“We have to spend money wisely and not overspend, but also need to look at the maintenance on down the road,” he continues. “Can I paint it every few years rather than every year? All too often we’re saving money today, but it will cost us more tomorrow.”
For long-lasting, maintenance-free barn features, choose galvanized or stainless steel products. “Corrosion is always a problem,” says Preston. “If something rusts, it can create a sharp, rough surface that might injure a horse.”
When building or repairing and remodeling a barn, available materials, such as steel versus masonry versus wood, have pros and cons. “Wood is generally the least expensive, but the highest maintenance,” explains Preston. “Masonry is generally the most expensive and the lowest maintenance, and steel is somewhere in between. But you need to line steel siding with wood or something else that’s safer for the horse. You never want a stall with just sheet metal walls.” That’s because a horse could kick through the metal and injure himself.
“If you line (metal buildings) with wood, it must be heavy enough that when it’s kicked, it won’t splinter. We are lucky here to have rough sawn oak and other hardwoods available. If you use pine, fir, or some of the other soft woods, you need at least 1½-inch thickness, minimum, and for pine that's probably not thick enough.”
The main thing is to be resourceful, using local materials (less expensive than something that must be hauled from far away). “There are always geographical differences on what’s available, but also think about what would be safe for horses, and how much maintenance will be required,” Preston states.
Preston advises regular maintenance inspections. “Police your barn on a regular basis. Nails and screws work loose. Soon the head is sticking out a quarter inch. If you check these and pound them back in, they’ll be good for another year or so.
“In my own barn (originally an old tobacco barn), I have to go through every five years and replace about 10% of the boards on the exterior, and completely repaint the barn. It’s a wood structure, and five years is about all you can get from a paint job. Taking care of horses is a lot of work, and taking care of the buildings is another whole subset of work.”