and new oak buildings for the last eleven years I have not really had anything to do with the repair of old oak frames.
When a set of drawings landed on our doorstep showing the repair of a small traditional oak framed cottage in Hertfordshire that had had the misfortune of the thatch catching fire and burning the house down I was not really interested until I realised that linked to the old cottage there was a proposed oak extension in an L shape that took the house up to about 3,000 square feet. Suddenly I was much more enthusiastic and thought that it would be good fun to dig deep into my memory and carry out the repair to the old cottage as well as the design and construction of the new oak frame.
Installing a clasped purlin truss
Roland, Tom, Gwil & Steve; A happy team, ready for work
THE NEW OAK FRAME
Being a carpenter by trade I like to get out on site at least three or four times a year to join one of the frame erection teams on the best part of our job, actually putting up the oak frame. So with my regained enthusiasm for repair work I decided to join our team in Hertfordshire to erect the new oak frame and fit a new oak framed roof to the old cottage.
We arrived on site Tuesday May 4th, the day after the bank holiday, with a long hard week ahead of us. We had left our yard in Herefordshire at 4.50am and we arrived on site just after 8am, the site being in the Hertfordshire countryside just outside what can only be described as a quintessential English village with its church, duck pond, village green and thatched cottages.
Our team consisted of Steve Bell (team leader) Roland Horwood (senior frame designer) Gwilym Davies and Tom Burry (oak frame carpenters) and me. We unloaded an arctic and a flat bed lorry of oak, 1200 cubic feet in all, and we were ready to go.
The main team got started on erecting the frame and I was tasked with working out how I would make sure that the new roof on the cottage would link into the roof on the oak extensions that we were building.
Steve & Gwil installing a clasped purlin
Back on the tools preparing the old wall plate to take the new
THE OAK FRAME STRUCTURE
The combination of a complicated foot print with changing levels connecting into an existing building made this an interesting project to say the least. We worked closely with Bill Seale the site Forman to overcome all the little opportunities that came our way in a positive and pragmatic way. I worked out how I was going to set the wall plates up of the old cottage regarding level and angle to gain the best connection I could between the two roofs. This involved the packing, levelling and reducing of the existing wall plates ready to receive our new roof. I must be getting slow in my old age as it took me two days to get the wall plates absolutely ready for the new roof.
By the time I had sorted the wall plate out, Steve and the team were ready to start fitting the new wall plates to the old cottage after completing the main oak frame structure.
While a complex frame, I think Roland came up trumps with a really interesting roof structure. Roland designed a clasped purlin roof which while being very rare in Herefordshire I have in fact never seen one actually vernacular to Hertfordshire.
The result looked great and lifting the principal rafters up into the plain of the purlins helped to gain additional head height in a room in the roof situation. The clasped purlin trusses with the arched effect, where the two principal rafters meet at the ridge, and large sweeping wind braces I think makes the roof looks really elegant.By Friday evening at 6pm we had completed the entire main frame, adjusted the wall plates of the old cottage and even started to fit some of the oak rafters to the hip on the far end of the oak frame house.
Front elevation of house with plywood sheathing over the old oak frame and new roof above
View from the old cottage gable, across to new wing with basement below
While feeling a little stiff and aching in places I didn’t think existed I really enjoyed myself when standing back and looking at a frame that will now stand for another three or four hundred years, giving many families a beautiful home to live in. Roland has actually made a timelapse film of us erecting the frame which will be on the web site soon so watch this space. My thanks must go to Neil Dower for giving Oakwrights the opportunities to breathe life back into this old house. I am looking forward to returning next springtime to see the house complete in all its glory with a new thatched roof.
The frame is complete - a satisfied team