Restoration of an 1806 Barn

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Here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we are delighted to have a new member on our framing crew! Matt Peschl is not a new face or a new friend, as he worked with us for key projects over the past 12 years. But now, Matt has officially joined us on a full-time basis and we could not be happier about it!

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Reminiscing About a 2011 Barn Restoration

Luke and Matt worked together on a project in 2011 and we’d like to take this opportunity to share it with you. The repairs were done on a small barn on a beautiful property here in our hometown of Middletown Springs, Vermont. The homestead dates from before 1800 and we believe the barn that we worked on was built in 1806.

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We repaired the red barn, which sits nestled under the mountain among a collection of vintage barns and corn cribs

The barn had two main structural issues: rotten sills and a rotten upper beam called a top plate that supports the rafter bottoms. We decided to start from the ground up.

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The sills were tired from sitting directly on stone for 205 years

We began by using hydraulic jacks to strategically lift the barn up off of the stone foundation. This allowed us access to the sills where they needed work. In our restorations, we use vintage materials for replacement parts whenever possible.

The next photo shows Luke using a chain mortiser to begin cutting to splice in a new piece.

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The beginnings of a scarf joint

With the weight of the barn held up on jacks, we were able to cut joinery on a new sill piece and fit it together with the still sound original section of sill.

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Here we have used an English scarf joint to add in a new section of sill

One eve wall of the barn was close to grade and the sill was entirely rotten. For this wall, we chose to use Locust wood for the sill replacement.

Locust grows locally and is a remarkable species. As a kid growing up on a Vermont farm, I had the opportunity to work with locust for a long time- at times more cheerfully than others! My father, siblings and I cut many locust fence posts from the woods. We would drive the locust directly into the ground and, because of the nature of the wood, it would last many years even when underground.

In fact, I have stumbled across old, grayed locust fence posts deep in Vermont woods. The old fence posts tell the story of much of Vermont’s land being cleared of forest during the 1800s. Now, the forest land is expanding to take up a larger portion of the state. Locust posts, as well as stone walls, stand sentry in parts of our current woodland to tell the tale and transitions of our farming history.

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We copied the joinery from the original sills before installing the new timber

Once we had the barn set back down on repaired sills and had rebuilt the stone foundation, we took a look at the second major issue. What we found was some serious rot caused by a leaky roof at some point in the past. The first roof had been cedar shakes, later replaced by slate.

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Folks, we have an issue!

In order to repair the top plate, we first set up a system to jack up and hold the rafters in order to free up space for our repair.

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The rafters are supported and we have cut out the rotten section of beam

We used an English scarf joint to make the top plate repair. When we need to replace a section in a barn, we use vintage materials from our inventory in order to get a matching color, tone and hue.

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The top plate is repaired and ready to support the roof for another 200 years

Next, we replaced the siding windows and trim on the barn.

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It is a great joy to have Matt on the team again. He joins us with a great amount of experience, both in timber framing and in every phase of construction. Most importantly, we really enjoy his company!

Do you have a vintage barn of your own that needs repairs?
Give us a call at (802) 774-8972.

Want to read about another timber frame project? How about the time we built a timber frame gazebo!

Another Gunstock Timber Frame Treasure

 (or “Restoring This Frame Is Just Too Much Fun for a Timber Framer”)

I feel like a young fella who has discovered a buried treasure! After so many years of working with timber frames and old barns, the magic of each newly discovered frame never dies!

This past week, I got to work on an old Gunstock Timber Frame whose labeling system goes back to the 1500s and earlier. Now if we were in England, this might not be such a big deal. But we’re talking about a labeling technique that was brought across the Atlantic to rural Vermont – and this timber frame is a real, rare find in our community!

Here are a few photos that show the details of the beauty – the handicraft of an expert timber framer who lived in New England centuries ago.

Gunstock Timber Frame from 1500s

Gunstock Timber Frame from 1500s

In the photo above, we can see the labeling technique of the old world joinery, brought to New England where it was used until the mid 1800s.

Below is an excerpt from  Richard Harris’s book, “Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings.” which explains the old world joinery and labeling system. The first picture below shows the traditional lettering system used to label timber frames. The second picture shows a detail of the joinery that this original timber framer used.

Joinery  Labeling System Timber Frame

Joinery Labeling System Timber Frame

Timber Frame Joinery Labeling System from 1500s

And below we see the frame I worked on this past week – an up close photograph of the joinery on this beauty of a frame! This frame is classified as a Gunstock frame because the posts that hold it up are tapered from bottom to top in order to allow two timbers to join and overlap at the top of the post. The top plate timber – or rafter plate – will fill the gap on the right side on raising day.

Timber Frame Joinery

Below is a picture showing the principal rafters of the frame.

Principal Rafters from Historic Timber Frame

Principal Rafters from Gunstock Frame

The girts – or  long timbers – on this frame are made from Elm and Chestnut. The midbay timbers were originally 30 feet wide, but restoration allowed 25 feet. It was hard to tell what wood it was until the cutting, but the familiar pungent smell helped me recognize the Elm.

Timber Frame Barn Restoration

The Elm and Chestnut Girts span 25 feet

The picture below shows the gable (or end wall) section of the frame. Some new timbers have been added, and will age nicely over the next 200 years.

Gable of the Gunstock Timber Frame

Gable of the Gunstock Timber Frame

This final picture shows the frame’s roof structure. We are assembling the original half of the roof frame before adjusting it to new dimensions.

Timber Frame Roof Structure

Timber Frame Roof Structure

And here we have it – another piece of history uncovered.  A fine example of “post medieval construction”,  when buildings where built to last for centuries.

I have several restored old barn frames in stock and erected at my shop. You are invited to plan a visit to walk through them and get a feel for what they could become. See them online first: http://www.greenmountaintimberframes.com/#!available-frames/cqps