on the extension with a pitched roof, as well as adding external wall insulation, and new render. “I wanted to make it good for the next generation really,” Bob says. Bob commissioned an architect, Trevor Stevens, and engineer Andrew Owen to design the underpinning, to ensure it was a “proper job.” The architect also assisted with the aesthetics of the new pitched roof on the extension, drawing up different slope variants. “I didn’t stick entirely to the architect’s plans,” Bob admits, crediting his “wonderful” builders E W Kinsey & Sons for picking up issues “which perhaps hadn’t been considered,” he says. “That’s one of the benefits of having trustworthy builders, otherwise I would have had to get the architect back in and new drawings done.”

SECOND TIME ROUND This wasn’t Bob’s first experience tackling a project of this kind. The main farmhouse underwent a similar refurbishment five years ago. “That was a mishmash of styles,” he explains. “It’s old at its core, around 1600s, but it was all mixed up – some of it was brick, some of it was sandstone. I insulated and rendered it so that now the two houses match.” Bob’s involvement in the farmhouse project

proved useful when it came to tackling this one. “I knew what I was doing, I knew what to expect from it,” he says. “It was very much repeating what I’d already done.” He was also able to use the experience to tweak the process to be more efficient. During the farmhouse renovation, he had used several different contractors on different jobs, such as the plastering and rendering. “It got a little bit complicated, so I simplified it this time by having one contractor,” he explains.

The same contractor helped with the

farmhouse so deciding to use them on the new project was an easy choice. “They’re so proactive at solving problems,” he says. They also project managed the renovation, although Bob was also onsite every day, “mostly because I’m spending a lot of money and I want to know where it’s going!” he laughs.


Bob is passionate about energy efficiency and sustainability, and has ambitions to one day be entirely self-sufficient. The farm already has solar PV and a wind turbine, and he has looked into installing batteries. The site both generates and uses a lot of electricity, “but we tend to generate it when we’re not using it and use it when we’re not generating it,” he says. However, he believes the way the national grid currently regulates the equation around battery generation isn’t helpful enough to support the investment. “They do the calculations based on the assumption the turbine is going flat out, the sun is beaming down on the solar panels, and the battery is fully charged,” Bob explains. “You can fix that with software, but they don’t currently accept that solution. But I’m not alone in wanting to use it, so it will happen!” Despite this hitch, it’s this passion for

may/june 2021

sustainability that has led to Bob specifying a range of eco solutions on the refurbishment. The bungalow (like the farmhouse before it) has wood fibre insulation and the exterior is finished with a two-coat lime render, both supplied by Lime Green Products. Wood fibre was “very attractive,” he says, as it locks in carbon, as well as offering better breathability than some other insulation materials. He adds: “My experience has led me to believe that breathability in buildings is really important.” As well as the breathability aspect, Bob was also impressed by the fire protection qualities ascribed to wood fibre. “I’ve seen video trials where it just kind of chars,” he says. “That was significant.” The lime render also comes with a lower carbon cost in terms of its manufacture: “It’s cooked at a much lower temperature than cementitious products,” he says. Bob took a few further steps to improve

energy efficiency on both the house and bungalow. “I don’t have chimneys anymore, and I have draught-proof windows,” he explains. He went for “good quality” timber windows – on aesthetics and efficiency grounds. “I didn’t spend lots of money however,” he says, “they’re perhaps not as efficient as we could have had.” The bungalow’s oil-fired boiler remains in place, with Bob deciding not to replace it as it isn’t very old. However Neil, who now lives in the bungalow again with his partner, says they are spending less on fuelling it now the building is more efficiently insulated. When the boiler does eventually need replacing, Bob wants to install either a ground or air source heat pump. Neil moved out of the property while the work was taking place, but helped out, keeping an eye on the project’s progress. He also helped get rid of the large amount of soil that was excavated, plus some rubble. Bob is thankful for his help: “He was very helpful, and didn’t seem to mind too much being thrown out of his house!” This cooperation was assisted by the fact he now has a property that is cheaper to run.


Bob counts himself lucky they encountered no major problems or delays during the build. The only small hiccup came when they discovered the existing downpipes weren’t adequately taking water from the roof. “We did quite a big job of getting roof water well away from the property – which was an extra cost. That might have been another cause of the subsidence.” They had set six months aside to complete the

work, renting a property in the nearby village for Neil. “In five and a half months, he was back in,” says Bob. “It worked exactly how we wanted it to.” He credits this in part due to the fact they started work in March so the majority of it took place in the summer months. The installation of the external wall insulation was, says Bob, “very straightforward actually.” It’s mechanically fixed to the outside of the external wall, with a “base rail” fitted around the bottom in order to prevent it from getting wet. “We had to lower the exterior ground level a bit 75

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