When winter blizzards do their worst, Icynene Insulation really comes into its own.

Icynene Insulation for this windswept, Cumbrian

barn conversion

On the exposed Furness peninsular in Cumbria, close to the Lake District Fells, there is precious little shelter from the fierce, westerly gales that batter this part of the Irish Sea coastline.

Hardy residents of the area describe it as a ‘lazy wind’ because it’s more inclined to take the shortest route to its destination, scything straight through anyone that stands in its way, rather than going around them!

Buildings suffer this battering in exactly the same way, so in the old days, builders tended to rely on physical mass to hold back the wind. Consequently, stone walls up to two feet thick were the accepted norm for houses and barns built in this neck of the woods.

Even with such substantial construction, keeping occupants warm was a considerable challenge in days before central heating and insulated walls.

No more so than for the current owner of a rambling Victorian farm and barn complex that sits almost on the shoreline at Kirby in Furness, a few miles up the coast from Barrow.

Originally built in 1899, and now owned by Father and Son, William and James Brakewell, the house and barn were in desperate need of refurbishment to bring them up to 21st century living standards.

William and James both live on site with their families and jointly farm the area as well as running an agricultural equipment sales and servicing business.

The main barn structure had stood virtually unused for years and qualified for improvement grants under the Government’s Farm Diversification programme, introduced to support micro and small businesses and farm diversification.

In light of this, a scheme was devised to convert the barn into three dwellings - one three bed house for Father William to live in and two further 2 bed houses to be used as temporary accommodation for workers at the nearby British Aerospace site at Barrow.


The isolated 19th Century barn sits on the Cumbrian coast in the shadow of the Lake District Fells.

The insulation of a 120-year old Cumbrian barn conversion proved a difficult challenge for this Father and Son farming partnership. Here CPD Specifier takes a look at a new technique in thermal insulation that gaining popularity in these difficult to treat projects.

Doing most of the work themselves to keep costs under control they quickly recognised some of the challenges they faced in bringing the building up to habitable standards in this exposed location.

Son James Brakewell takes up the story. “The biggest problem we faced with the barn conversion was insulation. It’s a huge building measuring 19.0m x 10.0m with an eaves height of 10.0m. There are old cattle byres on the ground floor with a two-storey overshot barn on top, all built of local Burlington stone.”

At the start of the conversion, an internal frame of timber studwork was installed, set 50mm off the external walls. Conventional rigid board insulation was considered but quickly rejected on the grounds of speed of installation and poor air tightness performance.

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