Restoration of the Colbert Log Barn – Finally!

Jeff Willmore

When I was interviewed for this position I was sent on a practicum. I was directed up on site to walk around and scout out maintenance issues and come up with a list of priorities. When completed, I returned to the office and at the top of that ‘to do’ list was the west wall of the Colbert Barn. This part of the massive log structure was rotted in at least 6 logs, bowed out like a beer belly and had holes large enough that raccoons were passing through the walls like ghosts. It was an absolute wreck, and that was at least eight years ago. This season we have finally repaired it and this column is the story of that contract.

As it turned out, log repairs are not an easy thing to contract. There are precious few contractors in the business and most that are concern themselves with new log-home construction almost exclusively. These facts made for an often fruitless telephone and e-mail campaign as I beat the bushes trying to scare someone up that might look at the thing. After a little homework I had things narrowed down to four contenders, three within Southwestern Ontario and another in the Ottawa area. The local three all made a great racket about how they would love to do the work and then promptly stopped returning my phone calls and e-mails. However, the Eastern Ontario contractor came through. This I thought strange because he was the one that had the least to gain and the farthest to travel.

In any case, I had secured my contractor. John Devries Log Homes from Tweed Ontario was keen to do the work and my contact was a very professional journeyman carpenter named Martin. After some back and forth over the phone and e-mail Martin came down to see the structure, we firmed up the scope of the work, confirmed on price and set the timeframe for the work to happen. The project was underway.

The contractor then returned to Tweed and began organizing things from their end. A bit of great good luck secured reclaimed timbers that were perfect for the job, expensive but perfect. Within a few weeks Martin and a small crew showed up on site with the logs and the tools and got to work. Mike had done preparation work to be ready for the restoration, and with a combination of intricate fitting and brute force, combined with the help of our old loader tractor, one by one the old logs were removed and the new ones installed. The whole thing took a little less than three days. The project has made a huge difference in the building. The wall is completely straightened out and the structure stands square and strong.

There is follow-up however; as a cost savings measure this work did not include the chinking. Because of this I have recruited my own master tradesmen, John and Jack to replace the chinking, work is already underway and going well.

This old log barn, the oldest structure on site, now has had her long awaited and greatly deserved restoration. I am sure there will be more to do on this building but the major stuff is behind us. This building can now resume its role as a working farm structure in service of our farming program.

Jeff Willmore
Manager of Buildings