From the category archives:

Building Techniques

Horse Stable Construction and Design

by Staff on January 22, 2014

Design Tips for Horse StablesA horse has been described as a large animal seeking unique ways to injure himself.  Good stable design can minimize a horse’s options for injury.

A primary concern is safety.  A good stable must protect horses as well as people. Level slip-resistant floors benefit horses and humans.  Protect the feed or grain in moisture-proof containers that will also discourage rodents.  Light fixtures, switches and wires need to be encased to protect from a curious horse’s nibbles.  Of course any chemicals, medicines, paints, or other toxic items need to be secured so that horses can’t ingest them.

There are many ways that fire can be a safety hazard around stables and barns, and good design can minimize fire danger.  Each stable should have an exit at each end.  According to THIS fire safety guideline, ideal number of exits can range from 2 exits for 1-12 horses, to 5-6 exits for 35-50 horses.  A solid partition between stalls can slow the spread of a fire and possibly slow the spread of harmful gasses if materials like treated lumber have been used in construction.

Proper ventilation is critical to good building design and that can involve details like the site location, the pitch of the roof, dutch door designs, and ceiling ventilation.   This article is one of the best we’ve seen for overall advice about good stable construction.

The use of dutch doors on the exterior side of each stall has many advantages.  In case of emergencies, horses can be removed quickly without the need for moving inside the building.  If the top of a dutch door is opened, it allows beneficial sunlight and fresh air to the stall.  Other considerations may include details like automatic insect sprays to control flies, bite guards on any wooden corners, and sliding doors (rather than swinging doors) that are less likely to be blocked in case a hasty exit is required.

Not long ago we sold a lovely small horse farm where no detail had been spared to accommodate the design of the stable and barn buildings to the needs of the animals and trainers.    The property had several “Morton” buildings, and although we don’t advocate any particular builder or designer, a company such as Morton buildings is able to customize your own needs and goals for the best stable design.  If you’re raising very large breeds of horses you might want to enlarge a typical 12′ x 12′ stall size.  Details of whether you need accessory areas or tack room, automatic waterers etc … and the floorplan location that will best serve your own needs … can be negotiated with a full-service customized building company.

And maybe this can make your horses need to look harder for ways to hurt themselves!


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Converted Barn Homes

by Staff on September 9, 2013

Barn HomesHello.    Welcome to our…   barn?

Yes.  Today a barn home is a prestigious address.  This is a trend that’s gone high-tech since the era of hippies, when executives preferred to live in proper homes, not barns.   Wealthy folks are capitalizing on a time in history, when many large old wonderful barns are near the end of their functional lives.  Sometimes the farm has been subdivided.  Sometimes a farmer has built a substitute structure for the old wood-frame barn.  And sometimes dismantled barn materials are hauled to new construction sites.  But in any case, people are noticing what a wonderful home can be made from a barn.

Just look at the size and open design of a barn and you’ll know why it’s so appealing.  The textures, the history of the structure, ample floor space… all contribute to a warm home-y feeling.   But barns are not without disadvantages too.  They may have been comfy when the sheep lived there, but winter evenings can be drafty without extensive architectural intervention.

The barn in the photo was the work of a restoration firm named Heritage Barns.  They are one of the select handful of firms who specialize in dismantling and stockpiling barn materials for use in future reconstruction.   Items such as reclaimed beams, planks, cupolas, and doors are available for new uses.

Sometimes a barn home has an amazing history.  It can have reclaimed beams from a Vermont barn, a doorway from Williamsburg, planking from Ohio…. and end up together in a barn in Japan.  If you want to stretch the boundaries of your barn architecture imagination, check out these barns.

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About Pressure Treated Lumber

by Staff June 3, 2011

“Treated” lumber…. also known as pressure treated lumber… is an essential building component for outdoor structures.  By pressure treatment, it’s meant that chemical preservatives are forced under pressure deep into the cellular structure of the wood, which helps the wood maintain a barrier against insects and decay for a long period of time.  It’s available as [...]


Summit Meeting on Sustainable Farming in Central VA

by Staff April 20, 2011

On April 23rd in central Virginia, there will be a gathering of the  Shenandoah Sustainability Summit in Harrisonburg (in the Shenandoah Valley of central VA).    It is hosted by the Fairfield Center in downtown Harrisonburg, and runs from 10:00 – 3:00 on 4/23/11. Everyone is welcome, and participants will include experts on topics such as alternative [...]


Central VA – Quarter Sawn Lumber and Heart Pine

by Staff February 4, 2011

We recently wrote an article about the heart pine wood found in many homes and buildings of Charlottesville and the Central Virginia area…. and we’d like to share it with you in THIS LINK. In the article, we’ve researched the history of heart pine in central VA…  how to cut quarter-sawn lumber,  the features that [...]