John Stahl of Next Generation Systems joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss his epoxy system, preservation contracting experience and services, plus his window evaluation program of surveying, documenting, and providing recommendations to building owners.

A Practical Preservation first – John launched his new product ‘on the air’ – cold weather epoxy for wood:

Contact information and discount code:

John Stahl – 607-760-6658 or [email protected]

10% off of epoxy repair materials – code practicalpreservation

Bio:

John Stahl started his career working on a historic property
in Salt Lake City while attending college.

John moved to New York City and began a small painting and
building restoration company.

In 1992, John began a long relationship with This Old House
Television show demonstrating wood and wood window restoration. John also
worked on several articles for This Old House Magazine.

John assisted Sanford University in surveying and developing
a detailed scope of work for the restoration of 1300 windows and doors at their
historic Main Quad.

John is the owner and product developer for Next Generation
Systems located in Altamont, New York.

We recently completed a restoration project of some truly massive doors at the Wilmington Public Library in Delaware.

The library was built in 1922 with the bold shapes and lavish ornaments of the Art Deco style of architecture popular at that time.

We restored a pair 22’6’ tall, 10-panel White Oak and Mahogany pocket doors.  The doors were 4” thick, 4’6” wide each, and badly distressed from years of use and lack of maintenance.  The biggest challenge on this project was getting these giants off.  Obviously this was not your ordinary door removal.

To see just how tricky the removal process was, watch a video of the removal at: http://bit.ly/1riG1tL

Once we hauled the mammoth doors back to the shop, we set to work restoring them with five guys at workstations around the doors.

 

 

When will you be able to upload them?

We recently completed a historic porch restoration at the Harris-Cameron mansion in Harrisburg, PA.  Part of the project involved fabricating new wood columns to match a few existing column we were salvaging.  For that work we turned to Somerset Door & Column Company.

Historic Porch Restoration

For over 100 years, Somerset Door & Column Company has manufactured architectural wood columns, doors, and entryways. Built on tradition and authenticity, Somerset Door & Column uses trained artisan craftsmen and kiln-dried domestic and imported hardwoods to create long-lasting, high-quality custom doors and columns. While some manufacturers outsource parts of their production process, Somerset maintains complete control over the quality of their production process by fabricating everything on-site at their facilities.

We had previously worked with Somerset Door & Column on another historic porch restoration we did in Staten Island and knew their quality of work was commendable.  Chuck is picky about the vendors and contractors we work with and he gives Somerset a solid two thumbs up.

“There isn’t anything they can’t do”, he says.

 

 

 

Even if you decide I’m too long-winded, or that I’m preaching to the choir, to read this entire post – MAKE SURE YOU SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM to get your free copy of a report on how to make wood windows last for generations we recently wrote.

 

Why Save Historic Wood Windows?

Did you know that historical wood windows are one of the most vulnerable and “at-risk” elements of our architectural heritage?

Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement Windows

Preservation Virginia has proclaimed historical windows endangered, saying, “Historic wooden windows are destroyed daily in lieu of new, inferior windows. Salesmen convince owners and architectural review board members that replacement windows are superior to historic wooden windows when the truth is these historic windows can last longer than any new wooden window or vinyl clad window.”

Despite this, windows don’t often have a high priority on the list of things we should preserve in our built history. Yet they should. If eyes are windows into the soul, as the old adage goes, then surely windows are how we see into the soul of a historical building.

The windows in your historical building are an important contribution to how your historical building looks. Not only are they one of only a few parts of a building that serve as both and interior and exterior architectural feature, they usually make up about a quarter of the surface area of a historical building.

Many aspects of windows contribute to your building’s architectural style and historical fabric – height, width, and thickness of frames and sills, the visual design of sash components, the materials and color treatments used, and even the way light reflects off of the glass.

Muntins, historical glass, putty beading, moulding profiles, glazed opening widths, and regionally-distinct patterns and features are more distinct characteristics of original wood windows that contribute to your historical building’s façade.  And all of these varied between architectural styles and periods and from region to region, making wood windows living artifacts from history – an archeological goldmine that helps us understand and document our historical building practices and craftsmanship.

 

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″] Beyond their importance in contributing to how your building looks, your building’s windows play an important role in how your building functions. Perhaps one of the most important of those functions is how windows serve as an integral part of a historical building’s design to “breathe” moisture. Historical buildings function as a cohesive, whole system to handle moisture infiltration and the original design, installation, and materials used – including, and especially, the windows – were all picked for your building’s specific system. Changing your windows can significantly impact how your home handles moisture – a road no homeowner wants to travel down. [/sws_grey_box]

 

Historic Wood Windows Vs. Replacement Windows

Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement WindowsThese features and variances can be difficult to duplicate with modern technology. Our manufacturing and installation process is significantly different than the process used hundreds of years ago and the characteristics modern machinery and installation techniques impart create an entirely different window than the traditional building methods created when your building was originally constructed. Such a loss of historical elements is a permanent scar on your historical building.

Replacing original wood windows also often requires changing the window’s rough opening to install a window manufactured on national standards in to the non-standard opening of a building constructed during a time when there were no building standards – another mistake that permanently damages your building.

 

The Importance of Historic Wood Window Restoration

Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement Windows

Just as we shouldn’t replace our historical art with modern replicas, we shouldn’t replace our historical wood windows with modern replacement windows.

Throwing out the artifacts from our built history that stand testament to how our buildings were constructed over the last several hundred years prevents future generations from a deep understanding of a piece of our history that’s just as important as all the other artifacts we work so hard to preserve.

Because once they are gone, they are gone for good.

[sws_toggle1 title=”Which Windows are Historically Significant?“]The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief #9: The Repair of Historic Wood Windows notes that windows should be considered significant to a building if they:

1) are original,

2) reflect the original design intent for the building,

3) reflect period or regional styles or building practices,

4) reflect changes to the building resulting from major periods or events, or

5) are examples of exceptional craftsmanship or design [/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”What is Recommended for Historic Wood Windows?“]

The National Park Service’s Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historical Windows recommend the following:

• Identify, Retain, and Preserve

• Protect and Maintain

• Repair • Accurate Restoration

• Sympathetic New Windows in Additions

• Preserving Decoration and Function

• Replacement In-Kind

• Compatible Materials

[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”What is NOT Recommended for Historic Wood Windows?“]

The National Park Service’s Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historical Windows do NOT recommend the following:

• Removing Windows Important to Historical Character

• Changing Location or Size of Windows

• Inappropriate Designs, Materials, and Finishes

• Destroying Historical Materials

• Replacing Windows that Can be Repaired

• Failing to Maintain

• Replacing instead of Maintaining

• Inaccurate Historical Appearance

[/sws_toggle1]

 

How to Save Historic Wood Windows

Now that you know how important your historic wood windows, we want you to have the knowledge you need to save them.

Get your free copy of our recent report “Put Replacement Windows to Shame: 10 Tools to Make Your Historic Wood Windows Last for Generations”

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Preservation in Progress is a series of our posts where we show you how historic preservation happens, as it’s happening.

Historic Preservation in Progress

The Wilmington Public Library

Historic Preservation in Progress

The Wilmington Library was built in 1922 and has remained a landmark on Rodney Square for ninety years.  Especially in recent years, due to heavy use by the public and the changing role of libraries in an urban environment, there has been an increasingly evident need for expensive repairs.

After extensive study, the Board of Managers determined that the best course of action was to undertake a substantial renovation to restore the Library to its original classic beauty.  As importantly, the “redesign” of the facility would also be the catalyst for the Library to modify, expand and effectively market its collections and exciting new services and programs to better accommodate the Library’s diverse constituencies.

Historic Restorations will be restoring three pairs of doors on the project, including the massive exterior pocket doors.  Below are videos we shot while removing these HUGE 22′ tall wood entrance doors on the Wilmington Public Library.  The doors will be stored at our shop until we are ready to restore and re-install them for the Library’s restoration project.

 

httpv://youtu.be/Uh00HMP5D0o

httpv://youtu.be/FUx5B98TvWQ

httpv://youtu.be/qD0H5YabrqA

httpv://youtu.be/XwUrYS0W42E

 

 

Traditional joinery is a term we’ve all heard as a hallmark of historical millwork.  But what is it and why is it so important in preservation of historic buildings?

What is Traditional Joinery?

Joinery in general is the woodworking technique that joins together two pieces of wood.  What a joint looks like, how strong it is, how long it will last, and other characteristics are all determined by the joining materials and how they are used in the joints.   Traditional joinery techniques use only wood elements, while modern joinery techniques use fasteners, bindings, and/or adhesives.  Sometimes the two techniques are combined to marry wooden elements and joints with modern adhesives.

Traditional joinery uses the following joints:

Butt joint: The end of a piece of wood is butted against another piece of wood. This is the simplest, and weakest, joint in traditional joinery.

 

 

Miter joint: Similar to a butt joint, but both pieces have been beveled (usually at a 45 degree angle) before being joined together.

 

 

 

Lap joints: One piece of wood overlaps another.

 

 

 

Box joint (or finger joint): Several lap joints at the ends of two boards; used for the corners of boxes.

 

 

 

Dovetail joint: A form of box joint where the fingers are locked together by diagonal cuts.

 

 

 

Dado joint: A slot is cut across the grain in one piece for another piece to set into; shelves on a bookshelf having slots cut into the sides of the shelf, for example.

 

Groove joint: The slot is cut with the grain.

 

 

Tongue and groove: Each piece has a groove cut all along one edge, and a thin, deep ridge (the tongue) on the opposite edge. If the tongue is unattached, it is considered a spline joint.

 

Mortise and tenon: A stub (the tenon) will fit tightly into a hole cut for it (the mortise). This is a hallmark of Mission Style furniture, and also the traditional method of jointing frame and panel members in doors, windows, and cabinets.

 

Birdsmouth joint: A V-shaped cut in the rafter connecting roof rafters to the wall-plate.

 

 

Comb Joint: A joint used as a way of conserving timber, as a means of joining random lengths of timber to be machined to a finished piece.

 

 

 

Source for pictures and joint descriptions: Wikipedia’s Entry on Traditional Woodworking Joints 

 

Why it’s Important in Preservation

There are many advantages to using traditional joinery in the preservation or restoration of a historic building.  Using traditional joinery in repairs, restorations, and other preservation ensures the structural integrity of a historic building by matching existing joinery with a joinery technique that’s sure to be compatible with it.  Since traditional joinery is stronger, more durable, and expands and contracts in different ways than modern joinery – using modern joinery alongside traditional joinery can compromise the structure of a historic building.

Traditional joinery is a time-tested method that is much stronger than modern joinery and lasts for generations, even thousands of years.   The mortise and tenon joint is the most ancient traditional joint and has been found in the wooden planks of a vessel 43.6 meters long that dates to 2,500 BCE.  Traditional Chinese architecture as old as Chinese civilization itself used this method for a perfect fit without using fasteners and glues.  The 30 stones of Stonehenge were also fashioned with mortise and tenon joints before they were erected between 2600 and 2400 BCE.

Proving itself to be able to stand the test of thousands of years, traditional joinery is clearly a higher quality and more stable joinery method than modern techniques.  That test of thousands of years also demonstrates traditional joinery’s ability to withstand the rigorous use we often demand of our structures joints because it is a higher quality, more stable joinery method than modern techniques.

One of the reasons traditional joinery like mortise and tenon joints withstands the test of time so well is that it allows a joint to naturally expand and contract with moisture and temperature changes in the environment without devastating separation that weakens the joint and causes (often irreparable) damage to the wood pieces it’s joining together.

But most importantly, traditional joinery ensures authenticity in the preservation of our built history by more completely matching the existing materials and construction methods used by traditional trades.  Since the traditional trade methods that originally constructed a building (along with regional variances in those methods) are a large contributor to a building’s historic fabric, this is the best way to make sure that historic fabric is not lost to our preservation efforts.  Traditional joinery also better allows for selective repair or reconstruction of individual components than modern joinery methods – a major advantage that helps preservationists retain more of the woodwork original to a historic building.

 

 

 

In the summer of 2011, the tower at Independence Hall was bared to the bones for the first time since it was added in 1828.  In a restoration project for the National Park Service (NPS), contractors bared the face level of the tower down to the structural framing.  The NPS has a detailed write-up of the project, along with pictures, videos, and step-by-step pictorial guides of the process.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT ALL OUT AND TAKE A LITERAL LOOK INTO HISTORY

“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too” might apply in the kitchen, but when you’re building houses, you sometimes can have both.  If you like timber-frame houses but can’t afford one, consider a hybrid.  Although a complete timber frame usually costs 10% to 20% more than a comparable stick frame, a small timber-frame structure integrated into a stick-frame house adds only a fraction of that cost.  Hybrids also are less complicated to build than full timber frames, yet they retain the dramatic look of timber-frame structures in visible areas.  These timber-frame parts can range in scale and complexity from a simple covered entry to an entire two-story addition.  In a typical situation, a timber-frame company such as mine is used as a subcontractor and provides the materials and installation; we also have supplied materials and/or assembled components for builders.  The following are some examples of projects we’ve built.
Entries and porches: A little timber goes a long way
A home’s entrance serves as a transition between outside and inside; it should be protecting and inviting.  A timber-frame entrance (see photo) satisfies these requirements and is relatively easy to build.  Typically composed of two trusses and connecting girts, the structure is lag-bolted to wall studs through the sheathing; the posts are anchored to a masonry pad or footings with noncorrosive standoffs and 1-in. dia. Galvanized-steel pins (see drawing).
Building a flat-ceilings timber-frame porch is also fairly easy (see photo).  The porch is built with a series of posts, girts and braces that support a simple stick-frame roof, which in turn ties the timber frame to the house.
Any number of styles is possible.  Entrances can be as simple as a single bent with a ridge, purlins and side girts that die into the exterior wall.  A large entrance can be even more elaborate.  Railings can be integrated into the posts, or the posts can be doubled up.  Whether on a porch or a deck, posts that look too feeble to support even themselves are the one thing that most diminishes the presence and personality of a house.  We always recommend that substantial posts and girts be used – say, 8x8s and 6x10s, respectively.  If these dimensions look too heavy, the beams’ edges can be chamfered or beaded for a lighter look.
Sprucing up the ceiling with a floor system
A timber-frame floor/ceiling system usually consists of a massive central, or summer, beam that supports the smaller joists (see photo).  The drywall then can be placed on top of the timbers, and a sound-deadening floor (usually layers of plywood) or a conventional 2x-joist floor can be built above, especially if ductwork is an issue.  For a wood ceiling, tongue-and-groove boards are usually the materials of choice, followed by a built-up floor or 2x joists.  Some builders may opt for a single layer of tongue-and-groove boards, but sound transmitted between floors can be irritating.
Opening a space with trusses
The most popular hybrid form is the timber-frame truss system (see photo).  Most often, trusses are placed in a large open space, such as a great room.  Heavy trusses generally can be spaced 16ft. apart if they’re connected with purlins (see drawings) spaced 4ft. o.c.  If the purlins don’t fit in the design, more trusses with closer spacing do the trick.  In such a scenario, tongue-and-groove ceiling boards run perpendicular to the trusses rather than parallel as they do with purlin connections.  It’s usually more economical to go with the purlins because fewer trusses are used.
Other considerations include roof pitch and span-loading requirements.  In terms of structural effectiveness as well as aesthetics, scissors, hammer-beam, and tied-rafter systems work better with steep pitches (12-in-12 or greater) and shorter spans (24ft. or less).  Whatever the choice, review  any design with a licensed structural engineer.
Incidentally, for whatever type of project that we’re working on, we have drawings sealed by a registered engineer because loading requirements can dictate not only the shape but also timber size and spacing.  The relatively low cost of an engineer’s time is money well spent.
Truss design can make a space feel contemporary and light, medieval and heavy, or just about anything in between, depending on configuration (see drawings), timber species, surface, and finish.  Ceiling materials also has an impact.  White drywall or pickled tongue-and-groove boards can help a tight area to feel larger; dark painted drywall or clear-finished tongue and groove can make a high ceiling feel lower or make a large room feel more inviting.
This article originally appeared in Fine Homebuilding Magazine and was reprinted with permission from Anthony Zaya of Lancaster County Timber Framers, Inc.


Taken from the Historic Wood Windows tip sheet from the National Trust for Historic Preservation – maintenance is important for all areas of a building to help insure that it will continue to perform without costly repairs. Preservation is maintenance and it is a lot less expensive than replacement.

Four Wood Window Maintenance Tips:
1. Keep exterior surfaces painted (keeping the water out of the wood);
2. Repair glaze – reglaze entire window as needed;
3. Don’t paint the window shut – so that it can operate as intended; and
4. Don’t paint the sash cord.

For more information read “The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows” Preservation Brief Series #9 – www.cr.nps.gov/hps/tps/briefs/brief09.htm

The November/December 2009 issue of Preservation Magazine featured an article, Getting Ready for Winter: 15 Steps to Efficiency. These tips are taken from this article.
  • Insulate the attic (this is where the majority of your heat loss will occur – though the replacement window and door companies would have you believe it is on the walls of the house – heat rises.)
  • Zoned heating system (heat only the areas of the house you “live” in).
  • Bleed radiators and clean forced-air vents.
  • Have your furnace serviced.
  • Change your furnace filters once a month.
  • Install a programmable thermostat (turn the heat down at night when you are in bed and during the day when you are away).
  • Insulate duct work and hot water pipes in cool spaces. Install foam inserts behind electrical receptacles and light switches (they sale the inserts (with precut holes) for behind the covers at any hardware store).
  • Close fireplace dampers (when the fireplace is not in use – we have had a call from someone not sure why their house was filling with smoke).
  • Set ceiling fans to low and switch direction so the hot air is being forced downward from the ceiling.
  • Make sure bathroom fans have functioning dampers.
  • Keep your original windows maintained (caulk, fix glazing, replace broken panes, repair wooden parts, and install weather stripping).
  • Install storm windows.
  • Use lined curtains, working shutters, and insulated window shades.
  • Caulk holes at exterior penetrations (mail chutes, etc.) only use exterior-grade caulking for this job.