Are you planning on starting a hobby farm? Have you just purchased an old farmhouse with a wooden barn and some land, and are you wondering what your first steps should be in preparing the place for your project? If so, here is your answer -- before you do anything else, you should implement a fire protection plan so your farm doesn't become one of the roughly 830 a year that experiences a barn fire.
Until around the 1950s, many old barns in the United States were constructed with balloon framing. In these barns, long wooden studs run uninterrupted from the foundation to the roof. Balloon framing was popular at one time because barns of this type were inexpensive and easy to build, but the style of construction fell out of style as it was realized that the large open spaces in-between the studs accelerated the rate at which a barn fire could spread.
If your barn was built after the 1950s, it's likely constructed with heavier, more fire-resistant platform framing. If it was built before the 1950s, however, it's time to install some fire blocks. Fire blocks are tight-fitting wooden boards located horizontally between studs. They limit the flow of oxygen through the walls, thus slowing the spread of flames in the event of a fire. If you're not up for the task of installing fire blocks in your barn yourself, any certified contractor should be able to help.
The next thing you can do to help prevent a potential barn fire from spreading is to give your old wooden barn a new paint job. Intumescent paints come in several colors and offer the aesthetic appeal of regular paint, but they've got an added bonus -- fire protection. In the event of a fire, the paint will turn into an expanding foam. This foam will help insulate your barn and keep the flames within it so they don't spread to your home or outbuildings.
You'll of course want to plant some flowers or shrubs around your barn to make it more attractive, but choose that foliage wisely. Plants that dry out easily can accelerate the spread of a fire and should be kept well away from your barn. Plants with plenty of sap and little dead wood or few dried up leaves, however, can help hold back a fire and keep it from spreading to your home or outbuildings. When choosing plants for the area of your farm closest to your barn, look for vibrant, drought-tolerant plants with waxy leaves.
Fire Alarm System
Chances are good that your farm is located in a rural location where it could take the fire department several minutes to respond to the first call for help. If this is the case, it's crucial that the call is made as soon as possible. Because you can't always be home and awake to watch your barn, a fire alarm system is a worthwhile investment.
Fire alarm systems offer 24/7 monitoring of your property. Upon signing up for monitoring, trained professionals will come and install sensors in as many or as few places as you'd like. The second a fire breaks out and those sensors detect smoke, a call will be placed from the central monitoring facility to your local fire department and the fire department will be dispatched to your property. Should you experience a barn fire, a fire monitoring system could allow firefighters to get to your barn and extinguish the fire before you're even aware that one has occurred.
There are plenty of fire hazards when it comes to running a hobby farm out of an old barn, from outdated construction methods to lighting equipment that you may need for your animals and spontaneous combustion of hay in dry weather. If you're about to embark on the exciting adventure of starting a hobby farm, keep it safe by first implementing the tips above.