Restoration of the Roof System on a Corn Crib

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Here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we have spent the last couple of days working on repairing, sorting, and preparing the roof boards for a little corn crib for sale that dates to the 1800s. corn crib for sale_Vermont Timber Frames

This homemade corn crib was used by a local farm family for generations. We purchased it and took it apart carefully because the sills were completely gone and it was beginning to settle back into the earth.

A future blog will get more into what makes this corn crib really special and how it will be used, but working on the roof this week got me thinking that I would like to lay out in a blog our process of restoration as it involves roof systems and roof boards.

Old Barn Restoration: The Process

Our first step when we get the frame labeled, disassembled and home is to pull the many antique nails. And I mean many! When a frame comes to us, it has usually gone through several generations of roofing material. Often our barns were first roofed with cedar shingles. This roof will last for 30 to 40 years before it has to be replaced.

From Slate to Cedar Roofs

A barn built in the 1700s had at least two or three iterations of cedar before the next big event in New England roofing: the development of the slate industry. In between these generations of roofing materials, the nails were tapped down into the boards rather than being removed. That leaves it to us to get all that metal out. It is fascinating to see the generations of nails in a single board- from hand forged, to cut, to modern wire nails. We tap them from the inside first, careful not to mark the show surface with our hammerheads. Then we flip the board over and pull them out. We save the handmade nails, and throw the rest into our metal recycling bin. Removing nails to restore wooden beamsRemoving nails to restore wooden timbers

Washing the Timber Frame and Boards

Next, we wash the frame and the boards. It is amazing to watch two hundred years worth of grime fall away from the boards! It feels like painting in reverse – allowing the incredible patina to come through that only a century or two of light and air can create. It is a process that requires great care; if we wash with too little pressure, the patina does not come out, but if we use too much pressure or pause in mid-stroke, the water will raise the grain of the wood and cause an unsightly mark. IMG_3482

We can not put away the boards when they are wet because of the risk of mold. So we dry them in the sun like so much laundry on washing day. The end result of all this handling is worth it when we see the sun shining off these vintage boards. They will make a stunning ceiling when the barn is re-erected. Restored timbers drying in the sun

Reassembling the Rafter System

Next, we are ready to assemble the rafter system. We make any necessary repairs and replacements to the rafter system, and then we assemble one half of the roof at a time. In the next photo, you can see the five-sided ridge beam from a restoration we completed last summer. That particular roof had four braces that went from rafters to ridge beam.

5 sided ridge beam barn restoration

We check the peg holes to make sure that the new pegs will hold strong and true. If necessary, we re-drill a peg hole where a “new” rafter was installed or where we made a repair to a rafter tenon.

restored timber rafters | Green Mountain Timber Frames

Laying out the Timber Roof Boards

Now we lay out the roof boards. All the roof boards are labeled as we take the barn down, but we very often have to straighten some edges and switch out fatigued boards for others with similar color. Remember all those generations of roofing material? Very often there was a drip somewhere at the end of the lifespan of each layer of cedar, and thus very often we have to replace some of the boards.

There are blond “shadows” on the underside of the boards where contact with a rafter shielded them from light and air. We do our best to line these shadows back up on top of rafters. Complicating this process is the fact that half-round or hewn rafters are rarely straight, so the spacing of the shadows varies depending on the spot in the roof. Doing this work while flat on the ground at the shop allows us to be as careful as possible with color matching, board spacing, and shadow hiding. Luke Larson | Green Mountain Timber Frames

Restored roof boards

Checking the Roof Board Labels

As our final step in this part of the restoration process, we carefully go through the boards and check the labels. We have a system of marking the outside of the boards so that we can efficiently apply them when the rafter system is standing.

Timber Frame Label System

The end result is a timeless visual ceiling. Or, perhaps we should rather say time-full. Here is what it looks like on one of our completed frames that now stands as a barn home:

Restored Timber Frame Ceiling

Back to Roof Restoration!

Let’s get back to that roof restoration that we completed yesterday. Here are a few more photos from this week’s restoration of our little corn crib roof. With a footprint of 14×18, this barn is a miniature of some of the larger barns we work on, but it is not small or modest in craftsmanship.

The half-round rafters are beautifully tenoned into the five-sided ridge beam, and the rafter tails have an elegant “swoop” at the eve. When we put this frame back up on its new foundation, the roof system will be ready to support many future iterations of roofing materials.

Stay tuned to learn more about this restoration, and about the exciting future home for this frame.

Have questions about restored barns? Dream of living in a timber frame home?

Contact me!
Luke – 802.774.8972 | Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

Below – enjoy more pictures from the roofing project!

Tenons on the Pawlet Corn Crib rafters

Tenons on the Pawlet Corn Crib rafters

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Rafter tails with swoops on the Pawlet Corn Crib

Dutch Cape House from c. 1800

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One early morning, before dawn in November, two brothers were readying for an early morning deer hunt. Hunting culture in rural Vermont dates back to the original residents, and continues still. On this particular morning, breakfast was cooked, weapons readied, and excitement no doubt was rising!

I can imagine that the black of night began dissipating, and the hunters hurriedly finished their planning and headed out into the breaking daylight. A chair had been left too close the roaring wood stove and a couple hours later, a passerby saw smoke billowing from the house. Fortunately for those young men, for Green Mountain Timber Frames, and for the future owner of this beautiful timber frame, the fire was put out and the house survived!

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Since that early morning fire, this little house has served the farming community well. When the local grange had to move out of a nearby building, the family that owned this cape generously offered the space. After many community work days, the grange moved in for weekly meetings and community events. The National Grange of the Order of Patrons and Husbandry is a national organization that began shortly after the Civil War. The group works to promote community bonding and education around agriculture.

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This frame dates from around 1800, when Vermont was still a young state. It was placed in a little hollow between knolls with a stream nearby and land was cleared around it for farming. The house was built using oak, chestnut, and beach trees- no doubt the very trees that were cut down to begin opening up fields for livestock.

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This frame has four bents and stands true even after 200+ years and a close call with fire!

It is fascinating to get to study so many local timber frames and ultimately to get a sense of who built these structures many generations ago! This particular house is a Dutch style of timber framing. The bents are close together and the floor joists are built strong enough to span the whole 24 feet of width.

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A clear span of 24 feet makes this an open canvas for future room design.

This little building measures 24 feet by 26 feet. It is perfect for a small cabin or house, for an addition onto another building, or as a small storage or animal barn.

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The posts and top plate are 10 x 10 inches – a solid little house!

A Spacious Second Floor

One of the reasons we fell in love with this structure, and just had to save it, was the spacious second floor. The posts extend quite far above the second floor, creating a tall “knee wall.” There is plenty of head room upstairs.

The rafter system has a five sided ridge beam with braces to the rafters. Unfortunately, the rafters and ridge beam were damaged by the close call with fire and by subsequent roof leaks over the years. We will be replicating the original roof system however and it will once again be strong and beautiful.

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The posts extend up beyond the 2nd floor, creations a spacious second floor living area.

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Here you can see braces strengthening the structure.

The Ingenious Basement

The ingenuity and creativity of the builders of this home are demonstrated in the basement of the house. Underneath the floor system, we discovered a very rugged food storage room or “root cellar” built with rough hewn logs, stone, and brick.

I have no doubt that it was filled with ice from the nearby river before the spring thaw, and that it was filled with squash, potatoes and other vegetables in the fall! Surely, it also was an excellent place to make and keep that hard cider that Vermonters loved (and still do)! It also doubled as a very strong foundation for a wood stove on the second floor. Imagine the original residents filling this little room with the fruits of their labors, and then relishing the food during the bitter winters.

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Let’s keep those garden vegetables and root crops good all winter!

Once again, we consider it such a privilege to cross paths across the span of generations with the pioneers, carpenters, farmers, and families who have built and dwelt in this structure. We are also grateful to the family that saw the historical value of the house and allowed us to disassemble it once it could not be kept up in its original location. The restoration of this timber frame will take place over the future months and it will once again be ready to house future generations.

Interested in this timber frame or another historic property?

Contact Green Mountain Timber Frames at
luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com, or
802.774.8972

 

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.

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

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Welcome to the heart of spring in Vermont!

Last week in Pomfret, Vermont, beneath a canopy of new leaves and apple blossoms, we tipped up another beautiful timber frame barn.  Below, you can see the barn as it originally stood in Benson, Vermont.

Old Barn home_Original LocationThis hand hewn frame, made of pine timbers, stood 21 feet wide x 30 feet long and was originally a meadow barn, built in the 1840s. We took it down a few years ago, restored the structure and erected it at our workshop. We used it to store materials until recently, when it was chosen to fit the needs of a new owner.

The goal of this barn restoration project is to erect the restored frame and finish the exterior and interior walls with seasoned barn boards. The owners want this “new” barn to look as if it has called the Pomfret site its home for at least 100 years.

It’s no easy task to restore a timber frame, but the work is exciting and rewarding. This past week, the crew of seven experienced timber framers made good progress each day, intent on creating “visual drama” for the new owner, and getting the job done.

Step 1: Dismantling the Old Frame

Here we are dismantling the previously restored frame to re-erect it in Pomfret.

Dismantling of timber frame barnOnce the frame was dismantled, we loaded it for transport to its new location in Pomfret.

Step 2: Re-erecting the Frame

3pm_historic timber frame from 19th century

We were able to put the 175 year old beams back together in our first day’s work.

Step 3: Putting up the Roof System

The next step was to put up the roof system and roof boards. Since this frame stands 25 feet tall, we had to install a temporary work platform to reach the roof peak.

green mountain timber frame vermont home construction
Setting up the roof system

From our safe perch on the temporary floor, we carefully set the roof rafters and applied the roof boards.

Timber frame barn home construction
Restored barn frame with roof boards applied

Step 4: Putting on the Red Roof!

The next step was to put on a recycled red roof. For this project, we took the roofing from another barn project we also have in progress.  I love it when we are able to salvage old wood or materials from one job and use them on another. One person’s trash is indeed another person’s treasure in my line of work.

Below is our third day of progress.

newly applied red roof historic wooden beamsRestored barn home with red roofStep 4: Applying Exterior Siding

On the fourth day of our efforts, we started applying the vintage siding. We’ll show the finished product in our next blog. Stay tuned!

Pomfret restored barn frame with siding———————–

Every dreamed of living in a centuries old barn? Want to save a piece of New England history? Let me know!  I’d love to hear from you!
— Dan McKeen

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! 

Summer Restoration – The 1780s Corn Crib Revisited

I’ve had a busy spring and summer, restoring a number of vintage timber frames that were originally from Ira, Vermont and picking up a few other projects in between.

You may remember this corn crib that I first wrote about back in November. I am happy to report that we found an owner for this frame and its new home is in northern Vermont.

Vermont Post and beam corn Crib

Corn Crib from Ira, VT

While relatively small at only 450 square feet, this lovely, hand hewn beech wood frame boasts two floors.

Restoring timber frame roof

Dismantling the crib.

With the help of a wonderful crew, Green Mountain Timber Frames has carefully restored this frame – down to every detail including the famous signature stairway.

Restored Wooden Stairwell

Restored Wooden Stairwell

Here are a few pictures of the frame during the re-erection process:

Reerecting historic barn Old Barn Restoration

We were able to save most of the original roof, wall and floor boards on the interior, so the barn will maintain much of the look it had when it was built 240 years ago.

We wish the owner many happy days and nights in this new-old out building. Freshly restored, it can now be of use another two centuries.

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I really value historic structures and am always looking for the gems – the true diamonds in the rough. Do you have an old barn you want to sell? Are you looking for a timber frame to turn into a beautifully renovated home? Please give me a call: 802.774.8972.