The Little Barn Playhouse Comes Home

Featured

If you’re reading this in your email, please click here for better viewing.

 

Today’s blog is from Green Mountain Timber Frames founder, Dan McKeen.

It was 35 years ago that I first set out to build my twin daughters a playhouse. I was a young timber framer and a proud father of two, four-year-old girls who loved the outdoors, exploration and pretend just as much as I do. Eager to create a special home where they could hide and climb and create magical worlds together, I built this tiny little treehouse for them back in 1982.

35 year old timber frame treehouse

Rachel and Amanda in their very own home.

Rachel and Amanda spent hours in the wooden treehouse, just as I had hoped. But by and by as the years passed, the playhouse went out of use and was in need of some more young love.

So 25 years ago I sold the playhouse to a friend. When I asked him if I could buy it back, he agreed and said that he was looking for a bigger, small structure for himself. So we found him a “milkhouse” and traded the playhouse for the milk house with a few thousand dollars to make up the difference.  (I’ve mentioned this story before and if you follow this blog, you may recall reading about it in my posts here and here.)

New Playmates for the Little Playhouse

The playhouse spent the last 2+ decades in my friend’s yard, where it was loved and played in, on and around and bore witness to countless secrets whispered under its eaves. But my friend’s child, like mine, grew older and in the meantime, I had become a grandpa. This could only mean one thing:

It was time for the playhouse to come home!

And come home, it has! I embarked upon this latest barn” restoration with the energy and enthusiasm of a six-year-old! I took the playhouse home and gave it a full makeover so it can house games and delight for dozens of years to come.

Restoring the Playhouse

In anticipation of the homecoming, I first cleared out just the right spot for the playhouse.  My friend Ed pruned some Cherry tree branches and a sturdy platform deck was created for the little house. (How fitting that the wood we used for the platform was excess wood from the milkhouse Ira barn project we did in 2013.) It is all old growth Spruce, treated with linseed oil, so it will last for a good many years.

Next, I headed over to my friend’s place to transport the playhouse back to my yard. In the image below, you can see the little barn house arriving to the Green Mountain Timber Frames shop for restoration.

playhouse arriving for restoration at green mountain timber frames.jpg

At our shop it was time to begin the restoration work. (After all, restoring barns is a bit of a passion of ours!)

Restorint barn style kids play house barn_4

There were boards and framing to restore, hinges to fix, countless corners to wash and windows to replace. I also had my dear friend Nance help give the playhouse a faux paint touch up to make the blue siding look like vintage barn board.

Moving barn playhouse to new location

Here’s the refurbished playhouse being set in its new home.

After placing the playhouse on the platform, I needed to give my grandkids (and every kid around) an easy way to get inside. We had recently removed a pine tree that was threatening our house. We used the stump as a base for the staircase, carving the lowest step right into its hearty wood. The stump will provide good stability to help keep the stairs from shifting in Vermont’s inevitable freezes and heaves.

Once the playhouse was set in place, it was time for some fun! I outfitted the little building with a kitchenette, a mailbox and plenty of soccer balls. Then, Ed added in a new rope swing and topped it all off with a 90 yard zip line.

The angels were with us throughout this project. I asked a former client, now friend, to coach me on zip-lining. He let me know that he had 275 feet of cable in his garage, waiting for just the right use. In the end we needed 273′. Serendipitous indeed!

Christening the New (Old) Playhouse! 

This past Sunday, the new playhouse was inaugurated in style! No less than 12 kids – my grandchildren among them – came by to test out the house and the swings.

The verdict? I have a feeling my yard will be filled with many little feet and bigger voices – and I couldn’t be happier. There are dragons under the floorboards and pirates hiding in the bushes and so much more adventure awaits!

Enjoy this slideshow of the playhouse today! 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Love barns?

Want your own barn home? Let us know!

Advertisements

Contagious Renovations

Reading this in your email? For easier reading – Click here.

Here in our tiny hamlet of Middletown Springs, Vermont, renovating historic buildings seems to be something of a trend.

The Green Mountain Timber Frames headquarters and workshop are located in the center of the village, directly across from the Town Green. From here, we can watch the daily happenings as the 745 or so residents come and go. As of late, we’ve noticed that many locals are busy renovating some of our beautiful historic buildings. Of course, we couldn’t be more excited!

vermont-church-steeple-renovation_green-mountain-timber-frames

The view across the Town Green

It started when our neighbor to the east on our Town Green painted their 1880s Victorian house, in preparation for a family wedding.

1880-victorian-home_vermont_green-mountain-timber-frames

Next, the Community Church, north of the Town Green, decided it was time to paint the church steeple.

vermont-church-steeple-renovation_green-mountain-timber-frames

And wouldn’t you know it, here at GMTF, on the west of the Town Green, we are erecting a 1790s barn frame for fine tuning before it moves on to its final home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Luke’s brother, lawyer Chris Larson, lives across from the community church and he is repairing his porch. You can see his progress below!

3_historic-victorian-house_green-mountain-timber-frames

Luke, who lives right up the street from our shop, is also renovating the porch on his 1885 Victorian beauty.

2_historic-victorian-house_green-mountain-timber-frames1_historic-victorian-house_green-mountain-timber-frames

Want to add your own renovation project to the mix?

We renovate historic barns throughout New England and New York!

Contact us for details!

Timber Framing: Captured on Video!

Green Mountain Timber Frames is now of video!

But before I show you the video, let’s take a look at this before and after shot.
Antique Timber frame before afterYou may remember back in 2013 when I wrote a few times about the timber frame we had restored and erected up at Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs. A gunstock timber frame, it was built over 250 years ago.

For this project, we erected the restored frame with help of the one and only Vermont Jeepgirl (otherwise known as Crane Operator extraordinaire, Sue Miller.) Luckily for us, she made a video recording of the raising day!

Hats off to Sue for capturing our madness!

Vermont Crane Operator_Vermont Jeep Girl

Vermont Jeepgirl Sue Miller

It was a great crew that worked on this frame. Here we are, standing proud in front of the restored timbers.

Construction experts from Green Mountain Timber Frames

Construction crew from Green Mountain Timber Frames

This frame – even before it became a new storage barn – saw a lot of good times! For a couple months, the erected frame stood on the beautiful lawn behind Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs, Vermont.

Test Barn Raising of Timber Frame Barn Home

Test Barn Raising of Timber Frame Barn Home at Sissy’s Kitchen

While we waited for the right buyer, the frame housed many a dinner party and afternoon tea, just around the corner from the workshop of Green Mountain Timber Frames.

Summer evening party at Sissy's under antique post and beam frame

Summer evening party at Sissy’s under post and beam frame

I want to send out a huge thank you again to Sissy for letting us have all this fun, right in her yard!

Timber framer Dan McKeen and Sissy in Vermont

Have more timber frame projects worth capturing on video? Let us know! We would like to hear from you!

Behind the Scenes: How do you restore old wood?

Today I want to share a bit about the “behind the scenes” work that goes into restoring historic properties. I am going to share the process we use to restore 240-year-old roof boards on a barn from 1774. And while I recognize that the technical sides of my work may be less fascinating to some of my readers, I do know that there are a few of you out there who are interested in learning about the nitty-gritty details of timber framing.

So how does one restore 240-year-old wood?

Restoring old timber frames and turning them into new custom barn homes is a multi-layered task with many steps along the way. A significant part of the work is spent carefully refreshing each piece of timber, from the siding to the roof boards.

As I walk you through the process step by step, I’ll show pictures from the 1774 barn roof boards we recently restored. Most barns we restore have slate roofs, but slate was only discovered in Vermont in 1834. This barn was originally roofed with local white cedar shingles as its first roof. Sixty years later they added a slate roof.

The first step in this project was to remove the slate shingles from the frame. We then created a temporary roof to protect the antique beechwood beams during the renovation process. In the photo below, we had already removed the slate over the winter months and covered the roof with a piece of strong black plastic to protect against the spring rains. This also helps keep the frame in good condition until we could officially start the dismantling process.

1774 Barn with slate roof shingles removed

1774 Barn with slate roof shingles removed

We then carefully removed each roof board. During this removal process it’s important to label the boards, using a system that is clear to everyone working on the project. After restoring the beams, the labeling system will help us as we reassemble the hand hewn frame and return each board to its original location in the post and beam structure.

Label vintage roof boards

Notice labeling on unwashed roof boards

Once we dismantled all of the boards and timbers, we loaded them onto a trailer transporting them to back to our shop in Middletown Springs, Vermont where we spent several weeks restoring the timber frame.

Transporting boards on trailer

Loading the boards on to a trailer

Back at my shop, we unloaded the trailer and carefully scanned each roof board for old nails. We removed all of the wooden shingle nails that we found in the wide roof boards, knocking out about 100 nails per board which is typical in pre-1800 timber frames.

Scanning the timber beams for wooden shingle nails.

Scanning the roof boards for nails.

The next stage was to wash the boards. In this project, we had a washing party to remove 240 years of Vermont life. As we washed the wood, it was fun to imagine all that has taken place beneath these boards and beams during their long watch – from Ethan and Ira Allen sleeping underneath the boards (or at least their horses!), to wheat thrashing, to generations of families tending animals and storing hay for over two centuries…

Washing vintage wood boards

Washing vintage boards

Washing old timber boards

After we thoroughly washed the boards, we left them out to dry for two sunny days.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to find two sunny days in New England!

Flip boards for dryingWe flipped and turned each board to ensure they were completely dry.

Drying vintage timber boards for restorationIn this final picture, you can see the results. Two hundred and forty-year old wood – restored for our future.

Restored wood from colonial time

A roof board first cut 240 years ago, restored. It’s amazing to think about. I stare at the 250 rings of growth and realize that these boards were ‘born’ nearly 500 years ago. Early timber framers in Vermont (1750 to 1800) had the luxury of being able to use the finest of materials – first cut trees, grown strong over centuries. Trees in New England had never been cut for lumber before.

In this restoration project, as with other barns we have restored from this time period, the wide pine roof boards were made from first cut timber. You can recognize this  beautiful wood from the tight bands of growth rings, showing slow, strong growth. In addition to strength, the aging process over 240 years give the boards a color that can’t be duplicated. Now the boards are restored and ready to shed water again.

I hope, as with each of our projects, that the future owners will maintain these structures. When this frame is re-erected, with all timber and boards restored, it will allow us to have a glimpse into the past. After the raising, we can imagine how proud these builders must have felt to erect such a fine barn. (And of course they did it without the help of power tools and cranes.) We are honored to restore their work which can now stand for centuries to come.

Want to come see some of the timber frames at our shop in Middletown Springs? Please let us know!

1880s Vermont Vintage Barn for Sale

Exploring a new old barn is always fun for me, but it’s especially nice when the frame is a local one and needs little restoration. I do this work because I am passionate about preserving the heritage and craftsmanship of New England. Each barn we are able to rescue feels like history is saved, at least another 100 years or more.

While I’ve been doing this for decades, I still feel the same thrill each time I find a vintage barn in reasonable condition, restore it and transform it for a new owner who will enjoy it for decades to come.

This post and beam barn, dating from the 1880s, comes right from my hometown of Middletown Springs, VT.

middletown springs vermont barn houses

1880s Barn for sale from Vermont

The vintage frame measures 18’x30’ and is built from sawn 8″x 8″  timbers. The person who built the barn used traditional post and beam joinery and the timber frame structure features 4 bents and 3, 10 foot bays.

The interior design is a bit unusual – part corn crib and part something else. My best guess is that the other part of the barn was used as a cheese house or perhaps as lodging for hired help. You can see in the picture below that this separate section of the barn was finished with plaster. I’ll ask around town with the octogenarians, they might remember something from the 30s or 40s.

barn homes vermont - interior

Plastered section of barn interior

While the barn is currently in Middletown Springs, VT, the current owner is hoping that we can find a new owner to enjoy this piece of history. I am happy to help transport it to a new location in New England or New York.

The barn has a beautiful slate roof that is in great condition. It stands 1 and 1/2 stories tall. The floor boards are also in great condition and the half story measures 2’8” making for plenty of head room on the second floor.

vintage post and beam barn

Upstairs interior view of 1880s barn

This old barn is for sale –  – and with 1100 square feet of interior space, it offers lots of possibilities. It could make a very nice first home, a workshop, studio or camp.

For someone looking for a bigger space, we can easily add ten-foot shed additions, which would increase the first floor living space to 28’x38’.

If you are interested, please do let me know! The frame comes complete with siding, roof boards, floor boards, and the slate roof.

post and beam barn for sale

Middletown Springs, VT historic barn for sale

Want to check out this barn or another available timber frame we have in stock, please contact Green Mountain Timber Frames!

What Goes Up…Must Come Down

Moving the Gunstock Frame to Its New Home

After a lovely sojourn at Sissy’s Restaurant here in Middletown Springs, VT, it was time for this beautiful historic gunstock timber frame to be taken down and moved to its new home.

Vermont Timber Frames in Middletown Springs

Roof board removal at Sissy’s

With help from Sue – otherwise known as the Vermont JeepGirl – the crew here at Green Mountain Timber Frames worked carefully to take down the frame, piece by piece. 

Vermont Jeep Girl Sue helps us move the historic timber frame

Sue and her crane help us take down the historic timber frame

Timber Frame Barn Homes in Vermont

Dismantling

After carefully dismantling this Vermont post and beam frame, we moved it to its new home where it will become the framework for a beautiful timber frame barn.

Dismantling Vermont Timber Frames

Taking Down the Gunstock Timber Frame

Once the frame was taken down, we moved it 120 miles to its new home where it will stand the test of time for another 250 years – or more.

Our small crew of 5 guys worked a total of 300 hours, beginning work on a Sunday at 4 pm and finishing this fine timber frame barn on the following Friday. Since we were miles from home and our friends and family, the team worked from dawn to dusk to finish the project, carefully joining the historic beams back together.

We were lucky enough to have weather on our side. With only one afternoon downpour,  we all came home a little tanner.

Vermont Post and Beam Homes

Reassembling the timber frame barn

The finished timber frame will have a copper, standing seam roof which should protect the barn for about 100 years.

Vermont Historic Barn Raising

The Newly Raised Barn – to stand another 250 years!

——

If you are interested in a timber frame barn homes or in seeing one of the old barns for sale at Green Mountain Timber Frames, please contact us!

An Evening of History, Music & Timbers

After working for so many months to restore this Vermont timberframe, I was looking for an excuse to invite friends to come on over to Sissy’s Kitchen and see the restored frame.

This gunstock barn was originally from Pawlet, Vermont, so I wanted some of the people from the town to come and see the restored frame.

My second passion aside from timber framing is music, so when a former client of mine told me that 3 Penny Acre, a very fine band from Arkansas, was traveling through Vermont and staying at their own barn style home, I saw an immediate opportunity.

Historic Restoration_Celebration of New England Heritage

Invitation to a night of music at Sissy’s

The band was looking to add another gig to their tour, and I thought the frame would make an ideal spot for a night of mellow music, delectable food and starry skies.

I checked in with Sissy about having a concert and she was game – offering to provide the crowds with tasty picnic style meals.

The Vermont summer cooperated with us and it was a beautiful evening. It was a grand event with over 100 folks showing from Middletown Springs and Pawlet, Vermont.

Partying and Music at Historic Timber Frame, Vermont

The crowds enjoy the music at Sissy’s

The band played on into the evening and captured our hearts. It was such a success, that they will be coming back again this summer to record with local musician,Jim Gilmour.

Evening under the Reclaimed Timber Frame

Evening under the Reclaimed Timber Frame

Meanwhile, the antique timber frame is still for sale and looking for a new owner… 

If you would like to see this Vermont timberframe or some of the other frames we have in stock, please do contact me. Green Mountain Timber Frames is working to find someone to love these old frames and all of the magical history they hold.www.greenmountaintimberframes.com