Barn Conversion, South East Kent


Client Brief

The client was looking to convert a barn situated on land behind their property, owned by their family since 1999. They approached us to turn the barn into a five bedroom home intended as a holiday let, including supplying design details and drawings.

Of particular interest to them was to end up with a home that had high levels of finish internally and to exceed building control standards in terms of insulation and efficiency. They had approached architects and several building contractors, diligently considering their options before deciding to proceed with use for their design and build.  They were keen to work with a company that had a proven record completing similar projects that had been designed, built and managed to a high standard.

The Project

When we were first contacted by our client, and went to see the property, we found a derelict “Tyler” agricultural barn with asbestos cement sheet cladding. A “Tyler” barn is very similar to an “Atcost” barn in that it is a basic steel reinforced concrete portal framed building, originally constructed as an affordable agricultural building, commonly found on farmsteads since the 1950s. Similar buildings are still being built today.

Despite these barns often being common in construction and size, as with all barns, their conversions are bespoke in nature. None are ever built initially to residential standards, meaning new foundations and floor slabs are almost always required and often, apart from the concrete frames themselves, very little is worth converting.

When Vernacular Homes was instructed on the project, the barn already benefitted from a “Class Q” consent.  This effectively means that it fit the required criteria for conversion without full planning consent being required.  Class Q does, however, have some drawbacks, one being that the domestic curtilage allowed for a barn with this type of consent is very small.  For this reason, and as the client also required a double garage, we applied for formal planning consent to replace the existing Class Q.  Not only was a double garage included within this new consent, but also extension to the domestic curtilage.

The build period was 12 months, including the construction of the garage which began as the barn was completed.

Challenges

With this particular project, it soon became clear that the concrete posts didn’t actually extend down below ground level, so careful extension of these was required by way of reinforced concrete “kickers”, joining the posts to the new foundations.

A plus to this project was that the concrete portal frames, despite not being quite long enough, were actually in good condition. We were therefore able to use them to take a good part of the roof loading in conjunction with utilising them on load-bearing internal walls.

Although, the concrete posts required extension, this was swiftly dealt with and did not cause any particular issues in terms of cost or timescale.

Towards the end of the project, we were hit with delays in materials due to Covid, but again, we were able to manage this within our timescale. The client has significant experience in property both as an estate agent and a developer.  They expected challenges and issues to overcome and very little fazed them.  They knew what they wanted, had the experience to understand how they could achieve that with us, and worked with us through the required decisions form the beginning to the end of the project.

Outcome

An impressive end result; the barn has been transformed from an insignificant modern agricultural building to a luxury home.

Our client and his family lived in the barn initially, but are now renting the property out as a luxury holiday home, using Bloomstays as the agent.  They are very pleased with the hugely positive feedback they’ve received on the barn so far, and it is proving very popular for holidaymakers, and events alike.

What the client said…

“The barn was on the land of my parents’ home, where I’d lived with them as a child. Prior to instructing Vernacular Homes, I had noticed a number of planning applications being approved for similar barns in the area to be converted. I suggested to my parents that we should also apply for change of use permission and convert the barn into a holiday let. We got initial consent and then didn’t progress with the project for around two years while we decided what to do.

Eventually, we put the project out to tender. We knew of Vernacular Homes as they’d worked on two or three barns in the area, we’d heard good things about them and knew they delivered high-end projects. After talking to them and being pleased with the quote they provided, we decided to instruct them.

We started work with them in June 2020, and despite being in the middle of Covid, they were not concerned at all and just ploughed ahead, working within the restrictions of the pandemic.

They took control over everything, assisted us and amended the planning. They also made suggestions for improvements; for example, we originally planned a covered balcony but they said the cost would be significant and that particular part of the property wouldn’t get much sun, so instead they changed the layout and made the room bigger, which worked so much better. They also gave us advice on the planned dressing room area – they said it would be too small, particularly as it was in the eaves and we were concerned about head height. They worked around it and configured the area so it works really well. They also suggested moving the stairs which has resulted in a much larger hallway.

They amended and resubmitted our planning to incorporate all these changes, as well as dealing with the boundaries on the application to properly separate the barn from the main house, which my parents still live in. They also organised everything from the building inspector, to liaising with local services such as UK power networks to get us connected.

It was important to us to make the house as self-efficient as possible with a very high energy performance rating. So we used a local solar panel company who installed about twenty panels; Vernacular Homes worked really well with them. We also installed an air source heat pump as we’re not on mains gas. We kept the property as airtight as possible and put underfloor heating throughout the ground floor and first floor, which also gave us more wall space through not installing radiators.

We also used lots of high quality technology throughout the home and Vernacular Homes’ electrician was brilliant – I’ve actually used him on other projects since. The whole team is great: we had a really bad snow storm in the winter and the guys just turned up, I couldn’t believe it! They’ve really refined their team and have some great tradesmen. They’re not just workers, they really care about a project.

What I really liked was the contact and communication. If there were ever any delays or issues, they always kept us updated. You really get the personal touch from them too. When we were picking bathrooms, they invited us to their offices to look at our plans on their computer and show us how different designs might look – it made making decisions so much easier.

The property was finished about a year ago and it’s lovely – we’ve named it Old Harrow Barn. If ever I stay there, it’s amazing to wake up in the bedroom and think about the fact that I used to play in the barn as a child and now it’s this fantastic property. My favourite part of the barn is the cinema room – there were some initial disagreements about it with my parents as it was probably the biggest expense, but it was well worth it as everyone who has stayed there loves it. I also love the kitchen – we’ve had parties up there and it’s a great entertaining room. We’ve had no major snagging issues at all, everyone always comments on what a beautiful property it is. It’s a great family asset and a really popular holiday let. “

Our views on the project…

“We are very pleased with how the project went and really enjoyed working with our client. They were efficient and speedy when it came to making decisions, and from the outset they had a clear understanding in terms of what they wanted the project to deliver, and how they wanted it to look.”




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