Thursday, 16 August 2012

Building a Cruck Frame Essex Barn

When we bought the smallholding, we inherited a decades-old, corrugated iron barn.  This was almost falling down - and couldn't be secured in any way - and so we decided to replace it with a timber-frame Essex barn; something that would be carefully crafted and would feel very much part of the traditional landscape.

Removing the bark from the sweet chestnut poles
We wanted to build as much as we could ourselves - along with a carpentry business from the village - and to source as many materials we could locally.  So, to begin with, after we'd demolished the old barn and put down a concrete base, we hunted out and cut down some sweet chestnut trunks for the barn's timber fames (including the large "A" frames) from a local farm.  After a hairy journey transporting these through the village by tractor and trailer we had an even hairier afternoon lifting the trunks, as poles, into place with a few friends and a hoist.  The frames were 6 metres in height.

Raising the frames

Once the frames were in place, the carpenters arrived to put together the weather-board exterior (weather-boarding is a traditional feature of old barns and buildings in the Essex countryside) and we painted this black, with barn paint.

The barn doors go in
Inside we have a large area, open from floor to ceiling, and a galleried area.  We insulated the barn with straw and sheep's wool, because we wanted natural materials (although space is lost because of the bulk of straw bale insulation).

We had a debate about the floor under the galleried area and settled on red brick tiles.  It's tempting to have attractive looking materials that naturally belong to other parts of the country (like stone or slate) but red brick has been used historically in the south east (brick making used to take place just a short distance away in the village) and red brick tiles blend well with wood.  In the end, we went further afield - to the Weald in Sussex - to buy hand-made brick tiles.  They were reasonably priced and cost even less when we agreed to pick them up ourselves.  They're uneven (each brick is slightly different) and they're already weathering in to give the barn a traditional look.

The barn is painted

The barn is still far from completed, but the windows and doors are in, including the large, solid barn doors at the front.  The next task is finishing the floor in the galleried area.

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