All in a Day’s Work

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It’s amazing what you can accomplish in one day’s work! With a good team, beautiful cloudy Vermont skies and some hard work, we managed to install a new metal roof on this timber frame barn addition in ten hours with finish trim.

Timber frame_post and beams in Vermont_Green Mountain Timber Frames_8am

This particular timbered bridge addition was built by another crew, but since they weren’t available to complete the roof, we were asked to do the job. As a lover of all things timber, we couldn’t bear to see this new frame open to the Vermont elements any longer.

Our crew of seven left home at 6 am for the two hour drive to eastern VT. Starting with the raw frame at 8 am, we installed 2×4 nailers.

Working on roof of historic timber frame_green mountain timber frames_vermont

Then, we did the necessary finish on the roof trim and added flashing to the existing barn. Next, we screwed metal roofing to the 2×4 nailers.

applying roof boards_green mountain timber frames_custom barn homes

This particular barn has a beautiful gable window that adds an elegance to the building. The original builders did fine work. We believe the barn was built in the 1870s.
Gable Barn Window on Restored Timber Frame_Green Mountain Timber Frames

Closeup of Gable Barn window_Barn Restoration_green mountain timber frames

With the new roof safely and securely in place, the owner is relieved the structure is finally covered. We, too, are pleased that this rugged new timber frame isn’t taking on water anymore. Best of all, it’s a 40-year roof, so none of us will have to come back. I don’t think I’ll be doing roofs into my 11th decade!

If you drive by Maple Avenue Farm in the back hills of Vermont, you can see the new roof for yourself. There are not many four-story bank barns left in Vermont. Especially with a timber frame bridge to access the upper levels of this 1870s former dairy barn.

new roof on restored timber frame_post and beam architecture_green mountain timber framesMeanwhile, we’re always happy to take on another project! Looking for a timber framer in Vermont? Give us a call at 802.774.8972!

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

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.

 

Restoring a Barn Home – with Guest Blogger (and Carpenter) Luke Larson

Today’s blog was written by a guest blogger, Luke Larson.

A tremendous thanks to Luke of Larson Carpentry for sharing this with us – not only his pictures and story, but his talent with wood. Luke and his crew recently dismantled the Gambrel style timber frame which I wrote about earlier in the winter. You can read more about the English Gambrel style home, which was built in the 1790s, in my blog here.

This beautiful vintage timber frame is looking for a new owner. Interested in calling this frame home? Contact us! 

Vermont Timber Frame Gambrel Roof_Crew Shot

Dismantling the Gambrel Frame – Luke and Crew

Gambrel Roof Timber Frame

Timber Frame Home with Gambrel Roof from Danby, Vermont

When we first began inspecting this home back in the fall, we were guessing it was built in the 1820s. Throughout the process of gutting the house down to the original ingredients, we have made the exciting discovery that it is an earlier timber frame, built in the 1790s!
We also discovered that the house is featured in a Vermont architectural survey, described as an early and rare example of craftsmanship. The frame size is 28 x 38 feet and the stout timbers are made out of American chestnut, beech and white oak wood. The main beams are hand hewn while some of the floor joists and the rafters are water sawn. These were likely crafted at a river mill within a few miles of the site.
Gambrel Roof Timber frame in New England Snow

The Gambrel Roof Timber Frame in New England Snow

“Gambrel” refers to the double pitched roof seen above. It is a style that is uncommon here in Vermont. One of the major benefits is the wide open and spacious feeling of the second floor. There is a 22 X 38 foot clear space in the center. With the uncommon arches collar ties on the back half, this will make a remarkable master bedroom! The posts on both floors are gunstock, meaning that they get larger at the top and make for exceptionally strong timber frame joints.
I had a great crew of 10 for the day we lowered the frame to the ground. It is an amazing thing to remove the oak pegs that have been holding the building together for the past two hundred plus years. And it is amazing to be learning my craft from master builders who lived more than two hundred years ago. Every piece of this house is now labeled and carefully stored away.
2014-03-14 17.24.20

Beautiful Joinery on New England Frame. Note the arched collar ties!

Let’s return to the detective-like task of uncovering the date the house was constructed. After about 500 hours of tearing out additions, sheet rock, wiring and insulation, we were finally able to get a better look at the original ingredients. A major clue as to the date of the house came from the nails used. Most were rose head nails, meaning they were formed completely by hand with a forge. The term “rose head” comes from the beautiful shape of the nail head, which was pounded out with four quick strokes of the blacksmith’s hammer.
Some cut nails (made by machine) were also used on this house, primarily on the flooring. It was exciting to discover that these cut nails were of the earliest variety, as evidenced by the way the metal sheets from which the nails were cut had to be flipped over during the process, creating a slight metal bur on opposite sides of the nail. Only a few years later, the technology had developed enough that the nails were “stamped out” of sheet metal without needing to be flipped over, creating a different bur pattern.
The earliest machine-made nails still had the heads fine-tuned by hand, but with only two strokes of the hammer. It was a very narrow window of time during which these nails were made and it helped provide the time frame for this home’s construction.
 Rosehead Nails for Timber Frame Wood

Rose Head Nails

Another clue in the dating process involved the plaster and lathe. Very early homes such as this one used split board lathe to hold horsehair plaster to the wall. It was made by chopping a wide board with a hatched, thus stretching it apart like an accordion. This was then nailed to the wall. As sawing became more economical during the early 1800s, later home builders used narrow lathe that was sawn rather than split. This house had accordion lathe throughout, as the next photo shows. This picture is just one wide board that has been cut and spread apart.

Accordion Lathe on colonial timber frame

Accordion Lathe

Here I have stripped the house down to the original siding boards:
Gambrel 1

Original Siding – up to 22 inches wide!

The boards you see above are one and a quarter-inch thick hemlock planks. Many are over twenty inches wide! Imagine the trees that the boards came from! At this stage in the process, I was able to discover all of the original window and door layout, which I have carefully documented. Notice the tiny windows out in the eves. These would have allowed light into the area right under the rafters.
Joinery Summer Beam
Here is some of the amazing joinery. In the picture above, you can see the end of a summer beam, meaning a beam that runs mid-span and supports floor joists. This joint is “dovetailed,” meaning the joint is made in such a way that it cannot physically pull apart.
Finally, we were down to the first floor after the upper structure was down. Once the beautiful wide flooring boards were removed and saved, I labeled each of these sills and floor joists. Even without a foundation, the rot-resistant tendency of American Chestnut means that many of these sills are still in great shape and ready to be used again!
First Floor of Timber Frame with Upper Structure Down

First Floor of Timber Frame with Upper Structure Down

It was a pleasure working on dismantling this frame and I enjoyed uncovering details at each step along the way!  Below are a few more of my favorite photographs from the dismantling process.

In may ways, it was both a joyful and sobering task to take this houses down. There were many poignant moments when I thought about all of the living that has taken place in this space, all of the generations and families that have called this building home.

My hope is that the time-darkened timbers and patina laden boards of this house will again be someone’s home. I intend to honor both the craftsman who chopped these beams from the forest as well as all those who have cared for it since as I embark upon my next step: the restoration of this beautiful timber frame.

Below are a few more of my favorite photographs from the dismantling process:

Timber Frame of Gambrel House

A Beautiful Timber Frame!

Removing Timber Beam for Frame Restoration

Lifting Down One of the Five 38-foot Beams

Dropping Gambrel Frame into the ground

Preparing to Lower the Rafters

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Please contact Green Mountain Timber Frames to learn about the vintage timber frames we have available – or to share your own story about barn restoration! We welcome guest blogs!

 

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”.

The Barn that Almost Wasn’t

In my last blog, I wrote about the Ira, Vermont 1770s timber frame barn that I am currently working to restore. Here is the tale about how this barn did not burn down 85 years ago.

Ira Vermont old barn_ timber frame barn homes

A twice-saved barn

What follows is a true story, recounted to me by the gentleman whose family owned the Ira barn for generations. The picture below shows his grandmother, Lila, as a young girl, in about 1906. When the fire took place, she would have been about 35. 

Grandmother_Former Owner of Old Barn in New England that survived Historic Fire

About 85 years ago, his grandfather, Grant, was working in the barn during a torrential spring thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning struck the metal manure track and ignited the  southeast upper corner of the addition’s loft and then traveled along the wall.

In the picture below, you can see where the lighting hit the side of the timber frame structure.

Lightning strike on historic old barn

Loft – floor removed

Farmer Grant sprinted 100 yards to the house, cranked the wall phone twice and called for help. In those days, a double crank would connect with every household in town, and important information could be spread. The message went out, “Our barn’s on fire – bring buckets!”

Crank Phone_19th Century Barn Fire

Crank Phone from around 1930

There were no ponds or hydrants nearby. But miraculously, it was still raining hard and the town road next to the barn was full of potholes. The neighborhood fire crew formed a line, scooped water from the potholes and passed the buckets to others who had scrambled into the smoking barn loft.

One bucketful at a time, the town of Ira pulled together to save this barn from burning down. Notice the charred timbers. Imagine the smoke! (There must not have been any hay in the loft.)

Opposite end of old barn where fire stopped

Opposite side of old barn where fire was stopped

We are very fortunate that the community helped to save this old barn in the pouring rain. Without the rain, the potholes would not have been full, and the barn certainly would have been lost.

Fire damage on historic barn

Loft – floor still in place

       After the fire, Farmer Grant decided that lighting rods might be a good idea,!

Lighting Rod on Timber Frame Barn

Original lightening rods with glass balls

Meanwhile, restoration is under way here in Vermont on this beautiful timber frame!

Despite the visible charring on the timbers, the old barn frame itself is not structurally damaged. We are going to sand blast the big timber and reuse it; the sand blasting will take off the char. It seems important to include these timbers in the restored frame, as this story is part of its history.

Want to come see the barn in person or visit some of the other timber frames we have here at our shop in Middletown Springs? Please let us know!