Spring Cleaning!

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As one of the fist steps in the timber frame barn home restoration process, we power wash all the individual elements of a frame. This includes all the beams, every brace and each board that we are able to save and re-use.

Since winter in Vermont usually means sub-freezing temperatures, the piles of “dirty laundry” tend to pile up, waiting their turn with the washing team. Well, spring is here, and the washers are running!

Power washing old barn board_Green mountain timber frames.jpg

Our newest team member, John, washing a thick vintage siding  board.

Think about cleaning your house and the way grime builds up. Now imagine the dirt that collects in the hidden places of a 200 plus year old house or barn! It can be… pretty amazing!

American chestnut hand hewn barn timber_Green Mountain Timber Frames.jpg

This 26 foot long top plate has not seen the light of day, or a cleaning, since it was hoisted into place 210 years ago!

Washing beams and boards can be a tedious, wet, and cold task. Yet we also find it very satisfying and even exciting to watch the real patina and natural beauty come forth from underneath the dirt.

Timber frame beam barn home beam_Green Mountain Timber Frames.jpg

Look at the difference! This American Chestnut timber has received one pass from the power washer on the lower section.

Washing timber frame knee brace_Green Mountain Timber Frames.jpg

What a contrast between the washed surface and the dirty one!

Hardwood knee brace from Vermont Timber frame.jpg

The final product of the cleansing is an amazing color that can not be replicated in new materials.

We do not use any soap in the washing. The water alone is enough to bring out the color. Wood ages as a result of exposure to air and light. While boards exposed to excessive sunlight turn silver, protected wood surfaces take on a beautiful glow.

Vermont barn beams for sale_Green Mountain Timber Frame.jpg

It took more than 200 years for this Beech timber to take on its patina.

The Art of Power Washing Old Timber Frames

Washing barn timbers and boards is not just a matter of pointing and shooting the stream of water at the materials. If we let the powerful water get too close to the wood, or if it strikes the surface at the wrong angle, the result is “raised hair” on the surface. Too much power in the spray slightly shreds the grain of the wood, causing the wood fiber to separate slightly on the surface, which can damage the patina and lead to a rough surface. Power washing takes patience. We can’t do too much, yet we must get the surface clean. The distance and angle from sprayer to old board has to be “just right!”

When the timbers and boards are washed, there are still steps to be accomplished. The boards must be dried before they can be stacked or else they will mold. We have to get creative in spreading the boards out to dry! We flip the boards halfway through the drying process. Eventually, we are ready to collect them carefully into piles for storage under cover.

Barn style home_wide timber boards.jpg

Vintage boards drying after washing.

The timbers and boards shown in these photos are from the 24 x 26 cape style house that we disassembled this past winter.

Stay tuned as we move towards a full restoration of this wonderful little timber frame! We better get back to work- the pressure washers are calling!

 

North Hero Barn Restoration: Before and After

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Remember that North Hero, Vermont historic barn we wrote about back in April of last year?

Luke Larson, of Green Mountain Timber Frames rescued this special barn from North Hero Island, which is smack in the middle of Lake Champlain and only a few miles south of the Canadian border.

Removing Roof of timber frame barn home

Dating back to the 1780s, the barn is a hardwood frame with hewn oak braces. While it was truly in very rough shape, Luke was determined to save it because it is such an old, rare specimen. Measuring 26 X 36 feet, it offers nearly 1000 square feet of space and is a gunstock post frame, a good indication it was built before 1800.

A New Beginning – Near The Frame’s Origins

The exciting news is that this beautiful restored timber frame will become a handsome “great room,” complete with a fireplace, for a new home that is being built on the New York side of Lake Champlain.

Understanding the Restoration Process

In the following Before and After photos, you can see the restoration process taking place at one of our shop sites.

2
Above: Many of the beams needed repairs or replacement. One of the top plates was replaced completely during the restoration process. In the restored photo, all of the beams are once again sound.
3
The ridge beam and rafter braces were one of the lovely features that caused us to love this barn!
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During the dismantling of the barn, we labeled all of the roof boards so that they would go back to the original location. In this “after” photo, we have put all boards back on the roof and used some replacement vintage material to fill in the gaps.
5
The beautiful December sunset here in Vermont showcases the lovely detail where the rafters intersect with the ridge beam. In the restored version, we have made all the edges of the boards straight once again, so that the gaps between the boards are minimized.

Ever Dreamed of Living IN History?

At Green Mountain Timber Frames, we turn old barns into beautiful new homes, studios, offices, barns and more.

 

For details, please contact Dan or Luke:
802.774.8972
luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

Green Mountain Timber Frames - Contact Us

Rare 1760s Gunstock Timber Frame Available – Your New Barn Home?

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I first wrote about this very early, hardwood timbered barn back in July and am pleased to announce that it is officially available for sale. This barn is a real gem and the right owner will appreciate living in such a unique piece of history. The post and beam barn is truly an extra fine example of “post medieval construction.” This kind of frame design is the same style that was used in building barns in the 1400s.

antique timber frame home new england

1760s gunstock timber frame

The vertical siding seen above is two layers thick. The barn frame was built using several kinds of wood, including beech, chestnut, pine, spruce and white oak.

Below, you can see an example of the antique wooden posts inside the frame. Note the gunstock posts which taper top to bottom. The posts are 9″x 9″ square at the base and then taper to 15″ x 9 ” at the top, where they meet intersecting timbers.

Gunstock post antique timber frame

Here is a view showing how straight the roof line is after 250 years and 7 tons of slate!
Vintage Barn Home 1760s

The potential barn home has elaborate, overbuilt wall and roof systems. The large beams indicate an early built frame.

5_Roof system is overbuilt

This picture shows the rugged construction of a gable (end) wall section:

Gable wall section of timber frame

Want to learn more about this beautiful piece of history? Contact us!

Consider turning this timber frame into your own barn home! This antique frame would make a beautiful barn home, carriage barn, studio or restored barn. To own this frame is to step back into medieval times!

Luke Larson
Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com
Tel: 802.774.8972

The price for the restored frame includes erecting it on your foundation with roof boards applied. The siding boards are part of the package but would not be applied. The slate roof can be included, upon request.

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!

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!

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

Worth Saving? Assessing the Value of a Barn

Here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we receive phone calls about old barns all the time. Owners want me to come look at barns on their property to assess their value and decide whether or not they are good candidates for restoration.

One of the first questions I am invariably asked is: “How do you decide if an old barn is worth restoring?” And the natural follow-up. “If so…how do you price it? There are many factors that go into deciding whether a barn can be restored, if its roof or wooden beams can be salvaged, or if it has no value at all.

To explain some of the key factors that go into making these decisions, I want to present you with a little side by side comparison. Below are eight sets of pictures. The barn on the left in each picture is a rare, valuable gunstock timber frame from about 1750, very early by Vermont standards. The owner is interested in selling the barn because he doesn’t currently use it. On the right are photos of an 1890s barn that Green Mountain Timber Frames will not be restoring. The owner is concerned it will collapse and would like to salvage parts of the barn before this happens. He asked me to put a value on the barn “as is”.

Evaluating Two Barns: A Side by Side Comparison

1. THE ROOF

When I evaluate a vintage barn, I start off by taking a look at the roof. Having a straight, flat roof with no sagging says the upper timber structure has held together over the centuries. In our area, slate can create sagging roofs in earlier barns not designed for the heavy weight of slate. They were designed for wooden roofs, which, in the northeast, were mostly constructed from white cedar. 1_Roof Comparison on Old Barn HomesNEW 2. SIDING

Next, I look at whether the barn has vertical or horizontal siding. Vertical siding, as in the 1750s barn, may mean the barn dates from before 1850. Builders began to use horizontal siding around the Civil War era. 2_Vertical or Horizontal Siding on Timber Frames3. IS IT OVERBUILT?

Notice the large numerous beams on the wall section of the 1750s barn. Contrast this with the 1890 barn, which has smaller timbers and even smaller 2″ x 4″ nailers. This represents very light construction when compared to the 1750s wall section. The large beams we see on the left are more valuable. 3_Over Built or Crooked Old Barn FrameNEW 4. GUNSTOCK POSTS?

Gunstock timber frames are always more valuable as they are very rare these days. Gunstock frames can be identified by their tapered posts. The posts start off 9″x 9″ square at their base and then taper to 15″ x 9 ” at the top, where they meet intersecting timbers. You can see this in the photo below of the 1750s barn. In the 1890s barn, the posts are very light, measure 6″ x  6″ and don’t taper.  4_Gunstock Posts on Timber Frame 5. ROOF RAFTERS

If a frame’s roof rafters are hand hewn square rather than “half round”, it indicates an earlier era. The 1750s frame has hewn rafters. In the picture the larger beams are the original rafters. The builder added in the smaller 4″ x 4″ rafters when they added the slate roof. Also, the 1750s barn has white oak roof boards, another indication of a very early frame. The 1890s barn has small, modern 2″ x 6″ roof rafters which are not valuable. However, because the pine roof boards are in good condition, they can be reused for other building projects. Most barns have softwood roof boards like pine, spruce or hemlock. It seems only the 1750 era frames have hardwood roof boards. I’ve come across only three hardwood roof board frames in the 30 years I’ve been doing this, yet another reason this 1750 barn is such a gem! 5_Roof Rafters on Timber Frame 6. TIMBER FATIGUE

The dark area in the 1750s picture indicates water damage.The broken timbers in the 1890 picture is a bad sign. These are examples of timber fatigue. In pre-1800 frames, we can repair or replace damaged timbers. This 1890 frame has so much timber fatigue and the roof rafters are so “new” looking, that the building has value for parts only.

6_Signs of Timber Fatigue

7. HEWN DIAGONAL BRACES

As I continue my assessment of a timber frame, I next look to see if the frame’s diagonal braces are housed into the timbers. The diagonal braces on the 1890s barn are simply 2″ x 4″s nailed in. This was common practice for that time. In comparison, the 1750s barn bracing is housed or “joined” into the timbers. This is called mortise and tenon joinery. A wooden peg then holds the brace in place. This is the usual standard. The 1890 frame using 2″ x 4″s and nails was the start of the transition out of mortise and tenon joinery. The very early frames used hand hewn braces. I’ve only seen this twice in my career, both times in timber frames from the 1750s era. The braces are almost always sawn. The picture on the left below shows the fine craftsmanship of hewn braces.

7_Diagonal Braces of TimbersNEW

8. LARGE GIRTS

In timber frame construction, girts are used to tie the walls together. Larger girts often mean an earlier era frame. The 1890s barn has very modest girts which may be the reason the timbers broke in the middle. The 1750 picture shows larger timbers being used as “girts,” while the middle girts have no center posts. No center posts are often a nice feature when reusing a frame for a home or shop area.

8_Girt TimbersFINAL

And What About Pricing?

When determining how to price a barn, I first think about how rare the frame is. A rare frame in good condition will always be worth more. I also consider the current market and how much folks might want to pay for something very rare. I will also calculate whether the barn is worth more as a whole or in parts.

Finally, I will discuss the options with the current barn owner. Some barn owners want to sell their barn for whatever value they can get. Others are tired of dealing with the maintenance costs or are fearful the structure will collapse. The price an owner is looking for will also have an impact on our pricing. It’s part of my job to assess how valuable a frame is, what condition it is in and how rare the construction is. With those things in mind, I can help the owner to determine a reasonable price.

In Summary…

The 1890s barn is not worth restoring, but the frame does have value as a parts barn. I can salvage the timbers for use on other restoration projects and reuse the roof boards, sawn beams, siding and slate. There are large labor costs to acquire the materials. This is where you have to balance the value of the material against the cost to dismantle. The 1890 barn may have an “as is” value of two thousand dollars. After all the materials are reclaimed, the barn site has to be cleaned. That often costs another two thousand dollars.

Labor costs can also quickly rise out of control. And the 1890 barn is a “liability” to the homeowner right now. With the costs of labor and cleanup, we really shouldn’t pay anything for this structure as long as we leave a clean site. But folks want to get something. I always work hard to be as fair as I can be to frame owners, without the salvaged materials ending up costing more than they are worth. The 1750s barn is a valuable find, a real diamond in the rough. To find a 1750s gunstock frame with post-medieval construction is rare in our area. This is the earliest kind of construction that took place in Vermont and to have such a frame is not only a blessing but an honor. It is definitely worthy of restoration and will make an incredible new home for a buyer who appreciates historic value. The current owner of the barn is asking 25 dollars a square foot for the frame. This may be what these very early barns are worth nowadays. The cost to dismantle, restore and

The 1750s barn is a valuable find, a real diamond in the rough. To find a 1750s gunstock frame with post-medieval construction is rare in our area. This is the earliest kind of construction that took place in Vermont and to have such a frame is not only a blessing but an honor. It is definitely worthy of restoration and will make an incredible new home for a buyer who appreciates historic value. The current owner of the barn is asking 25 dollars a square foot for the frame. This may be what these very early barns are worth nowadays. The cost to dismantle, restore and re-erect this 30 foot by 40-foot frame may be 85 dollars a square foot. But in the end, someone would have one of Vermont’s earliest structures to call their own! And, with a bit of restoration, it would last another 250 years!

 

Have more questions about old barns and timber frames? Want to know if you have a post and beam gem on your own property? I’d love to hear from you!  Contact Green Mountain Timber Frames at Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com or 802.774.8972.