Country Carpenters: Our History
In order to trace the history of our companies one must first return to a time before their existence; to a time not long after the Great Depression, to the small New England town of Mansfield, CT, along the banks of the Willimantic River. With dreams of one day building his own homestead, an industrious boy is there tending his traps. He made the decision to leave school in the eighth grade, not because he had trouble learning, nor because he was lazy, but because to realize his dream he needed to work for it. The son of a wallpaper-hanger, his parents couldn’t make it happen for him, it would have to be by the labor of his own two hands. And make it happen he did! With wages earned working as a janitor, at the age of sixteen, he bought eighteen acres in Coventry, CT., there he built his first home. That young man was Roger Barrett.
Although his school career was short, Roger had an insatiable hunger for learning and exemplified the term “self-taught.” The library was his regular haunt, often leaving with not one or two, but stacks of books. He would read on whatever piqued his interest and remained a voracious reader the entirety of his life, but unlike other bookworms, Roger always read for the purpose of practical application. Long before the advent of Google or YouTube he taught himself, to a highly proficient level; painting, sculpture, and gardening, as well as other disciplines. Eventually his focus toward architecture, building, business management, and economics would equip him to build a business, with the help of his wife, son, and daughter, that now ships their products nationwide, and abroad, and employs a third generation of his own family.
In fairness, we can’t talk about our history without talking about Lois Barrett, Roger’s wife. The soft-spoken voice of reason, she was responsible for much more than just the administrative duties that come with owning a family business. With an eye for style, Roger gave Lois credit for “teaching him what looked good.” Their shared love for early New England architecture would find them driving country roads throughout the region, often for days at a time, taking pictures of historic homes, barns, and picturesque landscapes. It was from these life experiences that was born a vision to build a company that would somehow preserve New England’s rich colonial heritage for future generations to experience and enjoy. The year was 1974, and Roger indeed began to build, quite literally! Together with Lois, and their teenaged children, Roger Jr. and Leslie, he started working in his backyard in Bolton, CT., taking salvaged old New England barns and building beautiful post & beam homes.
Country Carpenters Ships Worldwide
Although it’s a great success story, the road getting there wasn’t always smooth. Roger served in the Army during the Korean War and had other jobs working for other people; even suffering a failed business with a brother-in-law. But, as the saying goes, “You can’t keep a good man down!” Brimming with Puritan resolve and Yankee ingenuity, he pressed on, and eventually that small backyard post & beam business came to be.
Nearly fifty years later, surviving two recessions and economic downturns, Country Carpenters, Inc. has shipped their carriage houses, garden sheds and country barns in the form of pre-engineered, pre-cut, color-coded building kits to forty-two U S states, Canada, Ireland, England, and Australia. With the company’s success well-proven, in 2006 Roger Jr. and his father opened the doors to a new business – Early New England Homes, which specializes in period-style homes, and satisfied their long-planned dream to restore warmth and character to homes built today and bring family and friends back together in the heart of the home.
Sadly, our founder is no longer with us, but Roger Jr. still operates both businesses guided by the early New England beliefs and values his father so graciously lived by and strove to preserve. He remains an inspiration to us all.
History tells us that the first barns were, for the majority, built by their owners. Of course, these barn owners also maintained their own barns. To not do so was to neglect an investment in a multi-purpose building that certainly enhanced lifestyle. The value in a sturdy, well-maintained barn far outweighed the investment of time or materials necessary to keep it so, both then, and now.
Windows and window sills should be sealed from the outside with paintable exterior weatherproof caulk. Windows should also be coated along all edges and both sides with a quality exterior stain, paint or sealer. Cracked or loose window glazing should be removed and replaced.
Siding end cuts at foundation must be kept well-sealed to prevent wicking moisture. Use a quality exterior stain, paint or sealer and always maintain siding height at a minimum code distance from grade.
Keep tree foliage and ground shrubs off siding surface to prevent constant moisture. Cut back branches and limbs that don’t allow a portion of siding to dry in normal weather conditions and could be hazardous to the weather-tight integrity of your roof. And, don’t leave items leaning against exterior walls for extended periods of time. Constant moisture promotes rot and simple measure can be employed to avoid it.
Flower boxes should be lined and not filled directly with soil. Planter liners are readily available at many stores. If rain drip line from roof washes out a flower box a simple rain diverter installed at the roof eave will keep the flower box much drier.
Patrol the perimeters of your barn regularly, inside and out. Keep an eye out for pests, or nuisance animals and their signs as well as any part of the barn in need of update or repair. A quick inspection can give early indication of areas that may need attention before they become bigger projects.
Remember, with any wooden structure moisture is the enemy! Simply purposing to eliminate constant moist areas on your barn can prevent rot indefinitely. So, be vigilant with basic upkeep and don’t put off small repairs which only become larger with time. The return you receive for your diligence will be enjoyed for generations.
Maintain a good coating of quality stain or paint on all exterior surfaces and recoat as color begins to show oxidation or as needed. Frequency will vary dependent on color, sun exposure and numerous other factors. A light washing of exterior surfaces before restaining or repainting is recommended to remove any mildew.
If you think a barn on your property is an impossible dream because your site is sloped, think again. Bank barns have been around since the first homesteads here in New England and we still build them today.
Setting the foundation into a bank will be more costly than on a flat site but it is an effective way to double useable square footage without increasing the footprint of the barn.
Another less costly option is to set concrete piers into the pitched grade and build up from there. This scenario does not afford the additional level square footage under the barn and is not as weather-tight as a continuous poured concrete foundation.
A foundation cut into the bank must be capped with a deck, similar to building a house over a basement. The deck can be constructed of wood/ and or steel, pre-cast concrete or concrete poured in place over ribbed metal sub-surface.
Where the finish floor level of deck is set in relation to finish grade is an important design decision. The higher finish floor sets above grade the more steps will be needed to walk-out doors on the barn and the greater aprons or ramps for drive thru doors.
Our forefathers were adaptable – incorporating their building skills to create functional buildings, beautiful in their simplicity and in harmony with the land on which they stood. Since 1974 we’ve been helping people build beautiful country places; let’s start planning your dream bank barn today.
Barn Uses: And the List Goes On and On
Barns conjure images of mounds of hay, dusty old tractors and birds fluttering in and out through broken, web-lined windows. Mysterious yet regal, barns hearken back to simpler times when many people worked with their hands and a barn facilitated that work in some critical way.
Today, our barns pay tribute to those of old. With their rugged post & beam design they still play a major role in facilitating the work of our hands, although that “work” has changed, somewhat.
The primary use of our barns continues to be vehicle storage. With some designed for two daily drivers and a little additional utility space, to large multiple bay two-story barns, with vehicle lifts for the hot rod enthusiast or serious collector.
The whole family often uses our traditional structures as recreation and hobby space. Pool houses, game rooms, home gyms, wood shops, potting sheds, yoga studios, art studios, craft and sewing rooms, photography studios, fly-tying shops and the list goes on and on.
A growing trend with some of our New England style outbuildings is their use as a business, both in the form of workshop or manufacturing facility as well as storefront, and both in a backyard setting as well as commercially zoned. Our barns have been used as craft stores, garden centers, farm stands, antique shops, breweries & wineries, a hair salon, commercial woodworking shops & blacksmith shops and more and more.
And although not often, some of our barns are still used for livestock. With flexible footprint sizes available, stall and isle sizes and layouts are also changeable. Big loft designs are available to accommodate ample hay storage.
With a variety of classic styles and size variations, numerous hand-made options, and an option to insulate, there is no doubt the list of uses of our fine New England style post & beam buildings will continue to grow.
Barn Doors: A Comparison
With the numerous design options available in our New England style post & beam buildings, you’ll want to give careful consideration to doors and how they relate to your intended uses for your barn, carriage house or pool shed.
First, let’s look at our hand-made swing-out doors. In the traditional batten/ Z-brace design, our doors boards are 7/8” premium grade, kiln-dried eastern white pine and the battens and z braces are the same species in a 5/4 & 6/4 stock. Available with our own hand-forged hinges, you can also choose from single or double swing-out, or dutch door configuration. Mounted on pintle hinges, the exterior face of the barn door is flush, or co-planer, with the exterior face of the barn. The bottom of the door hangs slightly below the top of concrete slab as a weather-break and pine interior door stops complete the weather-break in remaining door opening.
Finishing touches include our signature oak latch or iron thumb latch, interior cane-bolts, interior barrel or chain-bolts and Yale keyed dead bolt.
Next, let’s look at our sliding barn doors. A favorite when it comes to deep New England snow piled outside your door and equal to a swing-out door in terms of tradition and aesthetic appeal. However, a sliding door should move left to right with relative ease so it must hang on its rail without dragging on the barn and therefore a less improved weather seal exists. With this in mind we design and manufacture our sliding barn doors so the door overlaps the door opening 3” along all four edges of the opening to minimize weather infiltration. Our hand-made oak handle provides sure grip for operation.
Last, but not least, electric overhead doors have become the popular trend. Due to additional hardware and components it’s the most expensive of the three options but also provides the most weather tight integrity. Our custom-made overhead doors match our premium siding using the same material for the exterior face of the door, and your choice of Luan or white pine plywood for the interior door finish.
A wall mounted jack-shaft opener and torsion spring keep the beautiful timbered ceilings clutter free and even the overhead door track can be upgraded to black powder-coat. Black 30” hammered false hinge plates and our signature oak latch design complete the exterior with the same style and appeal as our traditional swing-out doors but with the convenience of modern movement. Standard ceiling mounted chain drive openers and galvanized track are available as a more economic option.
With all of our hand-made doors we offer many variations on both height and width as well as an insulated option.