Bella’s Barn Repair

Bella and I tried to figure out where and when we met each other – in this life anyway. The first I could remember was at a barn party (not hers) when she was about 16. We are very different in some ways and alike in others. She is not a girlie girl but a beautiful human being that is capable of most anything she decides to do. One of the more virtuous people I have met but not religious. She helps me with heat loss heat gain calcs for projects and builds things for me now and again like LED fixtures using her mechanical engineering degree in a practical way. She installed the precision fence on my table saw that had been sitting there for years etc etc. She gets stuff done and also recognizes what she doesn’t know – enter Mark.

Bella and Megan said they had gotten an estimate from a foundation repair company for the barn. They described the scope pf work proposed and the cost – $20K. The proposal called for steel beams, wide flange columns and other bracing. A lot of macho muscle that seemed to be justifying the cost – at the expense of the character of the barn which is a valid concern of theirs and one I was sympathetic with. I don’t like to see materials or labor wasted/ill used either. Elegance of solution via synthesis is the goal – greatest effect with the least input. The little black dress of design and building. The “foundation repair” method was a compromise in several ways – integrity the victim.

First some site analysis – the west roof was draining into a depression on the west side and perking through the soil and ultimately the probably site mixed 3000# concrete. They installed gutters to address the cause rather than just treating the symptom(s) – a deteriorating wall. We walked the site/farm to see what was around in bone piles to use to build. There was a pile of old roofing panels with rounded ribs and peeling paint. Perfect for the forms – the ribs would make an architectural statement and the method was in line with what a farmer might do. I bought the lumber, rebar and fasteners and showed them how to put in the bar and form supports. They built everything after that – including a concrete chute to go through the small windows into the forms. Pouring concrete makes me very nervous – you can’t just stop if something goes wrong – you have to think of every possibility – and calculate the amount of concrete. If it goes bad/wrong you lose materials and labor plus have horrible mes to clean up and then have to do it again. The temperature seems to rise and the wind stops when they unmistakable sound of the truck is heard consistently it seems. In this case we had an irregular wall and it was sloped. We had about two handfuls “extra” in a 5 1/2 yard pour of 5000# concrete. Concrete is heavy and has incredible lateral forces involved. The chute collapsed with the initial load from the truck (always bring extra tools). We threaded the truck’s extra chute through the windows (bunged up a little window trim on one window). We used a demo hammer as a vibrator for the forms to get most of the air out of the forms – this makes the form more likely to fail but it has to be done.

The ready mix manager called a couple times and said we were taking too much time for a pour and because the 5000# concrete sets up faster. The truck operator helped a lot – they got a great review. Bella asked if we really needed Tom to be there – she understands very well now. Tom needed a chiropractor after that – extra pay on top of the invoice – not asked for – gladly paid. He is worth his weight in gold. I’m including a pic of Bella as a youngster she shared with me because it is so adorable. We got out of the project for $2700 which included my design and drafting. Could not have spec’d a project to turn out that cool. Repurposed materials, architectural, yet farm character appropriate. The also ended up with a wide ledge to keep things handy. Dayam!!! Hard, rewarding work – the stuff of a good life.


Posted on

September 29, 2023