Tip #2 - Make a Plan.

Ben's Mill BarnetOnce you understand the condition of your building, you can develop a plan for fixing the problems and maintaining it. A good plan may extend over several years (seasons and budget allowing) and will address the most serious problems (such as roofs, foundations, and structural failure) first.

Set priorities as you develop your repair and maintenance plan. You may need to correct some problems before others. For example, you should repair a leaky roof before you tackle interior features damaged by the leaks. However, if major parts of the roof structure need replacement, you will have to remove the roofing, so it will make more sense to fix the structure and then fix the roof. Ask yourself which work needs to be done first, and when can it be done? If funds are limited, can a small investment in time and materials now stop further deterioration or temporarily support a weak part of the structure? Even if your building demands immediate attention in one area, don't forget to include in your plans regular maintenance on other parts of the building.

Specify in detail any work you intend to have done so that contractors can bid on exactly the same specifications and you can compare estimates. One option is to hire an architectural conservationist or historic preservation architect to prepare a condition assessment and plan for you that will address what is wrong, what needs to be done, and what approximate costs will be. Professionals can save you time and money by identifying the least expensive but most effective way to solve a problem.

Deciding who should do the work will require some thought and research.
What work can you reasonably expect to do yourself and for what will you need a contractor? If you are going to hire contractors, you may want to talk with other barn owners to learn from their mistakes and successes. Who did the work? How much did it cost? Did it solve the problem? (See organizations listed in this pamphlet under "For More Information" for contractors interested in work on historic barns.)

When asking for estimates from contractors, request a fixed price for work that can be easily measured, but discuss time-and-materials contracts for projects that may be very difficult to estimate. It is easy to estimate roofing and painting, for example, but the full cost of jacking up a building and making structural repairs may not become apparent until work is underway. For time-and-materials contracts, break down the work into phases with a list of tasks to be completed and a maximum cost for each phase; that way you can ensure that work is completed to your satisfaction before committing to the next phase.

Valuable archeological remains may be in the ground around your building. There may be artifacts that date your building, or evidence of an earlier building, or even a prehistoric site. Plan as little ground disturbance as possible and discuss your concerns with contractors before and during any work you undertake.

© 1995 Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. All rights reserved.

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