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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects

January, 2008 (and Earlier)



Dear Families and Friends,


Three years after stumbling on the ruin that became our castle, we are finally completing "the barn". Originally, I suppose I'd thought we could have completed it right after the house, but economics and weariness intervened. Economics SHOULD still be a hurdle. Spending more money makes no economic sense, but we proceed anyway.

This time there will be significant differences:

- First, we know what we are getting into.

- Second, we have little money saved up, so we will need to learn about German home financing.

- Third, we hope to do some of the easiest parts ourselves, partially for cost control, but also to gain more satisfaction than just being the cheque-writers. We'll see.


John and Marianne


2007 story of the Barn Project


We kept looking at the old barn, next to the "new" house, and figured we had to plan something. We called Axel, our architect, in mid-2007 and asked him how we would start. He came down and we walked through the barn, this time looking at it seriously as the base for a new construction. We looked at the cracks in the walls and noted with relief that they had not changed in the three years since Axel had first put plaster test seals on them. So far so good.
But this was not enough to have confidence that the building would be sturdy enough for people, not cows, to live here. For that, Axel recommended a thorough structural exam. We contracted with "Bräuning + Partner" and the first thing Mr. Bräuning required was a test hole, directly under one of the large wall cracks. I dug the hole and things looked good here, as the "foundation" went down two full stones. Now we just had to wait for the official report.


We started out the barn's August with a party. The original plan had been to have a bunch of people from my office over for a Bar-b-q on the patio, but the weather didn't cooperate. Rather than cancel, we set up everything in our old barn, gravel floor and all. It turned out to be quite fun and I suppose this augered well for the future of the place.

Shortly after the party, we got the 70-page report from Mr. Bräuning. I was impressed with the thoroughness of the report with its almost 100 photos, numerous drawings and structural calculations, and final evaluation. The evaluation made clear that the entire superstructure needed to come off. The "modern" roof supports were far too weak to handle a new tile roof. (We'd known that already.) The basic beams holding the loft floor were OK, except in places where wood worms had seriously eaten them. And then there were the vertical wood supports that needed help as well. That was all the bad news. The good news was that the basic stone walls seemed secure. They should last for another 150 years. The cracks on the sides were extensive, but stable.


Now, Axel got down to work, making sketches of what the new building might look like. His first suggestion was a Mansard roof, very traditional for houses in the area. Choosing what windows should look like was a big deal.

The next option, responding to our own suggestion, was what Axel ended up referring to as "an American barn". I told him I was certain all American barn design originated in Europe, so even this one could be considered "traditional".


Because I was in the U.S. more than at home and Marianne worked in a trip or two to California, progress on exchanging ideas between us and our architect went slowly. By October, we had a couple more variations to look at.

Axel seemed to favor the Mansard roof, with it's four-sided roof peak. Nevertheless, we held out for the American Barn. Mostly, this was a personal choice to have a barn that looked like a barn, not like a second house.


Just to make our little street busier, the house next to us sold and was being rebuilt too. Since we started almost three years ago, we've seen a mini boom happening in Pommersfelden. Three re-builds, all in a row.




2008 History of the Barn Project


Shortly after we got back from the December holidays, we were exchanging drawings with Axel again. The layout inside the "loft" changed back to an earlier design, with a larger space left for "living room", at the expense of Marianne's art workspace.

We were also trying out suggestions for the outside appearance. In the end, most decisions became a consensus between Marianne, me and Axel.


Finally, we were close enough in design and Marianne and I were close enough on a decision to proceed, that we posted an overview of our plans on our "regular" website. I suppose a public notification like that (or like this) makes it official. Now all we needed was a way to pay for the project. But that's next months's saga (and the month after and...)


John and Marianne

Diaries - Travel

House Story Home

Between House And Barn Projects
The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects