Why Choose Virgin Growth Lumber?

tongass_national_forest_juneau_img_7501Virgin growth lumber is the best building material you can find in the natural world, and researchers have yet to come up with anything comparable. Much of the timber used prior to the 20th century was from virgin, or first-growth forests which once covered the United States. For hundreds of years, these trees grew packed together, free from human impact, resulting in tighter ring patterns that make for a wood with distinct character- strong, durable, and rot-proof. According to Doug Hannah, at S+H Construction in Cambridge, MA, old virgin-growth white pine in particular is the crème de la crème for its rot resistant properties. Click here to read his post on the topic and learn where to source your own.

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A Functioning Roof System is the Key to Architectural Preservation

Period view of the street elevation of the historic Florentine Hotel in Germantown, Ohio.

Period view of the street elevation of the historic Florentine Hotel in Germantown, Ohio.

The Florentine Inn has been standing on West Market Street in Germantown, Ohio for over two hundred years. This longevity is possible for the single reason that a succession of owners managed to keep intact roofing systems for the entire period. Once water penetrates the building envelope, deterioration is rapid and inevitable. Triumph Restoration of Germantown replaced the roof and gutter system, assuring the existence of this historic structure for another generation.

Typical condition of original “skip” decking, sound enough when resecured and covered with plywood.

Typical condition of original “skip” decking, sound enough when resecured and covered with plywood.

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The Eternal Promise of Durable Latex Paint

A durable TRUE linseed oil based paint finish.

A durable TRUE linseed oil based paint finish.

John Learnard of The Color Alchemist of Glen Echo, Maryland notes that every year since he started in the finishing trade, the big paint manufacturers have been promising that the new and improved latex and acrylic paints developed in their labs outperform traditional oil based paint – – THIS TIME. The only problem with these assertions is that they were always proven false, in the field, a bitter lesson to the professional painters who applied them and put their name on the work. So in the spring of the following year, just like flocks of robins, the paint company reps were back in the paint stores, saying, essentially, “this time we really mean it.” He recalls attending one of these events, hosted by the paint company with free coffee, donuts and paint hats, where the rep said that acrylic beat oil because it had microscopic “doors” in it to let out moisture that formed in the wood. When John asked what happened when these ”doors” let moisture IN, he was declared a contrarian paint dinosaur, who would soon be swept away by the building tsunami of advances in industry technology. That was over thirty years ago and there are yet such dinosaurs among us, John among them. So, what is the motivation of the U.S. paint manufacturers for selling an unreliable product? There is a much greater profit margin in such a product as it is made almost entirely from petroleum rather than linseed oil and turpentine. And what has been their response to their predicament? To degrade their own “oil based” products by substituting alkyd synthetics, again, petroleum based, for linseed oil (flax) and mineral spirits for turpentine (pine). Instead of making the latex better, they made the “oil” worse, so now their promise is actually coming true. Finally and Hallelujah! John’s response? To go offshore to Fine Paints of Europe, a Dutch manufacturer with a base in Vermont, because they still use effective constituent materials. Quality materials means quality results, he promises.

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Kowloon City, Densest City Block Planet Earth, Since Demolished

Kowloon Walled City in the foreground, Hong Kong behind.

Kowloon Walled City in the foreground, Hong Kong behind.

Kowloon Walled City was a densely populated, ungoverned squatter’s colony in Kowloon City, Hong Kong. It was called the “Walled City” because it was built on the remains of an old Chinese fort. The Walled City contained 33,000 residents within its 6.4-acres. That’s about 3.2 million people per square mile. By contrast, Manhattan is about 170,000 persons per square mile. There was little light, little air, but the people lived their lives, worked, operated factories, delivered mail, threw their garbage out the windows, if they were lucky enough to have windows. Construction was always upward, with little regard or engineering or permitting. In spite of that, the structure stood, with whatever consequences for the residents. The city was demolished in 1994, after a mass eviction.

Kowloon Walled City elevation. They just kept building.

Kowloon Walled City elevation. They just kept building.

Plan view of architectural model of Kowloon Walled City.

Plan view of architectural model of Kowloon Walled City.

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Post and Lintel, the Basic Unit of Construction

Example of post and lintel construction.

Example of post and lintel construction.

Whether ancient or modern, classic or mundane, the basic unit of construction is the post and lintel, constructed out of stone, steel, concrete or wood. Mortonstones.LLC of Miami tells us how they repaired load bearing, steel post re-inforced brick columns that had failed, possibly from rust jacking of the core elements. Whatever the usage and materials, the engineering principles are the same. Mortonstones provides a brief manual at the link.

Steel post restored and sealed, brick column under reconstruction.

Steel post restored and sealed, brick column under reconstruction.

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Contemporary Color Palette and Accurate Historic Colors

Queen Anne exterior color scheme.

Queen Anne exterior color scheme.

Every year, Pantone picks the color of the year, and this year it is two colors, Rose Quartz and Serenity. You can be sure that it is just a matter of time before you see these colors on bath towels, appliances and restaurant interiors. Taste in color is truly ephemeral, and what Pantone does is a kind of handicapping, predicting the taste of the masses before they know what they like. When selecting colors for a late Victorian house, however, surely we can be guided by the template of history, and be spared the guessing? Various national paint companies have “Victorian” paint palettes that are more or less historical. The problem is that history has moved on, and so must our paint schemes. Color is a way of mediating between the past and present, that is, inhabiting the present, while acknowledging the past. The Color People of Denver, Colorado are expert at balancing these and other values. For this exuberant Queen Anne, they determined to assert its historic architectural features while fitting into the neighborhood and expressing the tastes of the owners. Just like the rest of us, this Queen Anne residence is of the past, but in the present, and the color scheme expresses that well.

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Restoration of Brownstone Lintel Details

Reconstructed brownstone lintel profile.

Brownstone is a soft sandstone from Connecticut which is famously in use throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn for building stone and has, ever since installation, rapidly deteriorated from the freeze thaw cycle. It is probable that it was an unwise material choice to begin with, driven by expediency and the iconic beauty of the stone. Regardless, your brownstone restoration choices are (1.) to replace it, with fabricated stone, (2.) to replace it with artificial stone cast out of a more durable synthetic or (3.) to mold a solution in place. Riya Contracting Corp employs all of these methods. Shown is an example of the latter.

Finished restored brownstone lintel.

Finished restored brownstone lintel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stone Restoration Contractors

Period image active Portland, Connecticut brownstone quarry.

Period image active Portland, Connecticut brownstone quarry.Stone Restoration Contractors

 

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Why You Should Attend the 20th Annual International Preservation Trades Workshop

iptw-3The Preservation Trades Network Presents the 20th Annual International Preservation Trades Workshop on September 9-11 2016 in Virginia. The International Preservation Trades Workshop (IPTW) has been occurring annually, since 1997, bringing together a diverse group of tradespeople, architects, preservationists, and students, all seeking unique learning and networking opportunities.

Bill Gould of William Gould Architectural Preservation, LLC is a preservation design consultant and a restoration contractor with almost four decades of historic building preservation experience. He is also a founding member and a past President of the IPTW, though he hasn’t attended an event since Mobile, Alabama, in 2004. This year, however, the stars aligned. What, we asked him, was he most looking forward to at this meeting?

The first thing, he said, is the connections, not just to fellow artisans in a relaxed social setting, but to one’s own trade, by associating with one’s fellow tradespeople. In the pressure of daily business, it is sometimes too easy to forget what makes the work so special and important, and meeting with one’s peers is a good way to reconnect with that.

Most importantly, IPTW is a learning opportunity, a way to conserve and strengthen important technical and cultural knowledge, by sharing. This is the knowledge base that enables us to maintain that which is most important in the historic built environment. Over the years, Bill has delivered numerous presentations on topics as diverse as the scope of usage for restoration epoxies to the methods of moving buildings to how to “see” historic structures. This time, he intends not to present, but rather just to listen and to see what he can learn.

Do you want to reconnect to your trade roots? To learn something valuable from an unexpected perspective? Connect to your peers? Or just say hi to Bill Gould? You can do all that by attending the 20th Annual International Preservation Trades Workshop on September 9-11 2016 in Virginia. Tell us why you are going to attend and we will blog about it.

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Specific Instructions for Unique “Beehive” Masonry Pizza Oven Design

Laying the fire brick floor and mocking up the door.

Laying the fire brick floor and mocking up the door.

As you may know, we love to hear about technical innovations in the service of producing more and better masonry pizza ovens. From Florida, we just received a detailed account of the process of building an outdoor  beehive shaped masonry pizza oven, using available high tech masonry materials. Mortonstones, LLC of Davie, Florida did the work and offers technical support to the public for these unique designs. They make it look easy, and if you already have the skillset, it probably will be.

Stucco final finish going on over masonry “blanket”.

Stucco final finish going on over masonry “blanket”.

Handsome pizza oven complete assembly, including veneered base and work counter.

Handsome pizza oven complete assembly, including veneered base and work counter.

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Wildwood Flower Wood Carving, a Tribute to Song

The music becomes the flower.

The music becomes the flower.

Jake Cress of Fincastle, Virginia carved this musical wood plaque out of cherry, in tribute to the ubiquitous four petaled dogwood tree – – and to the song “Wildwood Flower” by the Carter Family, also from Virginia. Of course you’ve heard it, but check it out one more time, if only to hear Mother Maybelle’s impressive finger picking. 

Update- See below for a photo of the finished carving.

The finished piece, carved in cherry, 4 1/2" wide by 20" long.

The finished piece, carved in cherry, 4 1/2″ wide by 20″ long.

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