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Two years ago, we began taking down a gambrel house from the 1790s. (We blogged about it here and here.) I am delighted to report that we have now completed the restoration of this rugged old timber frame! After the passage of that much time, it is all the more satisfying to be putting the timber joints, so masterfully crafted over two hundred years ago, back together as they are meant to be!
Here is what the house looked like when we first heard about it:
Why did we take on this project?
The house was on the docket to be burned down by the local fire department. We are so grateful to the fire fighter who realized how old the house was and contacted Green Mountain Timber Frames! We just couldn’t stand to let it be destroyed.
A couple hundred hours into the process of gutting the house, which included filling two giant dumpsters with insulation, vinyl siding, sheet rock, plaster, and much other “sundry”, our hearts were sinking. But then we finally started to see the original frame. Here is the view after approximately 650 cold winter hours of gutting:
After a couple hundred hours more, we had the frame down and stored carefully under tarps. Now the frame is once again standing, this time in restored condition.
What does it mean that we have restored the frame?
The first step was to power wash each individual beam, brace, and board, as well as pull thousands of nails out of the timbers. Next, we went over each beam looking for fatigued areas that needed attention. Below is a “English scarf joint,” an incredibly strong joint that we used to replace the bottom of a post.
Restoration – with painstaking attention to details
The photo below shows a careful repair we did to one of the five beams that measure thirty-eight feet long. The beam had a very “tired” spot over this post due to a leak in the roof that must have persisted for years. We carefully removed soft areas, and replaced them with hand hewn material. Good for another 200 years! We were able to use materials from the original carrying sills of the house to make the repairs on the posts and beams.
As part of the restoration, we laid out each cross-section of the building, called “bents” and “plate walls,” and checked all the joints for tightness and the geometry for squareness. We built new rafters out of oak to replace some that had been too far gone for re-use.
In the following photo, we are laying out all the original wall boards on the ground to check our labeling system as we put the boards back in their original location.
The plaster lines from the eighteenth century construction even lined up on the interior! Many of the sheathing boards are over twenty inches wide!
Why have we put this frame up on temporary sills?
Often, we are able to locate a vintage barn and keep it standing until a new owner has a chance to look at it and decide if it will meet the needs and dreams for a new house or addition. In some cases, we have to take the frame down immediately, as in the case of this gambrel in order to avoid its date with the fire department!
With gratitude to Larson Farm, where timber framer Luke Larson grew up, we are able to put the frame up both to check our work and to have it up so that anyone considering using it can walk through it and visualize what it can become.
Here are some highlights of this particular frame:
- Pre-1800s and framed with American Chestnut, Beech, Oak, and Elm.
- Gunstock frame on both floors! This means the posts grow in width towards the tops.
- The gambrel profile creates a 22’x38′ wide open living space on the second floor. First floor is 28’x38′.
- Original arched collar ties.
- Original wide pine flooring boards are available.
The October brilliance of color in Vermont has made it a pleasure to work on this frame over the past weeks! This frame is currently available for purchase, and is now ready to stand strong and true again in a new location.
We wish to thank the Larson Farm for their generous loan of space to put the frame up. Please visit the frame on its current location. You can learn more about the farm and its fantastic vision on the Larson Farm website or on Facebook.
This frame could be your home…
If you are interested in turning this beautiful gambrel frame into your own historic property, learn more on our website or contact us at 802.774.8972 or Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com.
Coming up next…
Stay tuned for a future blog on the amazing and artistic labeling system on this gambrel frame!
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A very beautiful structure. I’m glad it was not lost. I am curious about the lack of braces on the first level in these photos. Was that how it was, or were they removed before the photos were taken? Lovely job restoring! Thanks!