Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

March 24, 2010

Posts, Beams, and Other Oddities

Filed under: Uncategorized — Duane Diefenbach @ 8:46 pm

I have handled a lot of posts and beams recently. I guess I can remember what happened as far back as late last week. I picked up the antique chestnut beams from the kiln where they were heated to 160° for 24 hr to kill any bugs. With the help of my neighbor Bill we unloaded them all except for the one to be sawed in half (lengthwise) for each end of the master bedroom. Then Bill and I moved a load of slippery (red) elm out of the solar kiln (and into my workshop) and moved in a load of hemlock and hickory to dry. The hemlock and hickory were cut last fall and were stickered in the pole barn – and their moisture content was fairly low – but after one day in the solar kiln the moisture started wicking out and the kiln was filled with moisture and the meter was off the scale (>30% moisture). Today (Wed) I checked the wood and it had a 15-25% moisture content.

On Sunday Bill and I worked on installing posts for our new cattle corral. Last year the steers we brought home went through our fence like a knife through butter. This year we’re adding 3 more strands of high tensile electric fence and posts about every 10 feet. We installed almost 20 posts (some we had to do twice because they were not lined up very well).

I took us most of the day. I’ll have more photos of the fencing project soon. We need the utilities moved from the homestead pole to the underground access so that I can use the homestead pole for supports for a gate into the cattle corral. Plus Bill and I need to assess what other materials we need to finish the project (insulators, wires, tensioners, etc.).

Bill also helped me plane the posts and beams for the front porch. I have 6×6 posts and 6×10 beams of hemlock for both porches and they needed to be planed to final dimensions. Then I needed to cut the mortises, tenons, and scarf joints to make the supports for the porches. I am starting with the larger porch near the barn because this framing is needed so Lee’s crew can build the roof and complete the framing and roofing on that side of the house.

But before I could get much work done on the timber joinery Lisa pointed out that our mason was chipping away at the mortar around the first floor window that will become the passageway from the old to new house on the first floor.  Bill and I put down our beers. So that the mason can take out the window and stones we had to do some destruction in the living room.

Here’s a photo of a discussion with Bill about what needed to happen.

And here’s a photo of  a discussion with the mason about what needed to be done

And here’s what we did

The downstairs of the old house was studded out in 1989 and insulated. Mostly what this did was make the room smaller and encourage mold and plaster deterioration behind the walls. Destruction is always fun and in and old house it usually leads you to learn something about the history of the building. What we learned is that the wainscot we knew existed in this room in the 1950s and 60s was not original to the home. The wainscot was removed when the insulation was added in 1989 and beneath the wainscot was older wallpaper and any hidden trim and baseboard had the original milk paint (some shade of deep blue/gray milk paint). When I removed the trim from around the window I found that underneath the sill was a space filled with mouse nests and corn cobs. I think the corn cobs were used to try and plug some knotholes in the sill. I also found 3 combs but no money.  Haven’t found anything more than a 1950 penny in this house so far.

About 9pm that evening Lisa and I finished up vacuuming up the debris and installed some plastic to keep the masonry dust out of our living space. Here’s what the opening looks like as of Wednesday evening (looking from the addition into the old part of the house):

Tuesday morning I was going to at least go into work for part of the day, but it was clear that I needed to get the posts and beams cut so that Lee’s crew could start building the front porch. I started at about 6am on Tuesday (and with various interruptions during the day) wound up getting all but the last joint at the corner post (post and 2 beams) completed by 11pm that evening. I got up at 5:30am on Wednesday and finished the last of the joinery.

This is one of the joints I attempted to make for linking the beams across the posts (a bridled scarf joint):

Here’s a photo of the posts and beams. The one one unfinished end in the photo is because I left all the posts long so that they could be cut to length when installed. By tomorrow or Friday we’ll find out how well (or badly) they fit the porch space. If not, at least I have learned enough that the posts and beams for the rear porch will fit better and go together faster.

Finally, as a wrap-up for this post (no pun intended) is a photo of the antique chestnut beams that Lee’s crew installed in the master bedroom.

1 Comment »

  1. […] As you can see, some demolition has already occurred. In previous posts you can view the exposure of the original passageway to the basement (February 2011) and the making a window into a doorway to the new addition (March 2010). […]

    Pingback by Not Sure That We Should Have Done This… « Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse — April 3, 2011 @ 9:02 am

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