Naive from living in Singapore, we had no idea what we were getting into when we bought our house in Oxfordshire – a listed 1750s farmhouse with a leaking roof and a flooded cellar.
In the midst of a freezing winter, where the internal thermostat never got above 16°C, we vowed to make the house warm and dry, but not at the expense of the planet.
Work starts on insulating the roof with natural wood fibre and sheep’s wool.
Tackling the windows. Some were too rotten to salvage and were replaced with slim double glazing. Others, like the Georgian sashes and Victorian leaded windows were repaired and draught-proofed.
Painstaking work to solve damp problems – gutters replaced, walls repointed, concrete paths removed from around the house and air bricks unblocked.
Wood burners installed in 2 of the 3 open fireplaces.
Retail therapy – the electric car arrives.
The old lavender garden restored to its former glory.
Internal redecoration. My obsession to find the best eco paint begins. LED lights installed throughout.
After 6 months of searching, we finally find an architect who can meet our brief for a super low-energy, low-carbon extension that works alongside the old house. Enter Transition by Design.
We achieve planning and Listed Building Consent for the new extension and barn renovations.
In preparation for heat pumps replacing the gas boilers, we have 3 phase electricity brought to the house.
The ground source heat system goes in and we’re warm for the first time in 3 years.
Our hunt to find a builder who has knowledge of both old buildings and eco buildings ends with our appointment of Classic Builders.
Dave the Thatcher starts his epic 4 month project to single-handedly re-thatch the barn using Devon-grown wheat reed.
Classic Builders arrive on site. Demolition of the 1990s porch and garage. Most of the limestone was either re-used on site or collected by freecyclers.
The walls of the extension are built using Ziegel clay blocks from Thermoplan.
The new walls are wrapped in Pavatex wood fibre insulation.
The underside of the thatched barn gets lime plastered.
New triple glazed windows go into the kitchen. They’re made from accoya and mirror the profile of the ones there before.
I seek solace in the garden from all the craziness in the house.
We use engineered timber called glulam for the frames of the curtain glazing and as structural beams instead of steel.
My guilty secret – we use PIR insulation board under the kitchen floor. The depth is too shallow for natural materials and aerogel would have blown the budget.
The walls of the new extension get lime plastered both inside and out. The whole structure is made from natural materials so ‘breathes’ in the same way as an old building.
Sustainable Kitchens start installing the kitchen together with a worktop reclaimed from a school science lab.
The reclaimed brick floor goes down.
An airtightness test reveals a few draughts, some of which can be sorted, others which we’ll have to live with.
A ground mounted solar array gets installed in the garden.
The downstairs loo relinquishes its role as the make-shift kitchen and has a new floor of reclaimed Spanish tiles to celebrate.
The mechanical ventilation is turned on – we can feel its effect immediately.
After lots of trial and error, the rain chains finally deliver water to the drains without splashing the walls.
We say goodbye to Classic Builders and we have our house back.