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Oak framed extension

Sometimes, after a heavy raising, you just want to forget about it for a few days while your batteries slowly recharge. All well and good, but then after a suitable hiatus, you pick up the quill and….nothing….you can’t remember anything. Your brain has shut down, and you’ve already moved on to the next project.

So, here goes. This is the story of the oak framed extension in Cwmbran. How it worked out in the end, after a potentially disastrous start.

The back story

Chris and Karen came to see us almost exactly a year ago to discuss their large “dream” extension project which practically doubled the size of their old farmhouse. They must have liked the coffee we made them, or perhaps even our oak framing because they had already signed up before returning home to Cwmbran. We set Martyn Davies our designer to work, producing a beautiful frame design and a full set of construction drawings so that we could order the oak, and make the frame, while Chris and Karen could oversee the groundworks.

In the workshop

oak framed extension
Castle Ring Oak Frame workshop
Castle Ring Oak Frame

Site visit

As with all extensions that connect new to old, it’s important to have an accurate survey to ensure that things “marry”. And when you join a wonky oak frame to an even wonkier old stone farmhouse well, there’s plenty of room for things not quite working out… The first sticking point was flagged up at an early site visit when it became apparent that the groundworker had not left sufficient tolerance for the oak frame against the old stone building. The only solution, other than redoing the footings (a non-starter), was to mark the positions of the oak posts and beams against the stonework and channel out the stone with a big fat angle grinder. I pity whoever it was who had to do that!

Stone cottage extension
Groundwork
groundwork for extension

Covid…

A bout of covid in August and the lingering after-effects set us back and although things were happening in the workshop, they were happening quite slowly compared to our normal capabilities. So Chris and Karen’s frame kept slipping, and although we had hoped to raise the frame in November, it ended up being the beginning of Feb before we were finally able to get to the site. Frustrating for everybody, but eventually, we were ready to send off the frame, book the crane and assemble the raising team.

Raising day

Then the fun started. Perhaps covid had scrambled my neural pathways along with my sense of judgement because it quickly became apparent on accompanying the first of two lorry loads down to the site that,
a) We couldn’t actually access the site to drop off the oak where we needed it.
b) Neither could we position the crane where I had intended.

Whoops! We had to think quick and come up with a plan or Karen’s dream open plan living room would remain just that – a dream. No time to panic though, as we were putting up the frame the next morning!

We managed to offload the oak some substantial distance from the slab and quickly contacted the crane company to see if they could find me a bigger crane. By this point, I had run out of fingers and toes to cross and nails to chew… Could we actually get the crane onto site? And would it reach right over the house?

The next morning arrived – it’s funny how they always do – and after an early start, we made it to Cwmbran just in time to meet the 60t crane at the bottom of the lane. 60t cranes are big! The driver’s first words were “I can’t make it up the lane, the branches are too low”. Oh dear. Luckily my chainsaw was in the truck so the naughty branches were trimmed as we inched up the incline and finally made it to a suitable location somewhere near the oak, but still a long way from the house.

We rigged the crane and now we had to see if it would reach, and guess what? It did. 48m of boom length was right smack on the limit. Whoohoo! Except now the wind had picked up, and Mr Crane Operator got his wind meter out and cheerfully advised that the wind speed was just over the limit for safe lifting. This news was received at the same time as my phone rang to say that the second load of oak was stuck on the lane with no traction.

By now my bottom lip had really started to wobble, but we sucked in a deep breath and kept at it. A neighbouring good samaritan farmer turned up with a tractor and chain to pull the lorry up the hill, the wind died down mercifully and, even though we had lost nearly half a day, we were finally ready to start assembling the frame.

oak framed extension to stone cottage Wales
Oak framed extension raising
Oak framed extension to stone cottage

The dramas were all over by this point, and Rob, Sylvan, Graham and Michael kept plugging away adding one piece at a time. Posts, girding rails, braces, floor beams, wallplates, studs, sole plates etc.

By the end of the first day we had pretty much caught up, and once the crane had departed, hand-balled all the floor joists into place as the light was fading. Then it was off to the local Parkway Hotel and Spa for a swim, steam room, sauna and evening meal ready for the next day on site. General pampering of this kind is going to be the norm from now on.

Oak framed extension

Day 2 was a breeze and the pressure was off to some degree. Another clear but cold day as we assembled trusses, and lifted them into place. Chris kept us hydrated with warm brews and even found time to help with parts of the raising – that’s him knocking pegs in on one of the trusses.

Oak frame trusses
oak framed extension

Remember the long purlin runs with wind braces in the workshop (photo above)? Well, now you can see them as part of the roof structure.

Castle Ring Oak Frame
oak frame wind braces
Castle Ring Oak Frame extension

There’s no ridge beam on this particular frame as the oak common rafters will be bridal jointed at the apex – a lovely aesthetic detail.

By 4pm on day 2, we said goodbye to the crane and knocked in a few pegs before packing up and heading home. It seemed extraordinary that we had been able to get to this point after the histrionics of the previous day.

Oak frame extension to cottage Castle Ring Oak Frame
Castle Ring Oak Frame
Castle Ring Oak Frame
oak extension to cottage Castle Ring Oak Frame

It took another couple of days to peg up the frame, and fit all of the rafters and rooflight window openings before we could finally relax, step back, and admire. I particularly love the contrast of the old stone wall against the oak. So satisfyingly beautiful.

Castle Ring Oak Frame
Castle Ring Oak Frame
Cwmbran oak extension
Castle Ring Oak Frame

Chris and Karen are delighted with the results, as are we, and we hope you too have enjoyed this particular journey.

Do you want a quick quote?
Or to discuss your project?

If you're considering an oak framed building (or larch, or douglas fir), let's talk. We'll gladly put together an outline quote (completely free, with no strings attached). And we need very little information from you to do so.
Equally, we're always here, at the end of the phone, to talk through your ideas.

castleringoakframe@gmail.com 01547 560 231
Castlering Wood, Beggars Bush, Evenjobb, Powys, LD8 2PB