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AFTER Randy Sims retired from the carpenters union in 2008, he decided it was time to make a longtime dream a reality.
He had always wanted to construct a pole-and-beam home.
“Ever since I was a child, I was fascinated by the sturdiness of old barns,” 61-year-old Sims said.
With nearly two decades of experience as a carpenter, Sims thought the building project seemed doable.
“I figured if I was going to do it, I ought to get it done,” Randy Sims said.
Three years later, he did exactly that.
The effort began in earnest during the spring of 2010 when Sims and his wife, Joyce, 54, purchased about 7 acres near Ogilville in southwestern Bartholomew County. The property came with a 37-foot trailer and a pole barn.
Finishing the house would take time, however, so there were adjustments to be made in living arrangements.
The couple moved into the trailer. Their adult sons, William and Jacob, would share space in the pole barn.
“We put a partition and a couple beds in the barn for the boys,” Randy Sims said.
The couple had previously owned a home on 62 acres in Blue Creek, Ohio, where they lived for 10 years before moving to a 20-acre property in Osgood, Ind., between Columbus and Cincinnati, Joyce Sims said.
When the opportunity arose three years ago to buy the Ogilville property, which was closer to family, they jumped on it.
The family had just gotten settled when a tornado struck and destroyed the trailer. That’s when the couple moved into the pole barn’s 20- by 30-foot living space with their sons.
Sims purchased an on-demand hot water heater, cook stove and outdoor shower head to make the transition easier.
Cutting the wood
The lumber for the home was cut in 2010 and left to dry for a year. In all, the home’s construction would require lumber from nearly 50 trees.
Thirty Poplar trees were cut from Sims’ father-in-law’s land, roughly three miles away, for the home’s exterior and interior framing.
“Poplar was the wood of choice for most of the old log houses,” Randy Sims said. “A lot of the old barns were made of poplar. They were just massive. They could stand for 100 years, never be painted and be just as strong as the day they were constructed.”
In addition, 14 Cedar trees were cut from the Sims’ land for the home’s exterior. And four Beech trees were cut and dried for the interior flooring.
“The beechwood was from my dad’s land,” Randy Sims said. “Which is about four miles away, as the crow flies.”
Pouring the foundation
The home’s foundation was poured in July 2011.
Other than lists of required materials and simple sketches of what he intended the home to look like, Sims never used a blueprint to construct the 1,700-square-foot home.
The project was funded solely out-of-pocket.
When it came to some of the contractual work, such as plumbing and electrical wiring, Sims relied on the help of family and friends. He also enlisted the help of people in the Amish community in Orleans, Ind., to cut tongue-and-groove boards from the beechwood for the home’s interior flooring.
Among the more challenging parts of the construction process was the placement of 14 24-foot beams, each weighing about 500 pounds and used to frame the home.
“You have to leave the heart of the tree in the center of the piece,” Randy Sims said. “That gives you a good, straight beam when you’re done. I would cut the length and the boys would put it up.”
Sims and his sons used a winch-operated lift to position the massive beams into place.
Although Joyce Sims, a part-time in-home caregiver, admits it was fun to watch the home’s construction, it was scary to see her sons navigating the scaffolding during the framing process.
Putting room in place
By the end of the winter of 2011, the home’s framing was complete and its tin roof was in place.
“We used reinforced plastic to wrap the house to make it weather-tight,” Randy Sims said. “It was pretty much a solar house then. We could come in and work in T-shirts.”
The family has always been close-knit, but living in the pole barn during the construction process wore on everyone’s nerves.
“There were a lot of times where I would get in my truck and leave for a while,” William Sims said. “Then I’d return and go back to work on the house.”
In April, the home passed its final inspection and the family moved in. All that’s left is exterior landscaping and installing retaining walls, Randy Sims said.
He enjoys the quiet of his new home and the nature that surrounds it, but above all, Randy Sims said there’s a sense of pride.
“I enjoy knowing we did it,” Randy Sims said. “And we did it ourselves.”
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