What were they thinking? - Fine Homebuilding

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The Deans of Green

The Deans of Green

What were they thinking?

comments (0) December 9th, 2008 in Blogs

Posted by: Rick Arnold

Every once in a while, you come across work done on a house and wonder “what were they thinking?”

Because the frame of this 250-year-old building is significantly bent and disfigured, and because the top layer of red-cedar shingle siding was so old and warped, it was hard to see what was really going on underneath it all.

As we continued to strip the old siding layers off, we uncovered a previously repaired section (using the term repaired loosely here) about 14 ft. long along the first-floor level.

The 1-plus-in.-thick planking on this section was horizontal in contrast to the original vertical planking and stood proud of the old planking the full dimension of its thickness: 1 in. It even overlapped on top of the old planking. There wasn’t even an attempt at a transition when it was sided. Whoever “fixed” it just shingled over the gap, which helped to contribute to some of the building's disfigurement.

I’m guessing that at one time, the beam of this section needed some serious reinforcement, so someone removed the siding, planking, and interior-wall structure. Then whoever did the work installed a 2x6 stud wall, keeping the outside face of the studs even with the outside face of the planking. Then the new planking was installed as we found it.

So what was it? Did the boss leave the job for the day? Was it a couple of new guys just starting out on their own? Was it the homeowner and a friend and a long weekend?

I figure the job is about 50 years old, so there is a chance that whoever had a hand in it could still be around. I would really like to have a chat with him.

Fortunately, the fix is easy. We removed all the horizontal planking; filled the cavities with batt insulation (should be the warmest wall in the house now); installed housewrap directly over the studs, taking extra care to keep it intact as an air and weather barrier; then ran rigid insulation over the entire area, as it continues over the rest of the planking.

We’ll just have to make sure to hit the studs when we install the siding on this spot so that no one ever has to wonder what we were thinking during this phase of our project.

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