The building work on Little Crifts Cottage began in the summer of 2015 and was finally completed, two years later, in the summer of 2017. Here’s the story of the build, along with some of the photos that we have taken as we went along!
Clearing the ground
The site where Little Crifts Cottage now stands was home to an old corrugated iron barn, which had long since become so rotten and unsafe that we tried to avoid going in there for any longer than strictly necessary. It was quite surprising that it didn’t blow down completely in the winter storms in 2014/2015! On a lovely summer’s day, with some help from some good friends, we got the barn demolished and a few sheets of very rusty iron went away for recycling on the back of a lorry.
Finding our footings
With the old barn gone, we could get on with the groundworks for the new cottage. With the help of a mini digger and a small dumper truck, the very shallow concrete floor of the old barn was cleared away, allowing the site to be levelled and the footing trenches dug out. It was an important part of our eco-building plan that we minimised the amount of concrete being poured, and indeed only a 20cm layer was required in the base of our footing trenches.
From the ground up
Now the foundation blockwork was in, the foundation trenches had to be backfilled, something we did ourselves over the course of a weekend, using just (wo)man power and a couple of wheelbarrows. We were able to use all of the broken up concrete from the old barn floor in the backfill, avoiding the need for a skip to take waste materials off site for disposal. The block and beam floor construction limited our need for heavy lifting equipment and lifts the floor surface off the ground, providing an air gap and improving the building’s insulation properties.
Up, up and away!
With the foundation work done and the floor structure complete, it was time to get the timber frame installed. In just 48 hours, the site went from a block-work slab, to a completed set of walls – really dramatic progress! At this stage in the process, timber frame construction looks like a little miracle, as a building springs into existence in front of your very eyes!
Raising the roof!
The plans for the cottage include a large, open plan, full height living space. This meant that, unlike the bedrooms where pre-constructed A-frames could be used, each roof truss had to be cut in, individually, on site, and the large king trusses were also created on site by our team of carpenters. Could we have done without this kind of detaling? Undoubtedly yes (and it would have saved rather a lot of money!), but it was really important to us to build something interesting, using skilled craftsmen, which would be a credit and an asset to this beautiful location.
Now, the roof, windows and doors, as well as the waterproof panels wrapping the timber frame externally. We also started fitting the amazing space-age insulation to the interior walls, which should keep the cottage lovely and cool in summer, and toasty warm in winter (with the help of the underfloor heating, of course!).
Warm and snug – insulating, rendering, and installing the under-floor heating pipes
The insulation and underfloor heating are a big part of the eco credentials of the cottage build – yes, all of those rolls of ‘space blanket’ had to be stapled up by hand, between the rafters!
Plasterboarding and floors
It’s when the plasterboard and floor screed went down that it’s finally possible to get a real ‘feeling’ for the interior spaces. The lovely little ‘hobbit’ wood-burning stove was installed – much to the joy of the plastering team who seemed to keep ‘discovering’ fuel for it. I don’t blame them, it kept the place lovely and toasty!
Cladding, flooring, plastering & painting
Clear the decks!
The decked veranda is a lovely feature of the cottage, and this was all Nigel’s hard work – he did a lovely job!
Landscaping and finishing
While the builders were finishing the floors inside, Nigel was beavering away on the landscaping, completing yards of dry stone walling all around the cottage, as well as the decking and driveway work.
The kitchen fitters arrived, and we were able to do the last few bits of tiling indoors, and finished the walling and hedging at the back of the cottage. That just left the furnishing to do!
It’s been a long two years, but the cottage is finally finished, signed off by Building Control, and furnished. We’re delighted by the results!