This is a VERY long post (my apologies to any of you who do not have a high-speed Internet connection), and it has photos of every step of the construction ... as we worked to save this feature of our landscape and bring it back to life.
In order for you to appreciate the beauty of the finished result, I am starting the story of the restoration of our barn with an 'After' photo. Our barn is beautiful and strong and sturdy ... but it wasn't that way when we bought this place in 2002.
This is what it looked like the first time I saw it, during our first visit here with our real estate agent in July 2002.
These next photos, taken taken a few months later, show just how sad and neglected our barn truly was.
Water had infiltrated the west gable end (the side with the big hay doors) and rotted the main support beam, two posts, the diagonal braces, and part of the loft floor framing.
The rot in the structural members put extra pressure on the rest of the frame, destabilized the barn, causing to lean ... pulling the posts and joists away from the walls.
After a particularly bad wind storm in the fall of 2006, I noticed a big shift in the barn and a new crack in a main post in the loft. We had hoped that the barn was stable enough to wait a bit to restore it, but this latest damage meant that we had to do something QUICKLY. Even the slightest bit of additional damage from another storm might cause it to collapse ... and we couldn't allow that to happen.
We tried to find someone local to help us. Everyone we talked to had the same answer, "We don't work on barns." After some on-line research, we called Woodford Brothers in New York ... a company that specializes in repair of barns. I sent them my photos and measurements, one of their estimators came to visit and assess the damage, and we agreed that they would straighten and stabilize this most-damaged west face of the building.
This is what the barn looked like, on the day before the cold January Monday when the Woodford crew arrived to work
After they unloaded their tools and materials, it didn't take long for the barn to look like this:
It got even more dramatic as they continued to deconstruct the west end of the barn.
I had no idea that the barn could stand with so little support like that. As I watched the crew work, it reminded me of what it must have been like when Noah was building the ark.
The crew worked for four days, stabilizing the structure and holding it in place with a spiderweb of large steel cables. By the time they rolled out of here that Thursday, the barn looked like this:
They used diagonal cables with winches to straighten the lean, and they reinforced some of the framing to keep it straight. It was now stable, and could wait until I finalized the design for the rest of the renovation and found a local contractor to do the job.
At least I thought it was stable. This is what I found the next spring:
The Woodford Brothers' use of cables to straighten the building had almost pulled the southwest corner of the barn off the foundation! Here it is from the other side ... almost looks like it's hanging in space, doesn't it. (Take this as a lesson ... when someone tells you it's okay to straighten your building with cables and winches, make sure they secure the structure first. What Woodford's crew did to our barn could have actually caused it to collapse. What we thought was a stop-gap emergency repair turned out to be a disaster. Lesson learned.)
I had to find someone local to fix this, and I had to do it FAST. A friend of ours suggested that I talk to a man named Randy Titlow, who he thought would be perfect for the job. I talked to Randy, he looked the barn over, we shook hands, and he went to work.
The first thing was to bring in equipment and clear all the remaining brush and trees from around the barn.
As they worked, I was able to get a look at parts of the barn that I had never actually seen before.
They filled dumpsters with piles of honeysuckle, poison ivy, trashy trees, and assorted other overgrowth, along with the very rotten old cattle fence.
All clear now ... time to start work.
Randy began by removing some rotten framing that had been left by the Woodford crew (Grrrr!!), replacing it with new pressure-treated posts and beams.
See how this corner (the same one that was falling off the foundation earlier) is now correctly supported by a new 6 x 6 post that stretches the whole height of the building? It's not going anywhere now.
Randy and his crew zig-zagged their way from one end of the barn to the other, working on one side then on the other side, replacing and reinforcing damaged framing as they went. Instead of using cables to straighten and stabilize the structure (which stressed the barn and can cause more damage, as we saw above) he hired a heavy equipment operator to gently brace the barn in place as framing was removed and replaced, and push to the building straight when needed. That's a 6 x 6 timber strapped to the bucket of the track hoe, which spread the force and created gentle pressure.
It was amazing to watch the barn being stripped of its skin, while the crew methodically removed and replaced the framing.
Within a few short weeks, the barn was completely naked ... proudly sporting a sturdy combination of old and new posts and beams.
We are fortunate to have a real live sawmill up the road from us, where we got rough-cut poplar boards for the barn's new siding. (All of the old siding that was removed is stacked neatly inside, out of the weather, to be used for various projects in the future.)
The only change I made in the design of the barn was to add a few more windows for more natural light inside.
There are now windows down the length of both sides, and windows at both ends of the loft.
The frames of the windows were built by a local carpenter, and the glass was installed by a glass shop in downtown Fredericksburg. Each window is hinged at the top, so we can open them for ventilation.
After the siding was all on, and the windows were installed, the barn looked like this.
Every barn needs a good paint job ... red, of course. Below, you can see a sample board with the two colors of red that we liked best. Once we laid the board against the barn and stepped back, and it was obvious that the top color (Cabot solid stain in 'Indian corn') was perfect. The bottom color looked more burgundy than red.
Here is the color going up on the building. It looks really good!
The trim is around the windows and doors is white, of course.
The barn, now that it's beautiful and strong, is the perfect focal point in the landscape.
It's comforting to know that our barn, which has stood in that spot on this property for so long, is strong and secure and will continue grace the top of the hill for decades to come.
Thank you for visiting, and I hope you enjoyed the story of our barn. There is not much online that documents a real-life barn restoration, and I hope this helps someone else in the future, who may be confronted with a situation similar to ours.