Monday, October 26, 2009

'I use to live in a Barn!'

When I lived in PA, I bought an empty 50' by 40' bank barn and 4 acres.  I thought I was going to tear it down and build a house.  My friend convinced me to re-model the barn into a house.  We started the project in February and moved into it in late August.  At that time we had no inside doors, no heat, and no water.  We had a drywall party with about 10 couples helping.  Only 5 people had ever drywalled.  We put them in separate rooms and handed the crew 16" sticks.  "That is what you use to know how to nail the drywall." 

After a few years of work, room by room, the barn became a home.

Two thousand square feet in the basement, 2000 sq. ft. first floor, 2000 sq. ft. on second floor, and about 1200 sq. ft. in the attic.  It had 4-5  bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a 2 story entryway, and a 2 story setting room off the end of the upstairs.  In fact, you can just see a 6' hexagonal window near the peak.  That was the highlight of the setting room upstairs.

Most of the siding was from fir strip  batten boards that I got from the Amish lumbermen. We bought the windows and made our own framing.  All the trim wood was 4" or 6" pine boards.  The flooring on the first floor was from old boxcars.  The flooring was tongue and groove, 4" thick boards that were 1' by 12' long and made of laminated strips.  I bought a whole truck-load of them for $400.  I had to hand chisel off the old bolts.  After the flooring was layed down, remember this was an empty barn with nothing inside but hay, I rented a large drum sander for a week to sand the floors.  Then I put down 2 coats of gym sealer.

A funny story about the stairs.  I had a section of scaffolding set up in the entry room with a piece of flooring  running on it over the stairs to the beam so I could put up drywall.  I had to go down the stairs and get some more nails and as I was hurrying back up the stairs, I forgot to look up and wham, my head hit the plank across the stairs!  My head was bleeding across my forehead.  I hurried to the ER and had 6-8 stitches.  Feeling like I better get some more work done, I headed back to the barn.  As I started back up the stairs, I suddendly remember the plank across the stairs.  Yes, you got it....back to the ER to have some more stitches!   Twice in one day,  Did I ever have a lot of explaining to do!

The scaffolding was right beside the stairs and over to the beam.  Every beam was preserved and visible in each room.  I had to frame around the inside to make the walls.  Finally, we had to cut the beams in several places for doorways.  I wasn't sure the structure could take cuting the beams, so I hired a guy to put steel rods across the barn in both directions and bolt them to large steel Ss on the outside.  We carefully cut the doorways one at time and the building held!

This shows the front of the house and the 2 story entry room.  I saved some of the old roof slate and covered the bottom half of the entry hall wall opposite the stairs.  Some more of the slate became the panels for kitchen cupboards.

The counters and center kitchen island were made with some of the flooring.  This window looks out the north end of the barn and the deck.  I boxed in a walk-in cupboard for food and pantry items.  There was an old iron stove converted to propane in the corner that was used for holiday cooking.  We used the new stove for everyday use.

Off of the kitchen was the dining room.  The kitchen and dinning room were 20' by 20'.  You can just see the plank flooring in the kitchen.  I lined several doorways with small barn beams. All the decorating was done by my talented wife.

This is a middle setting room between the dinning room and the living room.  On the left side of this picture would be the back of the barn.  Being a bank barn, the first floor starts at ground level in front and looks out the back one story up.  Understand?  On the back wall I installed  double glass doors that opened to nothing...but a 16-18' foot drop. Why?  It was cheaper to use glass doors for window that were floor to ceiling. Never got around to putting on a back deck 16-18' tall! But I did keep the doors bolted and locked!  Not to keep people out, but to keep people in! :-)

This is a view the back half of the living room which was 20' by 40'.  To the right was windows on the back wall and straight ahead was the south wall. It really looked like a place out of "Country Homes" thanks to my wife.

This is the rest of the living room and shows the handcut barnstone fireplace that continued up from the basement, past the living room and then up into the upstairs setting room and out through the roof. I started building the chimney and got up to the first floor when I assessed my work.  Then I hired a stone mason to finish the fireplace.  It had 4 flues.  One for an oil furnace, one for a wood-burning furnace, both in the basement, one for the fireplace and one for the small wood-burner in the setting room.  It was very difficult to heat this place, after all, it is a barn.  I had insulated it as much as I could and still keep the beams showing in each room.

We hand-cut 14-16' christmas trees for the entryway for a few years, until we went green with a very large artifical tree.  It just wasn't the same as hiking out to the woods to cut our own tree.  You can see the grey slate wall behind the tree. This was a great house for the holidays and celebrating.  I had many of my graduate classes out for the last class of the semester.   I once found high heel marks/holes in the flooring after one such party.  I was in 'hot water'.

This is the deck off the kitchen on the north side of the barn.   It had some nice shade and was handy to use by being right off the kitchen.

The basement held the two furnaces and we cemented in the floor.  I sided the back overhang in as a 15' by 50' garage.  I then took my chainsaw and cut a doorway into the basement and straight out the middle of the garage.  I found 4 large glass doors for windows and made two large sliding doors for the openings.
What a lot of work!  My Dad came over for a week to help me when I was building.  I hired two recent HS graduates to be my work crew and together we got most of the siding and framing done before I ran out of money in June.  Then I worked by myself and friends would come over and help on the large projects.  It was fun but it was impractical for just two people.  We did have over 10 university students rent rooms 1-2 at a time, each semester.  They became part of the family.
 What happened to the Barn?  It is still there in Slippery Rock.  When I divorced, my ex-wife got the Barn and I got my retirement $$!  Not a bad deal!  She is happy and so am I!
Besides,.......did you ever see the movie, "The Money Pit".  I lived there!  :-)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting the 'finished' barn. I was around when it truly was a barn and just turning into the house. We moved before you did all the special hand work. It really is a magnificent project and yes "money pit". Glad you are now in a "happy place" M.