03 / Previously on "This Old Barn"—New Doors

Although I had planned the barn restoration project for early 2016, toward the end of 2015 it was clear that the main barn doors wouldn't make it through the winter. The bottom of the left door looked like the toothless grin of a fairytale ogre. I couldn't nail the baseboard back on because the wood at the bottom of the door was too far gone. And I suspected Elmer's Glue wouldn't work well at all.

Above: 11 November 2015 / Help! Doors in trouble!

I thought it would be easy to find new barn doors in this age of the internet. I fired up the google and started searching. Lots of hits! But I quickly found out that "barn doors" are a hot item in interior decoration. These doors are used in houses and residential lofts as replacements for traditional hinged doors. They slide along the wall rather than swinging out, but they are house-sized rather than barn-sized.

Pages and pages of these.

I did eventually find what I had come to think of as real barn doors. You know . . . for a barn. You can get them in different styles. I could have had Frank Lloyd Wright "Prairie Style" doors, as well as many other inappropriately-styled ones. I just wanted plain barn doors. Is that so much to ask? And even in the unlikely event I were able to find the kind I wanted, I would have to wait until well into winter for them to be made and delivered. Too late. I hadn't started finding the doors in enough time to have them by winter.

And the kind I really wanted were as close to exact duplicates of the existing doors as possible.

Above: Custom-made new doors! (Story continues below)

I stopped by a local hardware and building supply company (rkMiles ➜), hoping they had some inside information unavailable to barn restoration amateurs about how to find real, plain barn doors. I didn't know it at the time, but they have a small, custom woodshop where my new doors could be made to my specifications. I gave them a call, set up a meeting and explained what I wanted: new wood doors as close to the old ones as possible, and which would work on the existing hardware.

I then sent them drawings with the various dimensions of all of the elements of the door structure. (Below I present one of my "detailed drawings." Because of Parkinson's Disease, my hands are quite unsteady and I can now see that my drawing is hilariously illegible), yet Craig from the woodshop read back to me correctly everything I had tried to specify with my scribbly little drawing. Craig is a diagram-reading genius! (Although later he confessed he had come out to the barn to take his own measurements.)

 My sketch of the bottom detail on the left. (Beretz Logging had nothing to do with this—it was just some scrap paper I found.) Craig's and John's completed door on the right. It's almost an exact reproduction.

Above: My sketch of the bottom detail on the left. (Beretz Logging had nothing to do with this—it was just some scrap paper I found.) Craig's and John's completed door on the right. It's almost an exact reproduction.

In a week or so, the doors were ready and delivered to the barn.

However, the crew that would normally install the doors were all on vacation. For a month.

I had the doors, but how to get them onto the rollers and working before the snow began to fly?

rkMiles gave me a list of clients for whom they provide building supplies. I worked my way down the list, but without success, until I found Green Mountain Timberframes ➜. I told Dan at Green Mountain Timberframes about the work I needed to be done, and he recommended Lucas and Dylan Aakjar, whom he had been working with lately. I called Lucas and made an appointment for them to see the new doors and roller hardware. They gave me an estimate, and I said "done!"

Above: The door-hanging (Story continues below)

When anyone comes to the house to do any kind of work, I usually hover a bit just to get a sense of if I feel like they know what they are doing, even if I don't actually understand anything about the work at hand. This can be annoying, but I had my camera as an excuse to hang around.

Within a matter of minutes it was clear that the Aakjar brothers knew what they were doing. I breathed a big sigh of relief. The doors would be up, and I could be confident that it would be done efficiently and correctly.

And I beat the first snow by one day!

A while later, Dan wrote me that Lucas had been poking around the barn, and was very interested in it. I explained that I was planning a major restoration for the spring, and were Lucas and Dylan interested in studying the barn and its structural issues, and to draw up a plan for what needed to be done? They were. Over the winter we planned the project, and this spring (2016) Dylan, Lucas and their team got to work.

The barn will be saved, due to an incredibly fortunate connection with the Aakjar brothers, who had the knowledge and commitment needed to save it. I thought it would a hugely difficult task to find anyone to take the project on, but the right people walked into my life almost by accident!

And this recommendation from Dan at Green Mountain Timberframes was the icing on the cake.

Glad we could help.  The doors look handsome.
Yes, the Aakjar young men are serious about their work. I feel very blessed that they have joined the Green Mountain Timber Frame crew. Came on two years ago. They would also do an excellent job repairing your fatigued area in your barn. Something I'm sure you will have done in the spring.  They are thinking about what they observed and will get back to you in the near future so you can plan accordingly.

If you have a need for skilled craftsmen to do a restoration project, save and/or move a barn, or any other kind of building project, you can get in touch with Lucas at:

Email: oaksummitfarm802@gmail.com

Telephone: 802.417.5455