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!

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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

Celebration at Sissy’s – in the barn frame!

Sissy's Old Barn Frame Restored - Party!

For folks who have been following the Gunstock story, this past weekend Sissy had her first round of parties under the restored timber frame! In the photo, you can see tables set for a family reunion of 25. The two 12 foot tables, created out of vintage barn planks and timbers especially for this space, easily accommodated the large and happy gathering.  

During this event, I stopped by for my first view of the frame under lights. It was lovely to see the old barn frame full of new life. Several family members mentioned there was a magical feeling to the whole evening and we hope to be hosting many more such evenings under the timbers!

If you would like to see some of the frames we have in stock or find out more about our current projects, please do reach out. We are working to find someone to love these old frames and all of the magical history they hold.www.greenmountaintimberframes.com

Renovated Horse Barn – Middletown Springs, VT

Restored Timber Frame Barn

Restored Timber Frame Barn

Built in the 1840s, this timber frame barn was formerly a summer kitchen and wood shed attached to a two-story colonial style house in Wells, Vermont. 

I renovated it in 2003 for a horse farmer in our town and the barn is now home to several rescue horses.

Horse Barn Restored by Green Mountain Timber Framers

I was so glad to be able to bring back life to this old wood shed and see that it is being used so well now.

One reason this project was special was that we did the barn raising with people – the old-fashioned way. We didn’t use a crane. 15 ladies and gentlemen helped to raise it all the way up to the roof boards in one day.

Old Fashioned Barn Raising

Old Fashioned Barn Raising

Too bad it’s so tasty, though! The horses love the old barn so much, they started chewing those beautiful timbers! The owner had to treat the timbers with a hot pepper product so the horses would stay clear.

Post and Beam Barn Restoration

Yummy Timbers!

Green Mountain Timber Frames Restored Barn

Interior of Horse Barn

If you would like to see some of the frames I have in stock or find out more about my current projects, please do reach out. I’m working to to find someone to love these old frames and all of the magical history they hold.

www.greenmountaintimberframes.com

Photo Recap of Restoring the Gunstock Timber Frame

(Or Sissy’s Frame as she now is known)

One great bonus of restoring this most recent frame has been the proximity to my house and “office.” In this panorama, you can see the restored gunstock frame in the center and behind the trees towards the right hand side is a view of a barn I have restored in my workshop – right next door!

Green Mountain Timber Frames and Sissy's Kitchen

Panorama showing Gunstock frame and Green Mountain Timber Frames’ Workshop

And here’s a shot of me and Sissy standing in front of Sissy’s Kitchen and a shot I love of the finished frame.

Old Barn for sale in Vermont

Old Barn for sale in Vermont!

Timber framer Dan McKeen and Sissy in Vermont

Restoring this frame has been a lot of fun, with no small credit due to Sissy for her culinary delicacies served with the love of home cooking. Lunch by Sissy's Kitchen Well earned Sissy's Lunch

Here the smiling crew raises the first wall of the frame:

timber frame barn raising

The happy timber frame crew

Smiling crew ready for Sissy’s lunch

By the way – we found an old-fashioned mower  – and sprinkler! Check out below and you can see Sissy mowing the lawn inside the restored frame.

Restored Gunstock Frame with oldfashioned Mower

Sissy mows the lawn

Old fashioned sprinkler in VT

The frame is only on display at Sissy’s – it’s still available for sale and inquiries are welcome!

Who wouldn’t want to take this old barn home with them…?

Interested? Send me an email!

Roof on Old Restored Timber Frame

This shot shows the roof we just finished.

Sissy’s Barn – Finishing up Restoration on the Gunstock Timber Frame

I’m feeling good about how this frame has shaped up. This week, we finally finished the roof details, so the plastic sheeting is gone. The roof is now all metal, protecting the old timber frame from the elements. This is the fourth roof that has covered this frame in her long life.

This picture shows the southeast corner of the frame, from the inside. (Was hoping to have lunch in their today but the weather had other plans.)

Inside the Restored Timber Frame

Southeast corner – afternoon light in the timberframe

I want to take the time to “clean the carpet” so to speak but I’m looking around for an old reel lawn mower to do the trick. It just seems the right way to go. I’ve been asking around town if someone has one I can borrow. (Please do contact me if you have one!)

Since January, I’ve put in about 600 hours of restoration work on this old frame. My friends and colleagues have put in 400 hours, just in the past few weeks.

Here she is: hundreds of years of history, 1000 hours in 2013…

restored timber frame barn available barn for sale

Sissy’s Barn has a summer guest – looking for a permanent home

Sissy’s frame is still looking for a new home! Please let me know if you are interested. You can also check out some of my available frames at: http://www.greenmountaintimberframes.com/#!available-frames/cqps

Memorial Day – Just me and the Timbers

Here’s a picture of some of the work I did on Memorial Day on the Gunstock frame over at Sissy’s.

Vermont Timber Frame Restored

It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed some hours working on the frame.

It’s lovely to see the frame up without plastic and that afternoon light…

Restoration Continues on the Gunstock Timberframe

Memorial Day Weekend in Middletown Springs, Vermont

Work on this gunstock treasure continues and I am enjoying every second of restoring this frame.

I consider my role in this as that of a connector – a lucky link in a historical moment bridging a timber framer who lived centuries ago and spent months chopping, carving and erecting this beautiful hand hewn frame and the future owners who will build lives beneath these old timbers once again.

Who will live amidst these timbers? What joys will happen under this roof? Children will be born and raised. Generations will come and go – with these old growth timbers standing sturdily by as silent witness.

On Friday, we spent much of the day applying the original white oak roof boards back to the frame.

Next, we installed a roof from recycled metal (actually, it’s four roofs, over its lifetime) that had been on the barn when it was dismantled. We’re using black plastic in the interim until more metal roofing can be applied. The plastic has helped keep the frame dry during last week’s 5 inches of rain, but the metal will be more secure until we dismantling the frame in November. We will keep reusing the metal roofing on future frames as temporary rain caps until these available frames find a home.

Applying roof Boards to restored timberframe in Vermont

Applying roof Boards to restored timberframe

Applying roof Boards to Timber Frame 3

Roof boards and plastic sheeting to protect restored frame

With all the rain this past week, covering the roof with plastic allowed me to sleep at night. Over the rainy weekend we headed back to the Pawlet property to take more metal roofing  off of a shed (about to be torn down) that was attached to the gunstock frame. Armed with this added metal roof materials, we have all the ingredients we need to complete the roof.

Interior Roof Structure on Gunstock Restored Timber frame

Interior roof structure of restored timber frame

Interior of Roof Structure on Vintage Timber frame

The photos above show the roof structure from the inside. Those large roof beams are the principal rafters. You can also see the horizontal tie beams and bracing between principal rafters. These beams support the smaller rafters which are all covered by white oak roof boards we applied on Friday. 

Restored Timber Frame with Roof Boards

Restored Timber Frame with Roof Boards

What a beauty!( Okay – except for the lawn which I know needs mowing.) Here you can see half the roof boards and I think this shot does the old timber frame justice – look at the potential of this lovely structure!

Stay tuned: Next week we will focus on completing the roof boards and installing the rest of the metal roofing. This frame will be fully restored and ready to host summer events here at Sissy’s Kitchen.

We’re even planning on using some vintage planks to make three harvest tables with benches, which will sit beneath the restored gunstock timber frame.

I have to go now and mow the floor. Guests are coming……………………….

If you would like to visit any of these barns – or learn more about all the details (I can always talk barn) please let me know. I’m trying to help out the owner and find someone to love these old frames and all of the magical history they hold. www.greenmountaintimberframes.com