The 1840s Historic Home: Saving Precious Timbers

Reading this in your email? For easier reading – Click here.
We recently finished working on a small project dismantling part of an 1840s home. The residents were tearing down a section of their historic home to make room for a new addition.
historic home renovation_Green Mountain Timber Frames

The new addition honors the style of the original, and retains the stone foundation

Honoring the value of the vintage wood, they asked Green Mountain Timber Frames to help them salvage parts of the structure.
The answer? Of course!
While the frame itself was beyond repair, with careful disassembly of the timbers, we were able to save the vintage flooring, siding boards, and many of the hand hewn beams. The owners were very happy to know the materials are being recycled and some of the wood was even put to use in their new addition.
historic barn frame 1840 post and beam _Green mountain timber frames

The original wall sheathing is 1/2 inch boards

We look forward to working with these materials in future restoration projects. The beams, flooring, and siding will help us maintain the authentic, historic look and we are grateful to the owners for sharing them with us.
Post and beam addition_Green Mountain Timber Frames

The hand hewn beam shown at the top of the wall is 30 feet long

They even wrote us a lovely note and while we risk sounding immodest, it made us so happy that we wanted to post it here. We are so glad the owners share our love of history and facilitated our collaboration to recycle the beams!
Thank you so much for the caring removal of 1840s ell on our home. We are still so amazed that the work was done so quickly!  Thank you for sharing information on the way our post and beam addition had been constructed.  Our shadow box of various pieces of the ell will have a place of honor in the new addition, too.”
When springs finally comes to Vermont this year, we will be dismantling another historic building on their property to salvage the materials.

Do you have a historic property that you want to preserve? 

We would love to help.

802.774.8972

Restoring a 30 x 42 Barn Frame – Our Latest Endeavor

Reading this in your email? For easier reading – Click here.

Despite winter’s encroachment here in northern New England, we’ve been hard at work at Green Mountain Timber Frames.

For our most recent project, we have been restoring a beautiful 30×42 foot barn frame from New York state. Built in the 1790s, it is a fine example of a gunstock frame.

img_4220

Look at the handsome grain and joinery of this gunstock oak post

What is a gunstock timber frame?

This means that the upper timbers all come together at the same elevation. It is an incredibly strong method of construction.

img_4239 However, there is a drawback to gunstock frames: it can be challenging to install a second floor because the rafters start at the same elevation as the loft. It is not an issue for storing hay, but can be a challenge when designing a bedroom! The team, which includes a restoration architect, our client and ourselves, figured out a way to install a second floor in this particular barn. We used scarf joints to raise the height of each post, which allowed us to create a 20 foot loft area below the height of the upper horizontals.

Technical challenges of assembling this timber frame

It’s a good thing we love a challenge, because with this frame, (unlike most) we couldn’t make all the changes without assembling the frame. Why? Because of the angled “summer beams”-the large timbers that pick up the weight of the floor joists. (We will get to the reason for the splayed summer beams in a bit.) Doing compound joinery on a 220 year old structure is only possible if you erect that section allowing the joinery to be measured and fitted in place.

Creating the second floor

So how did we solve our little technical problem? We began by erecting half the barn frame behind our shop.

erecting-half-a-timber-frame

This timber frame is predominantly white oak, so we wanted to match the original species of wood. We purchased white oak timbers from Ohio since white oak is hard to find in our area these days. Given the long span of these beams, we had to use 10×12 inch timbers. For the new posts, we used 10×10 inch timbers.

white-oak-timbers-from-ohio

White oak timbers

In order to help the new timber blend in with the old, we used the old method to create an authentic texture: a broad axe and an adze.

img_4186

Here’s a shot of Luke, hewing the new oak beams

Next, we created crooked joinery, because the heavy carrying timbers are splayed, rather than the typical perpendicular or right angles to each other. The only way we could be certain the timbers would join together properly and securely was to fit the timbers in place.

crooked-joinery-on-white-oak-timbers

We chopped and chiseled…made templates…and set the 1000 pound timbers in place.

chopping-oak-timbers_green-mountain-timber-frames

Chopping

chiseling-oak-timbers_green-mountain-timber-frames

Chiseling

templates-for-timber-frame-restoration

Making templates

thousand-pound-timbers_green-mountain-timber-frames_barn-restoration

Setting thousand pound timbers

This now creates a second floor that did not exist originally!

But why did we have to angle the carrying timbers? 

To maintain the original ladder we tightened up the two posts carrying the heavy floor girts. The ladder rungs will be set in the close pair of 10×10′ white oak posts. We have not placed the rungs between the posts yet.  That was the least of our problems…………

The end wall will have a 12 foot bay window between those posts.  Along with the owner and architect, we wanted the heavy summer beams, combined with the posts, to frame the large bay window in a fascinating way!

So the owner gets his ladder and his bay window and a very unusual design that makes this particular frame restoration much more interesting.

In order to check new joinery on other sections of the frame, as well as to store it safely until spring, we put the whole barn up and applied a temporary roof.

 

historic-30-x-42-timber-frame_vermont-timber-frames

Here’s the 30×42′ frame tipped up with a temporary roof.

 

Next steps in the restoration process

Our next step is to set all the hand hewn floor joists into these heavy carrying timbers using traditional joist pockets. But, for the moment, we have moved on to another outside project. With this structure standing and roofed for the winter, we will have plenty of opportunities to return to this task when it is raining or snowing! In the spring, we will label everything, disassemble, and ship the frame to its final location. It will be ready to stand strong and true for another 220 years.

hand-hewn-joists-need-to-be-set

Note the incredibly wide original siding boards!

Stay tuned for a story on our next project: a timber-framed porch. We better get going on it, as we received our first heavy snowfall of the year this past week!

Have a blog idea for us?
A pressing question about historic timber framing? Let us know!

(802) 774.8972 or Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

Dutch Cape House from c. 1800

Reading this in your email? For easier reading – Click here.

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!

IMG_3277

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.

IMG_3091

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.

IMG_3252

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.

IMG_3238

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.

IMG_3237

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.

IMG_3235

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

IMG_3231

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.

IMG_3274

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

 

Post and Beam Sign Frame for the Vermont Farmers Food Center

Reading this in your email? For easier reading – Click here.

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 Bitter-Sweet of Mud Season Barn Restoration

Reading this in your email? For a better view of the blog – click here!

Mud Season – the bitter/sweet time of year.

While the temperatures have at long last inched their way above the zero mark, here in rural Vermont the ground is still solid. Timber framing in the famous mud of New England’s spring beats the challenge of working in snow squalls and sub-zero temps, but it’s still not for the faint of heart!

Sure, our winter coats and work gloves have been shed but now we must muddle through our work area.

Mud Season in Vermont Building restored barn homes

Proof that mud season has arrived

As more snow melts, the damp ground slowly releases the grip of winter, churning out a soft, murky surface under our feet that you can sink into up to the ankles.

Construction continues nonetheless, so we throw down a carpet of hay to make the work area easier to traverse. Timber Framing in the Mud Vermont

There is, of course, a wonderful silver lining. Not only is old man winter behind us, but best of all, mud season means the maple sap is flowing! Cold nights and warm days bring the sweetness of spring.

Sugar house in maple season_Stacy Birch Photography

Sugar house in maple season – Photo by Stacy Birch

Going – Going – Going … Gone!

Reading this in your email? For a better view of the blog – click here!

How do you dismantle a timber frame for restoration?
Here’s an overview of the process: 

Going… Before barn restoration_Vermont barn home Going… Historic timber frame in vermont Going… Dismantling timber frame for restoration and preservation GONE! fomer site of historic barn home Thanks to all of your help and support, this timber frame from Tinmouth, VT is now being restored at the Green Mountain Timber Frames workshop in Middletown Springs.

After carefully skinned the old timbered house, we took it apart, timber by timber, making sure to label meticulously along the way. Over the next two months, we will professionally restore the timbers, before reassembling the frame in New York. Look forward to the results in late summer, when we re-erect these historic beams for another 235 years! In the mean time, we hope you will stay tuned with our blog!

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

Reading this in your email? For a better view of the blog - click 
here!

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.