Moving Historic Barns & Buildings, Part II

This second section is the ‘Meat and Potatoes’ for moving historic structures.      It is a very serious undertaking and fortunately, there is a great resource of materials along with assistance from the Commonwealth and by the guild that oversees structural movers.      Below contains a question and answer section, vendors and the address for the International Association of Structural Movers.     By the way, for entertaiment, check out their website for the bumper music!


What needs to be done to actually move a building today?


The first part of “Moving Historic Barns & Buildings talked about the history and why it should be done.     The second part is the practical ‘How to do it’ part.      To start off, one needs to now the proper definitions and procedures for modern structural moving.     Without some research and preparation, the cost of moving a building may seem formidable.      In actuality, knowing how the whole process works will enable the developer or homeowner to calculate exactly the financial benefits from the move and work out the logistical expenses.


Definition of a Modern Structural Mover:


A structural mover is an individual or company that moves structures. While this may sound rather simple, successfully moving large, cumbersome, heavy, small, weird shaped structures of various types is anything but simple. Lighthouses, hotels, movie theatres, airport terminals, barges, ships, bridges, grain elevators, houses, libraries, transformers, draglines, and viaducts are some examples of the type structures moved. Moves such as these occur daily across North America and around the globe. In fact, relocating structures is the worlds oldest and largest recycling industry. The services provided by structural movers create and save jobs, preserve historic structures, prevent wasteful demolition, reduce material to landfills, provide increased opportunities for affordable housing and a multitude of additional benefits. Just like the type of structures moved, structural movers also come in various sizes, operations, specialties, methods and opinions on how moves should be made. It is no secret that structural movers as individuals tend to think things through carefully, and are adept at mathematics and geometry.


Guidelines for Moving Buildings


The moving of an historic structure should only be done as a last resort to save a building or possibly considered in the case where its move is necessary to accomplish development so critical to the revitalization of the historic area that altering the historic context is justified.   Moving a building strips it of a major source of its historic significance; its location and relationship to other buildings in the district. The existence of relocated buildings, especially in significant numbers, confuses the history of the district.

Prior to relocating a historic structure the interested parties should be consulted as to the suitability of the structure to the district and the adequacy of the new site to receive the building being relocated.


Moving a building might be considered if:


1. The building or structure to be moved is in danger of demolition at its present location, or

its present context is so altered as to have lost significance, and moving it will not have a negative effect on its original neighborhood, and it is historically or architecturally significant, as derived from its being an excellent, though possibly typical, example of a particular building style or type.


2. The building or structure to be moved is already located in a designated historic area and its

move is necessary to accomplish development so critical to the revitalization of the historic

area that altering the historic context is justified.


A new site might be appropriate if:


1. The building or structure is compatible with the architecture surrounding its new site

relative to style, scale, materials, mass and proportions.


2. All set back and height criteria as outlined under the guidelines for new construction are met

by the building being relocated.


3. The siting of a building on a new site is similar to its previous site.


4. The building’s orientation is similar to its original location.


If a move is approved, the following guidelines should be observed:


1. Carefully research and inspect the lot that the building is to be moved to. In many urban

areas, it is probable that a structure once occupied that site.


2. If a structure previously occupied the lot, determine the location of the former building and if

the lot was properly filled and regraded at the time of demolition. The portion of the lot that

was filled and regraded may have unconsolidated ground containing construction debris.



Q & A for Moving a Building:


What do I need to do to get started?

Determine your move route, choosing the widest and closest route that has the least amount of obstacles (overhead utilities / trees). Measure the overall width of the structure, eave-to-eave or gutter-to-gutter, then make sure you have at least that distance between utility poles or big trees that are across from each other.

Can the foundation be constructed before moving?


The lot that the structure is being moved to will dictate if the foundation needs to be constructed before the move. This will be determined by the building movers. they will need to coordinate certain aspects with the foundation contractor before actual construction of the new foundation.

How far can a building be moved?


This depends on the type of building and which part of the state the building is located in. In most cases, after a permit is obtained, the building can be moved with proper supervision and standby equipment. When moving a building over one and a half stories high, utility wires may have to be raised which increases the moving price according to the wires involved.

How much does it cost to raise or lower overhead utilities?

Every utility company (electric, telephone, cable TV, traffic signals) has their own method of pricing and will have to be contracted separately by the homeowner.     Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has actually made it possible to keep the expense of temporarily removing overhead power lines to a minimum.

Does a building have to be completely vacated before and while being moved?

Building movers often keep liability Insurance which covers the contents of the structure during the move. About half the buildings movers encounter are still occupied. This presents some small problems such as temporary utility connections, etc.

Why elevate a structure or replace the foundation?


New foundations or floor joists add to the longevity of the structure as well as the value. In some areas, "plastic soil" and poor drainage are common problems that cause foundations to crack and leak. Why repair or pier a wall when we can replace it for a comparable cost? Another reason is to improve drainage or raise a structure above the flood levels. Homes on crawl spaces can be raised to add a full basement or a whole new first floor for added living spaces.

Can a brick block or stone building be raised?


Building movers have no difficulty in masonry structures. They use an exclusive unified hydraulic jacking system. This system enables one man to control the entire jacking operation. The jacks are locked together by a unifying system and will raise and lower in unison regardless of individual jack loading. Each unified jack is on a separate hydraulic circuit and failure in one jack will not cause pressure loss in the other jacks. This system can accommodate from one to thirty-eight 100 ton rams in unison. This system is essential when making large, irregular lifts.

What sort of damage can we expect from raising our home?


Minor stress cracks may occur upon elevation but the degree of cracking depends upon the amount of settlement that has occurred in your old foundation. If major damage were to occur it would be covered by the mover’s insurance.

What is the process of raising a home?


First the structure is excavated around to allow for holes to be made in your current foundation, then the steel beams are placed in these openings. Once the beams are placed the home is elevated hydraulically using the unified jack system. Typically the home is then excavated out underneath to allow for your new basement pour. On occasion, if there is enough room on your lot the home can be moved out of its current site and then transferred back to its original site. Once the new foundation is cured the home is then lowered back down and the beams are pulled.

Does the Building Movers build the new foundation?


They normally do not do foundation work but often coordinate their efforts in finding an experienced contractor and working with them.

Does the Building Movers do the excavating under the raised home?


They typically do all excavation under raised homes.

Can additions porches and attached garages on slab be raised with the home?



Will the building movers act as a general contractor or should I get a general contractor to oversee my project?


They often do act as a general contractor in some cases but most of the projects are very specific to the particular raise or move taking place.   if you have some construction knowledge and have established relations with the contractors involved that a general contractor is not needed.

What contractors will need to be involved?


Plumber, HVAC, foundation contractor, some cases electrician, some cases carpenter.

What type of permit is required to raise a home?


In most cases a permit is not required to raise a home, but a permit is required for all new construction under the home and this should be handled by your foundation contractor.



Barn Movers:

Tim Murphy
Colonial Barn Restoration
269 Old Bay Rd.
, MA 01740
T: 978.779.9865
MA HICL #123957
Construction Supervisor’s License #CS 070224


Historic House Movers: (Local)


Payne Building Movers

PO Box 6, 141 Payne Drive

Center Strafford, NH  03815-0006

Serves the Eastern Seaboard and especially Massachusetts

Sean Payne C: 603.765.4885 residential
Brian Payne C: 603.235.2450 commercial
Office : 603.664.7488  
Call: In New England: 800.343.3568  



Granite State Building Movers

T: 877.240.0040
C: 603.231.7469
F: 603.362.9204

W :


Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New England


Expert House Movers

Northeast Division
T: 800.669.7315, Local: 410.883.3775


This association can also recommend building movers:


International Association of Structural Movers

Post Office Box 2637

Lexington, SC 29071-2637


T: 803.951.9304

F: 803.951.9314






Moving historic buildings, by John Obed Curtis, Published in 1979, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, Technical Preservation Services Division ; for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off. (Washington), Reprinted by the International Association of Structural Movers, in 1991 by W. Patram, Lexington, SC.


To order the book:  $10.00 each. Postage for 1-5 copies: $4.50, for 6 or more copies: $7.50. Send order and payment to Publications Department, IASM, P.O. Box 2637, Lexington, SC, 29071-2637

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2 Responses to Moving Historic Barns & Buildings, Part II

  1. Shari says:

    Yankee Building Movers LLC24 Main STChichester NH 03258603-798-3420

  2. Pingback: Preserving history, questions between abstract and concrete « Invasion of the Neurons from Outer Space

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