Restoration of a Hand Hewn Pine Barn Frame, c. 1840 – Part II

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Remember this hand hewn frame, made of pine timbers, that we highlighted in last week’s blog? Old Barn home_Original Location Well – the good news is – restoration is complete! After 8 days of focused work with a superb team of seven, the barn is fully restored and in use. Restoration of new england barn home At 21 feet wide x 30 feet long, it spent nearly 175 years protecting hay in a meadow in Benson, Vermont. This barn has had quite a journey since 1840.

We became involved a few years ago when we took down the barn, restored the structure and erected it at our workshop. It was put to good use there, protecting building materials, while we waited for a new owner; and in time the right family came along.

We’ve spent the past two weeks restoring the frame for the new owners in Pomfret, VT. In last week’s blog, I wrote about the process of dismantling and re-erecting the antique timber frame in Pomfret.

I also showed how we applied the roof boards and started on the siding, using materials from another historical barn.

Getting the Arches JUST Right
One of the challenges of restoring this barn was making sure the arched doorways looked just right. The picture below shows the process of creating the arches. Forming the arch on a historic barn_Green Mountain Timber FramesAnd here are some of our talented crew members pondering the arches to make sure they are just right! Green Mountain Timber Frames _Professional Contractors in VermontHere you can see the nearly completed results! Forming the arch on a historic barn_Green Mountain Timber Frames2Applying the Siding
Last week, we put on two layers of siding, one ½ an inch thick and the second one 1 inch thick. We put the two layers on, overlapping each other, to keep the driving rain and snow from seeping through the cracks.

restored siding on historic barn

A close up look at the restored siding

As always – we love to recycle! For this project, we used exterior siding from four different barns and the door is also on its second life. You can see the original barns here on our available frames pagevermont scenic view with historic barnIn the view above, you can see the recycled red roof taken from another barn project we also have in progress.

Reclaimed Wood versus New Wood
Economics and availability often come into play with a project, as reclaimed siding can be four times more expensive than new. In this case, the owners chose to use new siding on the back side of their barn. It is hidden safely from view and can not be seen from the house or the road. Give it another thirty years and it will look vintage, too.

restored historic barn

Rear view showing new siding

Now Let’s Step Inside…
From the interior of the barn, we can see the beautiful hand hewn timbers of the original frame.hand hewn timber frame wooden beams restored timber frame in new englandThe upper loft might make a wonderful overflow guest room in the summertime.

Loft view of restored historic barn home_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont

The Loft

There’s a large, open main level with the relatively spacious half loft. Eventually, a modest stairway will replace the metal ladder that you see in the view below. Internal view of timber frame barnIt was, as always, a pleasure to save another barn – and create a new-old barn for another wonderful client. The point was to have it look like it has been there for one hundred years. Did we succeed? side view of post and beam barn homeThis year has been a busy one here at Green Mountain Timber Frames. We’ve dismantled no fewer than seven barns and houses in the last year and they are each in various stages of restoration.

Want your very own piece of American history? Think that barn living might be for you? Give me a call at 802.774.8972 or email Luke@greenmountaintimberframes.com.

Green Mountain Timber Frames Goes West!

Here in New England, I have been restoring timber frame barns and building barn homes for many decades. Recently, our little company was able to venture further afield. Like Lewis and Clark did two centuries ago, we too have at last reached the west coast.

We restored a colonial era barn – seen below at its original location in Hartford, New York – and sent it off for a new future in Snohomish, Washington.

External view of hartford barn

Original barn in Hartford, NY (pre-restoration)

So how did this come about? 

Just over two years ago, we hired a web design company to redo our website. In addition to creating our new site, they have helped us spread the word about what we do. Suddenly, instead of relying on word of mouth here in Vermont, Green Mountain Timber Frames has found itself with an international audience of timber enthusiasts, history buffs and potential clients. Our little local mom and pop shop has gone global.

Thanks to the success of our site, we can now restore old barns here in New England and then ship them all over the country for reassembly. We are so grateful that our audience has grown and that we can find people across the country – and the world – to help us in our goal of preserving New England heritage and historical structures.

side view of timber frame barn home

Side view of the 1791 barn (in original NY location)

So tell me about this frame!

The frame itself was built around 1800, just a dozen years after the U.S. Constitution was signed. It was originally a corn crib and an unusual one at that. It has four different levels which add up to a total of 1000 sq. ft

Multi level timber frame

Notice the multiple levels of the frame

While the old barn originally measured 16 x 18 feet, a 16 x 13 foot addition was put on a few decades later. (Hence the different floor heights.) The original timber framer was quite clever and talented. He artfully joined the floor systems together with various stairs.

It was common during this period for corn cribs to have living quarters where the hired help would sleep. I suspect that was the case for this frame.

For this most recent project, we found an owner in Washington State who shares our passion for history and our dedication to preserving historic structures. So while moving the frame to Washington did take the barn far from its New England roots, we are grateful that the timbers have been restored, re-erected and valued. Without the support of the new owner, the frame would likely have been demolished or burned.

Here is the restored frame loaded onto a tractor trailer – board by board – ready for the long journey west.

Vintage timber frame on tractor trailerBack in the fall of 1805 when Lewis and Clark (with the help of Sacajawea) were just finding their way to Washington, they could not have imagined that one day a humble New England barn would follow in their footsteps.

Vintage timbers in transit

Vintage timbers in transit

And here is the frame, re-erected beautifully in Snohomish, Washington.

Reerected timber frame in Snohomish WAWhat will the frame be used for?

The restored frame will be used as a storage barn in its new location. We shipped the frame together with the original barn siding, roof boards, slate roofing and flooring. In fact, much of the contents made their way west as well.

Below you can see the beautiful wooden floor boards:

Wide pine floor in corn crib

Wide pine floors

Inside the barn, we found over 50 beautiful wooden dovetailed boxes. They had never been used and were very finely made, so we sent them along as well. We also salvaged horse tack, vintage bottles, hand tools, and other varied knick-knack paddy-wacks.

Various contents of timber frame shipped with frame

Various contents of the barn shipped with frame

We also found two early wooden barrels that were clearly built before 1800. We could tell the barrels were early because they were made with sapling bands as opposed to the usual metal bands.

Early wooden barrel with sapling bands

Early wooden barrel with sapling bands

A Happy Ending

So while we are a bit regretful that the frame left New England, mostly we are thrilled that it has found a new home – with appreciative owners – and that this frame will stand tall for decades to come.

Now we just need for the famous Washington State rains to abate so that the talented builders out in Washington can finish rebuilding the barn.

Snohomish Timber frame with slate roof

Notice the slate roof. Tarps protect the frame while we wait for the rains to stop

It’s been an exciting project.  Through it I have also learned the skills of shipping long distance and was fortunate to connect with an excellent commercial trucking company which I can depend on in future.

Want some more information about this frame, or others? Be sure to contact me to talk timbers!

Before and After: The Ira Barn Restoration Project

Gallery

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Remember this 1770s gunstock frame from Ira, Vermont? I have written about this historic timber frame a few times – from this blog, when I first started working with the farmer to help him find a client over 2 years … Continue reading

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

 

Restoring a Barn Home – with Guest Blogger (and Carpenter) Luke Larson

Today’s blog was written by a guest blogger, Luke Larson.

A tremendous thanks to Luke of Larson Carpentry for sharing this with us – not only his pictures and story, but his talent with wood. Luke and his crew recently dismantled the Gambrel style timber frame which I wrote about earlier in the winter. You can read more about the English Gambrel style home, which was built in the 1790s, in my blog here.

This beautiful vintage timber frame is looking for a new owner. Interested in calling this frame home? Contact us! 

Vermont Timber Frame Gambrel Roof_Crew Shot

Dismantling the Gambrel Frame – Luke and Crew

Gambrel Roof Timber Frame

Timber Frame Home with Gambrel Roof from Danby, Vermont

When we first began inspecting this home back in the fall, we were guessing it was built in the 1820s. Throughout the process of gutting the house down to the original ingredients, we have made the exciting discovery that it is an earlier timber frame, built in the 1790s!
We also discovered that the house is featured in a Vermont architectural survey, described as an early and rare example of craftsmanship. The frame size is 28 x 38 feet and the stout timbers are made out of American chestnut, beech and white oak wood. The main beams are hand hewn while some of the floor joists and the rafters are water sawn. These were likely crafted at a river mill within a few miles of the site.
Gambrel Roof Timber frame in New England Snow

The Gambrel Roof Timber Frame in New England Snow

“Gambrel” refers to the double pitched roof seen above. It is a style that is uncommon here in Vermont. One of the major benefits is the wide open and spacious feeling of the second floor. There is a 22 X 38 foot clear space in the center. With the uncommon arches collar ties on the back half, this will make a remarkable master bedroom! The posts on both floors are gunstock, meaning that they get larger at the top and make for exceptionally strong timber frame joints.
I had a great crew of 10 for the day we lowered the frame to the ground. It is an amazing thing to remove the oak pegs that have been holding the building together for the past two hundred plus years. And it is amazing to be learning my craft from master builders who lived more than two hundred years ago. Every piece of this house is now labeled and carefully stored away.
2014-03-14 17.24.20

Beautiful Joinery on New England Frame. Note the arched collar ties!

Let’s return to the detective-like task of uncovering the date the house was constructed. After about 500 hours of tearing out additions, sheet rock, wiring and insulation, we were finally able to get a better look at the original ingredients. A major clue as to the date of the house came from the nails used. Most were rose head nails, meaning they were formed completely by hand with a forge. The term “rose head” comes from the beautiful shape of the nail head, which was pounded out with four quick strokes of the blacksmith’s hammer.
Some cut nails (made by machine) were also used on this house, primarily on the flooring. It was exciting to discover that these cut nails were of the earliest variety, as evidenced by the way the metal sheets from which the nails were cut had to be flipped over during the process, creating a slight metal bur on opposite sides of the nail. Only a few years later, the technology had developed enough that the nails were “stamped out” of sheet metal without needing to be flipped over, creating a different bur pattern.
The earliest machine-made nails still had the heads fine-tuned by hand, but with only two strokes of the hammer. It was a very narrow window of time during which these nails were made and it helped provide the time frame for this home’s construction.
 Rosehead Nails for Timber Frame Wood

Rose Head Nails

Another clue in the dating process involved the plaster and lathe. Very early homes such as this one used split board lathe to hold horsehair plaster to the wall. It was made by chopping a wide board with a hatched, thus stretching it apart like an accordion. This was then nailed to the wall. As sawing became more economical during the early 1800s, later home builders used narrow lathe that was sawn rather than split. This house had accordion lathe throughout, as the next photo shows. This picture is just one wide board that has been cut and spread apart.

Accordion Lathe on colonial timber frame

Accordion Lathe

Here I have stripped the house down to the original siding boards:
Gambrel 1

Original Siding – up to 22 inches wide!

The boards you see above are one and a quarter-inch thick hemlock planks. Many are over twenty inches wide! Imagine the trees that the boards came from! At this stage in the process, I was able to discover all of the original window and door layout, which I have carefully documented. Notice the tiny windows out in the eves. These would have allowed light into the area right under the rafters.
Joinery Summer Beam
Here is some of the amazing joinery. In the picture above, you can see the end of a summer beam, meaning a beam that runs mid-span and supports floor joists. This joint is “dovetailed,” meaning the joint is made in such a way that it cannot physically pull apart.
Finally, we were down to the first floor after the upper structure was down. Once the beautiful wide flooring boards were removed and saved, I labeled each of these sills and floor joists. Even without a foundation, the rot-resistant tendency of American Chestnut means that many of these sills are still in great shape and ready to be used again!
First Floor of Timber Frame with Upper Structure Down

First Floor of Timber Frame with Upper Structure Down

It was a pleasure working on dismantling this frame and I enjoyed uncovering details at each step along the way!  Below are a few more of my favorite photographs from the dismantling process.

In may ways, it was both a joyful and sobering task to take this houses down. There were many poignant moments when I thought about all of the living that has taken place in this space, all of the generations and families that have called this building home.

My hope is that the time-darkened timbers and patina laden boards of this house will again be someone’s home. I intend to honor both the craftsman who chopped these beams from the forest as well as all those who have cared for it since as I embark upon my next step: the restoration of this beautiful timber frame.

Below are a few more of my favorite photographs from the dismantling process:

Timber Frame of Gambrel House

A Beautiful Timber Frame!

Removing Timber Beam for Frame Restoration

Lifting Down One of the Five 38-foot Beams

Dropping Gambrel Frame into the ground

Preparing to Lower the Rafters

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Please contact Green Mountain Timber Frames to learn about the vintage timber frames we have available – or to share your own story about barn restoration! We welcome guest blogs!

 

Barn Raising – A good week’s work

We had a great time last week getting this vintage timber frame up in Manchester, Vermont. The post and bean frame with hand hewn wood was originally built around 1800, in Middle Granville, NY.

It was a beautiful week and we worked surrounded by the vibrant colors of near-peak foliage and under the watchful eye of Mount Equinox in the background. Thank God,  the weather was perfect!

Here are some pictures showing the highlights:

Manchester VT Raising - Beautifully restored timber frame beams

Beautifully restored timber frame beams

Saturday Restoring Historic Timber frame

Last Saturday’s work – restoring the frame and getting the primary timbers up

Saturday Timber Framing in Manchester VTAfter erecting the main timbers over the weekend, we spent last Monday focused on placing the roof rafters. We also pegged most joints in the frame with wooden trunnels.

Restoring Historic barn in Vermont

With help from a Grade All, and the view of Mount Equinox in the background.

Here we are installing the roof rafters.

Vermont Timber Framing with Mount Equinox in Background

Adding Roof Boards to Manchester Vermont Timber Frame

Adding roof boards to timber frame

Applying roof boards to Vintage Timber Frame

Adding tar paper over roof boards, as we installed the original boards.

Outhouse in Rural Vermont Best Part of Timber framing

An important part of setting up a timber framing work site: moving the outhouse – at arm’s length –  to the proper location.

Finishing Barn Restoration

The completed roof, protected by tar paper.

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!