Green Dreams – [the never ending story]

After the wettest winter on record the basic barn conversion went to plan- that is it was started at the autumn equinox and was hoping to be in by Christmas. Hoping being the main planning process throughout this venture, in reality 3 months was a challenge and it ended up being 4. [click on pictures for full size]

the land of rainbows

the land of rainbows


The wettest and stormiest winter on record. Abergavenny seafront after a January storm










As the photo’s show the first ‘temporary’ dwelling is the remains of an old cow barn, 3 walls and 2/3rds of the roof- it has planning fo a workshop- studio- garage and storage, so hopefully the planners will not quibble over the super insulation, french windows for ‘garage’ doors, as well as sink and entertainment system.

The building process was fairly straightforward.

The old roof was propped up to remove the slates and install a new facing wall.

The earth floor was dug out to receive a 100mm foam insulation lining with a concrete floor laid on top

When the building was reasonably stable sheet board, followed by 6inches of insulation followed by new roof rafters, and recycled slates [found in various piles] were all laid over the existing purlins and rafters to preserve the interior.


The three stone walls were drylined with lightweight thermolite blocks and bonded with P.U. foam. It is my own technique so it has not passed building regs, however lightweight blocks suck the moisture out of mortar making the joints fragile, also those joints make up 15% of the wall area which is very poor insulation.  Using foam came about after a can burst covering a combination of blocks, wood, board and dust some years ago – separating the blocks rendered them pretty broken as the glue was so strong. I’ve used it on a few tricky jobs in the past with no problems although not on this scale. One can of expanding foam [using a gun] will do about half a pallet of blocks, which at £4 a can works out cheaper than sand and cement.

the cow barn- or rather 3 stone walls with some roof and earth floor.

the cow barn- or rather 3 stone walls with some roof and earth floor.

The windows and doors despite being off the shelf standard sizes from Wickes took and age to come and were the most expensive single item.  Costs have been fairly low with all the labour ‘free’. Although the property was land and derelict farm buildings with planning permission the previous owner had collected together about £5000 worth of building timber, velux windows and insulation. [a local company- Seconds & Co, Presteigne sell Kingspan PU sheet ‘seconds’ at half price, giving a £1000 saving on RRP]. There was also several years of collected junk like old bathroom suites, plumbing fittings, piles of slates from the old farmhouse as well as gas bottles, old doors etc etc. even the oak beams from a boat which were recycled into the floor joists.

The property was sold as a work in progress project although the owner had managed to only install the water tank and cesspit, with electricity coming from the collapsed farmhouse from suspect extension leads.


Given so much recycling and £5000 of inherited materials the total costs –

windows and doors [of a surprisingly high insulation spec from Wickes] – £1200

concrete floor [which also did the workshop] £1200

drylining thermolite blocks- £1100

new electrics including armoured cable- £300

odds ends, nails, some timber sheeting, sand cement etc- £600

hire of excavators, dump trucks [that included building a pond, terracing and fixing the road] £1200

chimney – the stove was here- £500

plumbing- £200

solar + immersion heater boiler- £600

all the things you forgot you needed to buy- £500 [this is a guess]

came to around the £12,000 – which is a surprise but if there had been more new and less recycling the total conversion cost without labour would have only been near the £25,000 mark. There are still things to be done, like build a proper kitchen although the cobbled together one and homemade concrete work top work, as well as install a fullsize bedroom window and some double-glazed panes around the french windows [the top lights are recycled and are temporary]

6 months on and a reasonably functioning home

6 months on and a reasonably functioning home


One of the most frustrating problems has been sealing the building- with maxed out insulation in the roof, floor and walls the building should have stayed warm but it has bee plagued with little drafts that amount to a high turnover of air.

A main culprit was the fact the roof was constructed one side at a time so the ridge leaks [air not water!]- before next winter it will need attention and by which time the windows for the main bedroom and around the french windows will be replaced. It does draw attention to the problems of retrofitting or converting old houses to be energy efficient – the new build will follow passivehaus principles designing out weak points where draughts get in.

the almost finished, living room, dining and kitchen area.

the almost finished, living room, dining and kitchen area.

Despite niggles [or snag list as it is known in the trade] the 90m2 home is quite fun to live in. Work is just a wander across the yard and there is a whole British summer to make hay when the sun shines.




However it has not all been work work work, as that would make jack a very dull beanstalk.


And what to do with half a dozen mid century doors, and the need for a garden shed [an ongoing project like everything else- the light, the signage, yale lock, time travel etc to follow when there is time – !?!]P1000291



the dogs are supposed to keep the rabbit population down- there are hundreds- but they have time to play.



And then there is what to do with piles of old gas canisters that every old farm house compulsorily comes with.

becoming more creative with the plasma cutter

becoming more creative with the plasma cutter

the new mail box

the new mail box

gas bottle evolution with the add of a plasma cutter.

gas bottle evolution with the add of a plasma cutter.

2 thoughts on “Green Dreams – [the never ending story]

    • it keeps the postman and delivery drivers amused.
      Like all my projects – they are always work in progress, I need a mk2 at some point and looking at more realistic [scrap/salvaged] materials.

      the clip is one of my favorites [

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