How To Build an Amish Barn

Amish barn raising is a tradition which brings the entire Amish community together, either to build a barn for a newlywed couple or to replace a barn damaged by wind, fire or age.  Founded back in 1693 by a group of Swiss Mennonites led by Jacob Amman, the Amish live a very simple lifestyle in rural areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.  Despite being built using no power tools or electricity, Amish barns are so sturdy and well crafted that some are still standing that were constructed almost two centuries ago.

To build a barn in the Amish style, construction is a family-oriented event that takes place within one day.  While the men and boys are doing the heavy building work, the women and girls are preparing generous amounts of food and drink to sustain them and offering first aid help when necessary.

At least three days prior to the actual barn raising, the concrete foundation must be poured and given about 72 hours to dry completely. On the day of raising the entire barn, the corner posts are erected first, anchored in about two feet of concrete. Lifting the foundation beams is the first step in building an Amish barn.

Only hand tools can be used to create and properly fit the foundation and roof beams.  The foundation beams can be hammered into place by hand, but the roof beams require a joist for lifting into place. At this stage, you will need every available hand working in concert as your Amish barn slowly begins to take shape.

Once the foundation beams have been erected, the frame comes next, created by attaching boards of lumber to the foundation and roof beams using hammers, pegs, dowels and nails.  Pegs rather than screws are a unique feature of Amish barn construction, which is more labor intensive, but actually creates a more solid structure.

At this point the barn looks as though it has a wood skeleton surrounding its outline. Now the empty spaces need to be filled in with two-by-fours or two-by-one slat lumber to create the walls of the barn.  In traditional Amish barn design, these slats run horizontally (up and down) rather than vertically (side to side).  Hammers and nails will be flying at a fast pace while all the open spaces are boarded up to create a solid wall of lumber, which can then be painted or remain natural.

The roof of an Amish barn is constructed of two-by-fours and finished off with shingles.  The roof must be carefully constructed to withstand heavy winds and rains.

The last piece of your Amish barn is ready to be hung: the barn doors, which must be positioned very levelly so they can swing open without any obstruction.


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