Dismantling the Benson Timber Frame: Timelapse Videos & More

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The GMTF crew has been hard at work dismantling the Benson barn frame, a structure that we will restore into a beautiful Vermont barn home. Despite the cold and snow, we’ve made great progress on the project and put together some videos of our work.

(For more details about this barn, check out our last entry.)

After removing the roof boards and rafters by hand, we used a telehandler to lift down the rafter support queen system. Once we were down to the main cube of the structure, we had a crane come in for 6 hours to help out, although back when this historic barn was built in the 1870s or 1880s, they certainly didn’t have such a machine around to assist. The silo made it a real challenge to maneuver, but the local crane operator (and our team) were amazing and it went off without a hitch.

Timelapse Video of Barn Dismantling

This first video is a timelapse video, showing the process of removing first the 48-foot top plate timbers, and then the bents:

When removing the top plate timbers that form the eve of the historic barn, the crane delicately set them down in the tight quarters. We had attached a guide rope to one end, and we were able to spin and then hold steady as it was set down on the ground. In the next photo, you can see the second barn on the property. We are delighted that the owner is keeping this barn in place.

The crane helped us fly down this 48-foot top plate.
top plate of timber frame barn in vermont
The 48-foot timbers are remarkable, and are hewn of pine. Imagine the trees that they were used for these beams, and also imagine how they got them up there without the use of a crane! The whole community must have come together to hoist this frame into place.
Here’s Isaac, inspecting a 10×12 inch hand-hewn timber that’s 48-feet long!

48 foot vintage wood from 1880s barn

The “bents,” (wall sections) that were being swung around the silo are 34-feet wide, 16-feet tall and about 5,000 pounds each.
In this picture, you can see us flying the gable bent. This bent is a whopping 34-feet wide!

34 foot gable bent from vintage barn for sale

Lifting the Basement Wall of the Vermont Barn

In this second video, you can see us lifting the basement wall as a truss unit. The wall consists of two, 48-foot long timbers, connected with 6-foot oak posts and many braces.
The 6-foot posts are mini gunstocks, meaning that they are flared to be wider at the top than they are at the base. A couple of them measure 10×16 inches where they are mortised into the upper timber.
We added extra “strong back” planks to stiffen the truss, but it turned out not to be necessary as it did not bend at all as the crane lifted it. Really incredible!
Once we lifted up the beams and laid them flat, we popped all the pegs, disassembled the truss, and labeled everything.
We hope that the next owner of the Benson Barn Frame will want a walk-out basement underneath so that this wall truss can be put back right where it belongs.
Here’s a shot of some of the awesome GMTF team during our take-down of the barn. The team was just taking a breather on a 34-foot, hand-hewn barn timber from the 1880s. We are a lucky bunch to get to be involved in saving and restoring these historic barns!
Green Mountain Timber Frames crew

This Vermont Barn is for sale!

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us at 802-774-8972 or Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com
Learn more about the Benson Barn Frame.

Saving a Giant of a Barn: the Benson Timber Frame

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We are now two weeks into the careful dismantling of a beautiful timber barn – for sale –  that dates from around 1880. This timber frame is not as old as many of the structures that we take down and restore here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, but the high quality of the frame more than justifies our efforts to save it. At 34 x 48 feet, this wonderful vintage frame is a big one!

evening light on old barn for sale in benson | green mountain timber framesThe barn’s foundation, roof and sills are deteriorated, and would be very difficult and costly to repair in place. We have purchased the barn and now it is in our court to take down the frame, restore it, and find a new home for this majestic and historic building.

(Let us know if you are interested in seeing the barn!)

Taking Down the Timber Frame Barn: Step by Step

Our first step was to remove an enormous amount of hay from the inside of the building. Thankfully, we had some pitchforks handy. removing hay from the benson frame | green mountain timber framesThe hay piled inside the barn had been hiding a very interesting feature of this barn. The smallest bay, which is where the animals were kept, had built in wooden gutters for removing manure.

Discoveries in an Old Barn

The clever system had two trap doors that could be opened, allowing the waste to be dropped into wagons or carts below for spreading on the nearby fields. There was also a trough in front of the animals where they could be fed. It is really amazing to see the wear marks on the floor from hooves. We can tell where the antsy cow lived many years ago! cleaning out cow stalls in old barn for sale green mountain timber framesWe made another discovery while opening up the walls of this barn. Between layers of siding, honey bees had built a hive at some point in the past.discovering an old bee hive in the benson old barn for sale green mountain timber framesWe collected the brittle wax comb, and I am excited to make candles out of it. Once we find a new home for this barn and re-erect it, I can imagine a celebratory meal in the restored frame- lit by the wax of this bee hive. honey comb in the wall of benson barn for sale green mountain timber framesAs we removed the wide hemlock wall boards, we labeled each one so they can be installed back in the same location. Many of the timber boards are over 15 inches wide, and the patina on them is spectacular.

We can’t wait to wash them, but the temperature will have to get up above freezing for that process to take place and winter really seems eager this year in Vermont. wide vintage boards for sale | green mountain timber frames

Removing the Slate Roof

Once we had the barn cleaned out and many of the siding boards removed, we went on to remove the roof system. This barn still had its original roof- large purple slate from the nearby quarries.

Here we are removing the slate piece by piece.

It was unusual for us to be removing the original roof from a building, as most of our older frames went through at least two, and often four, generations of roofing material before they come under our care. Much of the slate is still good and we will set it aside with the frame for future use. removing slate and roof boards benson barn for sale In order to be as safe as possible, we built a temporary second floor in the barn. This allows us to do most of the board and rafter removal from this deck rather than from the top of the roof or from long ladders. This barn is so large that it took fifty sheets of plywood to create this safe work platform! how to take down an old barn safelyThe effort building the deck paid off, as we removed and labeled each roof board.removing roof boards from benson barn for saleLet me share a couple more interesting features of this barn:

All farmers know how hard it is to keep large barn doors on a building. Inevitably, it seems, they get caught by a gust of wind and torn off the building. Well, it must have been someone with life experience who designed this structure. They built a giant pocket door system and hung the 13-foot-tall doors on tracks on the inside of the barn.

In order to create this space for the doors, secondary posts were added in the doorway bents. In this way, gusts of wind could not get at the doors when they were opened. giant pocket door old barn for sale A good luck horseshoe was nailed to one side of the door opening. horseshoe for good luck benson timber frame barn for saleIt was exciting to get lots of light on the upper queen system. These timbers support the rafters at mid-span, making the roof strong enough to carry the weight of all that slate as well as Vermont’s winter snow. There is a unique and beautiful scarf joint that was used to get the queen plates to span the whole 48 feet.queen system in benson old barn for sale green mountain timber frames

Here is a close-up of the scarf joint:scarf joint  | green mountain timber framesWhile the queen plate is made out of two timbers, the main top plate that creates the eve of the building is not. Incredibly, these hand-hewn timbers are the full length of the barn at 48 feet and 2 inches! Imagine the size of the old-growth tree that was required, as well as the difficulty of getting these beams in place without the use of modern equipment.

These 48-foot timbers are a testament to the skill of the timber framers who crafted this barn, as well as to the strength of a community that would come together to hoist such a barn into place. We are honored to now be the caretakers of this structure.48 foot hand hewn timber | green mountain timber frames

You can see drawings of the barn here on our site.

This old barn is for sale!

If you are interested in this barn, or another timber frame structure, let us know!

 

 

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!

Controlled Collapse of Ira Barn – on video!

Remember the old Ira Barn we have oft-written about?

The original barn had three parts: the main frame we wrote about earlier, a 32-foot frame that we are currently working on dismantling, and a third, 14-foot timbered section on the far end that was not salvageable.

Below is a picture of the old timber frame – to help jog your memory!

Timber Frame Barn in Ira VT

Timber Frame Barn in Ira, VT

While this isn’t our usual MO here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, it was too dangerous to dismantle this small section by hand so we organized a controlled demolition. In my over 30 years of experience in timber framing, I have never before done this kind of demolition before. In this case, however, the safety concerns warranted this more dramatic approach.

We first salvaged material from the failing section of the barn. In the picture below, you can see us using a tractor to remove equipment from the barn before the controlled collapse.

Controlled Collapse of Timber Frame Barn

Controlled Collapse of Timber Frame Barn

We then used a block and tackle, a maple tree and four chains in order to do the demolition of the small timbered gable end section. We captured the whole thing on video! You can view it below, or on our new Green Mountain Timber Frames YouTube Channel!

As you may recall, we also found some vintage horse-drawn equipment in this old barn. When we last wrote, the equipment was soundly frozen to the ground, but with spring’s thaw, we were able to remove the equipment. Here are some of the treasures we found inside: Horse Drawn Equipment from Ira Old Barn