It had been at least seven years since Jim first told friends of ours that he would straighten up their leaning barn. Unusual for its “T” shape, the antique barn was showing its age. Every passing year made the already obvious lean all the more evident. Every storm involving high winds awakened thoughts of impending disaster. There never seemed to be the “right” time – or sufficient time – to fulfill the promise. Enough was enough… it simply had to happen. Now. The barn had tilted so much that it was impossible for the doors to operate. It had been reduced to little more than light storage, and a leaking roof limited even that function. There was no use in putting a new roof on a collapsing barn; it had to be righted and stabilized first.
The big event finally happened – in two stages. The process began in mid-September. The barn was given a few weeks to adjust to the first manipulations it received, and then the process was repeated. Once coaxed back into something closer to its original form, diagonal bracing was installed throughout the interior to prevent any future movement. Jim and David did all the hard work; my role was quite minor and involved occasionally tightening two come-alongs and helping to document the event! While not perfectly plumb, the barn is much less contorted than it had been previously. It’s just part of the character that gives old barns – and houses – much of their inherent charm!
Destruction of some siding was part of the inevitable collateral damage associated with the techniques employed; repairs or new siding will rectify the situation in the future. A new roof is being planned! Step by step, the barn will be given a new life – and in return it will give back another century of service. The following photos – as well as a short, one-minute, video (the first on AO!) – document the process:
The historic T-shaped barn leans significantly to the East at the start of the rescue.
The extent of the eastward-lean is also visible here. Though in shadow, “barn quilts” attached to the side of the barn can be seen. They are here aligned with the horizontal siding and will later serve as a barometer of just how much the building was adjusted.
The barn waits patiently as help arrives. Jim had previously braced the structure with beams to prevent further movement. A beam in the center of the wall spans and braces an opening; a cable crucial to the process is centered in this beam. The cable runs through the barn and emerges at ground level in a doorway at the opposite end.
The Southeast corner’s brace. The other end of the beam rests in a hole dug in the ground.
Everyone is curious about what’s going on! You’ll hear these girls later on in the video…
The doorway on the west side clearly demonstrates the eastward lean when compared to the vertical freezer chest stored inside.
This angular post also emphasizes the problem!
East side. In addition to the cable passing through the center of the barn, Jim has attached chains and cables to each corner. They, too, will emerge at ground level on the west side.
West side. The corner chain (seen in the previous photo) is connected to the cable (barely seen at right) passing through the wall where siding is missing. The center cable is attached to a come-along which in turn is attached to an antique buggy axle (seen behind four-legged Pearl in this photo). The axel was driven into the ground adjacent to a concrete slab. Wood beams span the barn door opening and reinforce the buggy axle. Yes; that’s the barn door we’re standing on! Photo courtesy of Diana.
Neighbors loaned their front loader for this special occasion! David drives it to the barn and positions it for the first push.
Watch as David pushes the barn upright and Jim ratchets the come-along to take out the resultant slack. The movement can best be seen in the wheels of the front loader and the droop of the cable:
If the video above doesn’t play, click on the following link for another version: Clip68 (1) copy AO1
A 2×6 was placed on the corner prior to the front loader’s coaxing to protect the structure. A serious dent is visible in it! Sam and Jim watch as David applies pressure to the other corner.
I had to tweak the contrast in this photo because David was in shadow. He looks happy, doesn’t he? I asked him if it was fun to push the barn into place and he just laughed and enthusiastically said “Yes!”
The angularity of the barn quilts reflects the movement accomplished by David’s efforts; they are no longer aligned with the siding.
That wrapped up the first day! After a few weeks of rest, the barn is tackled again…
Jim begins to prepare the wall for some more coaxing… Photo courtesy of Diana.
…and ratchets the come-along as slack is created. The barn quilts are becoming even more torqued! Photo courtesy of Diana.
Pushhhhhh….. Photo courtesy of Diana.
And now the other corner… Photo courtesy of Diana.
Jim and Sam place beams at the corners to brace the barn until diagonal bracing can be installed inside. Photo courtesy of Diana.
The following photos were taken today, and show how further wind- and gravity-based deterioration has been stymied:
Using salvaged lumber, Jim created a network of diagonal bracing throughout the interior. This will discourage the barn from leaning again!
Remember this post? It’s the same one seen in the seventh photo! There is still a slight angle to it, but it is much improved!
Diagonal bracing stabilizes the interior wall at the “T”.
Let’s go up to the haymow! A surprisingly beautiful newel post anchors the balustarade. Made from a 4×4, its heavily chamfered corners create an octagonal shape. It is somewhat more sophisticated than what one would normally expect to find in an area barn. This place was clearly loved when built — just as it is now.
Jim has thoroughly braced the haymow as well!
Standing tall and proud again!
Damn near plumb!
Can you believe it? Yes, this is the same West end we saw previously!
A few repairs and a new roof will make this barn productive for a long, long, time!