Drew Langsner’s Timber Frame Barn in North Carolina

We moved to western North Carolina in 1974 and I probably started thinking about making a good barn early on. It finally happened in 1988, so there was 14 years of dreaming, planning, research, consulting, etc. The foundation and ground floor was made my myself and the Country Workshops summer intern, plus two roughneck professional block layers. For economy the blocks are factory seconds that I hauled from Asheville. The decking is rough-sawn oak, designed to take the heaviest truck that might possibly go into the second level loft.

I designed the timber frame, which was based on two earlier (and less ambitious) projects. One design feature is that intersecting beams enter the posts at alternate levels. There’s not problem of having too many mortises wanting to occupy the same space. We also used through tenons that are secured with wedges on the exit side of the joints. Scarf joints for the long roofing plates are secured with vertical bolts and nuts. Purloins and rafters are located using long spikes. I became a believer in using some steel fastenings after studying timber framing in the Swiss Alps.

The ground level has a central area and stalls for cows and horses. Plus a small milking area and a tack room. The upper drive-in level can store up to 1,000 standard hay bales and a tractor. There’s rudimentary wiring in steel conduit. No plumbing. Over the years a few windows have been added to the upper level.

The red oak timbers came from the same sawmill that supplied the flooring system. The actual frame was cut during a Country Workshops timber framing class which was taught by Daniel O’Hagan. The actual raising was supervised by a professional builder, John Koenig of Upper Loft Design (in northern Georgia). There were about 10 people in the class, but about 20 people here for the raising. More people made for a fun raising party, but also much more supervision for both safety and getting the task done.

23 years later. The only changes I would make would be somewhat larger roof overhangs for eaves and gables. But it’s OK as is.

–Drew Langsner

The class also used a chainsaw mortiser and the big 16-inch Makita circular saws for cutting tenons.

The block work and oak floor was finished before the class. That’s our 1988 summer intern Peter Follansbee, who is now an authority (and expert) in joined 17th century joined and chip-carved oak furniture. No more mixing concrete!

The bents were pre-assembled on the safe, flat deck. The first bent goes up! For this project we bought turned oak pegs.

The 12-inch block wall at the drive-in has a concrete-filled steel reenforced bond beam. (Special U-shaped blocks.) For economy the other three walls are 8-inch block, filled with concrete and rebar.

The footprint is 36 feet across the gable ends and 30 feet along the eaves. The frame is 6×8 red oak posts, 6×10 plates and stringers, and 3×5 bracing. Roof framing is tulip poplar, nailed.

1988. Tulip poplar and white pine siding. Still good.

Recent photo, as seen from the driveway approach to the barn. The fencing on the left is a cattle chute for vet work. I would like the roof overhangs to be about 1 foot longer.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

2 Responses to Drew Langsner’s Timber Frame Barn in North Carolina

  1. Well, this is a trip down memory lane. I was there for the whole thing. One piece I would correct in Drew’s narrative is that John Koenig both taught the workshop and was in charge of the raising, Daniel O’Hagan had taught the two previous timber-framing classes (1985 & 1987 maybe) and John was a student in the first of those two if I remember right. Daniel wasn’t there in 1988 when we built this barn. I don’t remember the chainsaw mortiser and 16-inch saw – but maybe I blocked them out of my memory.

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