We specialise in bringing barn conversion projects to the property market. Having just completed her own, Annabel Douglas shares her top tips
Project management Seeing your project evolve is rewarding but the whole build process is very fluid, with constant compromises and decisions being required. Unless you employ a project manager, prepare to get very involved. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and get help if necessary.
Services Electricity, water and drainage – these should be your first consideration. If you can access mains services, life will be so much easier. Installation can be costly and a project in itself. Phone lines are another issue. I am yet to get a landline due to technical difficulties with the supplier being unable to locate my property! Thank goodness for mobiles.
Community Infrastructure Levy Assuming planning has been secured, it is important to be aware of the Community Infrastructure Levy which some councils apply to barn conversions. Self-build exemptions are available but must be applied for prior to commencing work – check with your council.
Building Regulations We’re talking health and safety, asbestos surveys and insurance. Ensure you are up to speed with requirements. You can apply to your council direct or employ a firm to oversee building regulations for you. Look into both options as they vary in cost and method.
Security Unfortunately, rural crime is prevalent. I was reminded of this the first week of my build when an extension cable was stolen one night. After this, everything was either locked up or tied down. Materials and equipment are expensive; you don’t want to have to replace them.
Finding a builder and good contractors Personal recommendations are very important. Choose carefully and expect to wait for the best people to be available.
Going bespoke I love my barn’s bespoke features – the green oak beams, sliding outer door, limestone floor – but each part made the build more complicated and costly. It is important to ensure the design is practical. My metal roof looks great, but is noisy when it rains. And my brother was right when he said oak bi-fold doors would be awkward due to the wood warping. Only go bespoke where it is really necessary or makes a difference. My kitchen was from a large DIY retailer but the bespoke worktop makes people think it is high end.
Landscaping Check any landscaping planning conditions and make sure they are adhered to; then prepare for another project. Colour chart for gravel, anyone?
VAT You currently only have to pay 5% VAT on certain items relating to your barn conversion. It is therefore essential to gather all receipts and claim within the designated timeframe as this can be a large saving.
Time and money Unless you are really organised and/ or lucky, you will require more than originally planned. Make sure you have a contingency fund.
The end result Was it hard work? Yes – I’m not going to lie! Prepare yourself for a challenging ride full of extreme highs and lows. Was it worth it? Definitely yes. I love my barn and the fact every element reflects my taste. It’s my own mini ‘Grand Design’ in the Dorset countryside, with room for a pony.
Note – Stock images have been used to illustrate this article.
This article is taken from Symonds & Sampson's award-winning lifestyle magazine 'Country Matters'. Why not take a read?