TURNING OUR BARN INTO BUILDING SPACE

As Doug and I start to build our house, I find myself thinking about my parents first building project.  When my parents married, my father built their first house out of two Sears pre-fab garage kits.

My dad laying a simple, but amazingly lasting foundation for his first house -that is still occupied, though now in the middle, rather than the edge of Monticello IL.

His father and uncle helped him, and they did every bit of the work themselves.

That's my grandpa with the pipe. The smell of his cheap, cherry tobacco smoke is blended into all my childhood memories of his farm.

Doug and I are not building our new home by ourselves.  We are working with many different specialists: architects, cement shapers, timber framers, carpenters, straw-balers, plasterers, stone masons, excavationists, electricians, plumbers, people who sell wood burning stoves, and solar heating systems, people who etch concrete and make cabinets and millers.

Many of these people are willing to let us work with them as enthusiastic assistants.  That’s what feels right to us.  We will hopefully end up in a house that, while we didn’t do everything ourselves, we will understand every step and have a hand in as many of the building processes as possible.

We started the project with some elm that the timberframer who built the barn left for us, but it wasn't enough.

This fall and winter, our major job has been completing the floor in the loft of the barn so that we can move most of the things that have made their home on the barn floor up and out of the way.  The barn floor will become the timber framers’ workshop.  Our builder wants to start shaping timber frames this January.

Flooring the loft, which looked reasonably simple before starting, turned out to be a complex and labor intensive project, (see my post Salvaging Old timbers for a New Barn Floor

We finished securing the last batch of 2-inch thick planks into place on New Year’s Eve day.

The next step was to get a railing up.  I don’t want anyone to tumble from our newly completed loft to the concrete below.  My imagination is too vivid for my own good.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty ….

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall....

Originally we were planning to make the railing out of some interesting saplings we have been collecting, but that would have taken a lot of time – and time is in short supply at the moment.  So we settled for a more conventional  railing design.

We treated the fresh pine with a linseed oil and minteral spirits solution, using up some old cans from our paint supplies. That made it feel less raw than all the weathered wood around it.

We were able to get pine “2×4”s for the railing from the Ridgeway Lumber Company, in the little town of 660 souls a mile north of our land.  It isn’t locally sourced wood, like the wood in the house will be, but we did support a local business that is run by very friendly and helpful people.

How much does all this stuff weigh? I'll soon find out.

I wish I could end this with a photo of our clean, and empty barn floor, but it doesn’t exist yet.

Our next task is to pick a major fight with gravity, and lug all the stuff that has accumulated on the main floor up to the new loft for the duration of the building project.

Shaping the timber frame can then begin!

It was so exciting to walk among the timbers in late December with our architect and builder and decide which forked timbers will be used where in the house.  (See my post Turning Trees into Unmilled Timbers. ) I’m going to be following my favorite trees all the way through the process.

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5 replies

  1. Your barn looks beautiful. My own memories are filled with the scent of my father’s tobacco. It may not be politically correct, but I was sad when he gave up smoking a pipe.

    • Hi Lorijo,
      Yes, I feel the same. Just remembering my grandpa’s pipe conjours all kinds of memories of the wonderful smell of his little barn with three milking stations, the chicken house, fresh mown hay, the diesel tractor fumes, and home-made sasafrass tea. they all smelled great to me, but the diesel and the pipe smoke, and probably other smells as well were not exactly health promoting.

  2. A pulley sounds like a good idea, but we’ll probably just start hauling. Some things can be rolled around the outside of the barn because it is built into a hill, and the loft comes out onto higher ground in the back. It’s going to make for a good aerobic day or two, that’s for sure.

  3. Thanks for the old photos. Those Sears home kits are an amazing part of our history of building homes in this country. And it’s great that you have those photos of your family building the home that they lived in. Many of those houses still exist, and I lived in one in Madison for awhile in the 80’s. It’s still there!

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