Sill and Post Repairs…Plus More Split Rail Fence!

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We recently finished the first phase of a barn repair project in Springfield, Vermont, stabilizing a gorgeous little barn from the early 1800s.

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History of this Historic Timber Frame

The vintage timber frame is part of the historic Kirk homestead. We believe it was William Kirk Junior who built this barn. The son of a revolutionary war soldier from Springfield, William purchased the farm in 1809, and most likely built this structure at that time.

In 1834, the land records note that William Kirk mortgaged the farm to a Mr. White for $300. It may have been a tough year for farming, or perhaps William needed cash to work on the second barn on the property, which is attached to the older frame.

 

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The large barn is connected at a perpendicular angle to the smaller old structure. Farmers often sought to create a protected barnyard area for livestock and equipment, and the “L” profile of the attached barns does just that.

The records state that the loan was to be paid back annually over three years in “good salable neat stock or grain.” William must have successfully paid off the mortgage, as the property stayed in the family for a total of 97 years before being sold.

 

In 1864, William sold the farm to his son Aaron. Thirty years later, Aaron conveyed the farm to his younger brother Reuben, a Civil War veteran who had fought in the 10’th Regiment, Vermont Volunteer Company. The property stayed in the family until 1905. Many thanks to the current owners for sharing their careful historical research with us!

A Barn in Need of Repair

While the barn had beautiful stone foundation work, the water had pushed and the frost heaved against the stone and sills, and the joinery of the structure was deeply strained. The stone wall under the gable was collapsing, and four different posts had “torn their trunnels” and dropped down out of the upper beams.

 

3_Corner Post Beam_Green Mountain Timber Frames Vermont

This corner post dropped as the sill beneath it deteriorated, and the pegs broke allowing the tenon to drop out of the mortise.

 

Our Approach to Restoration

Our project was to jack the posts back home again, and to replace the sills. The barn was listing dangerously towards an eve because braces had failed. We used a series of come alongs as we lifted posts in order to coax the wall back towards plumb.

 

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Note the beautiful five-sided ridge beam! Many of the braces had failed, and in this photo we are coaxing towards the western horizon. On the far wall, you can see where one of the posts has dropped.

As we lifted, we were able to feed the tenons home.

 

 

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We were able to bring this tenon right back into the horizontal timber. Even the siding boards slid back into the grooved channel in the beam where they started out.

 

 

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Here we are lifting the corner of the building in preparation for new pressure treated sills

 

The Split Rail Fence

But wait- what about the split rail fence? After posting our last blog about the fencing used as collar ties in Tunbridge, we were surprised and delighted to discover split rail fence pieces used as floor joists in the newer and larger of the Kirk barns!

 

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Old William Kirk was a resourceful fellow. Most likely the original floor joist snapped, and so a nearby rail was conscripted for the purpose.

 

A Barn Rebuilt to Last!

Now that the frame has repaired sills and is stabilized, the terrific crew at Terrigenous Landscape Architecture will re-build the dry laid stone foundation and wall on the gable end. Scott and his team have already installed a drainage system around the exterior of the barns, which will protect the repaired barn complex and stonework from future freeze and thaw cycles.

We look forward to returning to Springfield in the fall after the stone work is accomplished, to continue frame and siding repairs. In the meantime- happy fencing to all you farmers out there!


Do you have a vintage barn in need of repair? Dream of living in a historic barn home?

Contact us!
Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

 

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Restoring a 30 x 42 Barn Frame – Our Latest Endeavor

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Despite winter’s encroachment here in northern New England, we’ve been hard at work at Green Mountain Timber Frames.

For our most recent project, we have been restoring a beautiful 30×42 foot barn frame from New York state. Built in the 1790s, it is a fine example of a gunstock frame.

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Look at the handsome grain and joinery of this gunstock oak post

What is a gunstock timber frame?

This means that the upper timbers all come together at the same elevation. It is an incredibly strong method of construction.

img_4239 However, there is a drawback to gunstock frames: it can be challenging to install a second floor because the rafters start at the same elevation as the loft. It is not an issue for storing hay, but can be a challenge when designing a bedroom! The team, which includes a restoration architect, our client and ourselves, figured out a way to install a second floor in this particular barn. We used scarf joints to raise the height of each post, which allowed us to create a 20 foot loft area below the height of the upper horizontals.

Technical challenges of assembling this timber frame

It’s a good thing we love a challenge, because with this frame, (unlike most) we couldn’t make all the changes without assembling the frame. Why? Because of the angled “summer beams”-the large timbers that pick up the weight of the floor joists. (We will get to the reason for the splayed summer beams in a bit.) Doing compound joinery on a 220 year old structure is only possible if you erect that section allowing the joinery to be measured and fitted in place.

Creating the second floor

So how did we solve our little technical problem? We began by erecting half the barn frame behind our shop.

erecting-half-a-timber-frame

This timber frame is predominantly white oak, so we wanted to match the original species of wood. We purchased white oak timbers from Ohio since white oak is hard to find in our area these days. Given the long span of these beams, we had to use 10×12 inch timbers. For the new posts, we used 10×10 inch timbers.

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White oak timbers

In order to help the new timber blend in with the old, we used the old method to create an authentic texture: a broad axe and an adze.

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Here’s a shot of Luke, hewing the new oak beams

Next, we created crooked joinery, because the heavy carrying timbers are splayed, rather than the typical perpendicular or right angles to each other. The only way we could be certain the timbers would join together properly and securely was to fit the timbers in place.

crooked-joinery-on-white-oak-timbers

We chopped and chiseled…made templates…and set the 1000 pound timbers in place.

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Chopping

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Chiseling

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Making templates

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Setting thousand pound timbers

This now creates a second floor that did not exist originally!

But why did we have to angle the carrying timbers? 

To maintain the original ladder we tightened up the two posts carrying the heavy floor girts. The ladder rungs will be set in the close pair of 10×10′ white oak posts. We have not placed the rungs between the posts yet.  That was the least of our problems…………

The end wall will have a 12 foot bay window between those posts.  Along with the owner and architect, we wanted the heavy summer beams, combined with the posts, to frame the large bay window in a fascinating way!

So the owner gets his ladder and his bay window and a very unusual design that makes this particular frame restoration much more interesting.

In order to check new joinery on other sections of the frame, as well as to store it safely until spring, we put the whole barn up and applied a temporary roof.

 

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Here’s the 30×42′ frame tipped up with a temporary roof.

 

Next steps in the restoration process

Our next step is to set all the hand hewn floor joists into these heavy carrying timbers using traditional joist pockets. But, for the moment, we have moved on to another outside project. With this structure standing and roofed for the winter, we will have plenty of opportunities to return to this task when it is raining or snowing! In the spring, we will label everything, disassemble, and ship the frame to its final location. It will be ready to stand strong and true for another 220 years.

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Note the incredibly wide original siding boards!

Stay tuned for a story on our next project: a timber-framed porch. We better get going on it, as we received our first heavy snowfall of the year this past week!

Have a blog idea for us?
A pressing question about historic timber framing? Let us know!

(802) 774.8972 or Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

The Bitter-Sweet of Mud Season Barn Restoration

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Mud Season – the bitter/sweet time of year.

While the temperatures have at long last inched their way above the zero mark, here in rural Vermont the ground is still solid. Timber framing in the famous mud of New England’s spring beats the challenge of working in snow squalls and sub-zero temps, but it’s still not for the faint of heart!

Sure, our winter coats and work gloves have been shed but now we must muddle through our work area.

Mud Season in Vermont Building restored barn homes

Proof that mud season has arrived

As more snow melts, the damp ground slowly releases the grip of winter, churning out a soft, murky surface under our feet that you can sink into up to the ankles.

Construction continues nonetheless, so we throw down a carpet of hay to make the work area easier to traverse. Timber Framing in the Mud Vermont

There is, of course, a wonderful silver lining. Not only is old man winter behind us, but best of all, mud season means the maple sap is flowing! Cold nights and warm days bring the sweetness of spring.

Sugar house in maple season_Stacy Birch Photography

Sugar house in maple season – Photo by Stacy Birch

Backyard Barn

We spent a few days at the end of this summer putting up a reclaimed barn at the back of my property for my daughter and her husband. We enjoyed beautiful late summer days and with a small crew of 7 people, we were able to re-erect the restored barn in a day.

timber frame roof and joineryMany hands make light work!

crew of timber frame barnIt’s nice to be able to use my skill to help my family out – and of course there is nothing like having my grown kids nearby! On this project, I was also able to use some of the leftover timber and reclaimed wood from other projects. A great recycling project all and all, and one that makes for an eclectic, one-of-a-kind, beauty of a barn.

This barn comes from a two part structure from a farm in New York state. The oldest section was from the 1840s and has been sold to a customer. The barn in this blog was probably added on to the 1840 barn in the 1900s and was not finished with traditional joinery. As a historic piece it has little value, but the timbers are strong and sturdy and I knew it would make a fine shelter for the kids’ farm equipment and hay.

Original new england barn

The original barn under black plastic, circa 1840s. Addition probably 1900, being dismantled.

We dismantled the newer barn first and restored it with traditional joinery. (That means that we let in the bracing and tie timbers with mortise and tenon joinery, instead of just nailing things together.) While this takes a bit more time than using a hammer and nails, it gives the barn a much more authentic, historical and structural look.

Here we are putting up a bent (or side wall).

installing side wall of barnHere the 2×4 roof purlins are being applied. post and beam barn

The recycled metal roof was screwed to the 2x4s.

Restored barn with roof boards

The next step was to build a second floor which you can see (from below) in the next picture.

floor joists are half roundsWe used a mixture of common 2x6s doubled up and half round timbers to create the floor joist system. The flooring is 2 inch planking.

We’ve started the siding by using some newer recycled boards. We will have to cut three feet off the top to find the second floor, but it is doing the job for now. The remainder will be finished with older boards.

Reclaimed wood siding on timber frame barnWe will also be attaching a shed roof to this wall in time. In the picture above, notice the future shed wall sill and top plate timbers in front of the tractor.

The ground level of the barn is for storing mowing equipment while the second floor is for storing hay. As you can see below – it’s already in use!

second floor of hay barn in useWhile the barn is highly functional and my son-in-law is pleased, this barn is still a work in progress. As we gather more siding from other jobs, we plan to wrap the frame entirely with siding that doesn’t make the grade for our paying customers.

Here’s how the frame looks today. We should have all the siding on by Thanksgiving.

recycled siding for timber frame walls

Interested in having your own barn home or backyard barn? Let us know!

The Milkhouse


The Milkhouse  – a fun project to complete in a week, not months!

Historic Timber frame restoration

I traded this nearly un-restorable milkhouse in exchange for a playhouse for my grandchildren. The milkhouse needed some TLC, and was one of the smaller projects of our summers work. I am very pleased with how this little button of a building came out.

The frame measures 8’x10′ and was originally built in 1930.

My friend asked me to turn the little milkhouse into a backyard getaway spot where he can read, play music and find his muse beneath the rustic decor. Eventually, we plan to add a porch and another window, but for now it is ready to use.

We spent a good deal of time working on the roof. This next set of pictures shows our process.

Working on the roof of small Vermont post and beam compare

Below you can see it in the new location, but not yet restored. That’s the old playhouse in the background.

Restored Barn frame Milkhouse

One benefit of working on this little building was that it allowed me to use up some of the vintage wood and other salvaged materials that I have been saving from previous projects.

The “novelty” siding in this picture, for example, was salvaged from another barn. This kind of siding started to become popular around 1900.

Novelty Siding in timber frame milkhouse

Novelty siding

The vintage flooring was also left over material from another project. Here it helps warm up the white wash walls.

Vintage Timber frame with vintage flooring

Vintage flooring

The roofing was recycled as well – from the restored barn I worked on in Pawlet in 2012.

Opposing side of barn restored

Recycled, restored roof

Since I got to use up all these odds and ends, my workshop and yard are starting to look rather tidy and spacious, ready to fill with new vintage material for future barn restoration projects. So do let me know if you hear about available barns! I am always interested in at least looking at them.

Coming soon:

Here’s a closeup of the playhouse for which I traded the milkhouse. I built the playhouse over 30 years ago for my children, sold it to friends for their daughter, and it’s now coming back home to be restored for our family’s next generation. Stay tuned!

Timber Frame antique kids playhouse

Kids’ Playhouse

Interested in living in a restored barn home? Have a timber frame available for sale? Please let me know! 

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

First Light of Day After 55 Years

We spent five cold and snowy weeks preparing this 1770s gunstock barn frame from Ira, Vermont for dismantling.

Slate roof on Old Barn in New England

Gunstock Timber Frame from Ira, VT

Historic Old Barn with Slate Roof Removed

Temporary roof on Ira timber frame

With a great team of five fellas, we tallied 370 hours clearing out the interior of the old barn of horse-drawn contents and everything else imaginable.  Removing the 40 square (a square is a 10′ x 10′ surface area) of slate roof took another 80 hours. We then put on a temporary protective roof, seen in the picture above, so the spring rains won’t damage the roof boards and timbers.

At times it wasn’t easy, given the freezing temperatures and the mounting piles of snow. Here is a picture showing the take down of the slate roof in the snow. Half the slate is still on the left side of the roof.

Removing slate roof from Timber frame and braving the New England Elements

Part of what made this project particularly interesting is that the barn was full of antique farming equipment. As we shoveled out the old hay and debris from each of the barn’s five bays, we got to inspect the equipment closely.

Antique farm equipment from post and beam frame

Corn Chopper

Much of it is in great condition and we dragged all of the equipment out into the field around the barn. Imagine the fun of cleaning up and inspecting equipment that had not seen the light of day since 1959! When these machines were last used, they were harnessed to horses and pulled to the fields nearby.

Farm Fleet from Old timber frame barn in Vermont

Corn chopper and hay rake.
Pallets of slate in background.

With the barn emptied out and the rugged beech timbers sighing relief from 15 tons of slate removed, the next step is to dismantle the antique hewn beams and truck the frame to the shop for restoration. We’ll dismantle the frame in late April. First, we have to get rid of two feet of snow and survive mud season!

Here are some more pictures of the treasures we removed from this antique timber frame.

Antique Farm Equipment from Tmber Frame Old Barn

Hay rake being removed from the barn

Removing equipment from old barn for sale in new england

Sled for carrying a maple sap barrel or timber

Cultivator from Old Post and Beam Barn

Cultivator/planter for seeding hay

Moving antique timber frame for restoration

Delivery of horse drawn equipment its new owner in Northern Vermont

Antique Farm Equipment Vermont

Antique Farm Equipment sees the light of day

Phase One is accomplished!

Clapboard removal from antique timberframe

Finishing up clapboard removal.
Removal of sheathing boards will have to wait for Phase Two.

Stay tuned for Phase Two. We’ll let you know when we start dismantling this Vermont Republic frame from Ira!

I’ll leave you with a fun fact: This little Vermont hamlet is named Ira after Ira Allen, brother of Ethan Allen, of the famed “Green Mountain Boys”.