The barn at Topsy Farms was built in three stages, starting a long time ago with the most recent work done in the 50’s. 

Over the past half century, the concrete foundation at the N-W corner has shifted outwards because of inadequate weight-bearing base and possibly, the pressure of the materials inside, pushing out.  The foundation shifting has caused the vertical siding boards to shift too, curving out at the bottom.  When the rain comes off the end of the barn roof it soaks the boards which leach the moisture through to the big old hand-hewn wooden beams.  As they rot the barn settles more and the process accelerates.

Somewhat worn out

Somewhat worn out

Eroded hand-hewn beam

Eroded hand-hewn beam

The N-W sides of the barn – toward the prevailing winds – were the worst areas.  We needed to do the best job possible; accomplish the most repairs for the least cost, effort and time.  In the end, we scrounged virtually all the materials – almost nothing was purchased. “Someday it might come in handy” actually works.

Jacob first tore the worst of the siding off by hand and just studied the damage for a few weeks, contemplating the rot, forming a plan, knowing the look of it would drive his Virgo sensibilities crazy.  The timing was good; the end of winter before the lambing pressure ramped up.  Still, the work had to be done in fragments of time.

First job was to tackle the concrete foundation repair.  Where the cement had cracked and separated, he filled the space with wire mesh and injected concrete with special  adhesive properties, mixed in a wheelbarrow.  That was all trowelled smooth, to prevent water getting in further.

Old and new beams, concrete repairs and flashing - photo by Jake

Old and new beams, concrete repairs and flashing – photo by Jake

The beams were next; they needed to be jacked up and repaired.  It was a challenge to locate stable points for the jacks inside and out.  It was necessary to get the beam high enough to remove the old, rotted material with scraper, chisel, chainsaw and wire brush.  These larger gaps were replaced by segments of new/recovered material already in storage – 2 to 3 six foot chunks.  The beams less badly eroded were patched by sandwiching in good wood, using metal plates, screws, bolts and ingenuity.

Flashing was next – it is thin metal cut to length, about 8 inches wide, nailed to the top of the beam.  That was placed onto the beam, overlapping the top of the concrete foundation to direct the flow of any water/ice outwards.

Patching with wood, steel, concrete and mesh and a lot of ingenuity.  Photo by Jake

Patching with wood, steel, concrete and mesh and a lot of ingenuity. Photo by Jake

The siding was all salvaged boards we’d stored when one of our houses changed to metal siding.  The old stain had faded to pink so those boards are on inside out.  The windows were also reframed and flashed, so they are shaped to actually hold a window.

With reasonable conditions, this repair should extend the life of the barn for another half century.

Of course, there is still work to be done…

North side is done. photo by Jake

North side is done. photo by Jake