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!

matt-peschl_green-mountain-timber-frames

 

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.

repairing-rotten-barn-antique-sill-green-mountain-timber-frames

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!

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Post and Beam Sign Frame for the Vermont Farmers Food Center

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Most of the time here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we restore 18th and 19th century barns and turn them into new timber frame homes, barns, great rooms and more.

But this summer, just for fun, a different project came into the mix when I was asked to put together a very “organic” sign frame for Rutland County’s Vermont Farmers Food Center.

Reclaimed Wood_Green Mountain Timber Frames_wooden sign for Rutland VT Farmers market

Here’s the frame. The sign itself will be attached soon.

Reclaimed Wood_reclaimed Timbers_wooden sign

You can still see the curve and shape of the tree in the two braces and heavy timbers.

How does one make a timbered sign frame out of half round locust trees?

To begin the process, I chose to use local locust wood.  I found the logs at Ken Gagnon’s saw mill in Pittsford, VT. Armed with these rugged timbers, I was ready to begin building.

Why locust trees?

I used locust because their wood is comparable to “pressure treated” wood. Locust naturally has many of the properties of pressure treated wood, without any chemicals needed to preserve the wood’s fiber. Remarkably, locust can easily withstand being exposed to the elements for 50+ years.

Building the sign frame

Ken Gagnon sawed flat sides on the front and back of the sign timbers, making it much easier for us to do the joinery. I carefully studied the surfaces to decide the placement of each timber.

Because locust wood is very hard, we used a chain mortiser to make the mortises (pockets). This time-saving piece of modern equipment is very exact, and reduces wear and tear on our arms. However, I still had to scribe and chisel the rounded sides of the four beams to make them fit together tightly when the joinery was completed.

Chiseling Timber Frames_ Green Mountain Timber Frames

Expert timber framer Luke Larson works on joinery.

Joinery in Timber Frame Sign_ Green Mountain Timber Frames

Tools used in making a joint.

We connected the beams using mortise and tenon joints. Once erected, this joinery allows the frame to be a very strong structure, even in heavy winds.  Because the wood is locust, the joints won’t rot.

Below you will see the two pieces being joined:Rutland Vermont Sign_Timber Frame Joinery_ Green Mountain Timber FramesThe Diagonal Braces

As we were building the sign, I felt that adding in some locust limbs for the diagonal braces would enhance the look.

Locust Wood in Timber Frame Sign by Green Mountain Timber FramesHeading out to the woods, I found some locust trees. I cut some limbs that had natural curves. We pealed off the bark and eventually carved tenons on both ends of each piece.

Tenoned Joinery in Locust Wood_green mountain timber framesAll in all, it was a fun project that took the Green Mountain Timber Frames team about 50 volunteer hours to complete.

Interested in your own timber frame structure?

Our main focus is on historic properties and timber frame homes, but we have other talents as well!  Interested in furniture that compliments a timbered home or something else special?

Let us know! 802.774.8972

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!

Hartford Modified Gunstock Barn

Recently, I left Vermont and drove over the border to New York. I wanted to take a closer look at a recently discovered barn. The barn is one in a group of five historic barns in West Hartford. You can see most of the barns on the Available Frames page of my Green Mountain Timber Frames website. 

The barn measures 22 x 32 ft. and is a “modified gunstock” frame. It has gunstock corner posts with drop girt mid posts. The pictures below help explain what this means.

The gunstock style of barn construction was popular before the 1820s. I would estimate that this beauty of a timber frame was built before the 1800s. It features chestnut timbers and the rafters are half-rounds.

When it comes time to restore this fine structure, we will replace the half-rounds with hand-hewn hardwood rafters salvaged from a late 1700s frame and transform it into a custom home, addition, studio or barn.

Here you can see the view from the front. 

Old Barns for Sale

Historic Barn for Sale

Below is the back of the barn. Note how the back side of this vintage barn isn’t painted – a classic Yankee tradition! I guess they were trying to save some money by only painting the side facing the road.

Old Timber Frame for Sale

Back View of Hartford Historic Barn

This picture shows the five-sided ridge beam. This style of architecture gives more structure to the roof system. Timber framers stopped using ridge beams after the 1840s. By eliminating them, I imagine it made the building process go more quickly.

Gunstock 5 sided ridge beam in timberframe

Five-sided Ridge Beam in Modified Gunstock Frame

The rear corner post below is a gunstock post  – it’s tapered like the gunstock of a rifle. The nearer post on the right is called a drop girt post – not tapered. (Please ignore the round timber). This is why I am calling it a “modified gunstock frame”.  It’s a mystery to me why they chose this combination of styles, using both gunstock and drop girt posts. Perhaps they were trying to simplify the joinery – timber joints.

Corner Post - Gunstock Frame - Old Barns for Sale

Corner Post of the Modified
Gunstock Timber Frame

Below are some more views of the interior:

Antique Timber frames for Sale with Chestnut Timbers

Chestnut Timbers in Vintage Barn Frame

Interior of 19th Century New England Timber Frame Barn

Interior of Timber Frame Barn

Please let me know if you are interested in visiting this timber frame gem or seeing the other antique timber frames for sale at Green Mountain Timber Frames –  we encourage visitors! These strong wooden beams would really make a beautiful home or business space.

If you would like to see this frame, or another available timber frame we have in stock, please contact Green Mountain Timber Frames!

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