Part 1 in this series was published last month – a copy available for publication can be found online AHP Newsgroup Archive Dec 2021
Janet and her two elderly geldings enjoyed the comfort and use of the new pole built 2-stall horse barn despite the misgivings that had crept into Janet’s mind after her son had noted the roofline looked unlevel.
The construction process had not gone smoothly from the very beginning. The unexpected additional cost that the builder had rendered after the barn was finally finished had bothered Janet when he stood at the door on Christmas Eve to collect his payment, but in her happiness to have the project complete she had brushed it under the carpet of holiday goodwill.
The winter temperatures had taken an arctic nosedive, and the Dutch doors to the stalls and the one to the storage area that was now a feed room, had become hard to open as the ground below seemed to have risen and was hard as the rocks that littered the outside of the barn apron. The latter posed an annoyance to snow plowing efforts for Janet’s husband Joe, who regularly complained they were now stuck fast to the ground and too heavy for him to move out of the way.
Despite these setbacks Janet was still happy overall with her new horse barn. She was grateful to have more than a run-in shed to offer her horses for shelter from the burning cold winds and a place to nurture and spend time with her equine beasties.
Spring came early, with heavy rains and puddles and ruts inevitably formed in the high traffic area where the horses were led in and out of their stables. The horses were delighted to spend more time outdoors following months of dangerously cold weather that had kept them confined for more time than they were used to enduring.
Bored in their stalls, one horse and then the other had begun to nibble and then bite on the available wood surfaces within the stalls and along the top of the Dutch doors and Janet noted the barn did not look quite as pristine as when it was new. She marked these flaws down as ‘adding character’ to the barn and when her husband noted the damage Janet explained it was to be expected, horses liked to chew things when they are bored.
The advent of warmer weather brought with it neighbor visits and Janet began to think about riding with her friends.
Eric was the first neighbor to visit. He was an elderly gentleman that had lived in the area all his life. Eric had loved to deer hunt in his younger years and was an avid outdoorsman surprisingly nimble for his age.
“What’s this then?” he remarked, as he pointed to the barn. The building was clearly evident from the windows of his home just over the road and he had enjoyed watching the entertainment of the comings and goings of Tony the builder and his work crew from his living room view.
Janet invited him to take the ‘grand tour’ and was delighted to showcase the well-kept clean, deeply bedded stalls and the start of her project to stain the front of the doors.
“Didn’t see a permit posted. Guess that Tony guy forgot to post it. Did the building inspector come by? They don’t like it you know when you don’t show them everything as it goes along,” Eric smiled a wry smile. He knew no building permit had been issued because he’d checked with his old friend Marjorie who was the Town Clerk.
Janet’s eyes began to twitch. A tell-tale sign she was flustered.
“I’m sure the builder took care of all the red tape,” she answered, completely flummoxed by the thought that permission to build was even necessary for something agricultural and relatively small compared to a house.
“You’d better check you get the CO then,” Eric ran his hand over the rough edge of the now gnarled Dutch door and looked quizzically at the rafters and how they had been attached to the structural lumber.
“CO?” Janey queried.
“Certificate of Occupancy. You’ll need that approval if you ever come to sell up,” explained Eric nonchalantly.
“Oh yes. Of course,” Janet replied. She avoided his piercing gaze and looked out across the fields.
After Eric left Janet called Tony her builder to confirm that he had submitted plans for the barn and obtained the permit and CO. No answer. She left him a text and a voicemail.
Janet was now worried that she had done something wrong. She did not like dealing with authorities and had a horrible feeling that Tony might not have done his homework on the paperwork. In fact, when she thought about it, she hadn’t even seen any formal plans for the building. Just a roughed out drawing Tony had presented and a few old photos of another barn he had constructed for someone else. She didn’t know who.
Janet reached out to her good friend and riding buddy Gloria, who had just returned from her annual retreat to Florida where she spent the winter. Gloria would know all about it. Gloria had purchased a new barn a few years ago at her previous property before she had downsized her horse operation, moved to the neighborhood and put her horse at livery.
Gloria was excited to hear about the new horse barn and said she’d come right over to check it out.
Gloria swept into the driveway half an hour later in her late model fancy sedan. She emerged from its plush leather seats tanned and coiffed, dressed impeccably as usual.
The two ladies hugged and then walked over to the barn, Gloria eager to survey the newly built addition to her friend’s property. She stepped gingerly across the mud despite the fact she was wearing her fully waterproof Irish brand boots.
Janet showed off her new barn and Gloria made appropriate remarks about how fine it was and how wonderful it must be for the horses to enjoy such a happy haven.
Janet could tell that Gloria was holding back comments, they had been friends for a long time, so she asked her for a frank opinion and explained her misgivings.
Gloria listened carefully as Janet began to expound on the entire construction process and all the hiccups and issues that had occurred. The more Janet explained the more Gloria shuffled her feet and looked down at the ground.
Gloria was reticent to answer her friend honestly. The barn was built now and there was likely little to be done if there was a major issue with the build. She suggested that Janet contact the Building Inspector and ask his advice.
“Just be honest with him,” advised Gloria. He will understand. Janet nodded, entirely unhappy with the idea.
“When you built your barn before you moved, did you have issues like this?” Janet asked.
“I almost hate to say it but when I built my barn it was very straightforward. I didn’t go with a pole barn because I didn’t want to deal with the noise and stress and mess of it all, I went with a large modular horse barn company. They took care of everything. They provided the plans I just sent them in with a form for a permit. The company liaised directly with my ‘dirt guy’ as they call them, to lay out pillars in the ground to support the frame of the building and then the Inspector I guess came by and OK’d them. I shopped for the barn online which was great fun, spent a bit of time on the phone with a gal at the company who helped me figure out how to bring the price down a bit with a few simple changes.”
Janet sighed. “I should have asked your advice before I went with Tony. He was available and it was hard to get someone to come before winter.”
Gloria had forgotten momentarily that she was here to offer advice and solace to her friend and continued to enthuse about her barn purchase as she relived the happiness the whole project had been to execute.
“We added metal trim to all the chewable surfaces at the beginning, and kick boarded all the interior walls to prevent damage or even worse injury to the horses. You know how tough they are on stuff. I was able to choose the siding material and color. I didn’t want to have to paint or stain it myself. Low maintenance, I liked that. They had so many different styles to choose from, and the price was ‘to the penny’ and included the delivery and set up at the farm. It was all done in 2 days after it arrived, and they left the place clean as a pin. I really wished you’d asked me. I could have given you their name.”
“Did it take long?” Janet figured such a factory build would have one disadvantage.
“Not at all. I ordered it, the paperwork was clear and included warranty info and all that stuff too. I put down a deposit. The contract gave me a timeline and it arrived as they promised. That’s the great thing about modular builds. The factory doesn’t have to worry about bad weather and delays.”
Janet began to feel a little cross.
“I expect it was very expensive though,” she said, “I probably couldn’t have afforded them anyway.”
“Oh no not bad and they offer financing. And you know what they say, the cheapest option is not usually the best option. Especially for something like a horse barn. I was the envy of my horsey friends,” Gloria breezed on.
Janet ended the conversation and sent her friend on her way. She picked up the telephone and called the local Building Inspector. After a few minutes the Town Clerk connected her and Janet gave her name and explained the reason for her call. Namely was a permit required to build a small horse barn.
The man on the other end of the phone said nothing right away so she rambled nervously on and Janet found herself saying much more than she had planned about the barn project.
She stopped herself talking and reiterated the original question.
“I was wondering when you’d call,” said the man in a kindly voice. “I’ll come over and take a look at it. But yes, you do need a permit. We must make sure it meets code for your own safety and for your horses and others that come after you to use it. The Zoning Inspector needs to make sure it meets local laws too. Who did you say built it?”
Janet gave Tony’s name, expecting the building inspector would know him. A loud sigh came from the other end of the line.
“I haven’t personally met the guy but I have heard of him,” he replied.
Janet set up an appointment for the inspector to visit, thanked him and then hung up.
All the joy she felt owning the barn had ebbed away.
This was not the ride she had signed up for. Now Janet came to think about it, she had not actually signed up for anything, Tony had just given her an estimate and taken a check for a hefty deposit.
Epilogue: The Building Inspector found several key issues with the structural integrity of the barn that were required to be rectified at significant expense to Janet and Joe. The roof pitch was too low for the snow load in the area, nails were used where bolts were necessary, and the rafters were not attached to the top plate correctly. A myriad of smaller issues he ‘strongly suggested’ be remedied.
Tony, the original builder, did not provide the remedies and Janet and Joe were advised there was minimal likelihood that filing a lawsuit against him would prove fruitful or be worth the expense given no contract had been drawn.
Janet and Joe paid a fine to the town and eventually obtained the Certificate of Occupancy for the building. They were quite relieved that the town did not require them to take the building down entirely.
Janet obtained the name of the modular building company Gloria had recommended and when it came time two years later to build a center aisle barn and start up a horse boarding business at a new property. Janet was amazed at how easy the modular build purchase was and today lives happily enjoying a successful horse business and is very content with her new barn.
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