Ontario Barn Preservation

How to Maintain your Barn

6 simple ways to ensure more longevity out of your barn without big investments

6 simple ways to ensure more longevity out of your barn without big investments

Water is one of the worst enemies of your barn. Water can get everywhere and if it can’t get out or dry out it will cause various forms of damage!

Drainage

Make sure that the grade around your barn slopes away from the building at least what we call 2% or 1.15 degrees. That is a very low slope so more is always better. Look around the barn are there any low wet spots or does the landscape further beyond the barn direct water towards or away from the barn. Change the slope to protect your barn.

Take a close and careful look where the bank meets the barn if you’ve got one. Often I see the bank has eroded and there are many places where water can sit, or seep into the foundation wall. Again, make sure everything is draining away from the barn. If there are retaining walls, make sure they aren’t creaked, leaning or creating pockets of water along the foundation.

Eave troughs, just like your house they need to be kept clean and in good repair. Eaves troughs that leak water damage the siding, and can seep along the foundation walls causing freezing and creaking. Then make sure the downspouts are connected and drain away from the building and the grade slopes away at the discharge point. Even better add some rocks, or a french drain at the discharge point to ensure seepage and reduce erosion. So get a long ladder, a skyjack, or a extension pole and clean and fix the eavetourghs!

Roof

Make sure the roof is complete and doesn’t have any major holes. Steel is the best protection for a reasonable price. If you need to patch, repair, or replace make sure you ask for barn steel, it is thinner and can be more cost effective.

Siding

Same deal with the siding. Make sure the rain can’t get into the barn by replacing any cracked, broken, or missing boards. We don’t have to make it water tight, just protected from major water ingress and damage. If the siding is worn thin , consider doing a full replacement in the near future. I often see siding being replaced with board and batten, it may be cost effective, but it is not very authentic, and wouldn’t recommend it. In fact vertical siding without battens is best as it does allow air flow to dry the barn out when it does get a little damp. This is the natural seasonal cycle of a barn.

Keep it clean

If your barn has old hay and straw in the upper level, clean it out. Straw and hay are great at holding moisture and will damage floor boards and rot timber posts. It s a big job to remove and clean out, but think of it as a quintessential farm experience; forking hay! (But its not essential that you do it during the hottest day of the summer!)

Repair Visible Damage Early

Do a review or have someone experienced do a review of the barn. Look for rotting posts, sagging timbers, leaning posts, and crack in foundations. These could be more major renovations if the barn hasn’t been maintained but if caught early can be simple repairs, but if left too long can continue to cause damage and the repair job in the future may be unfeasible or even impossible, thus leaving the barn to fall over completely.

If you do find cracks or loose mortar a simple patch recipe (from Jon Radojkovic, restoration carpenter): fill in with pre-mix mortar or 1 part Portland cement and 4 parts brick sand.

Remove Vegetation

Trees, shrubs, and grasses give barns a aged, and wise look. But tree and shrub roots are a great way to crack foundation walls and allow water to do further damage. Clear them away. And keep grasses cut. Grasses can retain moisture and can cause rot along the base of siding and timber posts.

Keep an eye on your barn, go visit it once in a while. It will tell you what it needs and if you maintain it, the costs of repairs are much more manageable and simple. We thank you for looking after your barn for everyone to enjoy. I look forward to driving past it one day!

Author: Krista Hulshof, (contributions by Jon Radojkovic)

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