How to build a Dutch barn

Updated February 21, 2017

Unless you were raised on a farm or have a great curiosity about the rural buildings dotting agricultural hubs, you probably can't tell one barn from another. But there's a world of difference between the Dutch barn and other architectural styles. Dutch barns were constructed to centre around the Dutch farm family's wheat threshing operations. But, Dutch barns were more than just work centres. They offered everything other barns did: storage, animal sheltering, workshop space and more. So, whether you want to build one or just learn more about them, here's a primer on basic Dutch barn construction and the clever arrangement of interior space that made the Dutch master barn designers.

Nail or notch wood beams or poles together in a uniform grid to cover the space you've earmarked for the barn floor. Next, place as many large, uniform-sized rocks around the periphery of the ground as you deem necessary to support and raise the floor. Stone risers must be securely seated in the ground to stabilise the finished floor. Place the pole grid you've built atop the rocks and adjust the two accordingly to seat the elevated wood flooring securely to the ground.

Build H-beams to support the barn's roof, define its interior shape, and determine its structural integrity. Connect two large, vertical wood posts to one large, horizontal wood beam to fashion each H-frame (it should resemble a football goalpost). The number of H-frames you'll need to properly support your barn will be contingent upon the size of the finished structure. No fewer than three H-frames were typically used in Dutch barns. However many you choose to put into place, the next step is to anchor them to the raised floor to create a threshing epicentre in the middle, leaving the surrounding areas earmarked for stalls and work areas.

Create a second floor using H-frames as a base by following the wood pole grid method described in Step 1. Add braces to stabilise and secure the second-story floor so it's capable of supporting heavy loads. Build out the balcony with more wood beams and poles to apportion storage areas. Add hooks, braces, and other anchoring elements to the underside of the second floor to accommodate hanging tools and equipment. When done, the second floor should replicate the size and shape of the rock-elevated floor below.

Follow basic, old-world carpentry techniques for erecting your barn's walls. Hammer wood beams together to create a standard wall frame. Add supportive braces and allow for doors to be added when you frame out the four walls to fit the barn's specifications. Once each is complete, lift the wall framework into upright positions, anchoring the four frames to each other and to the upper and lower floors. Use the image of a log cabin's classic exterior styling to envision the final look of the walls as you cover the wall frames (from the ground up) with horizontally placed logs and beams.

Measure the areas earmarked for doors, and begin crafting the number of portals your barn will have. Begin by building the most well-known architectural feature of this barn style: the Dutch door. Nail or notch wood planks together to create two square doors of equal size. Use hinges to fasten them vertically to the barn opening so both doors open independently or together. If livestock containment is a purpose of your barn, use the size of the largest animal as a benchmark when constructing these smaller doors. Finally, hang the doors on sidewalls adjacent to work areas and stalls so animals can come and go without walking through the central threshing area.

Join wood poles or posts together to create and frame of rafters that will serve as roof supports. For stability and engineering reasons, the rafter unit is secured to the H-frame system rather than the walls, giving the Dutch barn's roof the kind of interior support not found in other structures. Layer wood planks uniformly--in horizontal or vertical rows--over the rafters to create the barn's roof.

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About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.