Something is very satisfying when a person can complete a project from reused items so that they don’t end up in a landfill while saving money in the process. Last year, we constructed a goat barn using mostly reused building materials and it cost us less than $1,000.
The barn is 16 feet square and of pole construction. The posts used were of Rocky Mountain juniper (locally known as cedar) that had been killed in a wildfire. Several years ago, we obtained a permit from the Forest Service and harvested the dead trees. This particular species is naturally resistant to rot and, for added protection, a layer or roofing tar was applied four feet up from the bottom.
All the holes were laid out and then dug by hand. One difficulty with using this type of post is the natural taper of the tree. The posts were plumbed only toward the outside of the building to ensure the walls were straight.
Next, the roof beams and rafters were installed. The beams are lodgepole pine that was harvested in western Wyoming. The trees were standing dead and had been killed by mountain pine beetle. A very inexpensive post and pole permit was obtained from the Forest Service to harvest the trees. Lodgepole pine is extremely strong and makes excellent roof support beams.
The roof purlins, wall girts and rough-cut siding were all purchased from a local sawmill. The lumber was cut from beetle-killed ponderosa pine. The barn was sided in the board-and-batten style. The battens were cut on a table saw from rough 2-by-8-inch boards to reduce the lumber needed and reduce project cost.
The base boards that make up the bottom perimeter are 2-by-6-inch and green-treated. The boards were acquired from a rancher friend and had been salvaged from snow fence in Wyoming. Areas of Wyoming have very severe winters and many miles of snow fence have been constructed to reduce snow drifting on state highways. The snow fence is occasionally repaired or rebuilt and sometimes the landowners are allowed to salvage the old fence materials.
The two windows were acquired from a friend who had gotten them from a neighbor after he had replaced all of the windows in his home. My friend was tired of moving them and organizing around them, so he was glad to have someone get them out of his shop.
The only materials that were purchased new consisted of the corrugated roofing steel, screws/fasteners and the electrical wiring and boxes. The barn was wired for lights and outlets. It was to be used for milking and kidding in addition to shelter and hay storage, so power was needed for water tank heaters and heat lamps.
A weatherproof outside outlet was also installed to provide power to the adjacent chicken coop (a DIY chicken coop, which happens to be a salvaged oil/water separator building from a local oil field).
Shortly after completing this barn, we purchased several thousand linear feet of roofing steel that had been salvaged from a warehouse, which had hail damage and was replaced with new. We found only a few hail dents in the entire lot of steel roofing. We sold a majority of the steel for over twice what we paid for it and now have large supply for future projects and it cost us virtually nothing. We regret not having this supply of steel when we built this barn.
A DIY tip: A person must preplan and be willing to purchase reused materials when they become available at a reduced price. Many times larger lots must be purchased to get the best deal but like in the steel purchase, we were able to resell much of the material for a profit while retaining what I needed.
The barn was built completely by us with no outside labor and the final cost was around $1,000. The methods that we used to acquire the materials for this barn will not work for everyone but if the builder is imaginative and keeps a look out for affordable cheap building materials, it’s amazing what can be found. Classified ads, Craigslist and Restores are excellent places to find building materials for reuse.
Another DIY tip: Don’t be afraid to pursue materials that may not be for sale yet. It’s always shocking what people will sell if you just ask.
Our DIY experience shows that buildings constructed from reused materials can look as nice as buildings constructed with new materials for much cheaper and come with a great story.
Jason, Amanda and their two daughters live on 20 irrigated acres outside of Cody, Wyoming. Jason has more than15 years of professional natural resource, vegetation, rangeland management, invasive species management and rangeland restoration experience and Amanda has more than 9 years of experience in prevention and wellness program and nonprofit management. Together they own The Happy Cowgirl, where they blog and offer freelance writing services and small acreage consultation.
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