Restoration of old houses is popular today. Some people are also taking the time to befriend old barns, finding that they hold many secrets and that each one has its own charm and mystery, pleasing proportions, simple natural lines and offers an integrity of design not available in standardized construction.
Historic barns have been relocated to become beautiful and unique homes, places of business, community meeting spaces and storage facilities, as well as traditional working barns. There are as many uses for a relocated barn as there are types of barn.
People are buying barns for $5,000 to $25,000 and turning them into homes; others keep them as barns. Last year, an unwanted barn from Saginaw County, Michigan was sold to a builder who transformed it into a $400,000 house in a wealthy Philadelphia suburb.
Urbanization and specialized farming trends have made large, traditional barns obsolete.Throughout the farmlands of the United States there are white barns, red barns, barns with six-faceted gambrel roofs, and barns with pointed gable roofs, double dormers and geometric decorations, unpainted barns; barns with German or Polish names painted above the doors; barns with green roofs, red roofs, barns with “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco” yet faintly painted on the side.
Interestingly, the most important part of the barn is the barn frame and the most interesting component of any barn’s construction and character. The exterior siding or roofing, as a rule has been neglected for years. Although old barns have withstood heavy snows and strong winds, many for almost two hundred years, many are unexceptional and many more have deteriorated beyond repair. A barn is basically a framework of solid timbers clothed with a replaceable exterior skin that when carefully dismantled and restored, can be given a new location and a new life.
A large attraction of the barn dwelling concept is the idea that no two barns are exactly alike. Thanks to the enormous flexibility of the frame, the possible configurations of personalized living spaces are unlimited. The exciting challenge is to create wonderful living spaces which make the most of the antique posts, beams, rafters, etc. However, just as in planning a conventionally built home, decisions must first be made about your personal needs and preferences. Because your barn dwelling is basically a custom house, there are no floor plans from which to choose. You, as the new owner of an old barn, begin with a large-volume shell, and you must first decide what it will contain….. how many rooms of what size, their relationship to one another and the approximate overall square footage you will require. When your preliminary planning has been done, it will be much easier for you to choose a good barn that is worth the effort of dismantling and reassembling elsewhere, and that best meets your requirements.
Those who wish to include a vintage barn frame in their construction plans must be sure to direct their resources wisely, be very selective about the barns you choose, and seek professional help. There are specialized programs, nationwide, promoting the preservation and use of historic barns, and encouraging preservation as a practical alternative to new construction.
Resources: Barn Again, Washington DC
The Barn People