For more than three decades in the early 1900s, Sears, Roebuck and Company offered mail-order houses. It was a popular concept and one being duplicated today for a different class of consumers: barn buyers. In fact, for one Illinois couple the concept was an ideal solution for creating a 21st century horse barn made to order.
Instead of ordering from a catalog, however, this couple traveled in a motor home to the small town of Wayne, Neb., to visit the manufacturer: Sand Creek Post & Beam. There, they toured the company’s headquarters and assisted in customizing a barn, basing it on one of the company’s four basic styles: the Great Plains Eastern Horse Barn Kit. The requirement: an equine center with lots of storage.
Len Dickinson, who owns and operates Sand Creek Post & Beam with his accountant wife Jule Goeller, says the Illinois couple was pretty standard of the company’s customers. The typical customer is looking for an upscale product, either opting for a historic look because of a fond family memory or simply because they like the looks of large timber. “They don’t want to look up and see joists hangers or 2- x 6-foot rafter beams on 18-inch centers,” he says. “They want to see the timber frame, the big purlins across and 6- x 8-foot beams.”
To accomplish that, Sand Creek uses traditional timber frame techniques, eliminating all chemically treated components, and using steel plates for the joinery to reduce production price by about half. “We’re kind of the bridge between the cost of mortise and tenon and the pole barn people,” Dickinson explains. “We use purlins and 6-inch x 8-inch rafter joists. We are a timber framer, only we use steel plates to do it and when you go into one of our barns, it looks like a timber frame barn on the inside but you look up and see boards rather than OSB.”
Another common demand by customers is a green-built product. “It turned out to be more of a hot button issue for our customers than I anticipated,” Dickinson says. “We’ve always wanted to be very green, but it seems we started our business before we realized how important that was going to be.”
He adds: “We’ve found that if we compromise in the environmental side it comes back to haunt us. People don’t like that. They’ll complain.”
In its simplicity, what the Illinois couple ordered was a classic L-shaped barn with some popular options: an open lean-to, cupolas and gable vents. The design, like most offered by Sand Creek, is historic barn architecture but with some modern, customized touches.
“They wanted authentic, they didn’t want it to look like a garage,” Dickinson explains. “They wanted the big wood and the natural boards. Like a lot of our customers, they wanted a step up from even an upscale pole barn and they didn’t want to compromise,” Dickinson says.
At the factory, the barn was created using Ponderosa pine timber frame consisting of 6-inch x 6-inch, 6-inch x 8-inch and 6-inch x 10-inch boards that were joined with 1/4-inch, custom-designed, powder coated steel plates, with bents placed every 12 feet to allow for horse stalls.
The company obtains its wood from small mills in South Dakota and northern Georgia. “We use full dimensional rough cut: Our one inch is a full one inch and our 6 inches x 6 inches are full 6 inches x 6 inches and they come right from the sawmill to our manufacturing facilities without any kind of treatment,” Dickinson says.
P2000 insulation is sandwiched between two layers of siding and two layers of roof sheathing, creating a beautiful, natural barn look inside as well as out. No OSB or plywood was used to detract from the beauty of the wood.
Prior to shipping, Sand Creek assembled major portions of the barn to assure proper fit then disassembled it for shipping. The kit was then delivered onsite to its new home northeast of Chicago.
The couple could choose to either have company crews assemble the building, or contract with a local builder who would be provided with a detailed plan. They chose the latter, starting with a slab foundation.
Within days the barn was finished and ready for use. Because the major portions had first been assembled at the factory, then disassembled for shipping, the pieces fell easily into place.
The barn, in its completion, includes a 38-foot x 58-foot section on one side of the L and a 24-foot x 48-foot section on the other. The open lean-to measures 10 x 58 feet and a loft runs along one side measuring 12 x 58 feet.
The flexibility of post and beam construction allowed for some special touches. This included nine custom-made doors, two custom-designed 6-foot x 6-foot x 8-foot wood windowed cupolas, three copper louvered gable vents for ventilation, and two handcrafted 8-foot x 10-foot 80-lite windows with 7-inch individual panes. The roof and some of the windows also were provided by the customer. The stalls were provided through Innovative Equine, one of Sand Creek’s favorite suppliers.
The end result was truly a one-of-a-kind barn: just like the customer ordered. RB