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...or how we spent our summer vacation! In the spring of 1991, Ron, Elizabeth and their son Alex undertook the building of the first permanent structure on the farm.  It was a 24' x 40' New England style barn which would eventually become the farm's shop.  Ron had sketched out the design of the barn based on an article for a similar barn that he had read about in an issue of Country Journal magazine.   In theory, the design was such that it could be built by just the three of them over a two week vacation period!  Having never built anything larger than a deck for their house back in New England, they figured it would be good experience for the construction of the sheep barn and octagon house yet to come.  Camping out on site, here is how it went... more or less according to plan!

New England style post and beam barn, 24' x 40'


Day 1:

Previously graded, the site was ready for layout of 18 concrete pier locations.  The holes were drilled, 42" deep, using a tractor mounted auger.  Steel anchor bolts (1/2" x 12") and 'rebar' were ready for setting as each pier was poured from a ready mix truck.  The remainder of the day was devoted to organizing material, building a sawing station and a couple of heavy saw horses.  A 6KW generator provided power for equipment and area halogen lighting.


Step 1:  Site Preparation...
Step 2:  Setting the posts... Day 2:   The eighteen pressure treated 6x6 posts were prepared for mounting to the piers.  Galvanized steel base plates were installed on each post.  Level for each post was checked using an audible water level and the height was marked and cut.   To compensate for slight variations in grade, the heights were set from the top down.  Header cleats were nailed to the posts and they were set using temporary 2x4 bracing, then the beams were built in-place...
The beams were built using 2x12 x20' headers set on cleats along each side of the post tops.  A 2x10 top cap was installed and 2x6 blocking was placed between the headers to stiffen the beam.  Lengths of the 2x12 headers were staggered to avoid adjacent joints, e.g., some headers were started with short 2x12x10' lengths.  Temporary 2x6 bracing was used to stabilize the post and beam rows and 2x6 permanent diagonal bracing was installed for lateral strength. Step 3:  Setting the beams...
Step 4:  Installing girts and lateral bracing as we go...

 Day 3:  2x8 girts were run at the mid-line along the outside rows and served to stabilize the row and provide nailing surfaces for the siding.  Continued building the beams and installing diagonal bracing and lateral girts.

The entire structure was tied together using 2x12 header joists at each end of the structure.  2x8 girts were installed along the rear side and on half of the front, leaving one half of the front side open for a sliding door opening. 

Galvanized truss plates were used to connect the diagonal bracing to both sides of the beam headers.  This provided more strength than simple "toe" nailing.  A late afternoon spring shower presented a terrific picture from on top of the hill, but the resulting red clay mud made walking and work extremely difficult.

An emergency call was made for 30 tons of gravel to "pave" the work site!  With the mud under control, work proceeds...

Pause to enjoy the view...
Step 6:  tieing it all together... Day 4:

As we progressed, the structure was continually braced using temporary 2x6 lumber to stabilize the three post and beam rows.

Joist hangers were installed on the beam headers and 2x10 joists were hung between both outside beams and the center beam.

Day 5:   With the 40 joists in place, the structure became quite stable and the individual post bracing could then be removed.

Loft floor decking, 3/4" 4' x 8' tongue and groove plywood was then installed.   This tightened the structure significantly.

Pressure treated 2x8 girts were installed at ground level around the perimeter to provide a moisture resistant nailing surface for the siding

Step 7:  Decking the loft floor...
Step 8:  Setting the ridge board... Day 6:

With the decking completed, the first of the two twenty foot ridge boards was set in place using temporary posts and braces.  The ridge board is stabilized by two rafters on each side.   As rafter installation progressed, the second ridge board was raised and connected to the first using metal tie plates on each side, bolted through.

Rafter hangers were used along the ridge board and hurricane plates were used at the bottom end of each rafter.

Once all of the rafters were set and the gable end framing and siding was installed, the temporary posts would be removed leaving a fully unobstructed loft bay area.

The ridge is ready...
Step 9:  Running the rafters... Day 7:

Continued setting the rafters and with all 42 rafters finally in place, the tongue and grooved plywood roof decking installation could begin.  The roof decking was done with the same material as the loft deck, 3/4" 4' x 8' tongue and groove plywood.  We found it somewhat difficult getting the sheets up on the roof and finally settled on the rope slide technique shown below. 


Note:   With personal safety a primary consideration, we constantly clean up and clear the work site of debris... an injury to any one of us would bring the project to a sudden halt!   The weather turned extremely hot for early June with temperatures approaching 100 degrees   We took to afternoon siestas to avoid the heat of the day (98 degrees was the hottest it got!) and worked late into the night using the generator powered halogen lamps, since the temperatures dropped dramatically after the sunset. Step 10:  Decking the roof...
Step 10:  Decking the roof... Day 8:

Roofing continued, working alternate sides... the resulting shade under the structure was a great help.  We stopped roofing temporarily to begin installing the 1x12 ship-lap siding, which was milled locally with one side planed smooth and the other side rough sawn.

We could then work in the shade of the structure with minimal exposure to the direct sun.  Eureka!


Day 10:   The siding went rather fast... and again, with each side completed, the structural strength and stability increased significantly. 

Then it was back to roof decking... fortunately, the weather had finally turned slightly cooler, and we were able to work throughout the afternoons.  We left openings at the bottom of the roof deck on both sides to later feed shingles from the loft to the roof work area.

Step 11:  Installing siding...
Siding complete... roofing continues... Day 11:   Roof decking continued and the first rows of shingles could be started, but first, metal drip edge was installed along all exposed edges of the roof decking both horizontal and vertical.  Soffet vents were installed along both sides of the roof eaves to provide adequate ventilation for the loft.

Over twelve squares of architectural grade shingles were used and each of the fifty ninety-pound bundles had to be hand carried up the ladder to the loft!

Day 12:

The final roof decking line was installed and the aluminum ridge vent was nailed in place.  The shingling took much more time that anticipated and progressed in an "up then across" pattern to minimize the need for constantly moving the temporary cleats which were nailed to the roof deck.

More roofing...
Step 12:  Installing ridge and shingles... Day 13:

Roofing shingling continued with frequent breaks from this irksome chore to install the 2x4 gable end framing and siding and to fabricate the 10 foot wide sliding door for the entrance to the barn.

Day 14:

Roofing and siding continued... The access openings were the last to be closed and shingled over.

The sliding door is so heavy that we will need additional help to move it into place... it  has been built inside the barn using 2x10 cross braces nailed between two sets of posts as a work platform!  Ron and Alex cannot lift and move it!!!

...and more shingles...
Step 13:  Installing gable ends, windows, door and such...

With help from our good neighbor Oliver Lewis, Ron, Alex and Elizabeth, are finally able to man-handle and slide the door into place where we jack it up onto the roller track!

A double sliding window is fabricated from two barn sashes and installed in the rear gable end to provide light for the loft...

Day 15:   Finally we complete the roofing and front gable end, but not before a massive horizontal 6x6 beam structure is built into the front top roof rafter ridge to carry a large block and tackle system for hoisting heavy loads into the loft.

This wraps up the vacation schedule... the loft door opening is temporarily closed with plywood.  The permanent loft doors will have to wait for a return trip!  Wearily, we head home to New England the next day.

Sliding door...
...and you were wondering why we built a New England style barn? Epilog...

Some may wonder why we built a New England style barn here in Virginia...  Our first winter in residence here (1994) gave us the "Winter from Hell!"  During one storm, we had over three feet of snow... which this barn roof shed quite nicely!

Ron had to shovel snow from the sheep barn roof, which wasn't quite up to New England standards!

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 Saville Hill Farm & Studio
Last modified: February 11, 2011