In March 2014 we started with the renovation of the barn. After having withstood wind & rain for 2 centuries, the barn had unfortunately become more or less a ruin and we were afraid that it might collapse. Whenever there had been a heavy storm during, our first reaction always was to check if the barn was still standing. At some point we were wondering if we wouldn’t find more tiles in the garden than on the roof itself. Needless to say we had some work to do.
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After 3 years of renovation experience we were not afraid of a new challenge, however restoring an 18th century traditional Normandy barn was a little bit beyond our reach. Therefore we found help from a professional carpenter and a mason. These 2 local companies thought of it as a real challenge to restore everything in traditional fashion. All wooden beams and roof tiles that were still in good condition have been re-used and where necessary, replaced mainly by other used materials found in the area. The back of the barn was left partly open to allow us to enjoy the gorgeous view on the surrounding meadows.
Two months and a lot of noise and dust later, the barn was already looking pretty nice : early May, we added tables and chairs, a ping pong table and a baby foot. Even though not everything was completed, we were glad to offer to our summer guests a new space to enjoy.
At the end of the summer, we carried with the renovation work by tearing down the modern fillings between the timbers in order to replace them by a mixture of lime powder and hemp (in French : béton de chanvre). This is a very old technique allowing to fill the space between the wood with naturals materials while obtaining a very good insulation. We found a hemp supplier in Bellême, (Normandy) and borrowed a concrete grinder. The whole process was not that complex : when the mixture starts looking like porridge, it’s ready for use. So far, we have been working on the North and East sides of the building, and filled some of the spaces between the timbers with panes in order to have as much natural light as possible.
In the end that old barn, which had been really falling apart, has become one of our favourite spots !