According to an HSBC survey, American retirees expect to leave behind an average of nearly $177,000 of inheritance to their heirs. Does that include barns constructed in 1949? When a family living in Seattle wanted to create their dream home, they didn’t want to spend too much on the project. Luckily, Amanda Gatlin’s great-grandfather and grandfather started the work for them, all those years ago.
Building a dream house takes a lot of dedication when you do it on your own. Despite the challenges, Gatlin and her boyfriend Jeff Layton created something that would forever make them proud.
The Beginning Stages
Doing home makeovers can be expensive. They can also get put off due to procrastination when you’re faced with the massive workload you’re about to tackle. Amanda Gatlin and her family found a way to work around those obstacles.
Of course, the task at hand was still going to force them to use some elbow grease, but it wouldn’t be as bad as your standard renovation. Gatlin and her husband, Jeff Layton, were going to get the look they wanted without breaking the bank…
Who Built The Barn?
What the couple elected to do was pure genius. If you happen to have an old barn, maybe you can do this too. They chose to salvage wood for their dream home design from a decrepit 100-year-old barn.
Gatlin’s grandfather and great grandfather were the folks who built that barn. She said, “It was my great-grandfather and grandfather and a bunch of people in the community who helped build it. Some of the pieces of wood are 100-plus years old.”
How It All Began
In 1912, Gatlin’s great-grandparents started a farm in Choctaw County, Mississippi. Outside of growing corn and cotton, they owned a small dairy operation. “I think we kept three jersey cows and a bull,” said Boyd Gatlin, Amanda’s father. “We would hand-milk in the morning, and then we sold it.”
In 1949, the Gatlin’s decided to build the huge wooden barn. “The lumber was primarily white oak,” said Boyd Gatlin. Amanda would call it her clubhouse when she was young.
Vintage Findings During The Process
Using the barn as a resource wouldn’t come easy. Before salvaging the wood, the couple had to take apart the entire barn to prepare for the 2,300-mile trip. They hadn’t owned the property anymore but struck a deal with the landowner so they could dismantle it.
The pair booked a flight from Seattle to Mississippi and prayed that they could manage the work in the humid and hot weather. During the process, they uncovered antique construction materials like square nails.
Handling The Hard Work Like Champions
When they were in Mississippi, the bad weather hit like no other. All it did was make the process longer and more dreadful. Still, the family carried on so they could complete their mission.
“It was 95 degrees, super high humidity — it was just scorching hot,” Layton recalled. “We were swinging sledgehammers, and it was by hand. Everything was by hand.” Can you imagine taking down something this large all by hand with no help?
No Need For The Extra Help
“[Other people are] using cherry pickers and forklifts. We didn’t have access to that,” Layton said. “But as it turns out, it all came apart pretty easily. No electricity. It was all done by hand.”
As hard as that may sound, not outsourcing is one of the reasons why they saved so much cash on this project. Doing things on your own will always benefit your pockets because you don’t have to pay anyone else.
The One Time A Tornado Helped
Avoiding paying extra for help ended up working in the couple’s favor. There were residents in the area and a few relatives who were glad to help out with this project.
There was a tornado that passed through a few years earlier that helped loosen the planks, so that made things a bit easier as well. Let that be a lesson to anyone who has a tall task upcoming; you don’t always have to hire help.
Finding Relics In The Barn
Whenever you’re dealing with old construction like this in nature, it isn’t out of the ordinary for insects and creatures to inhabit the space. Thankfully, the pair didn’t run into that issue at all. They came across some ants and old relics.
“Sometimes we found bullets in the wood,” Layton recalled. “Apparently it’s really common in the south to go shooting at old barns.” Besides the manual labor, things seemed to fall in place for them as they worked towards their goal.
Family Time Can’t Be Replaced
As one would imagine, without the help of people who get paid to do things like this, the process was a bit grueling. When you factor in the heat and how massive the barn is, things got a bit testy.
They put a positive spin on the situation, however, focusing on the importance of family. “One huge benefit of doing all this labor is that we’ve bonded with family,” Gatlin recalled. “You sweat together, you have lunch together. It’s an amazing bonding experience.”
Finding The Perfect Wood
After a grueling two weeks of family time and hot weather, the couple finally finished taking the building down and removing the nails by hand. Had they not received help from the locals, it would’ve been way longer.
During the dismantling, they discovered that the barn had more than 90% hardwoods. They became excited because that type of wood was a perfect base for their Seattle home. Things were coming together like a puzzle at this point!
The Next Phase Begins
Taking down the barn was merely the beginning. While it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, deconstructing is different than putting together, which was the couple’s next step in the process.
The pair still had to mill the wood and move it across the country from Mississippi to Washington State. The milling would cost them $6,000. They could’ve found a better deal elsewhere, and that much money wasn’t easy to say goodbye to.
The Older The Wood The Better In This Case
“A lot of the pieces we were pulling down had that gray patina on it. The mill guys said that 20 years ago you couldn’t give it away,” Layton said. “But now it has that aged look people are really looking for.”
Outside of spending a large amount of money on the milling process, the couple did get lucky with the wood in a different area. The current trends worked in their favor, making the trip even more worthwhile.
The Drive Back
The family bonding experience only increased when it was time to travel back to Washington State. Layton’s father tagged along for the ride back home, and the two had quality conversations. “He was telling me stories from the Navy. We talked politics and religion,” Layton added. “I got to spend all this great time with my dad.”
Not only that, but there were tornado warnings as they made their way from Mississippi. “I was thinking, ‘What am I doing? What have I done?'”
Keeping The Wood Safe
While it may have been frightening traveling back through tornado warnings, it was well worth it. After making it back home, they stored the wood in the garage of their rental home so that it would be able to endure the harsh winter.
The couple covered the wood with plastic and placed a heater in the room as well to keep the moisture down. It would’ve been a shame to let the materials get destroyed after coming this far!
Preserving The Wood As Best As They Could
After the cold weather subsided when spring came around, the work started once again! Before installing the wood, they had to spray it with insecticide. The couple worked on average 12-hour days doing the floor.
The goal was simple, cover as much floor as they could with this unique wood. They laid it on the main floors, in small loft spaces, and along the stairs. It became something like working on a puzzle at a certain point…
Noticing Patterns In The Wood
While installing the wood, the couple had some fun. At first, Layton said, “You basically start putting a puzzle together.” As fun as puzzles sound, that wasn’t the best part. It was the patterns they saw that was the intriguing aspect.
“We would find different knots that look like things, [such as] an Eiffel Tower. We have a room that has two bears in it. We have one that looks like a wine spill,” Layton says.
Family History In The Home
Finally, after two weeks of hard work, the couple completed the installation. It was a long journey, but they were beyond proud of what they did. They still had to varnish the wood to protect it, but that was the least of their troubles.
Even with this project demanding so much time and energy, it was pivotal for Gatlin to bring this piece of family history into her new place. The feeling of satisfaction never felt so good.
Putting Price Aside
While you’re probably thinking it was a hefty price tag to handle all of this, you’d be correct. It was cheaper because they did a lot of the things by themselves, but it still added up. Overall, that didn’t concern the couple.
“In a nutshell, their flooring was quite expensive, but it is like no other in that it carries family memories,” Jeff said. “We had a house fire in 1960 that destroyed all family heirlooms, so Amanda and her cousin both felt the barn wood would be a good substitute.”
Utilizing Everything They Could
Unfortunately, some of the wood wasn’t suitable for the floor, but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. The couple ended up using some of the leftover pieces in creative ways.
You briefly saw it earlier, but they used some of the pieces as decorative ornaments for the bathrooms and considered placing them on the wall as accents. That’s not a bad idea, because we wouldn’t want to waste anything after going through all that either.
Blown Away By The Results
With many leftover wooden pieces available, the couple plans on building a picture frame. They will also use the rusty barn roof for whatever purpose it serves. They were so proud to accomplish this project.
“We’ve been blown away by the results,” Layton said. With so many ways to save on tasks like this, some might demand a little more care and creativity to accomplish. Layton and Gatlin used their heads just right to create the home of their dreams.