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Welcome to Hop Hill Stable, A New Barn from Old Wood, A Recycling Story

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   January 19, 2012 10:20


A New Barn from Old Wood, a Recycling Story

Written by Nadine Abrams


In 2010, we showcased Hop Hill Stable, owned and operated by Michael Jewett and his family, for its unique approach to using recycled materials for the construction of a 20 stall barn, adjoining tack room and riding arena.  Through the use of salvaged materials from building demolitions around the province to the re-use of the original homesteads’ masonry stove, Hop Hill Stable is an excellent example of how a horse facility can use sustainable construction techniques to reduce its environmental ‘hoof’ print.


“Having [a] vision first and not arbitrarily collecting junk because it’s cheap” says Jewett, is the first step when wanting to pursue the ‘recycling’ approach.  By having a good plan and a rough design in place prior to sourcing materials, you will save time and money in the long run.


For Mr. Jewett, it all started when his son gave him a book on straw bale construction. The booked sparked his interest and he enrolled in a course to learn more about this sustainable construction technique.  At the end of the course, he had an idea to construct a facility that not only reflected his environmental philosophies but also demonstrated that it could be accomplished through sustainable construction techniques and using recycled and refurbished materials.


In 2000, Mr. Jewett noticed an article in the local paper about a demolition company that was dismantling steel buildings.  Mr. Jewett telephoned the company to inquire about the availability of steel beams and was directed to an “agent” who specialized in buying and selling materials from demolition sites.  Mr. Jewett retained the agent who informed him that the buildings mentioned in the article were already resold but there was another building that may interest him located in Oshawa.


Arriving on-site prepared to bid; Mr. Jewett found himself looking at 3 old General Motors buildings. He promptly bought all 3 buildings and with the assistance of skilled labour, the buildings were disassembled piece by piece, loaded onto 8 semi-trucks and shipped to the farm.  As the farm plans evolved, Mr. Jewett determined that the 24’ high I-beams of the biggest building were perfect for an arena.  After being stored in a field for over 2 years, the beams were refurbished and reassembled on new concrete footings to create the 200’ x 100’ arena.  In hindsight, Mr. Jewett laughs and says “there was this pile of steel in my field, I had no idea which beams went were”.  With the assistance of a contractor who had experience in erecting refurbished buildings, they were able to determine the order of the beams and sort through the materials from the remaining buildings to determine which were suitable for re-use.  The remainder of the building material was re-sold.


Mr. Jewett also mentioned to the agent that he was in the market for good timber.  The agent found the remaining materials from the Joseph Seagram Distillery in Waterloo which was demolished in 1993.  After another successful bid, Mr. Jewett had the timber from the distillery building trucked from a storage yard to the farm. The dark wood rafters and the stall post and beams are all Douglas fir salvaged from the distillery. The structural posts in the barn and in the link building which leads to the tack room are made from the 4”x4” barrel racking rails. These were once used to hold the whiskey barrels during the aging process.  Even the wainscoting along the walkway from the stable to the arena was re-sawn from this material.


Mr. Jewett continued to collect materials that fit the design of the facility.  In 2002, he read an article about a company named Priestly who were planning to demolish Terminal 1 at Pearson International Airport.  He was able to acquire the window glass, a receiving door and an old Customs bench. The glass and receiving door were incorporated into the arena and the customs bench now provides seating in the viewing lounge.


The Douglas fir stall planks are made from the floor joists salvaged from an old warehouse on Toronto’s King Street since demolished for a condominium.  One morning, with flashlight in hand, Mr. Jewett browsed through the building at 7 am and spot bid on items.  He says, “You may spend less on materials but [you] spend more on time than anything else”.  With a demolition schedule looming, Mr. Jewett had to move quickly to remove the timber he had just purchased.  He noticed that his local building supply store regularly shipped materials into the city for construction but the trucks would return empty.  He contacted the store and asked if they could stop by the site, load the wood and ship it north again. For a nominal fee, the supply store agreed.  In time, the Douglas fir planks were de-nailed and planed and then reassembled as the stall fronts and exterior surfaces.


In 2004, Mr. Jewett happened upon the 24’ diameter hexagonal skylight by chance. On his way home from work he noticed construction equipment outside the Thorncrest Mall on John Street in Thornhill.  He took a chance and approached the site foreman to inquire about purchasing the skylight.  The foreman agreed and arrangements were made to disassemble the structure. The skylight was taken down, pane by pane, loaded on a truck, and stored in the same field as the arena beams for over 12 months.  It was reassembled when the time was right and hoisted onto the roof by crane.


Mr. Jewett credits his successful construction to a flexible design.  He had an original concept in mind and collected the materials he felt suited his vision.  Many changes were made during the 5 years it took to assemble the material and construct the facility.  The barn’s skylight is a good example; because the skylight was not included in the original design, the building roof aperture was too small to accommodate its size.  The aperture was adjusted and reinforced to hold the weight of the glass.  Looking at the roof today, you would not notice that the skylight over-reaches the roof aperture by about 2 feet.  Jewett says that “it is these subtleties that give the building its unique character”.


Mr. Jewett recognizes that this type of material sourcing isn’t for everybody. It is a time consuming process and most times, the shipping and labour components associated with salvaging materials far surpass the value of the material itself. For Jewett however, reducing his environmental footprint by using recycled and refurbished materials was more important to him. “If you are willing to do the leg work and put in the time to view materials and ‘sleuth’ around then you can definitely get a deal”, he says.


If he were to do it all again, Mr. Jewett recommends that people start by visiting stores such as The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store or National Building Supply.  He also suggests that you start talking to people as one thing leads to another.  If your budget permits, you could also contact a demolition company directly or retain an agent that specializes in finding these types of materials to assist you.

This article has been prepared by the Healthy Lands for Healthy Horses Steering Committee, which is comprised of representatives from Equine Guelph, University of Guelph, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario Equestrian Federation, Horse Facilities Council, Uxbridge Horseman’s Association, Ontario Trail Riders Association, and various Conservation Authorities.  Funding for events organized by this committee has been provided by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association from the Nutrient Management BMP Demonstration Grant funding project.

For more information please visit: www.equineguelph.ca/healthylands.php


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