Old Barns | Repair – Conversion – Salvage

Old Barns covers repairs on doors, broken framing members, and damaged metal roofing. Also includes jacking and leveling, conversions, and other renovations. Learn how to salvage valuable materials.

Old Barns – Roof Repairs

Perhaps the most common scene for old barns in need of repairs is one of wind damaged metal roofing. Aging metal roofing on these buildings is prone to being blown loose from its fasteners by a strong wind gust. The fastener of choice for most of the 20th century was roofing nails fitted with a washer. The metal of choice for the same time frame was 5 “V” 24″ roofing metal. This traditional metal is still available off the shelf at most farm supply stores.

Use the same type of metal for the repair as the metal that was damaged. A mismatch here would create nothing but an eyesore. It really does not matter about the fasteners being the same, so we recommend using 1/4″ hex head self drilling screws with rubber washers. These screws are available in many colors and lengths. Even thought they are expensive, their ease of use and superior performance more than justifies them.

The damaged metal is often left “peeled” back on one end with only a couple of nails holding in on. The old metal must be completely removed and the battens cleaned of any nails. If the battens or any other framing members are in need of replacing, this is the time to do it. If the complete board can not be replaced then it should have a healthy “scab” nailed on it. For example, a 2 x 6 x 12′ rafter broke in the middle can be scabbed back together by nailing a 6′ length of 2 x 6 on the side. This is much like a splint for a broken bone. It does not offer as good a repair as replacing the entire board.

If the damage to the roof is too extensive, then you should consider installing a new roof. For more details see How to Install Metal Roof.

Remember, the most important thing here is safety. If you are not experienced with climbing on roofs and do not understand how to properly maintain proper safety practices then DO NOT DO IT!

Old Barns – Jacking and Leveling

Natural changes from erosion and/or settling from inadequate foundation strength can lead to situations where sections of old barns need to be raised. Often this is a simple matter that can be done with a 5 ton jack and some digging around a settled post so a better concrete footing can be poured around it once it is lifted to its desired position.

If the problem involves more than one post and require several inches of jacking, then the only safe way to do it is to use multiple jacks (10 ton or larger) and scotch up your progress every chance you get. If the damage has occurred slowly over period of time, then the posts will likely need replacing or at least some attention at the bottom. This may include sawing the post above where it is rotted and adding a length of post back to it with at least two 6′ x 2 x 6’s nailed or bolted into both the old post and the new section.

Make certain the new footings you dig are deep enough and have enough diameter. If possible make the holes so 20% of the overall post length will be buried in concrete. They should at least be as deep as solid ground or some other¬†impenetrable barrier. A good rule of thumb for the diameter is 12″ for 4 x 4 post, 16″ -18 ” for 6 x 6 post, and 24″ for 8 x 8 post. This amounts to the hole’s diameter being 3 times what the square post size is.

Old Barns – Renovations and Conversions

The possibilities for conversions for old barns are limited only by the imagination. The first and foremost of all renovation and conversion projects will almost always include adding a floor of some sort. Concrete works best in most cases, but if the situation demands a wooden floor then see Barn Loft | Floor Construction.

Barn doors can be quite heavy and often find themselves not working working properly over a period of time. Sometimes this may be a simple matter of jacking up the settling side of the door and adding a better “X” brace. Sometimes the repair involves replacing much of the original wood. Be sure to match the original wood as closely as possible. In worst case scenarios, the entire door must be rebuilt. For more details see DIY Barn Door.

Adding plumbing and electrical services is also a common. These services generally require inspections and permits and should be dealt with accordingly. If you are not completely familiar with these processes, then hire a professional. There are some things better off hired out.

If all or part of the building will be heated, then proper insulation will make it much more worthwhile. There are a number of options here, but generally the more you invest in insulation, the more “R” value you end up with.

A good coat of paint on the walls and roof can bring old barns back to life. Choose a quality brand for better application and longer lasting protection.

Old Barns

Note the condition of old barns such as this one can quickly be determined by the straight roof lines.

Old Barns – Salvaging

Some old barns are just too far gone. For these unfortunates their is nothing left for them except demolition. Before you call in the heavy equipment their are some things you should consider. First of all, the metal on the barn’s roof has immediate value as scrap metal. this type of steel is acceptable at virtually all recycling centers. Although it is thin, its weight can really add up. This metal is also valuable in certain areas for being just what it is, barn metal roofing.

No matter how bad of shape the entire barn is in, there is probably some lumber that can be salvaged. This type of recycled lumber can have infinite potential for agricultural purposes. Some of this lumber can also be good enough to plane down and really have some beautiful reclaimed wood. This is labor intensive, but can yield some really unique lumber.

Old barns dot the landscape for any countryside in America. Some have stood for decades; holding their own in their constant defense against the elements. All of them need attention at some point in their lives. It is up to you whether to prolong their life, or to make room for something new.