Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Loft

The purpose of a loft in a barn is to provide storage for hay and straw. If you aren't going to use it for storage, leaving down some old hay or straw will provide a nice thick layer of insulation for the horses underneath.

When this is a bad idea, is when you've let the hay build up over 2', and over time small leaks develop in the roof. So the now the wet hay/stray is holding all that moisture against the very old boards; and the boards all start rotting out.

I am terrified of heights
This was NOT fun
In the back corner, you can see
how rotten the boards were getting
The way to fix this is not by throwing more boards on top of the old ones then piling more hay/straw on top.

This resulted in a month long job for me, removing the old hay and repairing the boards. For reasons I can't understand, none of the boards were nailed or screwed down. I'd love to hear from anyone who has any idea why this might be. I used 3" deck screws to attach every board to every single support beam it went over top of.
Still needs some clean up
but so much more open!

Most of the reason I wanted to remove all the hay/straw was so that I could make sure there was something sturdy to walk on, but also to improve air quality in the barn. All that very old hay/straw was very very dusty and was holding a lot of dust and spider webs against the ceilings in the barn. I've improved the air quality a great deal in the barn, but we'll have to wait and see how cold it gets. If we find it's too cold I'll move firm bales up onto the loft and perhaps in the future we'll spray-foam.

Only half-way done
I have left some gaps against the very end of the barn, mostly because I ran out of usable boards, partially for the air-flow and to make this low part of the barn feel as open as the front does. The entry way into this part of the barn is already very small and squishy (really it's too small to safely move a horse through), by removing the loft above it, that whole area feels much less claustrophobic. I do need to build a bridge of some sort in the loft so I can get from one half to the other.

About 80% of what came out
of the loft
We're still going to use all the old hay/straw from up here to bed the goats for the winter. Especially after being thrown down below most of the dust has separated. I removed any wet/moldy bits, but mostly it was just the wood that was rotten, not the hay/straw.

I wore a good quality respirator to clean all this up, very important since you can get round-worms by inhaling dust from raccoon poo. Also because of all the dust and mold from the hay being here for years and years. I only chose nice sunny days when all the animals were outside, which also meant it was stinking hot up there!! And I didn't allow anyone in the barn for any reason with out a respirator as well.

At the end of the day, I'm pretty darn proud of myself! Worked through my fear of plummeting onto the concrete floor below, and only actually fell through once (not to the floor, I was hanging on at the time). The floor in the loft is still a little precarious, the spans between the support beams are too far by today's standard. I don't think there is a way to fix that so we're going to leave this as a "non-usable" loft.  So happy to have gotten this fixed before winter!
The almost finished loft above the horses
I'm leaving the cow-side for next year.

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