Oast cowl repairs by hand

We’ve always worked with our hands here at Dude & Arnette, some of us used to be mechanics, some started working on oasts early raising cowls up by hand using pulleys and poles. We like getting stuck in, but there are lots of other reason why investing in a true craftsman for your oast cowl repairs is important.

How often should I have my oast refurbished?

Looking after your oast is important, it can preserve the life of your oast and save replacement.  Oasts ideally should be refurbished every five to six years so any rotten or broken wood can be repaired before causing a larger problem.  If we carried out the original repair work, it may be a little longer. From start to finish, a standard cowl refurbishment typically takes around four weeks.

Why should I have my oast cowl repairs done by hand?

Oast refurbishment is a detailed process. We carefully strip down the oast by sanding it – removing all the paint from the boards. This allows us to see any wear or water damage. The cowl then gets placed in a special drying room to remove any moisture from the wood before we begin repair work. Depending on the cowl’s condition, this may include meticulously replacing or repairing boards, heads, mainframe or curb, our expert craftsmen know exactly how to repair any problems with minimal disruption to the structure of the original cowl.

Dude and Arnette Brandon painting a cowl

A critical stage is the re-painting, we still paint the cowls by hand, the shape of the cowl means it’s almost impossible to get good, solid coverage by spraying. And we do five coats for optimum appearance and weatherproofing. Something we are committed to always doing by hand.

What have you changed?

We keep up to date with the very latest technology and quality when it comes to paint and wood treatment.  Using cutting edge primer, undercoats and finishes leave you fully weatherproofed and prevents any potentially costly problems developing with the wood- and iron-work.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram or Facebook to see what we’re up to in the new year, or get in touch to chat about your oast refurbishment needs.

Refurbishing fibreglass oast cowls – what’s the story?

As professional oast cowl refurbishers, the word fibreglass (or GRP) can often strike a note of fear into our hearts. Commonly sold to oast house owners with an assurance of a maintenance-free lifespan, there’s definately a few potential pitfalls to consider before making the choice over a traditional wooden oast cowl (in our case made from hardy Russian or Scandinavian timber). Here goes…

Rusted fibreglass oast cowl


This little villain named rust is often to blame for the difficulty of refurbishing fibreglass oast cowls. After exposure to damp the fixings and bolts can rust solid, hindering any chance of maintenance.

Fungi in an oast cowl


Creeping under the fibreglass to cause all sorts of problems – in terms of oast cowls there’s nothing fun about fungi (sorry). Alongside making a mouldy mess it can also cause the cowls to discolour – making it near impossible to return to its glorious traditional white hue.

Maintaining fibreglass oast cowls

At Dude & Arnette we advise against refurbishing old fibreglass oast cowls due to their unpredictable nature. For example, we recently came to the rescue of Richard Budd whose fibreglass oast cowl had blown off the roof in stormy weather and bounced down the lawn, disintegrating as it went.

Arriving to check out the damage we could see the extent of the damp and mould that had crept under the fibreglass coating and eaten away at the cowl, causing it to weaken and eventually break off. We proceeded to reconstruct both the roof and cowl using the traditional methods that we’ve been perfecting since 1937, and Richard now happily reports that the mended oast kiln roof and new cowl has made the house warmer and cosier than ever. Pats on the back all round then.

Mould in an oast cowl

If you have a fibreglass cowl and are interested in how we could help to maintain it for you then please get in touch, we have extensive experience and can offer the best solution for you with the minimum disruption.
It may be that we advise to remove the cowl in order to be repainted and weatherproofed or even reconstructed but you can rest assured that a well-cared for oast cowl should only need maintenance every seven years or so, and our traditional methods will ensure the preservation of the traditional features of your home for decades to come.

The Darling Buds of May

Do you remember the Darling buds of May TV series with David Jason and Catherine Zeta Jones? Well, we were offered the opportunity to work on the very same farm to put an oast cowl on an existing Kiln. We of course jumped at the chance to work on such an iconic property – with it’s non standard fitting it took all of our expertise and past experience to overcome every complexity.

Our first step was to build the scaffold around the kiln and take all the measurements.

The Darling Buds of May - Stage1


Then back to the workshop to construct the base and complete the pattern which was then taken back to site to make sure it fitted – this allowed us to start construction immediately.


Given the tight turn around time for this build, the team worked through the weekend to finalise the cowl construction and with all of  the preparation done and the construction ready it’s was time to fit the cowl – “on the roof goes!”

Oast Cowl Restoration in Progress

With the cowl fitted and everything looking secure & ready it was the ‘perfick’ time to take a picture of the team enjoying the view!

Another successful job by Dude & Arnette brought in on time and within budget.

More on Cowl Restoration Projects

Repair and maintenance is vital for your oast cowl

Oast houses across the UK stand as a testament to the history and heritage of our country. Although you can find oast houses in countries across the world, from Belgium and the Czech Republic, all the way to Australia, where they are known as hop kilns, they are synonymous with our stunning English countryside.

An oast house in Sevenoaks was recently revealed to be abandoned and left derelict, a shadow of its former beauty, with one oast collapsed and tarpaulin covering another of the buildings. Dating back to the 15th century, it’s a sorry state to see such a magnificent piece of history rot away.

abandoned oast houses

Although this is an extreme example of lack of maintenance and care, it’s not a world away from some of the oasts that we’ve visited over the past 75 years. Oast cowl repair and maintenance is vital. By carrying out regular maintenance you’ll ensure that your cowl is ready for the Great British weather, and help avoid costly repairs needed over time. Dude & Arnette recommend repairing and repainting your cowl every seven years, but each cowl is unique, and depending on whether we carried out the original work, you may have leeway with this timeframe.

Visit our Contact Us page, where you’ll find all of our details, or call us on 01622 725 898 to arrange a no-obligation assessment and quote from our director Darren Hole.

Repairing and restoring oasts of Kent and Sussex: A step back in time

The Dude & Arnette family history dates back to 1937, but oast houses themselves go back hundreds of years, with the earliest description thought to go back to 1574.

Symbolic of the countryside that surrounds them, oast houses historically represent one of Britain’s oldest known trades – beer making – and the industry and means to dry hops remain in Kent and Sussex today.

The cycle of inhabiting, converting, and inhabiting again means that today’s oast houses are cloaked in stunning history, with many maintaining original features and ornate detail once found in its original form.

oast house history

As the beer-making industry evolved over time, and machinery was introduced into the hop-picking process, many oasts became redundant, often becoming derelict or demolished. These stunning buildings soon became the solution to the housing situation that arose in the late 19th century, and at the turn of the century Sir Philip Waterlow became one of the first to convert an oast to a house.

As the decades rolled on, our family learnt the skill and craftsmanship needed to restore cowls and hop kilns across the country, and we still use many of the same techniques today.

Find out more about Dude & Arnette and our family history on Our Story page, and get in touch today to arrange a free quotation for restoring and repairing your oast cowl.