Since last we updated, PTF has been busy on a number of projects. The Northern contingent documented and dismantled a barn in West Poland, which will be repaired and rebuilt on a new site five miles away. The Southern contingent is repairing the trim on the Federated Church in South Berwick, as well as putting the finishing touches on some large sash for an historic gymnasium in York, ME. The work on the water tower at I-Farm continues, and will soon move on to the house. Two weeks ago, our best timber framers traveled to Reading, MA to assist Howell Custom Building with the raising of a frame at the Calareso Farm Stand in Reading, MA.
Projects like the West Poland Barn are our bread and butter, and we always feel lucky to get them, but this one felt especially fateful. One weekend weeks ago, Arron took his son on a drive to West Poland to inspect an old barn he had seen listed on a real estate website. When he got there, he met Charley, another potential buyer. The barn was for sale, but not land beneath it; it would need to be dismantled, moved, and repaired. Arron was interested in repairing the barn, but not owning it, and Charley was interested in the barn to shelter his draft horses, but needed someone to fix it. It was serendipity.
The first step in these old barns is cleaning them out, which can often take as long as taking them down. The floor and loft joists were compromised, and collapsing beneath the debris. We had to watch where we stepped.
The owner is an avid woodworker himself, and wants to save all of the viable sheathing. While it may not be reused as exterior sheathing, the wood will be good for stalls and smaller projects. With careful prying, the boards popped off whole.
We used a man lift to get to the badly deteriorated roof. From the inside, we could see that half of the sheathing had been replaced, along with a few of the purlins, but all of the rafters looked original, and old. Besides massive bat colonies, we weren’t sure what we’d uncover when we removed the roof sheathing. Unfortunately, eight of the ten rafters were beyond repair, and we were shocked to find that rafters as badly rotted as this (see photo, right) had simply been sheathed over. The sheathing looked relatively recent, and TimberLock screws were used to secure the purlins. While rot may have accelerated in the past few years, the rafters even then were not in a usable condition. On the bright side, the barn was raised high off of the ground, and nineteen out of the twenty posts will be reused with minimal repair.
After stripping the boards, we were ready to tag the building. We drew the frame using Google Sketchup in order to make tagging drawings and to create a model of what will need to be repaired and replaced. While this building needed to be dismantled regardless, in other buildings, this model helps us to navigate the road to repair. Each and every piece of the frame is pinned with a metal tag stamped with its unique code so that we can rebuild the barn precisely.
By Friday, we had the entire frame stripped and tagged, and Arron, Shawn, Dan, Wyl and Charley joined the West Poland crew for a crane day. It was a challenge. The first task of the day was using the crane to cut down a large tree that had grown up next to, and over, the barn. Additionally, many of the joints were nailed right through their tenons with enormous spikes, which weren’t always visible until the joint was being pulled apart. But we got the barn down safely, and are now in the process of organizing the pieces to store them at Charley’s new home. Before we can repair this frame, Charley has another barn on the new property that needs stabilization. When that is finished, we will use the space in the stabilized barn to repair this frame. Timber frame repairs are good work for winter.
Please peruse the photos below for more on our process: