Our First Ever Barn Conversion | YORK - Part 2
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Our First Ever Barn Conversion – Part 2

The Barn Conversion Needed A Clear Out

The amount of work needed to clear the inside of the barn was more than we expected; much more. For a team of labours, no problem, but Sarah and I, well, we wanted to look back and say, we did this!

We knew the earth floor had to be removed but was unsure how or what to replace it with. We enlisted the help of a structural engineer. He was on hand to provide advice on the sub floor, its design and makeup. He also advised on any oak beams we wanted to introduce and the roof structure in its entirety. The barn conversion would have vaulted ceiling upstairs adn consist of 7 feature oak roof trusses.

The Footings Test

We were advised the barn would need a couple of trial holes near the base of the building to establish if there were any footings. From here, we could decide whether underpinning was necessary and the condition of the ground beneath. We found approx. 800mm of footings or existing brickwork continuing below the ground, sufficient not to underpin, a costly exercise we did not really need or want.

The floor would be dug out to a depth where a replacement layer of hardcore and concrete would create a raft like structure at the required height for the two-storey build. The barn conversion had a restriction that meant we were not allowed to increase the height of the original build. This proved difficult to calculate allowing suffice head height on both the ground and first floors. We learnt about walls plates, depths of screed, the amount of insulation required and other dimensions to allow us sufficient headroom on both levels.

With the levels calculated, the whole team, well, Sarah and I, got to work. The barn contained some old wooden boxes, a rotten staircase and several old tractor parts completely beyond use. Our barn conversion was also home to many hundreds of pigeons and it’s plain to say, it felt like grime busters of the TV. We decided to hire a small mini digger and dumper to speed the process up.

Barn before 10
The 6 sided “Wheelhouse” takes shape

Now feeling like ‘proper’ builders, the barn conversion tok shape by stripping the inside to create a bare shell from which to work. It was towards the end of March and the weather was average for the time of year. We seemed to progress well as a team, myself controlling the new toy digger and Sarah struggling with the rear wheel steering of the dumper.

“It Can’t Be A Snake…”

Suddenly, above the noise of the engines, Sarah shouted “Snake, I’ve found a snake!” As the typical man, I thought Sarah may have stumbled across a larger than average worm and decided to investigate. Sarah seemed serious, very serious. So, now armed with pick axe and a rescued dustbin lid, looking like a gladiator from the similarly named film, I progressed slowly towards the creature. Sure enough, a small snake laid there, tasting the air with its forked tongue.

I quickly changed what seemed, slightly exaggerated weapons, to a spade and clean container. We guided the snake carefully into its temporary home and later had it identified as a common grass snake by a local pet shop. They kept it in for observation and would release it later when the weather got better. The joys of a barn conversion!

Whilst clearing the barn, we unearthed some clay floor bricks and these were put to one side to be reused later. It had taken just over three weeks to fully clear the barn, remove the subsoil and create a cavern like opening ready for the concrete slab. The barn conversion now had a blank canvas.

The barn conversion near York, North Yorkshire
Weeks of hard work leaves the barn with a clear canvas

The Fire Brigade

It was the Saturday night of Easter when we received a call from York’s fire brigade. We were fortunate to live only seven miles away but the time it took to reach to barn seemed to take forever. We had been told ‘your barn has collapsed and it needs attention now!”

We had no idea as to the extent of the damage or how much, if any, of our beatiful barn conversion remained. We arrived at the entrance to blue flashing lights and ‘do not cross’ blue tape used at police incidents. Also present were the council, as a bridle way ran alongside the drive and firemen using thermal imaging equipment to search for possible bodies under the rubble. Nobody knew if children had been on site and the gable end looked very unsteady. Our barn conversion destroyed in a few seconds.

Looking optimistically, only half of the barn had collapsed. We had no roof, although we would have had to replace this anyway, some walls and all the debris would need to be removed again. At this point, the dream of completing a barn conversion seemed never ending task.

We later found out the reason for the collapse. A tie beam in one of the existing pine trusses had a rotten end. These roof trusses were load-bearing, meaning they held up the entire roof. We were extremely fortunate not to be working at the time and thankfully, no-one was hurt.

Barn before 6
The result of the collapse.

The Barn Conversions Exterior Build

The walls would have to be rebuilt.


As the barn was built using a rare two inch (50mm) handmade reclaim brick from the 19th Century, the decision was made to integrate a new, but old looking, brick in to the mix..

Although currently no longer available, we used a personally designed and manufactured brick from Belgium. It incorporated all the right features and colours associated with a reclaim brick making a near seamless transition between old and new.

Bricklaying was one of those trades that is made to look easy. We employed a local bricky and we laboured alongside him. The brick match was good and coupled with using a lime-based mortar, the result would be more than acceptable. The walls were gradually rebuilt and window openings positioned accordingly.

Barn before 8
Blending 2″ new bricks to the old ones.

The same bricks had to be used on the ‘wheelhouse’ as this section of the building contained no footings and a complete rebuild was necessary. The ‘wheelhouse’ was to become the barn conversions main feature, the kitchen, a single storey with impressive vaulted ceiling with exposed oak roof trusses. Having now mastered, well enjoyed, using the mini digger so much, I calculated the footprint of the six-sided kitchen and dug the footings after a very amenable and friendly conversation with our local building inspector.

After ordering the sand, lime, cement, insulation, blocks, wall ties and our very own two-inch handmade bricks, we started the building aspect of this conversion. Two months had passed and it seems we hadn’t got anywhere. As we were at the barn most days, you do not see the progress you make.


The month of April and first week of May had seen the barn conversion transform. After the collapse, we re-cleaned the site and installed the internal drainage. The pipes were laid to accommodate three upstairs toilets (two ensuite) and the downstairs cloakroom off the main hallway.

These were laid at an incline to ensure all waste water runs into the inspection chamber located outside. This was a long job as we had to core drill 4 holes through 350mm of brickwork and due to the angle of the hole and its location, the four holes took over 4 hours to complete.

A damp-proof membrane or Visqueen barrier was laid over the now sandy floor and was seated into the deepened trench around the perimeter of the barn for the inner skin of block work. The barn conversion would retain most of the outer brick skin and be tied to aninternal breeze block wall.

Looking back at the first picture we took; we could see the progress and to date were ahead of schedule and under budget.  The block work was started, together with some internal exposed brickwork we intended to have in various areas around the barn.

The Concrete Delivery

After raking in help from two of our staff and our trusted bricky John, we ordered 22 cubic meters of concrete. All of which had to be laid in one afternoon!  Having never done this before, the learning curve was steep, but worth it.

With wheelbarrows at the ready and a good system in place, the concrete flowed and made a tremendous difference to the whole feel of the barn.

It was June and it had got to the ‘are we getting anywhere’ stage. It was true to say that all the hard work in preparing the ground-works, footings and drains are not normally appreciated, as most of this is covered up with hardcore or concrete.

Barn before 9

In early October and although on budget, the project had slowed significantly due to bad weather and time spent back at Oak By Design. As previously mentioned, the forgotten cost for scaffolding raised its head when John the bricklayer jokingly asked if we still wanted a two-storey building! At this stage we also needed to forward think about the roof and the 7 structural oak trusses!

Part 3 of the Barn Conversion will be available in early April 2023.

Please email us if you would like to be added to the list of recipiants.

28 March 2023
Helen Mason
Helen Mason

Left us a 5 star review

Having lived with our porch for over 2 years I can honestly say it’s the best addition to our house we ever made. Not only does it look fantastic the quality is outstanding. I love that it keeps the mud out of the hall and provides a seating area to remove muddy boots.

I could not recommend Oak By Design more highly. Joanne and the team worked tirelessly to resolve an issue that was the result of my mistake when I ordered the porch. Great customer service.

Very professional. Excellent product and service. Highly recommended.

From the moment we visited the Oak Design showroom, we knew that we were dealing with a top quality local company. Richard the owner, showed us around his design works with real pride of his product and service offering. Jamie as sales executive has discussed and agreed the options & design with costs to us and we have now implemented the first phase of our home improvement, with more work to follow. We are highly delighted with the finished product and would strongly recommend Oak Design to other interested clients. I also suggest that you pay them a personal visit at the Home Building & Renovation exhibition in Harrogate, as well as their wonderful showroom of Oak Solutions in Tockwith to get a personal guided tour.

Excellent quality workmanship and materials. Very easy and friendly to deal with on the phone. Everything done on time and no problems at all. Will definitely use again next time I need an oak porch or any other oak structures.

First class service and product . Our car port and steps look fantastic and blends in with the existing buildings beautifully. Would definitely recommend them.

We purchased some engineered oak flooring and oak covers from Oak By Design and couldn't be happier with the finish and quality. They are spot on. Joanne was extremely helpful throughout the whole process and provided plenty of advice when necessary. Thank you

A fabulous service and supportive through the design and delivery process. Highly recommended

Found this company by accident whilst passing through Harrogate, but well worth a visit.Great products choice with helpful friendly service. The wooden flooring and beams look great in situ and we are very pleased with the transformed room. Would recommend and use again.

Amazing craftsmanship from this company. The customer service from Joanne was superb. My questions and indecisiveness were never an issue and she was always on hand to offer advice and find the answers to my questions. Our oak porch has transformed the house and we are over thd moon with it. Would highly recommend Oak By Design. Joanne is an asset to the sales and promotion of this company and is very knowledgeable. Would give 10 stars if I could!

My client was looking for ways in which to make his conversion (of an early seventies house into a period family farmhouse) “stand out from the crowd”. whilst maintaining a commercial eye on his expenditure, as the house was being converted for resale profit. Making the choice to meet with Richard and explore possibilities for incorporating some Real solid Oak features into his plans proved to be the making of the project. By taking lots of advice from Richard on both the size and structure of the components we were able to incorporate three key features. The beautiful and bold roof trusses and purlins for the open plan kitchen are simply a joy to behold. The stunning full height gable window which is directly glazed into the large framework can be appreciated from both the the kerbside and of course from within the cosy snug on the ground floor or the amazing first floor main bedroom where we incorporated some additional exposed roof beams just purely for effect. All in all it is fair to say that these significant choices certainly created the wow factor my client was looking for. Having managed to pre sell the property well before completion it in itself demonstrates the benefits of keeping these sorts of real oak features as part of a modern build. I have no hesitation whatsoever is saying that if anyone is looking to get advice and is serious about investing in quality oak products they should have no need to look further than Oak by Design. Thanks again Richard for all your help , guidance and continued support which is a credit to you and the craftsmen you employ.

I firstly used oak by design a couple of years ago for an open oak porch. They were extremely helpful and everything was delivered on time to the highest quality. The porch went together with the oak dowels provided and looked great when it was all slated in. They have also supplied me with a oak beam for a fireplace natural random finish and it looks good.

I was sourcing an oak RSJ cover (circa 5m length) for my extension and found Oak by Design on the internet. All of the reviews I could were glowing and so I contacted them......And I'm so glad that I did. Joanne Fisher answered my initial call and she looked after my order from beginning to end - in terms of ensuring that I got exactly what I wanted she/they provided a superb service - everything on time - delivery in to the Peak District to suit when I wanted. The quality of the the RSJ cover is fantastic thick solid oak that matches my oak floor - looks amazing. If you want anything oak I can thoroughly recommend Oak By Design.

This is the second time that we have used Oak By Design for oak products and once again we weren’t disappointed. We recently ordered some internal oak doors and from the very start they were a pleasure to deal with. Joanne especially was extremely helpful and friendly, nothing was too much trouble. We were kept updated about the progress of our order. Unfortunately we needed to delay acceptance of the doors for a few weeks and Oak By Design happily agreed to store them in their workshop until we were ready for them. The quality of the doors is very high, they are very well made and finished, far better than any oak doors that you will buy “ off the shelf. “ They are all installed now and look fantastic. I would highly recommend Oak By Design and we will certainly use them again in the future if we require any more oak products. A huge thank you to Joanne and the whole team for a great service and a great product.

Oak by design were a fantastic company to deal with. They made us some treads for a bespoke stair case from large pieces of air dried oak. They were very thorough in making sure that they understood exactly what we wanted. They made excellent suggestions for small changes to our own design in order to produce a better finished product and to manage the cost. We were very happy with the treads when they were delivered. They look fantastic and fitted perfectly to the steel frame which was made by a third party. I could not recommend them more highly.

What can I say, Oak By Design have been the most fantastic company to deal with. Joanne was so helpful, friendly and professional. She really seemed to care about our project, which made such a difference. We had 4 oak RSJ covers made and 2 fireplace mantles. The finish is outstanding. Everyone believes they are solid beams, which was just what we wanted. The care and attention this company will give you is 2nd to none and I would highly recommend them. Pictures will follow when we complete our project, thanks again Oak By Design. x

Marvellous place, so many wonderful things made from wood.

From the beginning the customer service has been superb, excellent help and advice when choosing the flooring, delivery arriving when promised and a product which is extremely high quality. We have replaced the majority of our flooring downstairs and we are so pleased with the result that we would have paid more. Fantastic.

Great service by a friendly professional team, a pleasure to work with. The end result of our oak glazed leisure spa and outdoor kitchen looks fantastic. Great job

On behalf of John Docherty: Oak By Design were a great company to deal with; helpful, knowledgeable, professional. The quality of the oak supplied to us for our bespoke porch was first class. Nothing was too much trouble for this company, and we will definitely be using this wonderful company again in 2022.

As the owner of a local joinery business, Robert Davis Joinery, I have had the pleasure of using Oak by Design on several occasions over the last 8 years. They have produced bespoke interior products for me including Oak doors and timber moldings. The staff in the office and the workshop are always very helpful and friendly and the standard of the workmanship and materials are always of a very high quality.

Firstly, the product quality was superb, a beautiful oak mantle piece for my fire place, gorgeous. The installation was quick, efficient and fitter very friendly. The price was very reasonable, actually very good value. But what makes it all SIX STAR, ( but we I can only give 5!), was the customer service. When walking in the shop I was perfectly attended to, I was given samples to take home and they remembered to call soma days later to see what I thought. Order to install time was very fast for such a bespoke service. My experience was world class, great to deal with a brilliant local/small business, I totally recommend.

Really delighted with the new porch by Oak by Design. It adds a super feature to my converted barn. Thanks to Joanne and the team.

Exceptional service and beautiful flooring. Absolutely delighted with every aspect. Went above and beyond great customer service to meet our needs and timescales.

My wife and I recently purchased an oak porch from Oak By Design. We are delighted with the porch and it has been much admired. We did get some help assembling it but everything fitted together perfectly.

I wish I could give more starts!! We looked at many companies before finally choosing Oak by Design. We are so glad we chose them. They were excellent from start to finish. They worked with us to find a workable design that was to our liking. Our door looks amazing (despite the building site that still surrounds it!). Their customer service is of the highest standard, Joanne could not do enough to help us. I would not hesitate to recommend them.

When embarking on a large renovation project assembling the right team of skilled work people is vital. It involves the need for skill, imagination and trust. It was important to us to use a local company and Oak by Design seemed to tick the right boxes although we had not dealt with them or indeed heard of them before. We soon came to realise that the combination of Ben, Billy, Jamie, Matt and MIck ( listed strictly in alphabetical order ) was a great success. Skilled: highly, imaginative: an excellent creative talent, trustworthy: 100% but also such great team players that all the other trades on site benefitted from their cooperation and great good humour. I would endorse the other reviewers who have commented on the quality of the materials used, whether in the replacement windows, the light oak internal doors. the fantastic oak staircase, the secret bookcase and the pièce de résistance: the oak conservatory. It has been a great project and much of that I attribute to the work of Oak by Design. A big thank you to you all.

Perfect from start to finish. The service is above and beyond. Pleasure to install

Spectacular service from start to finish! great design work and support from concept to installation. The builders were amazing! So pleased with the outcome! Thankyou so so much !

We can thoroughly recommend Oak by Design. Not only did they provide the best of oak floors and oak staircase to suit our new, contemporary home, but they returned to make good a problem which was not their fault. Going the extra mile separates great companies from ordinary firms. Thank you Jamie & Billy. From Mike & Barbara, York.

A great company to deal with. Professional from start to finish and always there to assist with any queries. Highly recommended.

We are ‘over the moon’ with our beautiful oak porch made by Oakbydesign .From our initial enquiry to delivery and installation the service and attention to detail has been outstanding! A very big thank you to Joanne who was so helpful and friendly from start to finish which made the whole process such a pleasure. Highly recommend anyone looking for an oak porch to choose Oakbydesign . Yvonne Grant.

Fantastic service from start to finish, I would have no hesitation in recommending this company or using them again. Very professional and helpful. Joanne was great in assisting us with choosing both styles and colours of the beams and cladding.

Oak by Design were extremely helpful at all stages of my project from helping and advising me to choose the most appropriate beam through to advice on fixing the beam. They were extremely patient with changes to my beam dimension requirements finally providing a solution to suit my project. They provided photographs on completion of the beam prior to dispatch to ensure that my requirements had been met. I was extremely impressed by the quality and finish of the beam which has become the focal point for my fireplace project. Oak by Design provided customer care of the highest quality and I would highly recommend their services.

On behalf of Shears PHG Our customer was looking at having an oak porch built for their property in the West Midlands we got in contact with Joanne at Oak by Design and she was really helpful, always friendly on the phone and polite nothing was too much trouble. Joanne kept us up to date through every stage and our customer is really pleased with the results of the Porch it looks great and we wouldn’t hesitate to use them again in the future

Working with Oak By Design on our project was a pleasure and we were delighted with the results. Joanne was extremely helpful, quick to answer any questions and generally a great person to deal with! The quality and finish of the products - RSJ covers and Oak Windows & Doors were superb and look great. Would highly recommend working with Oak By Design and would not hesitate to use their services again for future projects!

Pleasure to do Buisness with

Four years ago we took the decision to completely gut an old farmhouse and start again with it, we started looking for a supplier of oak to refit all of the internal doors, door casings, skirting and flooring. Our carpenter recommended Oak By Design. He wasn't wrong! All of the oak has been completely top notch. As the old house has settled into it's new skin it has moved and cracked in various places, the only thing that has been stable and unwavering is the oak. The customer service has been superb, with them continuing to supply exactly the same items, with the same quality over the course of 4 years. They even indulged our designs for furniture for our "boot room", with Shoe pigeon holes and a bench which we could store wellies under (as pictured). The doors supplied by them are reassuringly heavy and sturdy, with a proper "thunk" as you close them, cutting off sound from the rest of the house. There may be other, cheaper suppliers of oak out there, but none with the same level of quality, longevity and customer service as Oak By Design. If you want to do it right (& once!) use these guys.

Excellent customer service. Very friendly. Explained in detail. Product is beautiful. Would recommend. Company sent photos of finished product prior to dispatch to confirm our happiness with their work.

Great service from start to finish, Joanne was great help. Designs were spot on and so happy with the porch. 10/10. Fully recommend.

Ordered an oak mantle beam from Oak by Design and they quickly called to check the finer details. Unfortunatly, the beam was slightly damaged on arrival by the courier company. Oak by Design immediately arranged to have it picked by DHL, transferred back to Yorkshire from Kent, repaired and sent back within 2 days, with no quibbles. The beam is beautiful, as is the high quality customer service by these people. Fully recommend using this company. Anthony Slater, Tonbridge. Tonbridge.

I first used Oak by Design in 2021 for a oak porch, I used them again 2023 for an oak pergola. Both times my clients have been Delighted with the finished product. Both times the product was delivered when stated, everything i needed was on the delivery. Oak by design listened to what I required for both jobs. The quality of the oak is excellent, all joints fit correctly & if I had a problem I only had to ring and speak to them. R Brown Carpentry always recommends Oak by Design when asked about oak structures.

Very impressed with Oak By Design. Customer service is fantastic and they were very patient in helping me ensure what I needed was the right size. Photos sent of oak cover before it was sent to me and end product was great. It was also not the most expensive either. Would definitely recommend.

Oak by Design have made 2 oak framed rooms for us, sunroom at the front and and "moonroom" (photo) at the back which encompasses a shower room, work area and storage. They have been helpful at every stage and the outcome is simply brilliant. They make the whole house feel roomier and brighter and are beautiful places to be. GE North Yorkshire

My company has ordered 2 porches with Joanne from oak by design, and have more planned in the future. They've been brilliant from start to finnish. Great communication right through. And the quality of the product is exceptional. Do not hesitate to order.

Posting on behalf of my Mother in Law, Shirley Abbott "Having planned to shop around, Oak By Design was my first stop. I had no need to look any further. Joanne patiently and professionally guiding me through the confusion of choosing the right flooring. The service and support from the staff was exceptional, efficient and helpful. And - my floor looks amazing!"

From the start of our enquiry, the service provided was excellent. Joanne was a great help and the oak porch structure looks fantastic on our new build. It completely changed the look of the house. Very quick delivery could not recommend enough.

Found Oak by Design searching for a new front porch to replace a canopy and knew immediately that this was company for the job and I was not disappointed. I already knew what I wanted and Richard, very patiently, developed my basic requirements, with a number of iterations, into a full detailed design. As I live outside their site working area I decided go for supply only and to install the porch myself. It was delivered as promised and it looked great even on the pallet! It took me a while to fit but it was very satisfying and the result is fantastic. The quality of the aged oak and carpentry of the timbers is excellent. I’m delighted with the porch supplied by Oak by Design - it looks superb.