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.
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.
Barn foundations are a critical part of a successful barn project, although the majority of it is below grade, never to be seen. Foundations affect the building’s longevity and functionality. Mistakes in the foundation work can even affect the overall appearance of your new building once complete. So, choosing the right foundation contractor is of the utmost importance.
Excellent references should be on your list of “must haves.” You may also want to choose one that does their own excavation work as these can often be two separate people. Thus, two different subs to manage, two different schedules to contend with, etc.
Your foundation contractor may be able to provide plans for permits and the concrete design but more often these plans will be provided by the barn builder such that the concrete work satisfies the design elements as well as your local building codes. Foundation anchors are engineered bolts or straps which secure a building to its foundation. These may be provided by the builder and should be specifically located on foundation plans.
Generally speaking, there are four different types of foundations to choose from. Which type you choose will be largely dependent on what’s typical to your geographic location. For example, in the warmer climates of the southern parts of greater New England, concrete block walls are predominate. As one moves north, poured concrete walls are typical.
Vertical walls are always on top of a horizontal concrete footing whose width is double the wall thickness. And, in the northern-most parts of greater New England, monolithic foundations or “Alaskan slabs” are common. These concrete slabs are poured with a thick edge – typically eighteen inches deep and twelve inches wide. A short wall or curb should be poured or set in block between the slab and the building sill to keep the structure further above grade. Moisture is any building’s worst enemy.
Concrete Piers and Sono-Tubes
The fourth type of foundation are concrete piers or sono-tubes. These can be poured in place or they are also available pre-cast. In all cases the depth of a foundation is about four feet. Exact depths are region specific and prescribed by your building department as they enforce the code. Of the types of foundations we’ve discussed, piers offer the least in terms of keeping your barn weather-tight and critter-free. From a carpentry standpoint the building will also “finish” better with square foundation corners and square drops at the door openings. The best foundation of the four listed would have to be the poured concrete wall. Although the block wall has the same structural design criteria, the continuous pour has no joints that could fail over an extended period of time.
As with just about everything else you can buy, there are options to consider even after you’ve decided what type of foundation you will use. For example, walls, poured or block, can be veneered with stone or brick.
This application is most common when large portions of the concrete will be visible above grade, as in the case of a sloped building site. The concrete floor, or slab, can be poured flat or stamped to look like brick or stone. Piers can be made square, and you can even add color to your concrete to make the barn even more uniquely yours.
The right foundation will help protect your barn and all that’s in it from the elements and from rodents and insects. And, the right foundation will add value to your building, both in terms of functionality for you and your family as well as resale value for the future. Maybe the best way to consider the foundation under your new barn is like solid insurance for your investments. We are Country Carpenters. Contact us at (860) 228-2276.