The fire started externally in the open-sided lean-to (cause remains disputed) and apparently lasted approximately two hours until extinguished by the Fire Brigade. During this time, the fire had spread into the main barn, damaging sections of the main barn vaulted roof (lower slope on fire side, upper slope on opposite side), as well as entirely gutting the lean-to roof itself.
We were appointed to design and project manage the reinstatement, liaising directly with the Insurance Loss Adjusters and local Conservation and Building Control departments.
On contacting the Conservation Officer, we were advised that so long as reinstatement works were "like-for-like" they would take no further interest. A little surprising I have to say. Perhaps he thought I knew what I was talking about! We did stick with the like-for-like philosophy as far as possible but had to deviate when an existing structural detail was found not to work, or in the case of the low level windows where we replaced some ugly 1980's windows with something more appropriate (seeking listed buildings consent as we went along, of course).
Fires can be devastating, but quite often, if caught early enough, apparent damage can look much worse than it is and much can be salvaged. Large old timbers for instance will char to a certain depth and then stop, with the charring zone actually protecting the sound timber beneath. We did calculations to prove that the chunky original trusses and some of the larger purlins were still man enough to work, even on a reduced section size. Once again, traditional construction proves to be quite resilient.
One thing to beware of though, is just how wet things get after the Fire Brigade do their thing. Some of the building elements took a full 9 months to dry out properly.
See below some annotated photos showing before, during and after repairs.
|An archive photo of the barn before the fire. During the repair project it was discovered that the building had suffered a very similar fire event about 20 years before, meaning some elements of structure had already been replaced.|
|The lean-to roof completely gutted. The timber posts were charred, but could safely be re-used as the depth of charring was not significant.|
|Charring to lower slope rafters and wall plate. In most locations the wall plate was thick enough to save, but most of the rafters were too deeply charred to remain useful.|
|A shot showing the extent of damage within the main barn.|
|New slow-grown softwood lower rafter sections scarf-jointed to the remaining upper rafters and with renewed peg joints to connect to purlins. Note the de-charred truss rafter in the foreground.|
|A structural strengthening plate added to one truss member where charring added to the problems of this already weak section.|
|A repaired repair - this truss had previously been strengthened by splicing, but the fire damaged the splice so had to be replaced.|
|The lean-to from the outside, all new apart from existing posts and pantiles (reclaims used to replace those broken in the fire).|