Kris Smith
About Author
May 4, 2018

The Barn

"I am always humbled by the infinite ingenuity of the Lord, who can make a red barn cast a blue shadow."

-E.B. White

I believe our love of barns was first born during the three years we lived in Moscow, Idaho, while Curtis attended the University of Idaho Law School. The amazing landscape surrounding Moscow is called the Palouse. It is a 4,000 square mile region of rolling, asymmetrical hills composed of loess, a rich soil made up of dust and silt accumulated over thousands of years. It stretches from north of Lewiston to the southern end of Lake Coeur d'Alene, extending across the state line to Colfax and Spokane. It is rich, fertile farmland that produces primarily wheat and legumes. Traveling across the Palouse is like riding a golden quilt that is blowing in the wind. Dotting the landscape are perfectly painted, brightly colored barns of all shapes and sizes. During our scenic drives, so many years ago, we never dreamed we would someday have a barn. Mostly because Curtis was going to be a lawyer, not a farmer!

The opportunity and responsibility of actually owning an old barn is both wonderful and overwhelming. On one hand we have the desire to maintain the historic integrity of the structure. On the other hand, we want it to be a fresh and updated space for our specific needs.

Unfortunately, we have found that during the past 100 years, former owners have made repairs and alterations to our barn that were driven only by utility and function, not beauty and longevity. Repairs were made with whatever materials were available. Doors were cut out to facilitate additional access for livestock. Windows were pieces of glass framed between wood with no option to open. Much more recently, lofts were added without properly supported floor joists. All in all, the barn was most beautiful when viewed from a distance.

After much research and thought, we decided that for our purpose of facilitating large outdoor gatherings, we would strive to preserve the overall appearance and integrity of the structure along with upgrades for safety. The fun part is that we have decided to add a few modern touches that will increase the charm and functionality, as well as extend the life of this historic beauty.

The Cleanup

Our youngest son, Alex, spent several days last summer removing most of the "stuff" that was left behind by decades of prior residents, including livestock.

Assessing the Structure

Even though the barn is approximately 100 years old, and still standing, we had concerns about the structural integrity and stability. We were worried about safety, as well as the wisdom of dumping $$$ into a building that might fall down in a stiff wind. We had several professionals, including contractors, engineers, and old carpenters, give us their opinions and advise. Curtis and his brother Kellan, put together a game plan to sure up all the necessary supporting beams and walls, mostly just replacing rotting wood. An order was placed for lumber at BMC and two days later, it was delivered.

The roofing contractor made a few minor and inexpensive recommendations for the roof that we will do before next winter.

Opening for the New Main Door

We have decided to put a large garage door in the center of the barn. To do this, we had Joshua of Harrow Construction cut and frame the opening, adding the necessary header. This has also given us a convenient opening to work through. Garage door installation is the last things we will have done.

Removal of East and West Short Walls

Unfortunately, the short walls on the east and west sides had extensive rot and at some point some vertical wood and a partial wall of river rocks and concrete had been added. The rocks were stuck to chicken wire and were not even attached to the barn. The windows were etched with hard water and didn't open. The biggest concern was the condition of the supporting wall of 2x6's.

"Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one."

-Sam Rayburn

Not sure just where we fit in with the above quote, but we decided to tear everything down to the studs, and replace them one by one, basically rebuilding both walls, entirely. While we were at it, we also framed for four new windows. Because we had flexibility on the size, I found a super buy on bronze, Anderson windows at Home Depot, that had been returned. We ended up with the color and style windows we wanted at a 60% discount.

One of the most difficult jobs we counted on our BYUI students was chipping out the old concrete. Part of the barn floor had livestock stalls and a long concrete trough. We had three guys running two jackhammers and hauling chunks of concrete and rock to the dumpster. Our good neighbor came to our rescue with his backhoe and made much quicker work of it. Thanks Dave!

We've been referring to this side of the barn as Beirut, for obvious reasons.

Over a month ago, while researching online, Curtis found the perfect product for the lower part of the exterior walls. Because we have snow several months of the year, it's best to have a more weather worthy material on the bottom 3-4 feet. The lack of this was evident by the current condition of that part of the barn. On one end, there was a rotting wood pile that was frozen in a chunk to the barn until the middle of April.

Before Curtis applied the steel, he covered the wall with plywood sheeting and Tyvek for a moisture barrier.

Curtis ordered 4'x10' sheets of metal to cover the entire perimeter. The metal sheets rest on a track and the drip edge caps the top. He is applying vertical metal straps every 16" to add dimension and to cover the seams. Overtime, it will naturally patina or rust to the desired orange-red. The metal sheets came from Bridger Steel in Montana. It is my favorite detail, so far!

When the metal arrived we scrubbed each sheet with Dawn dish soap. The manufacturer recommended this so that the metal would start to naturally rust as soon as the coating of grease was washed off. We had a rain storm the day after Curtis hung the first side. You can see where the rain water had splashed up on the metal. Overtime, it will all even out.

New Cedar Siding

One of Curtis's favorite lumber suppliers is Rustic Lumber in St. Anthony. His first introduction to Rustic Lumber was when he bought the cedar siding for our Westmoreland home. Quality products and great people to work with.

Many times when Curtis has court in Fremont County, he will hook up the trailer and drive the pickup. I know he has plans to see Spencer and return with wood for his latest project.

This batch of cedar is beautiful and smells so amazing! The guy in the flannel isn't too bad either.

I LOVE how the metal is already rusting! The next challenge will be to stain this new cedar, along with the original cedar and make it one beautiful RED BARN.

"I compare myself to a good barn. You can have a good barn, and if you paint it, it looks a little better. But if you take the paint off, it's still a good barn."

-Dolly Parton

Stay tuned.....

More Posts

You Might Also Like

Read More

Historic Home for the Holidays Tour

We thoroughly enjoyed participating in the 2019 Historic Home for the Holidays Tour, benefiting Promise Ridge, a women and children homeless shelter.
Jan 11, 2020
Kris Smith
Read More

Farmhouse Facelift

Whitewash is simply a mixture of lime and water that was painted on houses, barns and outbuildings as a cheap and easy way to make them look attractive and clean, while providing an antibacterial finish that was resistant to mold, mildew, and weathering.
Dec 4, 2019
Kris Smith
Read More

Sweet Sixteen

On December 31st, our baby girl turned 16! It doesn't seem possible, but the gray hair and wrinkles tell me it's true. For her birthday gift, she asked if we could please, finally, finish her bedroom.
Feb 20, 2019
Kris Smith
Follow Us

We’re on Instagram