Enduring Charm LLC

A New Old Barn

Shown here after completion, the barn is painted with a solid stain called barn red.  Let's go through how we got to this point...


Before anything can be done, the foundation must be laid out and checked.  With a septic system in the back yard, there is really only one site for this barn.


Step one is to dig trenches for footings, being careful to follow the layout lines.


The trenches are set with concrete forms, and, later, rebar to reinforce the footings.


Concrete is delivered and poured through the trenches, then left to set-up for a few days.


Block walls are constructed, going down at least three feet to the footings below the frost line.  Door openings are left open.


Next, the concrete slab floor is poured and the sill plates are set.


The first studs in the walls are tricky.  This will be a one and a half story balloon frame (explained below) and the 2x6 studs are about 13 feet tall. working alone, the walls are built stud by stud rather than raised as a unit.


As the walls are built, they are braced to keep them straight and to keep them from falling over before they are complete.


Thinking ahead, some parts receive plywood sheathing early because the panels are in an intersection meeting another wall.


A main beam runs down the middle of the structure to hold the second floor joists.  Made of 2x12 lumber three wide, the beam is a challenge for a single person to raise atop the 6x6 columns, but where there is a will there is a way.


The one and a half story barn is constructed with a balloon frame.  That means that the studs run all the way up to the roof rafters, rather than being broken into two separate walls for each floor.  This adds strength for this particular design, but this old method has not been commonly used since the turn of the last century.


This close-up shows the balloon frame construction.  The floor joists of the second floor overlap the studs and are bolted to the sides.  A ribbon of wood is let-in to the studs to provide further support for the joists.  The studs going all the way up to the roof rafters will help to resist the outward thrust of the rafter bottoms.


The second floor joists also lay over the main beam, and are then bolted together to provide a continuous path from one wall to the other.


With the walls up, the sheathing is next.  Posts which will support the porch roof are placed too.


With all the plywood sheathing installed, the structure looks like some strange wooden prison compound, but the old-fashioned design will reveal itself soon enough.


This picture shows the inside of the lean-to shed addition off of the back of the barn.  These rafters go up before the main rafters so that there is a staging area in order to get materials to the main roof.


Words cannot describe what it is like to be 26 feet in the air, with nothing to hold onto or to break your fall, and to set a heavy 2x12 ridge board all alone while the wind whistles through your swaying ladder.


As the ridge is set, opposing 2x10 rafters, each about 18 feet long, are nailed in place to create the roof structure.


The process continues down the line. To give an idea of size and proportion, the step ladder in this photo is a 12 footer--twice the typical household size.


The roof can be sheathed with plywood after the rafters are set.  This roof pitch is 10/12, meaning that for every 12 inches of run there is 10 inches of rise. The steep pitch requires careful work.


Finally the structure is completely sheathed--a big step toward weathering in.


The shed addition can be seen here from the side.  Notice the white fascia boards installed in preparation for the roof shingles.


Back inside the structure, the second floor is built, using 2x6 tongue and groove boards put down individually.  The bottom of these floor boards will show as the ceiling below.


With the weather now turning bitter-cold and even snowy, a jobsite fire helps keep spirits up and to burn off scraps of wood.


With weather continuing to be an issue, the inside work continues.  Here the stair-stringers leading to the second floor are custom made on site.


The outside of the structure is made weather tight with shingles on the roof and building felt or "tar paper" on the walls.  Wood strapping is attached to hold the vertical barn board siding.  Window and door openings will be cut out later.


The pine siding lumber is delivered from a sawmill in a rough cut, green state.  It must be dried out as much as possible, primed with a solid stain front and back, and a shiplap profile must be machined on each board edge.


As the first siding boards go up on the corners, the window openings are cut out too and the eight windows are installed.


Each window is trimmed out as the siding is nailed up around it.


The entire building is sided, board by board, until only the large sliding door and double doors in the back are left.


From the second story a set of double doors opens up to the outside.  A beam sticking out from above lends authenticity to the barn structure, even though it won't be used to lift hay or straw up top.


Just as the siding is finished, another snow squall comes through overnight.


The structure now has taken shape as an old barn and fits more comfortably in its role.


The double doors in the shed area are installed, as is a sliding door under the porch roof.


Inside the main structure the sliding door is visible, as are the lights above.


The stairs leading up top are complete and the 6x20 entry vestibule is seen through the large opening.


The second floor is open with eight feet of headroom to the collar ties.  The double doors opening to the front can be seen here.


Inside the shed addition off the back of the barn you can see the crushed stone floor and double doors allowing large items like ladders to be easily stored.


The interior is finished off with simple, practical detailing.


The space inside the first floor of the main structure is substantial and open.


With the weather warming, a second coat of stain is added and the grass is restored around the structure.


An apple tree in front of the barn provides a beautiful contrast to the outline of the new barn.



Once in a great while I get to do some work for myself. Faced with the ever-rising clutter in our basement, garage and attic, we decided not to rent storage space but to build the kind of barn that would fit in with our semi-rural area and provide all sorts of room for keeping the things we hold dear.

A new barn must be built according to modern codes, but the character and charm of an old barn can still be created with careful planning and attention to detail.

Taking some time away from my clients, I undertook alone the challenge of raising a barn for our family. The main structure is two floors, each 24x36, with the bottom floor also having a 6x20 entry area. A shed addition off of the back of the structure adds another 12x24 area.

The photo series here summarizes the whole story from start to finish.

--John Painter, Owner