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Offline OldKooT

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Observations about our "homes"
« on: August 13, 2015, 10:48:25 AM »
Recently I was at our Daughters in Wisconsin, and I took a look-see around her rural property to see if I saw any survivability flaws in the event they had to fend for themselves. This got me to thinking....

So many today build homes that are in the long run, really impractical. I got to remembering past situations we have had to deal with, and the design of our home was a huge player in how we dealt with "life" as it was happening in almost every situation. Let me explain.....

We live in a modest sized farm home. It's old for these parts, roughly 1880's construction give or take a decade. It's basically square...in fact, it would be called I believe a prairie 4 square in architectural circles.  It has 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a full basement (largely unfinished) a modest kitchen, living room, dining room, and not much else. A small footprint by modern home standards..... I have many times offered to, and wanted to build my wife a beautiful lavish home while I still have the $$ and desire to do so... she has vehemently refused. Recently I am quite happy she has resisted.

Her reason for refusing has always been she prefers a small home, they are just to her more "homey" and she likes "old things" I recently got to assessing the shape of the home again, and it needs work. The basement is getting towards the end of it's lifespan. The red brick from a local long defunct brickyard is starting to show it's 100+ years. The recent hail again this summer has the roof needing work again.....lots of work and $$$ for a old farm home in the near future.

But a 100mph wind storm recently got me to thinking about how this old home handled natures abuse. And then I had a sudden brain storm... we have dealt with many things nature and life has tossed at this old home and it's always gotten us through them...so I took a look at why. I asked myself, could I build this home today... an exact duplicate. It would be hard....ok impossible.

First reason is building codes would not allow it. Your no longer allowed to build homes that apply simple common sense.

This home is built with a 9' deep basement, all red brick with a cement floor. It's balloon framed with 3x5" old growth fir. The main support beam for the home is a hand sawed 16x20" or so oak beam. It has a support beam to the basement floor every 8' roughly in the center. They look to be made of old lodge pole pine possibly....old and yellow pine of some sort LoL

It's sided with 1" TnG fir planks 10" wide. Then your normal for this area, cedar wood siding that was painted. The floor joists on the main floor are 14"x3" fir. The floors themselves are 3/4" Oak/fir/maple depending on the room. These are laid on roughly a 14" center...no one had a tape measure when they built this place I suspect LoL The wall studs are roughly 14" as well. I have yet to find anything that resembles a 2x4 anywhere in it's framing.

Given today's wood availability, I am unsure you could even source fir studs as tall as this house is. These are well aged, when we dry-walled the living room I had to drill each screw hole. No one makes a drywall screw that can penetrate those studs trust me. Driving a modern nail into them is all but impossible, although old square nails like it was built with, go right in...

It's square construction and a door on every room and hallway is why we could heat it easily with a small corn stove when we had a 4 week power outage one winter. I could have run the propane furnace on the generator but the corn stove can hum along on a pair of truck batteries for ages without a charge. The ceilings have grates in them to allow heat to flow upstairs... heat your ground floor, the upstairs stays exactly 10 degrees cooler. Shut off the upstairs with the door on the stairs, and you can heat the entire ground floor to 75 degrees on a bushel of corn every 24 hours at -15 degrees.

The home has twin chimneys right in the center separated by about 15' Not only do they add strength to the structure, but they nicely warm the upstairs if one uses the wood fired boiler for heat. (rare we do, but it's available if desired) There are no 2nd story windows on the N side of the home... simple common sense really. The windows on both stories were at one time all shuttered. (this feature will be going back in use) At this time the house has all newer Anderson windows custom built to fit the original, and all uniquely different sizes this house had when new.

The small roof profile of this design handles heavy snow loads well, sheds them with the slightest daytime sun, and takes so little wind load that 100mph winds have not yet tore off a poorly mounted antenna I have yet to remove.  The house has no insulation whatsoever, yet it's oddly almost impossible to hear whats happening outside even during a bad wind storm. Honk a car horn, it's hardly audible.

I could go on and on, but it occurs to me back when they built this place, surviving natures wrath, or whatever was tossed at them, was far more important than looks/design trends. I have come to appreciate these features, watching homes that are newer get destroyed in the same winds that we didn't even notice until a barbeque grill flew past a window LoL When we had 2' of heavy wet snow roofs collapsed, mine tossed the snow on the ground by 1pm the next day.

In the end I have just typed all this to say I am thankful many years ago someone cared enough to build this house how they did, as well as locating it where they did. It's clear, common sense that they had then, hardly is exercised in today's homes. I think I will jack it up, toss a new foundation under it next year and remodel it to my wife's liking, and see how much longer it lasts. On the upside it will save a $100k easily over a newer home...this ones paid for, I like that also.

















 

 
Norm

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Offline Flyin6

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2015, 11:37:38 AM »
My dad's house which he built was like that real 2" X 4" studs not 1.5" X 3.5"
He laid them in on 12" centers, covered that with plywood, then siding and plaster on the inside. Never gave us a minute's trouble

I'm going to hand build my farm cabin starting with a stone fireplace...Stone from the farm
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Offline Dawg25385

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2015, 11:52:34 AM »
Totally hear ya Norm...

I built this patio roof a couple years ago at our old house (subsequently sold). I wanted everything to be exposed wood, kinda "lodge-ish", so I elected to use rough-sawn doug fir. True 2x8's, true 6x6 posts, and true 6x10 beam. About 2-3x the cost of regular lumber from the yard, special order from the mill... all was hand sanded and stained by me. What a freakin' pain in the butt it was to get my plans signed off by the city planner because the wood wasn't typical planed and stamped construction grade lumber. Probably because it broke their equations for their calculations. Hardware, same deal... if it wasn't Simpson Strong-Tie, they wouldn't even consider it. I had purchased these nice powder-coated, solid-steel, post bases for the 2 posts. But hold the phone, they weren't "engineered", so they forced me to use the standard Simpson stand-off bases.

I have to say, as much as a pain it was to deal with the city, I enjoyed working with the old style rough-sawn wood.

There's a movie that's about this... pretty good, kind of a tear jerker girly-flick type, but it's really good. It's called "Still Mine". About an old timer that builds a new house for his wife, off books, and has to deal with the local jurisdiction's issues with his project. Even though he's an expert craftsman, milled the wood himself, etc etc. Pretty good movie.

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Offline OldKooT

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2015, 12:08:51 PM »
That patio sure turned out very nice. I am not what I'd call good with woodworking but it's a goal to become better at it. I look at how my old barns and buildings were built, and it's impressive to see how they did things back in the day. And add to the fact most are well over 100 yrs old and still standing/functional.

Building codes/inspectors. Out here there is this unwritten rule...it goes like this.

If it's a existing structure do whatever you want, no one cares, no one will look unless you apply for a permit. And who would do that? If I went to get a permit to roof a barn I own they'd look at me like I was daft.

That said a new structure... ya will have 12 engineers two guys taking notes and a ornery tax collector waiting to take pictures. It's a rather odd deal all in all.

Don, when you build that fireplace take loads of pictures. I helped my grandfather build one when I was a kid...that was a project. We hauled all the stone from Iowa since Neb has almost no field stones.
Norm

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Offline Dawg25385

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2015, 12:28:29 PM »
... it's impressive to see how they did things back in the day. And add to the fact most are well over 100 yrs old and still standing/functional.

Isn't that the truth! Another great example that modern versus antique furniture... Man oh man, the stuff they did back then... Solid wood, wood you can't even really find nowadays, and if you can, you will pay dearly. The dovetails, mortise and tenon, dowel joints... just incredible. I don't have the patience for it, but certainly admire those that do! Lucky to find anything solid wood now. Usually just veneered plywood...
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Offline Nate

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2015, 04:43:26 PM »
;D
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Offline Sammconn

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2015, 05:00:59 PM »
... it's impressive to see how they did things back in the day. And add to the fact most are well over 100 yrs old and still standing/functional.

Isn't that the truth! Another great example that modern versus antique furniture... Man oh man, the stuff they did back then... Solid wood, wood you can't even really find nowadays, and if you can, you will pay dearly. The dovetails, mortise and tenon, dowel joints... just incredible. I don't have the patience for it, but certainly admire those that do! Lucky to find anything solid wood now. Usually just veneered plywood...
Ahh yes.
I never considered myself a 'finish' carpenter, just a framer.
A friend of mine got me into a woodshop and got me going.
I can do it now, but my CDO is the killer, if it aint perfect, I'm not happy.
Another thread for me to post up. Have all the finished products, but no pics along the way.

And I have tried to stay all solid wood save for a few of the projects along the way.
I just don't want to wind up missing a digit or limb.  I can sometimes get in a hurry to get results.
Sam

Offline Flyin6

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2015, 07:19:25 PM »
Don, when you build that fireplace take loads of pictures. I helped my grandfather build one when I was a kid...that was a project. We hauled all the stone from Iowa since Neb has almost no field stones.
Roger that Norm

I am told many years, decades actually, the previous family which owned that farm from the early 1800's up till I bought it, hired a bunch of Mexicans one summer. They set up tents and sorted food and water in there every couple days. They worked all summer clearing the fields of stones...flat stones. I have piles and piles of them. I figure I'll use the mossy ones for landscaping down there and up here as well. The others will go into the fireplace, foundation, steps, retaining wall, and on one side of the pond I want to come out of the water with a stacked stone wall to give fish and snakes a place to hide!
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Offline OldKooT

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2015, 08:02:17 PM »
My ambition level is low this year. My wife has many times hinted I should collect some stones for a field stone fireplace on her planned addition. I am struggling to find ambition to fix some old shed doors that are falling off the tracks LoL

You all are great motivators... to a point. Winters coming, so I have procrastinated long enough and have a "Self-do" list that's growing daily.

Norm

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Offline Atkinsmatt

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2015, 08:34:51 PM »
My house started life as a building on Ft Stewart.  It was one of the white lap board buildings with 2 rooms on either side of the hallway.  The person that bought it was a turpentine collector and farmer.  He set it up and over time added 2 bathrooms, fireplace and 2 additions and bricked it.  Later added a garage.  When they built these things on base right before and during WW2, they used the trees that they cut and milled right at the building site.  All of the wood is heart pine.  The roof deck is all plank.  The person that moved it used the same materials and methods for the additions.  I have updated with Pella windows, metal roof, and added insulation wherever I could.  It is pretty well insulated and we don't have a doorbell except for the dogs.  Can't hear things going on outside. There are 3 wells.  The first well on the place is still there and it has a hand pump.  It is 10 feet from where the back door was before additions.  Great part of the hurricane, SHTF kit.
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Offline Farmer Jon

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2015, 10:11:17 PM »
I live in a typical 1880s Nebraska farm house. What basement it did have was dug with horses pulling a tumble bug dragging the dirt out from under it. True 2x4 construction with square nails. The red brick foundation finally gave out. Everything was crooked. floors bowed. We jacked it up dug a new basement and put on an addition. The old red brick was not even in the ground. It was on top. Once the new foundation was poured and it was set down on the the carpenter said hes never seen a house so straight. everyone said we were crazy. Burn that old house down and start over. No way. How man people can say they live in a house over 100 years old?
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Online TexasRedNeck

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2015, 10:33:45 PM »
Its called character.  Not many people, or buildings, have it nowadays.  Very good story Norm.

Speaking of older homes. My grandfather built his own house from a kit ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog in the early 1940s.  Its still standing though he passed and my recently deceased grandmother sold it in 1998.

If I close my eyes I can still smell the smell of that house.  Mothballs, Campho phenique, fried okra, fried chicken, fried porkchops, biscuits and gravy, black coffee, and home made pies.....
Kids today don't know how easy they have it. When I was young, I had to walk 9 feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.

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Offline cudakidd53

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2015, 10:47:36 PM »
That's so true- Character!
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Offline KensAuto

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2015, 11:15:42 PM »
RN, did we have the same grandparents? Are we cousins? lol

Here's the real test. Did your great grandparents chew days work ?(both grandma and grandpa)
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Online TexasRedNeck

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2015, 11:21:12 PM »
Ken lets count our toes together.  If we need more than two hands each, we might be related....
Kids today don't know how easy they have it. When I was young, I had to walk 9 feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.

Joshua 6:20-24

Offline Wilbur

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2015, 01:30:50 AM »
Geez all you guys and your modern houses....my parents is 250 years old.  ;) Punkin pine floors, all hand hewn beams, big center chimney with an original beehive oven built in. Of course the rock foundation let's in everything from water to rodents. I love old houses....looking at them that is. The one I grew up in was 200 years old and I can do without the maintenance. But there's no denying the craftsmanship. They last because they were built well. Today's newer stuff will all be gone or have to be rebuilt in 50 years or so I would bet.

My aunts house in northern Maine was a Sears house.....absolutely beautiful farmhouse....brought on boats up the river. Some really great stuff from back then.

Offline EL TATE

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Re: Observations about our "homes"
« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2015, 10:41:19 AM »
There are a few of those Sears catalog houses out by me in the older farming communities. The trains would bring up the kit and then the farmers hauled them off to their respective sites for building. Funny thing is, they're the only ones built up high enough to never see water when the Stilly floods, but all the new construction built on old farm fields...
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