Archive for the ‘Timber Buildings’ Category


It’s been a few weeks since we announced our little project and so much has happened in the last few weeks. But before we get to that here’s a little bit about the house itself.

The Cottage

The estate agent described it as a “charming Grade 2 listed cottage with many original features and offers a tremendous opportunity to create an individual charming character house” Well, in spite of what people say about estate agents … on this occasion they were pretty much spot on!

The cottage is in Old Amersham which if you don’t know is a lovely little market town in the heart of the Chiltern hills. Most of the local property is old and built using timber frame construction. On researching the property it looks like it was built around 1740 and is considered one of the older property’s in the area.

There is a lovely Market hall which apparently dates from 1682 and more recently is known for the Kings Arms pub which featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Kings Arms Amersham

So how did we find the house?

Well, it was a warm sunny Saturday morning in January and we were taking Angus on his regular morning walk to the local park when we spotted a ‘For Sale’ sign go up on this charming little cottage in the high street. We’d been looking for a small renovation project for a while. Nothing too ambitious, just enough for the two of us to get our teeth into.

So we took a closer look and found it was a typical mid terrace period property with a modest garden, at the end of which was a beautiful crystal clear river. Looking beyond the river was the local cricket field complete with local pub. Just heavenly.

As soon as we came back from walking Angus we rang the agent and set up a viewing the very next day. (You need to move fast round here if you want something)

The viewing went well but it was clear this lovely little house was going to be a challenge, not least as it had suffered from major water ingress at some point probably leaky roof which had left a nasty stain in most of the upstairs ceilings.  Aside from the challenges brought on from the age of the property it had an open plan staircase probably from the 70’s and a large inglenook fireplace (with bread oven apparently) which had been boarded up at some point and replaced with a gas fire.

70's staircase

The boiler was in need of urgent attention and the heating system needed replacing.

There was no time to lose! We had to put an offer in as houses in the high street rarely come up for sale… and almost never within our budget.

Monday morning came and I picked up the phone to the agent and put in an offer. After haggling for 10 minutes we settled on a price!

Job done … or so we thought.

We then found out the cottage is grade 2 listed and in a conservation area (basically means we can’t touch the outside without the consent of the local planners and the conservation officer)

Building Survey

We commissioned a structural survey report and much of what we feared came true. This is clearly going to be a slightly larger project than we first thought but we are determined to get this beautiful little house back to its former glory.

Exchanged Contracts

On Friday the 7th of April we exchanged contracts and we’re scheduled to complete on the 19th when we finally get to collect the keys. We are both soooooo excited about the project and can’t wait to share our progress with anyone that wants to listen. 🙂

As soon as we have the keys we’ll post another update around how we plan to approach the project.

Back soon.

Best wishes.

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Brrrrr … Woke up to a hard frost this morning. Beautiful to look at …. but flipping cold! -4 degrees in the car and I had to scrape the inside of the windscreen.

Thank goodness I took the time to put the Acers in the polytunnel last Autumn.

I grow most of my Acers in pots for that very reason. I’ll take them out of the poly around mid-May by which time they’ll have grown a new set of leaves. I started my collection about 3 years ago with a dozen 8-inch plugs I bought on EBay.

I thought it was a bit of a gamble at the time, but just 3 years later they’ve grown into great little plants and are worth 5-6 times the original price.

acers.jpg

If you’ve grown Acers you’ll know what I mean when I say they are at their best in late Spring when the new leaf is at its most vibrant. In the winter, they look like dead twigs! … But in 3-4 months they’ll be back to their magnificent best.

While the weather is cold it’s too wet and miserable to get onto the soil my thoughts turn to garden maintenance. It’s just as important to keep on top of the jobs that don’t necessarily provide any immediate benefit. Stuff like painting the sheds mending any broken fences and anything that may have blown over or snapped.

I like to get these jobs done before the growing season starts to limit any damage to any plants that may be growing in the vicinity of where I’m working. They stand a better chance of recovery if you do it now.

The big job for the Spring has to be the fences. They’re in a poor state of repair which is reflected in the fact that the chickens are always escaping into next doors plot. It’s not fair on my neighbours so I need to do something about it.

mending-fences

As you can see from the pics the fence is your bog standard post and sheep wire construction, which is actually the responsibility of my neighbour as he put up the original fence. The posts were inferior grade and have rotted out of the holes, so I need to replace with better quality posts so it will last.

I’ll replace the posts with chestnut posts and then staple some chicken wire on top of the sheep wire to keep the escapees on the right side of the fence!

On the left side of the plot, my neighbour has recently taken up stock car racing and his plot is rapidly filling up with second-hand cars. Rather disappointingly what was a beautiful view across to the barley fields is now starting to resemble a scrap yard!

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I suppose I could get in touch with the local council but I’d rather not fall out with my neighbour and, to be honest, the fence is pretty grim anyway. I plan to replace it with a new 5ft. post and feather board fence.

The only snag is it the sun will be in The West essentially behind the fence which will create shade. It’s a shame but I can only see the car situation getting worse, and anyway, I’ll grow some shade loving creepers like a climbing hydrangea and stuff it with Hostas and anything else I can think of.

So that’s my Spring project sorted … Just need to work out the materials list and choose a sunny weekend in March.

I’ll ket you know how it comes together for anyone that might be thinking about building their own fence. I’ve done it before and it’s fairly straightforward but there are a few things to be aware of. Details to follow sometime in March.

Anyway is almost the end of Jan and although it’s freezing cold the sun has just come up and it’s looking gorgeous!

A few more weeks and we’re into March and the clocks go forward. Just the best time in the garden!

Back soon

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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Just a quick update on our shed/office conversion project.

The outside has been clad in new feather board. The old stuff had warped and wasn’t really up the task which was largely down to poor fixing by yours truly.

Window linings are in and the inside has been plastered. All it needs now is the glass to go in, door hanging and the floor down and finally decorating throughout.

I’ll post again when the jobs done. 🙂

Great view out to the climbing rose from the windows.

Great view out to the climbing rose from the windows.

Shed Office Conversion

Shed Office Conversion

Glad I got the professionals in for the plastering. Know your limits. 🙂

 

Shed Office Conversion

It’s going to need a small step.

 

Thank goodness we have a long weekend coming!  🙂

Thanks all.

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

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The New Potting Shed Area

Phew! … At last we finished the new outbuilding, well almost. It was all going so well until Saturday afternoon when things definitely didn’t go to plan!

For those that follow the blog you’ll know way back in March we decided to build new timber frame working space that would double up as a workshop and potting shed for the new nursery business.

The plan was to complete the build in time for the growing season, but I had no idea it was going to take so long. With John working in London 5 days a week we only had weekends which is fine except as amateurs it takes us much longer as we’re learning.

We build all our outdoor structure using a frame of 4″ x 2″ treated softwood (from local builders merchants) which is clad on the inside with OSB sheet and on the outside with 6″ treated feather board. Insulation is glass fibre blanket as we had a couple of rolls left over from the house build (nasty nasty stuff  …the sooner it’s banned altogether the better).

Learn How To Build A Workshop

We bought a fairly cheap standard door made from pine which should last a good few years. It’s actually under the roof space and protected from the rain so providing we look after it it should last for years.

Timber-ledged-and-brace

My worst fears realised … 

The very last task on the build was to fit all the glass. So with the weather set fair for the weekend we planned to finish the project.

We were advised to use laminated glass for the larger pieces at the front as the height is pretty much floor to ceiling and it wouldn’t be safe to use regular glass. Everything was going so well, the weather was good, in fact it was like mid summer on Saturday afternoon.

I fitted the first sheet no problem. I used putty and chamfered wooden bead that I’d prepared in the workshop to save some cost. The next 30 seconds will live me forever.

I can’t even remember what I was doing but somehow I managed to catch one of the other two remaining pieces. In what felt like slow motion as one pane fell face down on the solid concrete floor catching the other remaining piece on the way down. CRASH!!!

Both pieces hit the floor with the most painful crashing sound. 😦 My worst nightmare had been realised. Two sheets of laminated glass at a £110 each lay on the floor smashed.

A few choice words later I quickly realised there was nothing I could do. The damage was done, I’d learned a very expensive lesson. I wiped away a tiny tear and got on with clearing up the resulting mess. At least I now know the guy at the glaziers was right … laminated glass does only crack, I can vouch for that!

Learn How To Build A Workshop

At first all I could think about was how costly a mistake this was but later in the day I realised how fortunate I was not to be anywhere near the glass at the time as I feel sure I would have tried to catch it from falling which doesn’t bear thinking about.

If you ever have to fit glass into a building or perhaps you’re fixing a broken pane in your house my advice … store the glass well away from the area you’re working. Had I done so then I’d be celebrating closure on a new project. Instead now I have two pieces of OSB sheeting where there should be 2 panes of beautiful laminated glass.

We plan to post a special feature on constructing your own out buildings which will have all the details of the materials and construction methods used and some great tips we’ve learnt along the way.

In the mean time any questions do let us know and feel free to leave us a comment.

Weekends seem so short don’t they.

Here’s to the next one!

Best wishes,

 

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

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We’re continuing with our series on how to build your own workshop and I’m pleased to report despite the freezing cold weather we’ve made steady progress. If you haven’t read the part 1 then it might be worth having a read as we take you through building the foundations and the timber frame construction.

Insulation
Although it may be seen as simply a shed it’s still important to make sure there is plenty of insulation to keep the heat in and the cold out!  Also helps to insulate some of the noise from the power tools! 🙂

wshopinsualte

On this occasion we used glass fibre insulation but I have to say I hate the stuff and will look for an alternative in future. Having stuffed it full of insulation as much as possible we added a layer of heavy duty plastic sheet (spare damp course membrane I had hanging around) to the outside of the building to which helps limit the wind leaving the insulation to trap any warm air inside the structure and keep any moisture out. We got the idea from our house build.

wshopclad

Cladding the outside
Having completed the insulation and general construction we added feather edge fencing board to the outside. I like the rustic finish it gives to the building. If you have a close look at the photo you can see the ice on the boards as we were putting them up. It was absolutely freezing the day we started the job. Huge thanks to my son James for staying with it even through the coldest of weekends.

A tip for you if you plan to use feather board for a shed or even if you’re building a fence is to make a template spacer to the size of gap you want between boards. Use any old piece of scraps 2″ timber cut to length. It will save you hours of measuring … but do remember to check the levels every 2 or 3 boards. If you don’t there is a chance you’ll get to the end of a run and it won’t be level. Oh and one last tip, don’t drive the nails right in until you’ve finished the job just in case you need to take them off for some reason. Try getting feather edge off without splitting it when it’s fixed … nightmare!

workshop

I made the doors for the front and side and the small window at the front out of prepared soft wood and then gave the whole building two coats of water based preservative. Finally giving the softwood doors an extra coat by way of belt and braces.

Since we built the workshop we’ve built a new wood store which you you can read about how that came together using the links below:

Part 1 – How To Build A Wood Store (Foundations and basic structure)

Part 2 – How to Build A Wood Store (Cutting the roof)

Part 3 – How to Build a Wood Store (Finishing off)

Best wishes,

John and Tania.

PS: If you found this useful please click the Like button and feel free to pass on to anyone you think might be interested. The more the merrier!

LATEST NEWS (May 2015) – If you’d like to know how the building has stood the test of time then click the link below for an update.

https://ruralgardener.co.uk/2015/04/11/how-to-convert-a-shed-into-a-home-office/

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One of the first projects we have to undertake before the build can progress is to build a new workshop. Basically we need a workshop for tools and accessories and additional storage for the various materials we’re going to need over the coming weeks and months for the new build.

Initially we looked at buying an off the shelf shed/garage but for the size we wanted the best price we could find was just under £2,000! and that’s without foundations or any insulation, essentially just your basic shed in fact.

Tommy Walsh built his own workshop out of timber frame so we thought we might go for a similar build. The cost of all the materials came in at just under £1,400 and this included 150mill of insulation, a solid floor a pitched roof and in all likeliness would be made from longer lasting materials.

John is looking to post some plans in the future for anyone thinking of building their own workshop. If you’d like details please drop your email details to ruralgardeners@gmail.com and we’ll let you know just as soon as they are available.

workshop2

Foundations
The first part of the project are the foundations on which we could build the main the timber frame construction. Start by building a frame from 6″ x 1″ shutter boards. Your builders merchant can help you with that one. When working out your sizes add an extra six inches to the actual size to be on the safe side as you don’t want your building sitting exactly on the edge of the base or it may crack the edge of the base over time. I use 2″x2″ post at each corner and half way along to fix the boards to.

Into the frame I break up about 4 inches of hardcore then on top of this I add approx 2″ layer of sharp sand. Helps to stop the hardcore from piercing the damp course. Next a  layer of thick plastic sheeting to stop moisture coming up through the floor, often referred to as a damp course membrane.

Onto this I laid about 3 inches of concrete mixed at a ratio of 3 parts ballast, 1 part sharp sand and 1 part cement. When you have the cement in spade it flat and tamp (basically flattening and removing the air) until it’s nice and level. I find the easiest way is to take a long length of four by two timber long enough to stretch across the width of the base. Then I drag the timber across the foundation frame in a backwards and forward sawing motion. Eventually the concrete will find a level. If you have holes or pockets throw some more concrete mix in and tamp again. Keep checking until you have a smooth surface. Put the work in now and it will pay dividends later when you start the timber frame.

workshop1

I chose to build the foundation walls using concrete blocks, which provide a level base for the timber frame to fixed to.  As soon as the blocks had gone off nice and hard I laid a 4 x 2 timber plate all the way around the perimeter and fixed using heavy duty screws and plugs.

Sole Plate

This pic is from a later project where I used bricks instead of concrete blocks but it shows the sole plate quite nicely.

Timber frame construction

Each section of the workshop was constructed using 4″ x 2″ pressure treated timbers and fixed to the timber plate using 3.5 inch screws. I’ve found the easiest way to construct the frame is to lay each section (wall) out on the lawn and build it first. Cut everything square and to size and you won’t go far wrong.

When you have each of the walls built fix them to the sole plate with a couple of screws while you check everything is nice and level in the corners. Quick tip … make sure you have a long spirit level as your standard DIY spirit level won’t cut it I’m afraid. Employ the help of a friend or family member to hold the corners together while you drill screw and fix. I used 3″ decking screws which worked just fine but depending on the situation you might want to use bolts.

workshop3

Roof
Next came the roof which was also constructed from 4″ x 2″ pressure treated timber, which is actually much easier than you think. Tommy Walsh built a full size template from a sheet of OSB plywood which if this is your first build is probably worth doing. Rather than go into too much detail here take a look at a later build here where I explain in a little more detail how to construct the roof.

potting-shed-16

workshop4

Next job is to clad the roof. I used 18 mill plywood as it covers really well and doesn’t take too long to put it down. You’ll need an extra pair of hands as the sheets are heavy. Alternatively you could cut them down to a smaller size I guess. Onto this I add a layer of roofing underlay finishing off with a good quality grade roofing felt.

You don’t need to use the underlay but it does add that little bit of extra integrity to the roof. Notice we left about a 10″overhang at the end of the ridge beam. This is to ensure the rainwater is kept away from the structure as much as is reasonable.

Interior
The inside is clad with OSB board which is much cheaper than plywood and works fine and as it’s inside the building I wasn’t worrying too much about the finish. I know I wanted wood on the inside as I wanted to hang my tools anywhere without having to worry about finding the studs.

wshop

wshop2

I think you’ll agree it’s starting to come together quite nicely!

In part 2 we’ll look at adding some insulation and finishing off the build.

Best wishes,

John & Tania

Part 2 – How to Build a Workshop

PS: If you found this useful please click the Like button and feel free to pass on to anyone you think might be interested. The more the merrier!

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