General Tips on How to Maintain or Repair Older Barns

Old barns are still useful and considered beautiful for many people. It makes good economic sense that they should be maintained. They can provide valuable storage and workspace. Furthermore, rather than building a replacement, being able to adapt them to new uses ensures finances are put to other good uses rather than paying interest on a bank loan.

How to Maintain or Repair Older Barns: Old wooden red barn
Old wooden red barn

Taking care of rather than replacing things whenever possible is a tradition many Canadian farms have kept to for hundreds of years. Today, many farmers who have older barns face the challenge of preserving their old barns and keep them from falling down. So, what can you do?

What to Know Before You Begin Repair & Maintenance

When setting out to repair a barn, it’s most important that an owner looks after the structure from top to bottom and all of what grows around it. With a sound roof and decent foundation, a barn can survive for a very long time. Overgrown vegetation is the biggest culprit in the downfall of neglected barns.

Leaks and banged-up roofs are common with swaying branches of trees. Shrubbery is capable of holding moisture and organic debris against the wooden sills causing them to rot. This causes settling, which makes the roof lose integrity and causes leaks.

Barn Maintenance and Repair Steps

The first thing to have in mind when preserving your barn is to determine what the objective of the project is. Are you looking to keep your old barn from falling apart, or looking to create another use for an abandoned building or to authentically restore the structure’s integrity? Whatever you are looking to do, here are some steps old barn owners should keep in mind.

1. Landscape:

Take out overgrown shrubs and trees that block the building. This ensures you can see better what you are dealing with and avoid damaging the foundation, siding, or roof that these plantings contribute to.

2. Observe Closely:

Check foundation still or framing timbers for hidden rotting wood using a hammer and chisel or a flathead screwdriver. Check for plumb in walls and posts as well as floors for level. Check back to see whether the roof sags. Check the condition of roof shingles using binoculars. During a downpour, walk around the barn to see where the rain gets in and wherever drainage problems exist.

3. Set Goals:

Are you looking to keep the barn standing or you are looking to develop it for new use, preserve, or to get back in its previous conditions? Are you going to do it yourself or are you going to hire a professional barn restorer? You can get a one-time quote for a “work time and materials” contract instead of a one-price bid. When it comes to old barns, there are many unknowns. But to keep control of costs, you have to tackle the project in stages.

4. Make a Plan:

Make a plan that addresses the problems you’ve identified and your listed goals. Determine how you will finance the work and what season you want to do the work. Exterior work can be done in spring and fall while interior work is best done in summer and winter. To start, make a list of deadlines to consider and all the necessary tools you need to buy or rent. When all of this is settled, then you can begin work.

5. Fix Roof Leaks:

Fix roof leaks by keeping rot from spreading, you might need to apply a tarp or inexpensively replace a few bad shingles until the structure is stabilized due to repairs to the foundation and return to its original shape.

6. Foundation and Drainage:

Fix the foundation permanently and address any issues that concern damage. Leveling will alter whatever repairs you’ve made, so besides a temporary roof patch, don’t blow money and waste time until the foundation is solid. You may have to engage a stonemason for the stone foundation. Professionals know best how to jack up a barn to replace rotten sills or repair a stone foundation.

7. Roof Repair:

Once the foundation has been set, begin to repair the roof. It is essential to keep a watertight roof. Roof boards, rafters, framing, and floors can get rot due to water from a leaky roof and even damage whatever is stored in the barn. Once every year, ensure you check your roof to ensure it is watertight. Scan the outside with binoculars, follow the rows where roofing overlaps as well as all flashing. Spend more time exploring potential problem areas where roofing or flashing might fail like ridge valleys, surrounding cupolas, intersecting walls, and anywhere snow and ice can drop from a higher roof.

8. Interior Design:

Repair framing, floor, and other interior elements. The most common interior maintenance is typically done on flooring. Flooring and joists can easily damage roof leaks and decaying hay. Clean and sweep clean floors yearly to access their condition.

9. Siding:

The least critical component that ensures your building’s safety is the siding, so you can leave this for last. Original siding adds greatly to the character and appearance of agricultural buildings and is typically a good indicator of age. Thoroughly access any surface decay near the ground or on the roof to ensure your structural problems, and any other serious problems are well known.