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Colonial Barn

Heywood Rd. Barn Conversion Underway

Sterling Meetinghouse News, April 2006

Restoration of a structure located at the intersection of Heywood and Upper North Row roads in Sterling will transform the building at 76 Heywood Road from a dilapidated old barn to a single-family home according to Tim Murphy, owner of Colonial Barn Restoration, Inc. in Bolton ( Murphy is one of the contractors hired by the barn's owner, Mark Rusch of Princeton Road, Sterling, to convert the barn. Murphy, whose company specializes in authentic barn restoration, including timber framing, floors, roofs, walls, structural repairs, and exterior restoration, says the biggest challenge of converting a barn to a house is meeting the building code. "Building codes are based on use" he says. "When you convert a barn, you're changing the use group from agricultural to residential. There's a lot you have to do to bring it up to code.

Murphy's first task was to lift the barn off its foundation to enable contractor Chris Rogers, owner of Rock Ridge Construction in Bolton, to work on foundation repairs.

"Barns are usually built on shallow foundations that don't go down four feet," says Murphy. "That means there's no frost protection, so if you tried to build a house on it, the foundation would heave. "

Chris Rogers brought in an engineer to assess the foundation before starting repair work. His next major task has been to frame out the floor, using all new material, as the barn's original floor was uneven and would not have been able to hold the weight of the house. He is also waiting for the arrival of steel to finish as much as possible on a first floor deck, at which point Murphy will bring the barn back down onto the foundation.

Rogers expects the project, which has already been underway for several months, will require at least another six months to complete.

"This is not a fast job," he says, "because at every turn, there are at least two skilled trades involved. That takes a lot of coordination, and sometimes we have to wait for each other to finish up before we can continue. "

Rogers commends owner Mark Rusch for meticulously researching the viability of converting the barn before any work was started. Nonetheless, he says the complexity of the project has resulted in a "high level of communication" between himself and the local building inspector, to ensure that every aspect complies with the building code.

"There's a lot involved," says Rogers. "Sometimes external factors get in the way. We've gone down there once or twice in windstorms just to make sure the whole thing didn't blow over. "

Lex Thomas

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