How do I preserve the architecture of my grandparents' farm
August 23, 2006 2:19 PM   Subscribe

How to architecturally preserve elements of my grandparents circa 1875 farmhouse and 1940's era barn without hiring an architect.

The barn is on its last legs, the roofing has been blown away, allowing water into the structure. The house has fared better, but only due to my families' efforts to keep the roof on and the mice out. I've taken pictures in the past, but they may not be the right shot. I just need some guidance as to what to do.

Since I'm returning to graduate school, I'm unable to afford the services of an architect, etc...
posted by bach to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
 
I am not clear on the question. Do you mean that you live in the house and are renovating it? Or that the home is empty but you want to slow its decay? Or?

If no one is living on the property at all it is going to be hard to preserve. The barn needs a roof, or to be torn down. Keep a decent coat of paint on the house as well as a tight roof, and don't let brush grow up right against it.
posted by LarryC at 2:43 PM on August 23, 2006


Not living in the house...just wanting to preserve the idea of the house and barn to maybe rebuild it in the future.

Thanks
posted by bach at 2:57 PM on August 23, 2006


You're leaving a lot of info out...
Where are you?
Describe the construction type and finishes of the existing structures--and I mean floor, ceiling, walls, roof.
What do you mean by "architecturally preserve"? Do you really mean "fix"?

If all you're doing is repairing what's already there or trying to reconstruct something to look like what used to be there, you won't really need an architect anyway. My first step would be to call a couple general contractors and have them look at what you want to do on site. If you think you can trust them or what they propose sounds reasonable, have them give you a detailed bid, with line items for all the work they'll be performing. Compare what they've got on their list to your mental list (this is where an architect can save you money--their mental list will most likely be much better than yours) and see if anyone's missing anything big that would affect their bid price. It's always good to get three bids, and don't automatically go with the low bidder.
posted by LionIndex at 2:58 PM on August 23, 2006


It sounds like you are either trying to:

1) preserve the layout, design and measurements of the house within a series of house plans so that you can RECREATE the house at a future date? (Maybe using some of the physical elements of the original structure?), OR

2) save the current structure from falling into further disrepair so that you can renovate/restore that specific structure?

If you are trying to preserve the plans and some elements, see if you have a university or even high school near you that teaches drafting and/or architecture. Perhaps re-creating the plans for the structures could be a student project. Take detailed photos of every room from every angle, including the floors and ceiling. Take a complete series of exterior photographs. The photos should cover larger spaces (such as a room or wall) and separate photos can capture individual elements (doorknob style, trim style, window style, etc.)

If you are trying to keep the house from deteriorating further, that is more difficult but not impossible. You can access the National Park Services' Historic Preservation Briefs for structures...these are extremely helpful to old house owners. The book, Renovating Old Houses, is the old house owner's bible. You are going to want to focus on keeping elements OUT of the house (precipitation, humidity) as well as rodents and so on. As you discovered with the barn, this is going to require attention to roofs, flashing, brickwork, exposed wood, foundation, etc.

If you want to eventually rebuild the house from old house parts, well, the sky is the limit. Doors, windows, trim, built-in's, light fixtures, appliances, floors...all of these elements are often reclaimed from old houses and used in newer structures. You need a system for labeling and identifying the placement of the elements and a clean, dry, safe storage space.

Best of luck.
posted by jeanmari at 3:59 PM on August 23, 2006


The buildings are located in Southern Middle Tennessee

jeanmari hit the proverbial nail on the head, so to speak.

1) preserve the layout, design and measurements of the house within a series of house plans so that you can RECREATE the house at a future date? (Maybe using some of the physical elements of the original structure?)

The real concern is attempting to document the current state of the buildings so if/when I do rebuild them, I'll have more than my memory to do the job.

Thanks for the comments, please keep them coming.
posted by bach at 6:06 PM on August 23, 2006


I would try contacting someone at MTSU's Center for Historic Preservation or your state historic preservation office. They would probably have the best contact information for area experts. They may also have students willing to do documention and conditions assessments for you (maybe for a fee, maybe as part of a class?).
posted by stefnet at 6:26 PM on August 23, 2006


The Secretary of the Interior has standards for preservation that includes preservation (mothballing it basically), restoration (repairing it), rehabilitation (repurposing the building like turning a mill into loft), or reconstruction, which is kinda frowned upon. Usually the building are in better shape than you think, so think about stablization methods first.

http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/tps/standguide/
posted by stormygrey at 6:26 PM on August 23, 2006


Architects are like english majors. Get a structural engineer.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:48 PM on August 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


Plenty of architects are knowledgeable in historic preservation, which includes the physical preservation or restoration of building materials. They are also usually very experienced in documenting existing structures through field work. A structural engineer, as much as they deserve professional respect, is unlikely to record the aspects of a building that make its character, or be familiar with the techniques of preservation.
posted by vers at 7:33 PM on August 23, 2006


We've been preserving some ancient barns at my grandfather's for many years with the aid of aluminum roofing panels (about 4' * 8', cheap, and not unattractive once the whole roof is replaced) and replacing rotten-out posts with lolly colulmns. Together we've saved three barns inexpensively and without too much work. Not the same as a true restoration, but it doesn't sound like you're up to that now. Note: roofing is ALWAYS dangerous--even most professionals I've met have had bad falls. And if the barn is really structurally unsound, any work inside it could be perilous.
posted by armchairsocialist at 7:40 PM on August 23, 2006


Do the roof first. That's the source of most of your problems.
posted by electroboy at 7:30 AM on August 24, 2006


Architects are like english majors. Get a structural engineer.

????
Structural engineers can't draw for shit, come up with a flashing detail, or plan spaces. Get an architect.

The real concern is attempting to document the current state of the buildings so if/when I do rebuild them, I'll have more than my memory to do the job.

Call a local architect's office to see if they'll let someone do measured drawings of your buildings or visit a local architecture school and put an ad up on their bulletin board. It depends on how big your place is, but you sholdn't have a problem hiring someone to do the job for about $100, plus or minus. Take lots of photos yourself, including ones of how the rooms lay out and every little detail in the place: moldings, eaves, baseboards, door and window casings, countertops and edges...etc. For some details, it may be useful to hold a ruler up to what you're photographing for scale.
posted by LionIndex at 11:04 AM on August 24, 2006


« Older Slashdo's and Slashdon'ts.   |   Registration free daily newspaper sites? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.