Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Our Barn Restoration

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.

All finished!!

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. 


  1. What a beautiful building you now have. Love to see buildings brought back to life.

  2. Wow - I didn't realize they could rebuild a barn like that. That's awesome.

  3. Hooray for you...
    most people would have torn it down and replaced it with an ugly pole building!
    I applaud you and your hubby 100%.
    We renovated our old barn too...added windows for more light as well!
    I wish I had pictures...they are in my old computer!
    We have a huge 3 story hay barn that you could see thru and was waiting for a strong wind to knock her down!
    I am so glad you are saving a piece of history for future generations to enjoy!

    2 thumbs up

  4. Lovely! I love old barns and seeing them restored just warms my heart :)

    Looking forward to the house restoration stories and pictures - sounds like it was quite an adventure!

  5. WOW! What a wonderful metamorphosis...best one I have seen to date! I looks great and will last for a very long time, now.

  6. Wow. I am so grateful to you for restoring a piece of history. It's beautiful, and certainly must be a joy to you, your neighbours, and all who see it.

    Congratulations on a job very, very well done.

  7. Wow, what a project! I had no idea a building in such bad shape could be fixed. Fascinating.

  8. What a huge, but fruitful undertaking and what a great series of photos!!

  9. Awesome Awesome Awesome! The restoration looks absolutely wonderful & I'm so glad I found this post... I host a weekly meme, Barn Charm, & would love to feature this beauty next week, if you don't mind. I'd like to post pics of it & link back here to this post so others can see it, too.

  10. my gosh, it is gorgeous! to go through what you did (twice!) to restore to this beauty is commendable! SO glad tricia featured this today!

  11. Thanks for sharing your barn renovation journey. It is a beautiful barn now and should stand for a very long time.

  12. you've done a wonderful job! i'd be happy living in it myself! :oD

  13. You did a wonderful job of restoring the barn. It's beautiful. I did enjoy the before pictures though.

  14. I love seeing a barn restored instead of falling down! What a labor of love. It looks wonderful!

  15. What a joy! This was like seeing my own dream come true. I'm hoping for that winning lottery ticket before my builder husband is too old to tackle our 100 year old barn!! What a beautiful restoration, you won't regret one penny of it (nor will your grand-children!)

  16. Just beautiful! And inspiring!

  17. Thank you for sharing with Barn Charm this week!
    We see many barns week after week that need TLC - some a lot, some a little.
    You have shown us in your documentation just how some of these old beauties can see a new life.
    A beautiful restoration!

  18. WoW-zers, what an amazing story, so well told....i love the end result and the color!!

    thanks to tricia for "hooking us up"!!

  19. An amazing journey! I am so glad Tricia featured this - otherwise I would never have known! This is a treasure which I hope will inspire others with the patience and funds to do likewise! What a beautiful job was done - thank you for documenting it, and for sharing it!

  20. What a beautiful restoration. So much work, but so worth it. You might like to see our 150 year-old log barn at my blog: http://www.joyfulaltitude.com/2011/09/fall-at-homestead.html
    I spent some time looking through your posts and like what I've seen. I'm your newest follower via Barn Charm.

  21. This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with us and thank you for saving such a wonderful, old barn.:>)

  22. Wow- that was a lot of work indeed. But so worth it in the end- you now have a beautifully restored barn,

  23. Wow, the barn looks great! We just purchased an old farmhouse with an old barn on it that is in need of repair. Would you mind sharing the contact information of the person (randy titlow) who did the barn repairs? Thanks so much! Blessings, Alisha

  24. WOW, Connie! That was a HUGE project. Your barn looks gorgeous now. It always makes me sad to see structures deteriorate. I am glad you did not let yours deteriorate. We are currently restoring our smoke house. It's a very small project, but I feel quite intimidated and excited at the same time. I am not sure I would have the courage to take on your barn project. Good job! Christa

  25. Love, love, love the barn. Getting it to where it is today was quite the saga, but it's worth it. I imagine you are quietly delighted every time it comes into view. I would be. Good job documenting the restoration.

  26. What a beautiful barn!! We have a big bank barn on our property that is in desperate need of restoration as well. It's quite near collapsing, and this wicked cold winter has not been kind to it. I'm hoping we will do some stablization work on it this spring/summer so that we don't lose it!

  27. What a remarkable project! I'm so impressed at the effort, and the improvement.

  28. Hi Connie,
    I am glad I found this post again. I remembered reading your barn restoration ordeal. Are you enjoying it? What are you using it for now? We want to restore our barn as part of our preparation to launch our wedding venue business. We found a great guy who has a small operation but seems to be into restoration big time. We met with him last Saturday and really liked him. We were very happy to learn from Luke Ramsey (Ramsey Restoration) that our barn is still in very good shape and that it just needs a lot of TLC. I can't wait to show you our barn and tell you about my crazy dream of owning a wedding venue business. I hope I can meet up with you this year at one of your conventions.

  29. Hello, I see this is an old post but we are in a similar situation with our old barn. We live in an 1820's log home in Missouri and sitting near our home is a turn of the century two story oak barn that is slowly sinking. We have had several people out here, including Woodford Bro's., to give estimates and no one seems to take it seriously. Either it will cost us $20,000 - $50,000 to lift it or people have walked away from it saying that our old barn is historically insignificant. We just had a fellow leave here earlier and he stated that he couldn't be of any help so I started looking on the web regarding rebuilding an old barn and that is how I found you. I was actually thinking that possibly my husband and I could take our old barn apart, piece by piece and possibly do the work ourselves. (yes, that is how much I love our old barn)
    Anyway, I was wanting to know, how much did this ultimately end up costing you? If you don't mind my asking.
    Thank you for sharing your story, this gives me hope.
    Peace & blessings. :o)

  30. Hi! I know this is an old post but wondering how your stain is holding up. I found your post while searching for images of Indian corn stain as that’s what I’m leaning towards. Everyone has me worried that I will be repainting it frequently because of the saturation of color. Thoughts?

  31. Thanks for sharing your story. It's been helpful to our own. We are a month into our 100 y/o barn restoration and like you, had a difficult time finding a skilled trades person willing to take on our project. First, our barn needed straightening and bracing to get it to stand upright. The team used steel cables, snatch blocks, a tractor and lots of 2 x 10" bracing to anchor it in place. After that, they addressed the rotten bottoms of the 24 posts which needed to be postioned into the ground again. We too, have a sawmill down the road in Figure Five, AR. The folks there has been supportive of our efforts. We have two months left to complete a pad, siding and new corten steel roof. We'll have about $45K into the project and the satisfaction that the legacy of this building will continue forward.


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