New barn style oak frame home in Worcestershire

Oak Frame Building Costs

Area: Worcestershire
House Type: Barn style
Build Route: Self build

“It’s a bit bigger than we initially wanted. We were meant to be downsizing, but it’s about twice as large as our previous home!”

Over the years the Glosters have completed numerous renovation projects, including four barn conversions. When Martin retired, he wanted a new challenge and the couple started looking for a self-build opportunity, or a possible knockdown and rebuild project, in the area. “We came across a bungalow for sale and had lots of ideas in mind for what we could do with it. Before putting in an offer or moving forward we visited an architect who we’d used for some of our previous projects to discuss our ideas,” says Helena. “We went through a very detailed description of what we hoped to achieve. He said ‘Do you mean something like this?’ and turned his computer screen round to show us a house design that was almost exactly what we wanted.”

Barn house design

The barn design the architect revealed was for a new home on a plot nearby, next to a listed property. The owner of the listed dwelling needed to sell the land as an enabling plot to raise funds for restoration work. “To push a sale through the architect had been employed to get detailed planning permission for a house. We went straight over to the site and bought the land from who’s now our next-door neighbour,” says Helena. “There had been a long and drawn out planning process and it had taken three years for them to get permission. We didn’t want to go back to square one and redesign the whole project, so as the style ticked a number of our boxes we were happy just to modify certain aspects of the plans to suit our requirements.”

Although the basic design stayed the same, the Glosters completely altered the internal layout, swapped the north-facing glazed frontage for timber cladding (moving the glazed elevation to the rear of the property) and set about finding a suitable build system for the house. “I’ve got an engineering background so knew I could do a lot of the project myself,” says Martin. “We studied the architect’s plans and researched the construction methods we could use to build and what technology we could install. We read a lot of magazines, including Build It, and visited various exhibitions to get ideas.”

The couple made contact with numerous timber frame companies, knowing that using an oak frame would provide them with the charm and character they desired. “After meeting Oakwrights we knew we wanted to employ them to build the frame for us,” says Helena. “The design team were great, they really listened to us and were happy to do whatever we wanted. They followed our initial discussion up with a really reasonable quote, so going with them was an easy decision.”

Martin led the project management, hiring various tradesmen, balancing the books, sourcing materials and labouring throughout. “I think that an awful lot of the work in a self build is the manual labour. Well, I can do that till the cows come home, so I employed tradesmen just to do the skilled bits.”

3D oak frame design

The first major task was to employ a groundworks team to construct the foundations. “Obviously, this aspect had to be exactly right as per the plans, so it was the one element that I didn’t get involved with,” says Martin. “As the plot is on ex-farmland the team discovered huge holes from old cess and a slurry pits. So they had to install double depth foundations to provide adequate support. Oakwrights provided us with a 3D design of the frame so that the team knew where to put the supporting pads.”

Eco friendly & thermally efficient

In addition to the boiler and UFH, the Glosters have solar thermal and PV panels, a heat exchange and distribution system, a rainwater harvesting unit and a woodburning stove. “I am so passionate about solar thermal systems. They should be built into every new home,” says Helena. “Ours is linked up to a decent sized tank so we have plenty of hot water. Last year from the middle of February to September, we never once had to switch the boiler on.

PV panels were installed more recently. As the back of the Glosters’ house is directly south facing, the panels are in optimum position for generating energy. “We make enough to sell some back to the grid,” says Helena.

The wood burner is linked to a heat recovery system so that when it’s on, the warmth produced is distributed evenly throughout the house. The stove is proving to be extremely cost effective, as the couple are fuelling it for free with off-cuts from the build.

Sustainable materials & energy efficient 

From conception, Martin and Helena knew they wanted the house to be low maintenance and economical to run. “This is the last house we’re going to build so we wanted to make sure that it was efficient. Utility bills are constantly on the rise, and we don’t want to have to worry about them in the future,” says Helena. “It is really well insulated and we have specified a number of eco systems to ensure that the house stays efficient.”

Inside the oak barn home

Inside, the home is extremely bright thanks to a large open hallway and the sunroom, which is fitted with full height glazing. The hallway doubles up as a formal dining area and leads to the sunroom at the back of the house. To the right is the contemporary kitchen and utility area, and to the left are guest bedrooms, a main bathroom and the staircase. “We have a plot that has fantastic views and we wanted to make the most of them, so instead of having most of the bedrooms upstairs, we put the living room and study area there. We have the master bedroom upstairs too, so we get the best of both worlds,” says Helena. Their bedroom runs the depth of the house so benefits from full height glazing at the front and back, giving them stunning views in both directions. The living room boast the same feature. Downstairs, the kitchen is the couple’s favourite area.

Words Courtesy of Anna-Marie De Souza @ Build It Magazine

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