Barn Inspection

Just a curiousity question. Anything particular/different/specific involved in a horse barn inspection? Apparently a huge barn with inside riding track, hydro and plumbing, no insulation and open rafter steel roof . Ontario, Canada

You need to watch where you step.

is it timber construction, steel check all joints and bracing, bring binocs and look at trussing, if steel bring spud wrench and test bolts, if wood inspect dowels and collar ties, purlins, inspect soffits, ensure ridge vent is clear and working, check walls and how fastened to slab, bring shovel to inspect depth of slab, look for partial gutter at entrances and downspouts with extenders, look where hay is stored ( fire hazard) utility room, tack room, chemicals locked up, look for bait boxes and accesability to pets and kids. horses require approx 100 sqft minimum each check for over crowding and feed storage in safe dry place so mould is not enhanced.
thats what comes to mind this minute
good luck, there an animal all their own, barns require a keen eye and an understanding on how they are operated and proper function…

Two questions:

Is this barn in a northern climate where it snows?
Are the new buyers going to use it for the same purpose the existing owners use the barn?

The biggest problem I see with barns is that the new owner buys a working farm or farmette, but then doesn’t keep cows (they just want the barn).

Once you take the animals out of a barn, the foundation often begins to suffer from freeze/thaw. The animals keep the barn warm.

also look for kick damage, manure piles to close to barn, look at the tack room closely ,there should be water & electric at least here there is , like Bill said usual timber frame construction

Apparently the barn has not been used for several years. Some strange deal that fell through and owners were renting to someone, so the agent is not getting any help as to the background/history of the place, yadda yadda…The place is located in Ontario, Canada, so there are cold months with snow. I have only spoken with an agent so dont know anything about the place or what the buyers plan to do with it, yet. Thank you’s for your advice.

Very good point Nick. After the animals have gone or the barn is unoccupied it can suffer neglect.
I would start with the foundation. Stone, rubble, wooden, block, etc. Then the timbers. You have to have a knowledge of barn framing. Post-and beam is typical and here is a link.
You will see wood jointing of various techniques.
Then the roofing and exterior shell or envelope.
The electrical can be 3 phase and plumbing is often simple unless for cattle. Milking.
So no it is not simple and it is dependent upon what that barn was used for.
I hope that helped.

Barns can and do serve up the same problems as a residential house just depending on amenities. My barn has bathroom facilities, indoor hot and cold water wash rack with floor drain, barn has its own septic tank. The electrical is very important should be in at least conduit anywhere horses can and do chew. I did not use Conduit on my own barn I ran the electrical inside the steel 3X3 square post and welded metal outlet boxes to the post as I needed electrical outlets near each stall.

Nick makes a good point. I just saw a thing where the Mall of America has no heaters. They use the sun and the people to heat the building. A person puts out around 600 BTU per hour. So the animals have to produce allot more.

In the 1980’s-early 90’s, a good friend/neighbour of mine, John Amos (artist and imaginative builder) put together a framing/ insulating system he called the “balloon framed trusswall” for highly energy-efficient simple homes up to 3500 sq ft with incredible airtightness and high insulation levels at prevailing prices for average spec homes then. He constructed his own air exchangers.

One house had an article about it in a 1986 edition of Fine Homebuilding. The 1.5 storey home (2,500 sq ft + finished full basement) was finished just before Xmas that year. The owner had a small family re-union over the holidays on a dull, sunless day that outdoor temps were -10C (14F). With the stove on cooking food for about 30 people + the body heat, the house started overheating…they turned the air exchanger to high to try to get heat out and cooler air in but eventually had to open windows!

I personally blew all the cellulose insulation for walls (R32) and attics (R60) of that home.

PS: BTW, he went to work in southern NH for about 17-18 years and now has returned back to New Brunswick to renovate the 130+ year old family farmhouse that he inherited into to a near “zero energy” retirement home.

Can you get your hands on any literature or drawings Brian of his system?
I would like to take a look. Make a good read.

Here’s a similar one:

Here’s one very similar to what he made but used wood for the frame and heavy plastic for the plates:


No not for heat exchangers. I have looked at them at building products stores Brian.
I meant your friend drawing of his system ( John Amos (artist and imaginative builder) put together a framing/ insulating system he called the “balloon framed trusswall” )


Can’t find anything easy online, I have the issue stored in boxes…somewhere…!~!~

Here’s the info about the Fine Homebuilding article:

The Balloon-Truss SystemJohn Amos
Issue 24 December/January1984/1985
Page 65

Maybe someone has an easily retreivable copy.

Here’s something similar. In his, the trusses went into the earth (bottom ends were appropriately treated foundation wood stock) to become a PWF (permanent wood foundation)!!

Thanks Brian. Dam nice of you.

The Larson truss is a stick built house with an added truss-like exterior frame.

John’s was prefabricated “space joists”. Using main floor trusses to form horizontal “work” tables onsite, the long balloon walls were built and sided with windows/doors in on the ground. A crane then came onsite and lifted the walls in place onto preserved wood plate “footings”; corners were then tied in place one at a time. In a couple of homes with larger lots, he had the roof framing, sheathing and most of the shingling done on the ground also and then lifted in place.

The largest he built was for a doctor in northern NB about 3 miles from my father’s house. This was 105’ long and 33-35’ wide. With about 3 weeks work with local labour, he prepared all the walls on the ground- the exterior finish was stained eastern white cedar shingles with about 4.5 inch exposure…50 Imperial gallons of stain used.

This work was all done behind a low barrier of local bushes about 5-6’ high so the public could not see what was happening until erection day. That caused traffic jams as it was along a quite busy secondary road. Folks drove by to work in the morning seeing a crane onsite…by the time they went by again on the way home at 5-5:30 PM, the house was up with all walls finished, all trusses in place and 1/2 the prefinished steel roofing in place. People were stopping, U-turning, etc to have a look at what had appeared in the 8-9 hours during the day…it became dangerous so the local police were called to control traffic!!

The basement on this place has no interior bearing walls. It was divided unevenly in three by the owners: an office/clinic for the doctor, a good size playroom for the kids and a home gym big enough to run in for the couple. It had two HRV’s installed. I blew 248 bags of cellulose for R60 in the attic…had a chance to make some $$$ while visiting my father! This was 1987/88.

Photo’s of barn Brain down the road from your father Brain. Love to see the workmanship…
I also see you use allot of material ( wood ) for that balloon framed insulated concept that you friend invented.
Thanks Brian. It is ALWAYS appreciated.


Not sure about Canada but agriculture buildings in the U.S. have lighter design requirements and usually fall under the radar for complying with many codes designed for houses. From a structural standpoint the snow loads in your area combined with long spans and lack of interior support walls put structural issues as #1 on my list for concerns in agriculture buildings.

Never looked at that Mr.Mayo
I will look deeper into it.
Canada is catching up to code standards set firstly in America.
We did not-have a center point for investigative studies into building materials until the mid to late 1990’s if I am not mistaken.
From what I have heard Winnipeg Manitoba is the city where there test all exterior components to see there effectiveness in Canada’s harsh climates.
Do not take my word as credible. It was a happen stance talking to someone I take as solid and convincing of knowledge in the field.