Below are photos of a barn I just finished rehabilitating.  Located in western Allamakee County, this small 12’x18′ building was built by Norwegian immigrants sometime in the latter decades of the 19th century.  Very similar to the Norwegian-inspired two and three room plans, this building consists of a main room, or stue, and an attached forstue.  The stue is log and the forstue heavy frame.  The upper level was a hay mow, and the bottom an animal shelter, likely for cattle and pigs, and later on for chickens and rabbits.

The building was a complete wreck when I found it, having been neglected for decades.  It had sunk a good foot into the ground, rotting out the bottom three to four courses.  I ended up replacing sixteen logs.  The roof was completely rotten, too.  About three quarters of the aspen pole rafters had rotted, and every last roof board was punky.  The whole roof had to come off and be reconstructed.  The building was originally set on small rocks set directly on the ground.  Realizing this wasn’t adequate, I had to elevate all four corners and dig and pour new corner piers.

The barn will be used as a bunkhouse for family vacations.

This project took about 260 hours to complete.

Jacking up the building is actually pretty easy. You just need to have a creative mind to envision how the building could fall apart and compensate accordingly. I use wood or cement block cribbing, bottle jacks, and heat tempered blades taken from the buckets of road graters and excavators. Build cribbing inside and out, shove the blade between the log courses, and start pumping. The bottle jacks are a pain, though, as they only raise about three inches, most of which is spent pushing the cribbing down into the earth. It becomes a matter of pumping, wedging, relieving the pressure, repositioning, and more pumping.

The posts that form the forstue had rotted at their base, causing the west third of the building to sluff off.

New dovetail joint. The logs were never stripped- good in that it provides a rough surface to mortar to, bad in that it encourages powder post beetle infestation. The joinery is shaped with my trusty hand axe.

The entire roof had to come off. The plate logs split at the junction of the forstue. I didn’t want to replace these pieces, though, so instead I connected them with metal plates.

The building was originally set on the dirt. Once all the logs had been replaced, I jacked all four corners up and dug holes and puddled them full of concrete. I then sat stones on the concrete and lowered the building down.

Naked: notice the way in which the forstue was framed. The plate logs extend outward and are capped by vertical posts. Getting this all aligned and set was tricky. The vertical posts rest on limestone mortared to the tops of concrete pours. I drilled holes into the limestone and epoxied in 6″ pieces of stainless steel rebar. I drilled holes into the bottom of the posts to accept the stainless steel treading and epoxied the whole thing together. The entire time I was devising this elaborate and unnecessary complex scheme, I kept going back to the idea of digging a hole and burying them in the ground like they were done originally…

Now we’re getting somewhere! I had to custom shape every aspen pole. I made the two outside sets and strung a line between. I then had to measure from that line down to a point on the plate log and shape every last rafter accordingly. Like the logs, I did this with a hand axe. And since the the aspen were highly irregular, I had to hew their upper face flat to accept the roof boards. A very long and tedious process!

Finished product: I shingled the roof in first grade 16″ cedar shingles, the original roof treatment. Notice the scale treatment on the boards of the gable end. That was not original nor appropriate. But it looks cool!

The original building did not have window frames, windows, or shutters. The original gable end doors into the hay mow were converted into windows.

A beautiful setting! The original log house is background right. Unfortunately its roof wasn’t maintained, either, and is beyond salvage. It will be taken down next spring.

2 thoughts on “Barn

  1. limewindow

    An excellent job with no effort spared! The shingles look great – and so do your (inappropriate) 🙂 scale treatment – shows that tradition can be enhanced when done with care. Certainly makes a neat little residence. Built to last too – very well done.


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