Got An Old Barn? Here’s How To Do A Maintenance Check


Barns these days are being used as party halls and guest rooms; sometimes they’re even turned into full-on homes. And while Pinterest is getting more and more pins of ideas, some of us still have barns as they were created to be. We may not need to renovate it to include a guest room or a bar (although that’s not a bad idea…..) but it could still use a few updates.

If you have an older barn, then it’s wise to give it a check for potential problems. The older and common method of “post and beam” construction was used on many of the farms here in America. The method made some strong barns, but over time these barns develop wear and lose integrity. Whether you’re hoping to do basic repair and maintenance or you’re looking to do more intensive restoration, there are some simple basics to address.

Check The Foundation

Many barns have been built with a foundation consisting of dry-laid stones. These foundations are susceptible to water damage from rain as insufficient drainage can cause stones to shift and loosen over time. This can lead to bulges and dips that can cause the entire barn to shift. Concrete and mortar foundations are also at risk of compromised function, with cracks leading to problems. On top of water, foundations can be damaged by tree roots, frost, and clay soils. If your barn is exposed to any of the above then a thorough check is a must.  


Inspect The Framework

Woodwork is vulnerable to water damage and insect damage, so everything will need a thorough check to ensure integrity. Pay special attention to the rafters as they’re especially vulnerable to water damage rafters. The sill is also in need of a good look over as it’s more susceptible to rot.


Investigate The Exterior

With the foundation and framework inspected, the next thing to check is the outside. The barn’s siding, roof boards, and shingles should all get a critical gaze. Look for damaged pieces to be replaced as well as loose parts. If roofing happens to consist of older wood shingles, consider replacing them with a more durable and water-resistant option like asphalt shingles or a metal roof.


Consider The Function

If you have an old cow barn that you intend to use to stall horses, then you may need more headroom. Raising the barn or digging down into the floor may be necessary if you’re going to need a taller space. You’ll also want to take the seasons into account while you’re at work. Important weatherization precautions will help to prevent bacterial growth, mold and rot, and rodent infestations.

If your barn qualifies as a historic building then you may be eligible for financial assistance. It won’t cover renovation, but restoration efforts may be tax deductible under the federal rehabilitation tax credit.

With the basic check done, repair and restoration can now commence. At this point, you’ll need to determine whether or not to involve a professional. It is possible to do basic DIY projects yourself, and some people are even equipped to handle more detailed barn reparations, but accidents can happen even with the easy stuff. A compromised foundation and woodwork that’s fallen victim to water and insect damage is very, very vulnerable. Put pressure in the right spot at the right time, and a barn can come crumbling down — with you beneath it. Be smart and safe with your repair. Hiring help can be intimidating, but writing up a strong work agreement with your contractor will make all the difference. Even if you’re a DIY pro, it’s never a bad idea to bring in an expert for consultation or advice. 


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