Behind my in law’s home in Holland Michigan lies a old chicken barn. The low 100 foot long barn has been used to house horses for the past 30+ years. In that time, it had never been well refitted for horses, and suffered a bit for it.
Over the past two years, the kids have gotten old enough to appreciate horses. Liz, my wife, re-discovered her love for the equine, and immediately started her new hobby – horse trading. The horses were getting as wet inside as outside with the leaks, and the barn was starting to fall over just a bit too much.
It was time to fix it. In the Summer and Fall of 2006 we rebuilt the barn back to a functional state. This article documents some of the detail of that project.
There are many images of the barn at Flickr
Due to erosion along the south side of the barn (and rain leaking in from the roof), the poured foundation had be slowly falling over. further inspection showed that it was still stable in the ground, just leaning. It was good enough to build upon, if the erosion and roof leaks were taken care of.
I sank some 4×4 posts along the south foundation in a vain attempt to support it from any further shifting. It might help, but the posts only go down about 3-4 feet. Just a bit further than the foundation itself.
Much gravel and sand was brought in on the south end to shore the ground up to a good level to match the foundation. That, and proper drainage slopes were added to carry water away from the barn. This has proven to help greatly.
Since the foundation was shifting, so was the south Wall, and as the south wall leaned, so to did it take the roof and the north long wall with it. It was starting to look really bad.
In order to gain access to the barn’s structure, I had to pull out an old fiberboard ceiling. This was about the most disgusting job I’ve ever done. Over many years, chickens had roosted up in the ceiling. There was a 1/2″ layer of dust and chicken droppings. That, and eggs! Ancient eggs, from chickens long gone by, would fall on my head as I pulled the old ceiling down, in pieces. I wore a mask as not to get some strange chicken dust disease. I removed the ceiling and stalls to give clear access to the barn’s walls and roof.
My Dad came up for a weekend to help me shore up the walls, and get the barn square once again. Through a series of jacks and come-alongs, we pushed and pulled the barn square once again. Once it was all propped up square, we built a new south wall inside the old south wall (that didn’t come quite back to the top of the old foundation, and built new stalls.
The core of the rebuilt barn are the stalls. They are made with heavy treated lumber that can withstand the the pummeling of horses, and hold up the roof. The key to the success of the new barn stability were these new stalls. The old stalls were attached to the ceiling, floor and walls. They didn’t contribute to the overall structure of the barn itself. The new stalls attach the the foundation and roof, adding support to the old barn.
As mentioned before, there was a serious erosion problem on the south side of the barn. As the earth washed away, the barn was starting to as well. The doors to get into the stalls were cut out of the side of the barn, yet left the foundation in place. In the wet months, a mud hole would form in front of the stall entries, as horses worked to step over the foundation.
We used a bulldozer to create a slope away from the barn, and then added crushed concrete with sand on top. I also rented a concrete saw to cut away the foundation so we had a smooth transition into the stall.
This alone was a great improvement.
The chickens liked it too.
The old roof was bad. Beyond bad. Much of the interior of the barn would get wet during the rain. The stalls were a mess due to the extra moisture being added to the waste on the floor. But it could not be fixed until the rest of the barn was. And now it was! Within just a couple days we installed the new roof, and the barn dried out. Great!
Problem ensued, however. The low eaves on the roof posed a challenge for the horses as it is. The addition of the sharp edge of the roof caused further problems! Two horses were injured navigating doorways and bumping their noses into the roof edge. OUCH! It’s amazing however, how well they heal up from these somewhat ghastly wounds. But it will never do!
To alleviate the problem, added a curved section of PVC to the eave above the door. This acts as a nice bumper. Since these were added, there’s been no more horse injuries.