In previous posts, I’ve alluded to the fact that there’s a big remodeling project in the works here. A project involving timbers from an old barn, being repurposed in our also-old house. That’s been ongoing for a few weeks now, and it’s been interesting, to say the least.
First, play some Twilight Zone music in your head… and then imagine if you will… a world with disruption of impressive proportions…
I guess I should stop watching the HGTV shows, because all I do is criticize them. But really? Where is the reality of the challenge of the home owners and the builders harmoniously co-existing? Because it IS a big challenge. A VERY big challenge. For us, with the disruption and the mess, but also for the workers – with the obstacles they have to navigate in order to do their jobs.
The room where the work is being done here is UPSTAIRS. Not just ordinary upstairs, but through the garage, then a sitting room, then my office, past a cranky little dog, around a U-turn, up fourteen steep steps, onto a landing, past a cluster of five doors, and finally through a skinny hallway/laundry room upstairs. There are EIGHT different doorways to pass through. There is no other way to get there. Except via aerial lift through the window (but we will get to that at another time).
So here I sit working, listening to all manner of sawing, hammering and noises I can’t even identify – as well as the pitter patter of BIG feet up and down the stairs as all these guys schlep through the house for tools and materials needed. They have a big trailer parked in the driveway, containing what must be a bazillion different tools. And as life usually goes, apparently everything they need is still in there, in spite of the fact that armloads get carried up every day. As we get further into the project I will share some more revealing photos, but for today we are talking about trials and strong backs.
I’ve seen plenty of strong backs at work throughout this entire project. First, when the barn was torn down (details here) and now as the timbers have been processed and are making their way into our house.
It was freezing that day, and this handful of guys extracted an entire barn’s worth of timbers from storage, carefully loaded them onto trailers, and took them back to their shop to be cleaned, de-nailed, sorted and plans made for their use here in our house. It took over a week for Rob and his crew working from sunup to sundown to get the West 20 barn torn down and the timbers stuffed into this storage barn – this crew had them pulled back out and loaded in a day.
Except for this one. The crew boss (Jake) took one look at it and said they were NOT taking it back to the shop with them because it was full of bugs. It didn’t look that different than the others, but he showed me the evidence by flaking off some of a corner. He sure was right – Rob cut this up to burn in the fireplace and there was bug damage all the way through to the center – the entire length of the 30’+ long beam. Two sections like shown here would burn for about 10 hours. I don’t know the BTU rating for bugs, but maybe that contributed to the long burn time.
Above is the room where the work is being done. We added it a few years ago after the garage came loose from the house and we had to replace it. That’s a long story for another day, but to make it short, this room was added mostly to keep the house from looking dumb (who wants a dumb house?). Rob finished the inside to this point himself so the cost to add this extra square footage was really reasonable since the footprint of the garage was already there. We had no plans for it, and never dreamed one day that God would orchestrate circumstances such that this space could look like a beautiful hay loft.
In these pictures you can see the ONLY new wood that will be used in this project. It’s tongue and groove cypress brought up from a lumber mill in Tennessee. Although we salvaged every bit of siding from the barn that was torn down, it still was not enough. The barn had been repaired and added onto over the years; none of the siding matched, although it was all painted red. At any rate, Dean at Timeless Barn Company suggested the cypress because of it’s attractive grain and the way the color coordinated with the antique beams. I was nervous about new wood going up beside 130+ year old wood, but we are thrilled with how it looks so far:
This beam is called the “ridge beam” and it spans the full length of the room. Early on, I had promised Dean I would not be a PITA (Pain In The Ass) throughout the project, but I sorta was on this issue; it was important to me that these long beams were utilized in one piece if possible. The first crew worked hard to get them down intact, and there was a bit of drama surrounding their loading and transport:
A few years ago, after the barn demolition crew we hired had finished their work and left the job, leaving massive stacks of beams strewn in what was the barn lot at the site. It was up to Rob and I to load them onto his lowboy trailer. It went pretty well with the shorter, larger timbers as he fit them like a puzzle into the well of the trailer. But when we got to those long ones – it seemed there was no way it was going to work. I was tired, and had had enough. I thought it was ridiculous to keep them that long – they were protruding off both the front AND the back of the trailer. I begged him to just cut them shorter and get it over with. He refused. I was annoyed that he was being so stubborn about something that was surely not going to work. But I watched, not once, but THREE times as he balanced those 60′ beams on the forks of the machine and carried them across the rutted barn lot to the trailer.
So now, once our room is finished, we can sit in there and recollect the time we spent NOT killing each other as we struggled with this hard project, for which at that time there was NO REASON, and NO PLAN for. I am not sure if we should be embarrassed. Or proud? For sure, that was a trial before the trials that were (and are) to come…