Thinking of buying an oast house? A few things to consider…

Mark Horner

No-one can fail to be charmed by the sight of a beautiful oast house surrounded by orchards and hop gardens, its towering roundels topped by snowy cowls. However, these are very unusual buildings and potential buyers should consider carefully what is involved before making a commitment.


Do the layout and accommodation meet your present and future needs? It may be impossible to alter or extend the building depending on:

  • its listed status
  • the wording of the original planning permission
  • whether it has been extended in the past
  • the Local Authority policies


Originally an agricultural building used to dry hops, some oast houses were built by farmers rather than builders and this may be evident in their structure. Walls are unlikely to be insulated so heating costs will be higher. The use of hand-made materials and traditional techniques requires the input of highly skilled builders, leading to higher maintenance costs. A roundel kitchen will involve the design of bespoke units, which is costlier than using readily available, mass produced cabinets.


Often part of a farm, the orientation can be unconventional and might not necessarily make the most of a beautiful view, for example. If they are some distance from the road, an unconverted oast will lack basic utilities – gas, electricity, water and mains drainage.


Converting these character buildings for contemporary living usually results in changes of level between rooms on the same floor (sometimes as many as five steps). The rooms are often small with windows that let in little light, and the building off the roundels (the stowage) can be very narrow.  An unlisted oast will allow more scope for change, but imposing a modern layout would mean a loss of character.