Essential Steps to Successfully Restore a Barn

Does your barn need a little TLC? A thorough inspection is the first step. Check sill timbers, foundation footings, rafters and floor joists for rot, insect infestation and fungus growth.

Examine the roof during a rainstorm to see where water gets in and where drainage is needed. Consult a professional for permanent repair to restore your barn. Look for a contractor who likes working on older buildings.

Identify the Problems

While some may find old barns a nuisance, the structures can often be repaired cheaply. Compared to building a new house, barn restoration is less expensive and allows for tax credits or reduced property taxes.

Before beginning any work, the first step is to identify any problems the barn might have. Walk around the structure to look for leaks, rotting wood, and other signs of trouble. Use binoculars to see into upper-story walls and roof areas.

It’s important to also take note of any drainage issues the barn might have. Adding gutters and regrading the soil so that water will drain away from the foundation is important. This will prevent rot and other structural problems. Removing overgrown trees and shrubs encroaching on the structure will also help. It’s best to consult a contractor about these issues before you begin any work on the system.

Plan a Course of Action

It’s important to have a clear idea of your goals before beginning any renovations. A restoration professional can help with a more detailed site assessment and guide you through goal setting and establishing an action plan.

It is crucial to address structural issues promptly. A barn leaking or sagging can cause serious problems, including rot and insect infestation. Regrading the soil to promote positive drainage around the foundation is a good start.

A strong foundation also is essential. A professional must safely and securely jack up the barn frame and rebuild the foundation walls if the foundation is crumbling.

Many barn owners find restoring an old structure cheaper than new construction, especially regarding property taxes and insurance rates. It is vital to clearly understand your budget and timeframe before starting any work, and efficient lines of communication between team members should be established from the outset.

Essential Steps to Successfully Restore a Barn

Get Started

Many people find barns to be beautiful and historic pieces of architecture. Others appreciate them as symbols of America’s largest industry – agriculture. Still, others see the potential for old barns to be repurposed into living or commercial space.

Those who want to save barns can seek help through state-level programs that offer funding for inspections, grants, tax credits and more. In addition, people who love old barns often volunteer their time to help.

Once a plan is in place, contractors or consultants can be hired to do the work. A “time and materials” contract is a good way to decrease costs. It allows a contractor to fix problems as they arise.

Foundation problems such as a leaning or sagging structure and rotted sill beams – can be fixed by safely jacking up the barn frame, removing loose stone or concrete and rebuilding the walls. Effective grading can also prevent moisture from collecting and trapping pests under the building.

Finish Up

Many old barn owners seek to restore rather than tear them down. Rehabilitating an old barn on one’s property adds value and often results in tax incentives and lower insurance rates.

Start the restoration process by inspecting your barn thoroughly. Look for evidence of water intrusion, rot or pests and make any repairs promptly. Address structural issues, too – especially those that have to do with the foundation. Regrade the soil around the barn to promote positive drainage away from the foundation walls.

Some renovations may require adding new materials but try to limit these to period-appropriate items compatible with the structure’s vernacular. If adding in-floor heating, use wood stoves rather than drywall or gas logs. Plumbing and electrical wiring are also critical components of any barn conversion, so be sure to install these services in a way that will not compromise the integrity of the building. Likewise, ensure your heating and cooling system is properly sized and efficient to meet your comfort needs.

Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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