5 New Uses for Old Barn Finds

Unearth the junk pile accumulating in your barn and transform the materials into something purposeful for the home or farm.

by Samantha Johnson
PHOTO: David Jones/Flickr

You’ve analyzed the situation from every angle, and you’ve decided that it’s inevitable—it’s time to clean the barn. An old barn provides a home not only for livestock and farm supplies, but also a variety of other miscellaneous objects—and it’s these objects that can create a cluttered workspace that prevents your barn from being used in the most efficient manner.

This can be particularly true if your barn is an old one, with decades of clutter left behind by previous owners. Although the job of cleaning a barn like this can be imposing, it can also be fun, as you’ll surely uncover an assortment of items that can be given new life in creative ways. Here are five ideas to help you find new uses for your barn treasures.

1. Lumber

5 Barn Finds that Find New Use on the Farm - Photo by Pixel/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

Let’s face it—no barn would be complete without a pile of old lumber stashed away in a corner, whether it’s relatively new lumber left over from previous building projects or older, more weathered wood salvaged during renovations.

There’s little doubt that a pile of lumber can be put to good use on the farm. Particularly attractive pieces—old, weathered boards that convey a sense of history—can be painted and used as one-of-a-kind signs guiding visitors to different regions of your farm:

“To the apple orchard!”

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“This way to the cornfield!”

“Fresh Tomatoes”

The possibilities are limitless!

You can also create primitive-style shelving to lend a practical use to the old lumber, or if you’re especially handy with wood, you can craft simple benches or tables that combine utilitarianism with aesthetics.

2. Old or Broken Windows

5 Barn Finds that Find New Use on the Farm - Photo by cara mc/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

Old barn windows, with their multiple panes and rustic charm, can add rustic charm when used in home and farm décor. If you come across a few old or broken windows, consider re-envisioning them as chalkboards. It’s a relatively simple task: Apply primer and chalkboard paint directly on to the window panes (or, if the panes are broken, to pieces of wood fitted to replace the glass). Place the chalkboard around the home or barn to keep track of to-do lists, grocery or farm needs, and other items of note. As an alternative to chalkboards, you can use old barn windows to craft multi-paned picture frames or mirrors.

3. Milk Cans

5 Barn Finds that Find New Use on the Farm - Photo by Keith Lyndaker-Schlabach/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

If you live on an old dairy farm, chances are good that your barn will have a few large milk cans hidden away. The shape and height of an old milk can lends itself well for use as a table base. By incorporating some of your leftover lumber, fashion a rustic table by attaching the wood to the top of your milk can. A fresh coat of paint will tie the two together and turn your former clutter into a unique, hand-crafted table.

4. Wheelbarrows

5 Barn Finds that Find New Use on the Farm - Photo by iStock/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)

If wheelbarrows play a frequent role in your daily chores, you know that the wear and tear of everyday work can take a toll on these helpful handcarts. If you have a wheelbarrow that has been indefinitely retired to your barn—whether due to a broken handle, a flat tire, or some other form of damage—give it new use as a flowerbed. Begin by punching a few small holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage, then fill it with soil and plant it full of flowers. In no time at all, you’ll have a lovely container full of colorful blooms.

5. Wagon Wheels

5 Barn Finds that Find New Use on the Farm - Photo by David Jones/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)

When wooden wagons were commonplace, spares were as common as spare tires. Chances are good that you might uncover one or two of these wooden treasures while cleaning your barn. With their wooden spokes and ornamental appeal, wagon wheels can make good decorations even when simply propped up against the side of a building, but if you’re in the mood for a more challenging do-it-yourself project, consider turning one of your old wagon wheels into the base of a thoroughly distinctive chandelier.

Obviously, this isn’t a task for the faint-hearted. It will require some effort to rig your rustic chandelier with electric lights and outfit it with chains for hanging. Black Oak Studios offers a great tutorial for getting started. When the project is completed, a wagon wheel chandelier can be a terrific addition to your home, adding a pioneering atmosphere to the room and serving as a reminder of the farm families of yesteryear.

Get more help with your old barn from HobbyFarms.com:

  • 7 Clean-Up Tips for Your Cluttered Barn
  • 5 Tips to Renovate Your Barn and Keep Its Historic Charm
  • 7 Barn Practices for Better Food Safety
  • Move That Barn! (But Read This First)
  • Forget the Garage! Host a Barn Sale


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