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The Old Counting House – An Oak Framed Extension on Dartmoor, Devon.

An oak framed extension transforms a Victorian place of historic interest

The key to adapting a historic building into a comfortable living space lies with sensitive design and the use of appropriate materials. A hand-crafted oak framed ex from Devon-based Carpenter Oak helped transform this Victorian counting house into a beautiful yet practical and efficient home.

Set on a renowned beauty spot on Dartmoor along the river Plym, for 100 years this building was home to the wage captain responsible for paying the men who came on foot from surrounding villages to work in the china clay pits.

Architect Mike Hope, from Totnes-based Roderick James Architects, and his wife Zoe wanted to retain as many of the original features as possible. After removing plasterboard and a layer of wonderful pencil-bead tongue and groove boarding from the walls – which were carefully restored and re-used – the original Baltic pine frame was revealed.

A timber framed building made sense to both Mike and Zoe and to the planners; the extension was created using a new green oak frame resting on six foundation pads, which was necessary due to the proximity of extensive root systems to the build site. In order to create a very light airy space, traditional oak diagonal braces have been replaced with stainless steel rod bracing panels.

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Meet The Team

Frame Design:


Chris Lane, Carpenter:

"Access to this site was tricky: with less than a three metre wide approach the client wanted to minimise heavy traffic, so we decided to hand roll all of the massive oak timbers in on a trolley."

388 Oak Saplings

Planted For This Project

Oak Saplings planted - Carpenter Oak We arrange for 10 oak saplings to be planted for every tree used to build your frame. Read More

The counting house has impressive eco-credentials, designed and installed by Sungift Solar of Exeter, with its own borehole, wood burning stoves, under floor heating, solar panels and an air-source heat pump driven by electricity which produces 3kw of heat from an intake of 1kw.

The Counting House strikes the delicate balance of efficiency, beauty, and comfort for Mike and his family.

Featured in: Homebuilding & Renovation, September 2009

Designed by Roderick James Architects 

Timber cladding by Southern Timber

Glazing installation to oak frame by Kevin Ireland of Silvaleaf, Totnes

Retrofitted back boilers to existing Croft Clearburn woodburner and new installation in hallway, as well as Uniq 5 woodburner & flue installation by Dean Forge, Newton Abbot

Air source heat pump, underfloor heating, and solar system design & installation by SunGift Solar, Exeter

Project DetailsFrame Drawing of The Counting House Oak Extension and Refurbished Tin Clad Frame in Devon by Carpenter Oak Ltd Devon
Frame Drawing
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Floor Plan
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The Marriage of Timber and Steel
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Inspiration and Ideas
Interior of Livingroom showing Curved Roof Glazing and Exposed Oak Beams Detail
Why not start a scrapbook to get your project off the ground
The Beauty of Oak
The significance of this majestic wood in our culture and architecture.
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We enjoy working with any architect of your choice, we can also recommend a range of trusted award-winning practices to suit you. Find out more
Map - where we have worked
See where we've worked near you
View our fantastic new interactive map that showcases our work around the country. Check out our new interactive map
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Your questions answered...

  • What is Carpenter Oak Ltd?


    Devon (UK) based award winning specialists in the design, construction and raising of oak timber framed buildings. We have a dedicated team of Project Managers, Frame designers and Carpenters who work closely with clients and architects to deliver a wide variety of bespoke oak frame projects across the UK, Europe and beyond.

    We celebrate the beauty and joy of timber frames in many different styles and raise over 60 frames a year for inclusion within schemes ranging from oak sunroom extensions to extensive high-end architectural oak houses.

    We love wood, we love design and we love a challenge.

  • How do I finish the frame on the outside? What materials can I use?

    Douglas Fir Timber Framed Eco Cabin in The Sun in SomersetFirstly its important to say that we advocate that the frame is not exposed to the outside. That means that it can be finished in a variety of ways. The choices are extensive, and that means that wherever you are in the country (or world!) you can adopt a vernacular which is in keeping with the style of the building s around you (and keep on the good side of the planning authorities!)

    The insulation build up can be done on site or using SIPS panels. Outside of that our clients finish buildings in an outer layer of brickwork, rendered block, weatherboarding, natural stone, slate, shingle, glass.

  • Why should I choose Carpenter Oak Ltd?

    Here at Carpenter Oak we live and breathe timber framed buildings, large and small, and we love a challenge. We create truly unique frames that respond to your brief giving you a bespoke 'made to measure' and personalised solution to your brief and budget. Carpenter Oak is the most established and experienced timber framer with a yard in Cornwall, Devon and Scotland - we are well placed to supply design and timber framing services across the UK and beyond.   Carpenter Oak holds dear several important factors:-  

    Our People

      • Our team of 25 long serving and highly trained timber frame carpenters who build and raise the frames are widely regarded as being the best in the business.
      • The carpenters who cut the frame will take it to site - project ownership throughout. This maintains high standards where it matters most while giving variety to the working week.
      • We have 4 full time frame designers. 3 office based, 1 Cornwall based. This gives us the time to get involved in each project and help spot and solve potential problems early on while working with your architect.

    Our Craft and Materials

    • We do not use large 'soulless' CNC machines, but favour a hand crafted approach which enables us to work in a variety of styles and with the most challenging designs – we work in Oak, Douglas Fir, Larch, Chestnut Glu-Lam, in contemporary, quirky and cutting-edge styles as well as in more established traditional designs.
    • We have spent 20+years developing a relationship with our preferred sawmill. They know our exacting standards for all our timber. Other sawmills cannot match this service.
    • We really care about where our materials come from and invest in their sustainable management through our saplings programme in the UK.
    • We do not compromise on timber quality, why should we? This can mean that we are a little more expensive than some BUT not every time!
    • Air dried brace stock. Bought in at least 12 months before we need it to minimise the shrinkage of timber on critical (aesthetic and structural) elements.

    Our service

    • We are able to make it easy for you by being approachable, knowledgeable and professional. Whether it is a oak frame and glazing service, complete build or an oak and SIPS wrap service you need we can help get you there easily.
    • We are large enough to have capacity yet small enough to be versatile and flexible which is important when your timescale is quite tight!
    • We have a experienced team of designers, carpenters and office staff. Everybody in senior roles has been a carpenter with vast experience of timber framing on the workshop floor. It would seem obvious for a carpentry firm but this is rare.
    • We thrive on the differences between each and every one of our projects, overcoming the challenges of the build (access, design and budget constraints) while developing a strong rapport with our customers.
    • We carry out approximately 60 projects a year ensuring a personal service - whatever the size of the build.
    • Most of all without exception throughout the team of people that work here, we love what we do!

    Call us to talk through your ideas or project:- 01803 732900

    What our customers say about us:-
  • Where do you work?

    We take on oak frame house or extension projects in all corners of the UK, Ireland & the Channel islands as well as Europe and beyond (in the last 5 years we have sent frames and raising teams to France, Germany, Cyprus, Holland & Russia.) See our case studies pages for examples of our work and check out the international projects page too! We would love to hear from you wherever you are. See where we have worked near you - click here
  • Do you do oak conservation or timber frame repair work?

    The majority of our work are new builds, re-builds and extensions but our company roots lie partly in conservation & repair work and we have all the necessary knowledge and experience needed.

    Usually this kind of work requires a site visit, advice and a report before the work is agreed in discussion with the engineer, architect and conservation officer. We regularly work on a consultancy basis during that phase and if there is a frame to build at the end then we can take that on too.

    Adam Milton (Managing Director) was one of the carpenters involved in the roof repair after the Great Fire at Windsor Castle.

    Contact us to discuss your project.

  • Do you do renovations or conversions?

    Oak Framed Stone Barn Conversion with River View in DevonWe regularly build oak frames for inclusion in renovations and barn conversions. A timber oak frame structure is ideal if the existing building is in structurally poor condition. The oak frame can slot into the fabric of the building to then carry the new roof etc.

    You will need to find a builder to undertake the project as a whole but  we are happy to design and build a frame for you or to give your builder dimensions. We can deliver this to site either as a kit or with the carpenters who made the frame, dependent on the size.

  • Do you offer a ‘Turnkey’ (complete build) solution ?

    Cabin with Lake View constructed from Douglas Fir Timber with Western Red Shingles by Carpenter Oak Ltd Devon

    Image courtesy of Michael Harris

    Yes.  If you are looking for a complete build or ‘Turnkey’ service, we can offer a solution to include each stage of the process, from the feasibility assessment, design, management and construction, right through to completion. We pride ourselves on being adaptable as every client is different.  We can offer a number of routes for you and your project, depending on how involved you want to get. We aim to understand your particular situation and respond to deliver what you need. For many people that means us working as a contractor alongside your architect and builder, for others, involvement at each stage or a self build project. Get in touch to find out which route would suit your project best and we can deliver a range of options from a finished frame to a finished house, ready for you to move into.

    Find out more about Carpenter Oak's Complete Build solution
    Click here to visit our 'What We Do' page.