Foundations and Basements

The final areas of significance in barn conservation are the foundation and basement areas. Since older barn foundations are stone, repairing them is well outside the barn owner's area of expertise and is likely to be something most masons are not prepared to deal with. This is due to a basic change in the way masonry work is done since the widespread use of Portland cement-based mortars began. Portland cement-based mortar is much easier to use than historic lime mortars and is actually significantly stronger. Unfortunately this is not a good thing when laying up or repointing sandstone foundations. Since the mortar is harder than the stone, repointing usually leads to the faces of the stones being sheared off during seasonal cycling. A bigger problem is when loosened or dislodged stones are re-bedded with Portland mortar .The eventual result is often concentrated loads causing the large foundation stones to break.

There are many variations in barn shapes and types, as well as many different types of additions and modification that have been made to them in the century or more of their use. Although these changes can complicate the maintenance and repair of barns, the same basic principle of conservation applies. Barns require maintenance. Good stewardship of a barn that is well maintained is a simple matter of looking for problems and taking care of them when they are discovered. Saving a barn that has suffered from neglect can be a greater challenge, but the rewards of saving one of Ohio's great symbols are endless.