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How did I ever live without a barn?

That is the $64,000 question right there. Except, it doesn't have to cost anywhere near $64K to have one. This barn is the other half of the greenhouse kit we bought from the nursery that was going out of business. You could feasably build a 4x4 pole structure with a low budget, and it might even be easier. This barn, which is 48'x30'x12' cost under $3000 total. Dirt cheap for the amount of storage it provides. Dirt cheap, also because the main ingredient in the most expensive part of the build (the concrete) was essentially, dirt.

Putting up the hoops

Since I already showed how we dealt with the support poles of the house, I'll show how the structure went up here. The hoops come in two pieces, one fits inside the other at the center of the radius. After putting a bolt through at the intersection, Mrs. Pilgrim and I wrestled the thing up, and placed her end in the support pole first, then back to the other side to put mine in, while she steadied it at her end.

All the hoops up

As long as there isn't a gale force wind, and the support poles are anchored well, they can free stand in the supports just fine. It only took about an hour and a half to get all 13 of them in.

Anchoring the hoops

Since the support poles are cut to create a 1" in 12' slope end to end on the roof, the hoops have to be anchored in the same relative way. There is a swedge marks where the hoops are bent to go vertical into the support poles, we used the bottom swedge mark to line up with the top of the support pole, then drilled a hole through both the support and hoop for a 3/8"x3" carriage bolt, which I'm shown here cutting off the extra half inch of, with my handy-dandy cordless reciprocating saw.

Connecting the hoops

When the hoops are just connected to the support poles, everything is really flimsy, since the fit is loose. There are three connecting pipes that go the length of the building, and connect to every hoop. We had to measure between each support pole, since they are not perfectly 4' on center, then use the average of the two measurements between the hoop I'm attaching, and the last one attached. Here, I am playing Cool McCool. That was the name of a cartoon character I used to watch when I was a kid. His motto was, "Danger is my business." After this flirtation with death or dismemberment, I bought a taller step ladder, and a man lift to do this kind of work, and parts of the roof. Working on a ladder stood up in the bed of a pick up is just plain stupid.

Attaching the corner brace

The corner brace runs diagonally from the bottom of the fifth hoop to the outer connecting pipe, and attaches with a different kind of clamp. Once these are up, the entire building gets rigid, so it's important to have the end of the building steadied by a helper and kept plumb while you attach them. I found that out the hard way, and had to undo the first one and start over with it. It only has to be held plumb at one end while you get both corner pipes attached, because the connecting pipes will pull or push the other end to where it needs to be, providing the hoops were spaced properly along them.

Pouring a foundation for the soleplates

This isn't the recommended method, but it works out here where it's an arid climate. We need to get this building up in a hurry, so we set up some 2x4 forms spaced at 3-3/4" apart, and leveled them across the width of the building. We only need these at the ends, because the sides will have 2x4's screwed to the support pipes for the siding. On forms we marked the 16" intervals where our studs would be, and once the concrete was poured and trowelled, we stuffed 5/8"x6" bolts into the wet concrete, with the hex heads down and centered between the 16" stud marks, with about 2-3/4" protruding out of the concrete, then trowelled the concrete around them, again. When the concrete dries, we have some heavy duty anchors for the soleplate. In this case, we're going to have two soleplates on the foundation. The first course is pressure treated wood. Using a tap hammer, we lay it on the bolts, and lightly tap down to mark the board with the anchor bolts, then drill a hole with a 3/4" diameter paddle blade hole saw. Using a washer on top, run the nut down tight, but not so tight that it pulls the bolt up through the concrete. Concrete has low tensile strength, and can fracture if you're really reafing down on those nuts. A second, regular 2x4 is drilled with a 1-1/8" paddle blade, for a hole big enough to allow a socket wrench to be inserted around the nut, should you need to and will be put over the treated board.

Studding the walls

The first stud is notched out and attached to the hoop with a wood to metal screw, and toenailed with screws to the soleplate. Not quite sure why we took this picture. Seemed like some sort of landmark. Note the stud locations on the soleplate. Also, note the fact that I forgot to add the regular 2x4 second soleplate. I finished the garage and entry door end that way, then had to go back and cut boards to fit between the studs. The second soleplate is only there to attach the siding.

Walls and headers complete

Note the heft of those door headers. The door headers for the 16' garage style door in front here, and the barn style doors at the other end were built with 8' 2x4's, waterproof wood glue, and some screws on the top and bottom courses. Total cost was $65. I believe they wanted somewhere in the neighborhood of $125 for a lamina beam that wouldn't have been quite as beefy. I started with two courses laid on a flat surface (my trailer) with the board ends staggered 32", and clamped it for a full day. A 32" stagger is ideal, because at any given seam, you have four courses (two on either side) holding it together. Once the first two courses are dry, I put them up on the double deadheads of the doorway, and built the rest of the header in place, clamping each course for an hour or so to let the glue set before putting another layer on. At the barn door end, you can see the stantion I built to support the center, that was a quarter inch taller than the deadheads to achieve a crown in the header. This crown allows the header to settle over time, and remain level across the middle. I used a 3/4" (1x4) board to fill the gap between the header and top plate bringing the total thickness to over 15".

The barn door end

Here is a better view of the barn door end of the building. The barn door opening is 10' tall, and the cripple studs being attached directly to it and the hoop, reduce the need for such heft. That one is 12" thick.

Siding the barn

Siding is easy, so detailing the process is unnecessary. However, on a building like this, the siding should go on first, because it's easy to hold the piece up there, and mark along the hoop for cutting. If the roof were up there first, it would a tough job to cut the sheets to match it.

Double soleplate closer look

Here is a little better view of how the double soleplate looks and how it's attachment lines up with the studs.

On with the roof

Here I am putting the last panel of the roof on. Installation is the same as what's covered in the "Starting the Build" section.

Inside the roof

Here is how the metal roof looks inside the barn. I like it so much, it's tempting to try putting another layer on the inside, even though it would be a trick getting around those connecting pipes and clamps.

Breather vents for the barn

Breather vents are added to the end walls to allow the building's interior to normalize with the temperature outside. Otherwise, the roof will sweat a lot during cold periods. It will still sweat some, but not nearly as much.

Attaching the breather vents

A pretty simple process to attach the breather vents. Cut a hole between the studs large enough for the formed portion to go through, then attach the trim frame over the flange on the outside.

Setting up to pour concrete

Setting up the concrete forms is the first thing. Tying in scrap lumber to support the form holds it in place and at the right height. Once the forms were set up, I took a wheelbarrow around on the property and picked up rocks to fill the form, leaving 3" or more to the top of the form for concrete.

Tying across the entry door

Two 2x4's are screwed together at right angles, then attached across the entry doorway to hold the wall flat. Due to board warp in the studs, the little wall between the garage door and entry door was twisted just a little. This set up kept it all straight as an arrow while we poured.

Not quite on the level

The inside form is set level to a 2x4 sitting on the soleplate foundation, in other words, level with the top of the first soleplate. The outside form is set level to the foundation height. Between the two forms, the concrete will be trowelled on a slope to keep water from entering the barn under the doors.

We're talking "dirt cheap"

In a valley on our land, there are three dry riverbeds that converge. When it rains, this type of fine gravel gets pushed into quite a few areas. Much of it is the consistancy of what an anthill is made of. In some spots, it's more the consistency of sand. I bring both up to the jobsite, and keep them close but seperate. Throw 10 shovels full of the heavier ag into the mixer, 5 shovels full of the sandier ag in, and 5 shovels full of portland cement. Turn on the mixer, and slowly add water 'til it's about the consistency of molasses. If the mix cakes up in the bottom, I stop the mixer and scrape it off with a garden trowel, then start it back up again. If the mix doesn't become a consistent grey throughout the load after 30 seconds, I'll throw more portland cement in. If I get too much water in the mix, to where there is water sloshing around in the mixer, I add more of the sandier ag, and more portland in a 2:1 ratio 'til it takes out that look of water running ahead of the ag mix. The 3-1/2 cubic feet mixer can handle up to 20 shovels full of ag before it starts coming out of the mouth at the first tilt setting. We pour the mixer into a wheelbarrow to get to the next pour, then shovel the mix out of it. That little trailer hauled all of the ag out of the valley behind an all wheel drive quad.

Pouring concrete

As soon as we dump one load into the wheelbarrow, we begin filling the mixer for the next. While one wheelbarrow full is being shoveled into the forms, the next batch is in the mixer turning. Once you start, you want to keep the next batch coming before the last one poured can dry to avoid what's known as a "cold pour joint". Note the heavy rods propped up an inch from the bottom of the pour cavity on the rocks, these keep the concrete from cracking, or at least shifting if a crack develops.

Fixing the concrete as we go

Since the ag is coming from a riverbed in the valley, it's not entirely consistent. When a larger stone makes it into the mix batch being poured, I simply pitch it ahead of where I'm working, and let it sit in the bottom of the form.

Screeding the concrete

Screed with a 2x4 as you go, and pull the mix back with the float tool, and continue screeding. Here, I'm pulling back the concrete, and using the screed to lean on and check my work.

Floating the concrete

Use the float tool to lightly spank the top of the concrete. This drives the concrete into the gaps in your form and fill, and moves the heavier ag off the top, giving you the creamier fine stuff to get a smooth finish on top. Save a little of the finer mix in the wheelbarrow to fill voids.

Edging and stress relief cracks

Using the edging tool, I'm giving the slab a rounded corner where it will meet the next slab. In the center of the doorway, I put in a stress relief crack. If the concrete is going to crack, it will do so in a nice straight line right there. As I work the edge, I follow with the float to take out any ridges.

First course finished

With this homemade mix, it is difficult get the kind of surface you would with real sand in your mix, but it will be strong enough to handle a tractor or an RV rolling over it. This entire concrete project is being brought in for $1000. I checked with a few concrete contractors working in the general area, and they wanted around $15,0000. I think it's an obvious choice, although it's a labor intense undertaking. I could build a series of barns with the savings. Note how the concrete encases the pressure treated bottom sole plate. This will bolster the wall's resistance to the heavy winds in this area.

Ag in the mix

We start with around 15 shovels full of ag from the pile into the mixer while it's shut off.

The right amount of portland cement

Start the mixer and wet the ag in the mixer enough to keep the dust down. We used a bulk food scoop to add the portland cement, and used a one scoop per shovel full of ag ratio.

Adding the water

Just fire the water in there from the hose into the mixer while it turns.

Getting the water right

Keep shooting water into the mixer 'til the mix looks sort of like this, with water obvious at the front of the mixer. Let the mixer turn for a bit to get the mix well blended.

Mix ready

Once the over watered mix is thoroughly blended, began to slowly add more ag and cement at the same ratio until there's only a little bit of water running along the front of the mixer. In the picture the water got cut off, but you can see how much drier the mix looks. While turning, the right blend holds together but still runs evenly around down the drum.

Creating a reinforced step

I want the barn doors to stop against something solid inside the barn, so I welded together some 1-1/2" angle iron, cut out the bottom flange at the rough opening for the doorway, and drilled and screwed it to the building frame. I put some 1/2" thick nuts under the angle iron to suspend it above the sole plate concrete, and welded some nails between it and the re-rod that will reinforce the concrete.

Filling with concrete

When I set the forms up, I located the form inside the barn, slightly higher than the top of the angle iron step, and the one outside the barn, slightly lower than the bottom flange of the angle iron, then used those parts of the angle iron as the other half of the screeding guides. I poured both sides of the step simultaneously and used the float tool to force concrete under the step to support it.

Building the barn door frames

Building your own barn doors isn't all that difficult, as long as you plan properly, can maintain square corners, own enough clamps and use good wood glue. I measured the rough opening, then subtracted the final trim thickness and an additional half inch to determine the length of the vertical legs of the frame. Laying 2"x4"x8' boards along the edge of the bench I built special for this task, I staggered and glued another set of boards to create 117-1/2" length on the outer part of the leg. The inner board is shorter to create a steps at each end to allow the top and bottom parts of the frame interlace to for strength. Clamp a scrap piece of wood with a piece of paper towel over it to prevent excess glue from sticking to it, to create a step to keep the top part of the frame even with the vertical legs (second frame). Attach another piece of scrap wood to the top part of the frame to allow a clamp to be used to pull the interlaced parts of it and the vertical leg together during gluing. The tighter your clamping, the better the bond will be. Even the ends and screw together there, then use additional clamps where neccessary to pull warped boards into line before putting the final tightening of the clamps for the glue.

Trimming out the door

Fit the siding over the frame, then add the trim boards. Treated wood trim will protect the pine of the frame, but simply screwing it to the frame will not give the hinges a solid surface to be screwed or bolted to, so we glue the trim boards onto the door. I first glue, clamp and screw the perimeter boards that fit along the top, bottom, and side faces of the door. I laid scrap boards on the siding and clamps to pull the warp out of the trim boards while gluing and screwing along the board, making sure my screws are far enough from the edge to allow screws to bottom that hold the face trim on. While installing the face trim, make sure the glue will bond to both the facia siding and the perimeter trim boards. When using two pieces of trim to cover an area, cross cut the boards on a 45 angle and glue along that face to help hide the seam. An additional benefit of using glue is that it will keep treated wood from shrinking and exposing seems.

The finished product

Here you can see the basic framing technique used on the door panel frames. The center horizontal brace gives the siding facia strength, and the angled braces keep the door frame from sagging out of square. I decided to build huge bifold doors for barn. Due to heavy winds in this part of the country, and the weight of each panel, it works really well. I fitted some scrap wood to a 2x4 to make it fit tightly into the keepers, which are located stragecally to miss anything on the opposing door as they are folded together.

From the outside

Here you can see how the doors look and open. The infinite door positions possible are great for controlling air flow through the building, which is wonderful for days that are either really hot or really windy.