06/02/2008: "Saving the Barn, Part One"
The title of this posting is no exaggeration - saving the barn will truly be a multi-part effort. Nate and I managed to get started on the project this past weekend, and I think that the small investment in time and 2x4's will go a long way toward keeping the barn upright.
The barn sits at the edge of the bench that overlooks the swale and pasture. It is roughly 50' x 50', with a basement, main floor, and hayloft. At the time I bought the property I was told it was "one of the last surviving three-level barns in Oregon..."; of course, now I think that is utter real estate seller tripe, having encountered several such three-level barns in my limited travels! Still, i think it is worth saving, though Nate has his doubts, I think.
The bottom level of the barn is sort of a daylight basement, with one wall fully below grade, and the two side walls partially below grade. The wall that is fully below grade has been deteriorating for some time; there are alarming cracks in it from the pressure of the soil and water, and I have worried for three years that there will be an ultimate failure. I've gotten some advice on how to deal with it: first and foremost, there needs to be drainage on the outside of that wall, buried in the soil, to carry away water. Then, the foundation wall needs to reinforced or replaced. The barn will need to be supported during that operation; my friend Bobby gave me some old barn beams which Nate and cut up into three foot sections. We're going to stack them like the cribbing that house movers use to support houses when they're being lifted off their foundations. In the photo below you can see Nate measuring some of the beams for cutting to length.
While we were doing our measuring and cutting I was talking to Nate. We didn't have enough cribbing to make two towers, one for each of the major east-west beams. I was musing that there must be something else we could do, because once the wall goes the supporting post beams are just going to fall over like match-sticks. Voila - the posts need to be reinforced so that they don't fall over like match-sticks! D'oh! It really shouldn't take an engineer three years to figure this out, but it did.
So, off I drove to Home Depot, and loaded up a bunch of cheap construction lumber. I figured on four braces for each of the four posts, which came to about $40 - way cheap. We got a few braces put up a week ago, but ran out of battery power on the driver drill; I came back this week with two charged up batteries, and we spent an hour getting them fastened onto the posts and beams. Now the posts are much, much stiffer, and less likely to buckle even if the foundation wall gives way. And even the odds of that happening diminish during the dry season, so I've got a couple of months to ponder our next move, which is probably to build forms on the inner foundation wall, and then pump concrete in to form an extra thick foundation wall next to the existing wall.