Last summer, Richard Mayers removed one wooden and two steel
cupolas from the roof of a barn north of Little Falls, Minn. His
crew of seven brought the steel ones down in under an hour. The
wood cupola, though, was another story.
“They’re monstrous to work with,” he says. “We strung over 600
feet of rope to secure it for lowering it to the ground. Two
hundred feet of rope went out to the road, where a car would pull
or feed more rope. A rope went through the hayloft, then looped
around and through the cupola. And we criss-crossed chains over the
top of the roof for greater stability.”
Most of a cupola’s weight is on top, so unless it is properly
secured by rope as it is loosened from the barn roof, it will flip.
The heaviest side drops first. If it starts to tumble, the rope
isn’t lined up right with the cupola.
In last summer’s job, Richard worked with an experienced crew.
“One guy stayed on the main floor of the barn. Another, the
‘watcher,’ fed rope, a foot at a time, as needed,” he says. “My
niece stood outside where she could look through the window: Her
right arm signaled ‘feed’ and her left arm ‘take.’ People on the
other end pulled. The guy standing farthest away was the only
person who could see what was going on. We’re a team, like command
On a straight-roof barn or horseshoe-roof barn, the cupola is
removed from the back. On an L-shaped barn, cupolas are taken down
in the “valley” where the two ends meet. Plans sometimes go awry.
“When the wooden cupola dropped into that valley last summer, it
got trapped and wouldn’t slide between the little notches of the
corrugated tin,” Richard recalls. “So two guys on top of the barn
crawled over and eased the cupola (which weighed 500 pounds) over
the ridges. By then they were at more than a 45 degree angle to the
roof. To get back up the slant, they grabbed the rope, crawled on
top through the hole on the roof, then climbed down ladders to get
to the main floor of the barn.”
All’s well that ends well. “We backed the trailer under, and
gave rope one last time. Down it tumbled, six inches above my
trailer. Everybody thought I was a genius, “Richard says with a
laugh. “It took two hours to get things ready and another four
hours on the roof. But we got it down.”