Timber Framing: Captured on Video!

Green Mountain Timber Frames is now of video!

But before I show you the video, let’s take a look at this before and after shot.
Antique Timber frame before afterYou may remember back in 2013 when I wrote a few times about the timber frame we had restored and erected up at Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs. A gunstock timber frame, it was built over 250 years ago.

For this project, we erected the restored frame with help of the one and only Vermont Jeepgirl (otherwise known as Crane Operator extraordinaire, Sue Miller.) Luckily for us, she made a video recording of the raising day!

Hats off to Sue for capturing our madness!

Vermont Crane Operator_Vermont Jeep Girl

Vermont Jeepgirl Sue Miller

It was a great crew that worked on this frame. Here we are, standing proud in front of the restored timbers.

Construction experts from Green Mountain Timber Frames

Construction crew from Green Mountain Timber Frames

This frame – even before it became a new storage barn – saw a lot of good times! For a couple months, the erected frame stood on the beautiful lawn behind Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs, Vermont.

Test Barn Raising of Timber Frame Barn Home

Test Barn Raising of Timber Frame Barn Home at Sissy’s Kitchen

While we waited for the right buyer, the frame housed many a dinner party and afternoon tea, just around the corner from the workshop of Green Mountain Timber Frames.

Summer evening party at Sissy's under antique post and beam frame

Summer evening party at Sissy’s under post and beam frame

I want to send out a huge thank you again to Sissy for letting us have all this fun, right in her yard!

Timber framer Dan McKeen and Sissy in Vermont

Have more timber frame projects worth capturing on video? Let us know! We would like to hear from you!

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!

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.

 

Finding the milk house a new home

This past year, I’ve spent a good deal of time among the barns of Ira, Vermont.

This hamlet of less than 500 people is in Rutland County, on the western side of the state. Chartered in 1780, the tiny little town is big on barns with several valuable, historic timber frames, each with a story to tell.

You may be thinking of my previous blog where I showed the video of the controlled collapse of the end section of an historic barn from Ira, but that method of deconstructing a barn was the exception – – not the rule! While that specific part of the barn wasn’t salvageable, we are currently working on restoring the remaining 72 feet of the structure. You can read more about that restoration project here.

Today’s blog is about the tiny 8×10 foot milk house that was nestled next to that very same barn. You can see it on the right in the picture below.

Colonial era barn with milk house

Colonial era barn with 1900s milk house

The little milk house has found a new owner and we recently moved it to my hometown of Middletown Springs, VT.

Moving the milk barn for restoration

Milk house is loaded onto trailer

Placing the antique barn in its new home

Careful now! Don’t let ‘er fall!

So how did the milk house find its new home? 

30 years ago, I built a playhouse for my children. When my children grew older, I sold it to a local friend for his daughter. Now that I am blessed with grandchildren, I called my friend to see if I could get the playhouse back. He suggested we make a trade: a milk house for a playhouse.

I had been looking for the perfect owner for this adorable 1900s building, so I was glad to make the swap. My friend now has a milk house cabin in his yard and I get to bring home the playhouse and restore it for our grandchildren!

While the milk house needs continued TLC, it is now close by and convenient to work on. I will restore it, and plan to add a small porch to make it into a cozy, Thoreau-esque dwelling for the new owner.

Vintage milk house before restoration

Milk house in its original location, original condition

Vermont milk barn

Milk house in its new location waiting for some more TLC.  The playhouse  is in background.

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

 

 

Repairing a Silo – without letting her tip!

I recently repaired this wooden silo in Danby, Vermont. It was originally built in the 1850s. While the silo is not currently being used, the owner wanted to maintain the look and feel of his New England barn home and asked me to repair the vintage wooden structure. It had originally been used to store silage for cattle.

The silo had a 38-foot circumference and most of the bottom boards around the base were rotten. I was hired to fix this tall task!

Rotting timbers in silo - historic properties in New England

Rotting boards along base of silo

Luckily, only four inches of the base wood was rotted. To restore the silo, we cut seven inches up to get back into solid wood. The original silo boards were either spruce or cypress, but I used locust wood for the repair. Locust is plentiful in our area and is our natural “pressure treated” wood species, meaning it is very resistant to moisture rotting the wood fibers.

We had the new pieces of wood custom sawn to the exact dimensions we needed to ensure they would match the size of the original silo boards.

Restored timber frame silo in Vermont

New boards on silo

In order to repair the frame, we first built an internal frame on the inside of the silo. This frame enabled us to screw the short pieces of locust wood back into something solid. This system ensures the integrity of the repair and will help the silo stand tall for decades to come.

New beams in timber fram silo

Support system seen from inside of silo

I used a three-tier system, shown below. The first tier board was fastened to the concrete floor at the base of the silo. The second board was for fastening the new seven inch locust replacement silo pieces.

In the third level,  I attached the original section of the silo board. With these three levels in place, the silo boards are now secure and there is plenty of space for air to circulate inside the silo. This air circulation will help prevent rot in the future.

New timbers for silo Vermont timberframe

Prototype of interior fastener

The silo’s wooden walls are two inches thick, so I could not use my preferred routing method to duplicate the original tongue and groove boards Instead, I used three table saws to carve the tongue and groove system for the replacement pieces. Tongue and groove joints allow two flat pieces of wood to be joined together to make a single flat surface. It’s a wonderful system that ties all the boards together.

Table saw for Vermont Historic Properties_Silo Project

Table saws for creating tongue and groove system

We cut one three-foot section at a time, secured them to the internal framing, and then moved on to the next three-foot section. There are twelve sections in all. Nine feet of the original boards were still solid and did not need restoration.

Restored timber frame silo

Repaired timber frame silo

I feel good about the repairs we did to this beautiful historic property, and I believe this system will hold up another 150 years. We left some locust boards in the silo, so if another repair is needed in the next 50 years or so – they are ready to go! That untouched original 9 feet of silo might need repair in 30 years!

In working on this silo project, I was once again grateful to live in New England and to work together with people – like the owner of this silo – who value history and are willing to invest in ensuring that old barns and silos remain part of the landscape for generations to come.  We all benefit from their passion to preserve our heritage.

To see more examples of historic properties and old barns I have restored at Green Mountain Timber Frames, please see the completed projects on my website!

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”.