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Barn Building 101

We completed the expansion of our barn last summer, 2009.  We went from having an original 10x15 foot barn enclosure to a more reasonable 20x15 foot area.  This extra space has allowed us to grow our herd, have an enclosed milking and grain storage area, and be able to store half a ton of hay.  The entire barn was built using larch logs from a friend's hunting property that had been left on the ground after building a new road.  The logs were dragged to an open clearing on the property and were then accessed by a portable sawmill.  All timbers and siding used for our barn were milled on site and then transported by trailer to our farm.  The use of these fallen larch trees, which would have otherwise been left to rot, fits with our farm's mission of sustainability.  With that said, we'd like to discuss our step by step barn building process for those of you interested in how it works from start to finish.

We choose larch or eastern tamarack (Larix laricina) to build our barn.  This was the only wood used for construction, from the posts and beans to the siding.  This is a great wood to use for any outdoor construction.  There is a natural rot resistance to larch which is similar to ceder.  The main difference between larch and cedar is the hardness of the wood.  The combination of rot resistance and hardness makes it suitable for use as siding as well as for structural lumber.  Since larch is hard to get at your local lumber yard, harvesting it yourself and having it milled would be one of your only options to secure some.  If you don't have access to a stand of larch for harvesting or to a pile of larch logs, another option would be to contact a local sawmill that might have some on hand to sell you.  You can find more information on larch at the USDA website http://www2.fpl.fs.fed.us/TechSheets/SoftwoodNA/htmlDocs/larixlarcin.html.

Thanks to the welding expertise of Papa Beiter (Eric's Dad), we were able to pull 20 foot long logs out of the woods using only our John Deere 316 lawn tractor.  Papa welded us a log hauler trailer to attach each log individually.  Papa Beiter used scrap, steel piping to model the log hauler after some he found on the internet.  We now have a home built, log hauler that I have found a second use for; to tie up our goats to for hoof trimming, clipping and bathing purposes.  It took Eric and Papa about 8 hours to drag 40 logs a quarter mile to the clearing for sawmilling.

Our go to man is William H Bridges, a very knowledgeable and eager miller who operates his portable sawmill in Alleghany County, New York.  We have worked with him on several occasions and he is very personable and easy to work with.  The lumber specs we required were atypical and William was wonderful to accommodate our requests.  We received more board feet out of our logs than we would have using any other miller.  William's address is: 8527 Sawmill Run Road Little Valley New York 14755, and phone is: 716-945-2076 in case your out his way and need some rough cut lumber.  You can also find William's contact information at the following Woodweb site, http://www.woodweb.com/directories/sdd/posts/31.html.

This picture details the preparing of the logs to be then rough cut into timber and siding.  The logs are first squared, which removes the bark, and then sawed to the desired dimensions.  Larch wood has lots of sap in it and can gum up the saw blade.  William (Bill) has a special solution he uses to spray on the blade to cut down on the build up.  Even in logs that had been down for two years the sap came oozing out once the wood had been milled.

After sawing 40 logs our efforts produced enough lumber to build our barn, a 20x15 foot area, and have lumber left to reinforce fencing just outside the barn and shed for the goats.  Papa Beiter also got lumber to side his storage shed (10x15 foot).  All in all, it took a few days for the lumber project, beginning with log hauling and ending with lumber transportation to our farm.  The only cost involved was Eric's time and roughly $300 paid to William, our sawmill guy.  Not to shabby.

One important step in using freshly cut lumber for construction is to properly stack the lumber for air drying prior to use.  We let our lumber air dry an entire year before using it for construction.  The key to stacking is to make sure there is vertical and horizontal airflow between each and every board that is stacked.  To do this you must have available 2x2 inch square sticks (stickers) needed to separate boards from one another.  Eric and Papa used slab wood during sawing to make stickers about 5 feet long, knowing they'd need them for the air drying phase.  If your not able to use slab wood, you could always purchase these stickers at any lumberyard.  Additionally, you want to space the stickers no more than 2 feet from one another before stacking boards on top.  Lumber ends were painted with an aluminum paint mix (http://www.ehow.com/how_5732228_dry-wood-splitting.html) to prevent them from drying to quickly and splitting.  The paint keeps moisture in and allows the lumber to dry at the same rate, which is important to prevent the ends from splitting.

It was the summer of 2007 when we invited 30 friends and family to our "Barn Building Party."  Half of the guests came for support, and helped deliver meals and beverage to our hardworking crew of 15 guys.  Papa Beiter is featured in the picture, surveying the timber placement job.  The boys placed 6-6x6 timbers on concrete piers that were attached using brackets.  Plastic spacers were put between the brackets and the timers to lift them off the concrete and metal.  This practice helps reduce moisture in the wood to prevent rot.

Here, the barn frame is being assembled.  The timbers were notched using a chain saw.  The posts and beams are held together with threaded rods attached to metal anchors sunk into the posts.  The anchors have holes in them where lag screws were driven to help hold the posts.  Eric built a homemade guide that allowed the crew to match the lag screws up with each anchor.  The threaded rod portions were fit through the beams.  Once the nuts were tightened, the posts and beams were pulled snuggly together.  We added two king posts, one on each end of the barn (see picture).  At this point, the rafters went up and the barn frame was nearly completed.  The crew had a long day, but by the time the sun set Eric was ready to put up siding, but left it for another day.

We finished off the barn with a corrugated galvanized steel roof.  We also installed a clear, plastic roof panel as a skylight.  This adds light in the barn all year round and aids in conserving electricity.  Our barn is now complete.