The Drying Barn

The Drying Barn at Century Wood has made a big difference since I put it up in 2018. This post shows how the barn was built and then some pictures from September after another good tidy up of the stuff it “accumulates” – like garden sheds do, almost by themselves.

These two pictures show the Barn as it is now and one of the sketches I drew in January 2018 before I started. It’s next to the Log Cabin in the Glade at the centre of the wood.

I included a barn in the forestry management plan I wrote in 2012, as a place to store larger equipment, and to split, dry and bag up firewood. In practice I don’t leave equipment there, but it’s a great place to park the tractor and trailers when I’m around in wet weather.

I had to extend the Glade to make space for the Barn to avoid blocking the end of the roadway, and the first picture shows me cutting up poplar trunks and clearing space. The building is basically a pole barn, but with steel post anchors rather than setting the posts in concrete. I chose this method because I had a source of cheap post anchors and it will makes it easier to replace the posts in the future as they eventually rot. It also makes it simpler to level off, by levelling the post anchors rather than cutting the tops of the posts off to make them the same height. This stack of pressure-treated timber was used to make the frame and I put the posts up one by one.

I nailed it all together with a framing hammer, and I used the blue tarpaulins to start suppressing the ground cover which I’d not cleared down to the soil before starting. Overall the Barn is 15m by 5m, and 3.6m high at the apex. There was a blog post about my 5 day stay in the Log Cabin while I got the frame up.

Next I put the 6 inch vertical boards up with 2 inch gaps to allow air to circulate. This combination is enough to create a dry microclimate inside the Barn but with enough air circulation to carry moisture away from the firewood as it dries. The roof sheets rest on purlins which are nailed to the rafters. I treated the boards, rails and the ends of the rafters with Creocote which is water repellent but is largely cosmetic on the pressure treated timber. It does at least make the different shades of wood look more uniform.

Finally I brought the steel roofing sheets into the wood. They were 3.1m long and just right to cover each slope in one piece. I made L-shaped jigs out of scrap wood to hold a board in place in line with the bottom of the sheets, to help me align the bottom ends of all the sheets. As you can see for the first few sheets, it does a pretty neat job despite the imperfect roof frame.

The roof finished, with a view along the length of the apex sheets. Special roofing screws are used to stitch the sheets together and the screw them to the purlins. The last two pictures again show the Barn as it is now. You can see a slight ripple in the sheets, due to the frame itself not being entirely level. Roofing sheet advice always says the frame must be perfectly aligned but for an open structure like this, it’s not really necessary.

I used these tools for almost all the building work, plus tape measure and spirit level: wood saw; Vaughan 18 inch framing hammer – with a magnetic slot for putting in nails with one hand while holding on to a ladder; Screwfix own-brand cordless drill with hex driver and metal roofing sheet screws – short for stitching sheets together and long for fastening sheets to purlins.

Now some pictures about how I’m using the Barn. The big bay on the end allows a car or small van to be driven in, and makes it possible to load and unload in the dry or to load a trailer with logs directly from the wood piles. The current state of the wood piles, after taking a lot of logs home already. I’ve got some white builders bags there too, which are a common measure of loose firewood logs in the UK. One of the bays on the side of the Barn aligned with the side door of the Log Cabin and makes it quicker to get from one to the other in the rain. The last picture shows the space where I park the car and trailer for loading and unloading.

As with everything at the wood, sooner or later wildlife makes its presence felt. I’ve posted these 2019 photos before: a wasps nest in the corner between the boards; one of several remains of a grey squirrel on the earth floor of the Barn, probably brought in and eaten by a buzzard; a buzzard stretches its wings in the Glade below canopy height. As with the Log Cabin roof, buzzards use the Barn roof as a perch from which to swoop on their prey in the Glade.

Having the Barn has made a big difference and having dry, shaded space to work in when it rains or gets hot and sunny is really useful.

Finally, I’ve also made this video with a tour of the barn and more about how I built it.

5 Replies to “The Drying Barn”

  1. Impressive! Any idea how long it took, and what sort of amount it might have cost in total? (If you’re willing to share, obviously)

    1. It was under £3000 for the materials. Timber prices have gone silly since then though! If I’d done it all in one go rather than spreading it out, I think I could have done it in two weeks of good summer weather but I went slowly and carefully.

  2. How far apart were your truss’s? Standard building would suggest 600mm centres but that seems overkill for minimal roofing weight and yours look over 1000?

    1. They are 1200mm apart. The steel roofing sheets are pretty strong themselves and I put the roof up without needing to climb on it: I slid the sheets up and then reached over from a ladder to do the fastenings to the purlins and between the sheets. To be honest, in the absence of wind and maybe snow, the steel sheets (including the ridge sheets) would be a self supporting structure.

  3. Really like the drying barn, I’m getting together ideas for something very similar and yours seems the best I’ve seen for a self build, do you have a materials list at all for what you used to build it? Your right about timber, prices have sky rocketed and I would be surprised if we see them cone back down soon. Many thanks for posting your workings, it’s very interesting.

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