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Tarps Be Gone: New Roof for an Old Barn

Tarps Be Gone: New Roof for an Old Barn

old barn vashon island2004: Of the eight structures original to the property, the machine shop is  the only out building remaining.

The original farm, established in 1888, grew to cover 32 acres and to support a 20-cow barn, large fruit-storage house, three-story 1,000 gallon water tower, milking parlor, hog house,  70-foot chicken coop, and one tool and implement shed. Sadly all that remains of the out buildings is the tool and implement shed. In today’s mindset, it’s a barn; in yesteryear’s, it was merely a 12 x 24 shed to store machinery.

blue tarp roof barn2005: Old barn, new tarp; sad barn, blue tarp

When I bought the property close to a decade ago, the shed-turned-barn was on its last leg. The beautifully weathered board-and-batten siding resembled a tattered hem at the building’s stone foundation, and the roof, oh the roof,  it was a brittle wood sandwich layered with Swiss-cheese sheathing and a topper of crumbling asphalt tabs and rotting cedar shakes. The barn was just a year or two from total collapse.

My first task was to stop the rot, which meant keeping the rain out of the building’s interior. One ginormous blue tarp later, my barn went from charming old relic to hideous, albeit protected, eyesore.  (In my head, I would hear dueling banjo every time I walked by the structure.) I began to worry; blue tarps are a slippery slope, a mere hop, skip and a jump to harboring a rusted Camaro on blocks, a confab of garden gnomes, and a herd of fiberglass lawn deer.

Truth be to told, I knew that the tarp really was my friend, an annoying friend, but a pal nonetheless that would stand by me and my barn through the storms.   Unfortunately, my blue-tarp friendship was short-lived as the that particular tarp had the tensile strength and durability of crepe paper. So one year later, I upgraded the barn to a green tarp, thinking it would blend in better. Ah naive little Tommy, there is no blending with a structure covered by a 30 x 40 foot leprechaun green tarp. Mean green only lasted a year too, no thanks to high winds and my poorly executed use of bungee cords and kite string.

For my next tarp trick, I moved to brown and and a thicker woven material. After tethering the tarp to cement-filled tires (found on the property), I knew my city ways had been thoroughly consumed by country practicality. Ugly, but it worked, the tarp kept the barn and all its contents dry and and the structure stable.  A couple years later I went space-age, and bought a huge (and I mean circus-tent-huge) tarp to cover the barn from top to bottom.  And there it stayed, with but one replacement tarp, anchoring my property like a giant foil-wrapped bullion cube.

small barn covered silver tarp 2010: While I jokingly called my first silver-colored tarp an art installation (my homage to Christo), I secretly feared a wayward UFO may mistake it for a homing device.

But the story is not over. Last week, the planets aligned; I met a man who said he could re-roof  my barn for a reasonable price. Surprisingly, his reasonable price actually seemed reasonable. We shook on it and the next day the work began.

new roof old barnSeeing the light of day.

Now when I walk by the barn I smile, the weight of disrepair lifted. There’s something to be said about resolution, about addressing something that needs your attention. For nine years, I stared at a tarp-covered building suffocating under the weight of cheap vinyl and procrastination.  The good news is now, both the barn and I can breathe.

little red barn vashon island A barn is reborn. The next few days I’ll spend time cleaning up the area, reattaching siding, replacing some rotted boards and apologizing for the indignity I had a hand in. Hopefully my tarp days are over. (Uh-oh, is that banjo music I hear?)


  1. Hi Dave
    Finally a moment to catch up with a few computer things. Wow, have you cloned yourself or found a way to make 24 hours streeeetch into 36? When you say you’ve put another layer on the greenhouse do you plan to run a low pressure fan to pump air between the two layers?

  2. You’d fit right in in Michigan–half the homes have the Blue Tarp special. I use them in the garden–and for the first two years, half my yard was blue tarps. I don’t think a person here noticed! LOL!
    The new roof looks great. That will keep the old “barn” going. Hooray for keeping old buildings! ( I despise the new-fangled “polebarns”. They look like a steel box………….)

  3. Oh yes, I’ve fallen into the same trap, lured by the tarp’s siren song…and before I knew it, a year had passed and I could barely remember what lay beneath it! Your shed/barn looks snazzy now!

  4. Nice work! It’s probably a good thing I don’t have any structures like this, I have enough trouble keeping up with maintenance of just our house.

  5. Great news, Tom! The barn looks really good! It’s a pretty decent size – about the size of the deck on the south side of our house – and I bet you’ll have fun arranging storage for all of your gardening/farming gear.

    The only thing I do have to point out is (and this is written into the Heizenrader gene pool) that those tires you used as weights were filled with concrete and not cement. You’re a baker! Think of the cement as flour and as concrete being the cake!

    I hope you are enjoying the weather – 80 degrees today in the Puget Sound area – and that your bees are buzzing happily!

    Hi to Boz and Gracie from Tess the Wonder Dog!

    • Thanks Margaret, I can remember that now thanks to your fine food analogy. Cheers! Hope you’re enjoying the brilliant sunny Sunday.

  6. Tom – this story reminds me of when we had to replace our wood rotted deck. We had a ginormous blue tarp over it for 2 years! It was the most hideous eye sore you ever did see. Finally one day the tarp came down, the new deck was built. Now it looks like “eye candy”. As does your lovely barn.

  7. Tom – nicely done on the new roof for the barn! Many folks here in FL try using a tarp for a quick solution, but we get so much rain and storms that it doesn’t take long for them to do a major repair or re-roof. Nice pictures, great post.

  8. Nice job on the roof! That was quite a project stripping it down and practically starting over. It almost looks like a new barn. We had an old barn with a metal roof but it wasn’t structurally sound so we had to bring it down. I have all of the old weather warn wood and have been using it to decorate a new cabin we’re working on. It isn’t strong enough to build with but it looks nice when turned into door jams, paneling and picture frames.

  9. Good job! I’m facing a huge old barn and the roof’s been leaking, patched, etc. but needing replacement. Looking for a solution to get through the next six months, and thought of tarping, the old standby. What kind of tarp did you use for covering the whole building, the really big one you used?


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