A Guide to Building Homes with Wood in the 1920's
TO many Americans the house of wood will perhaps always typify the home. This is not strange when it is recalled that the larger part of the development of our early houses dating back to the colonial days grew up around the use of wood. Wonderful growths of timber were at hand, only needing the axe and saw to turn them into building material which could be quickly erected to form a shelter.
As time went on and there was greater opportunity for more ambitious building a class of highly skilled carpenters and woodworkers was built up. The work these men did is seen today throughout the eastern section of the country and those houses and churches that fortunately remain are held as one of our priceless inheritances. The skill and knowledge of these craftsmen were imparted to their apprentices and in this way a particular and almost inborn faculty was developed for working in wood. This briefly is the history of the way in which wood has played so prominent a part in the building of American houses.
It might be contended that the choice of wood was largely a matter of chance but there are on the other hand a number of reasons that make it specially suitable for house construction and it is due as well to those favorable traits as to early building conditions that wood is so popular.
It has been said for many years that wood would probably be displaced as an American building material because of a diminishing supply. While this is an undoubted possibility owing to the fact that wood is a natural product, there are still ample supplies of it in most sections of the country and more efficient modern methods of marketing and manufacturing it into merchantable lumber together with more scientific methods of conservation are checking the waste, and it is more than likely that for many generations wood will both be available and hold its popularity.
Owing to the fact that carpentry is such a common trade, prevailing in all parts of the country, it is comparatively easy to find first class workmen for wood construction. Wood building also can be carried on quickly and it is not hindered by cold weather so that in the matter of speed there is probably no other material that can compete with it.
One of the particular advantages of wood for home building is the variety of forms in which it can be had. This variety makes it possible to design and build a wood house that will appropriately fit in with almost any set of conditions. We have, for instance, the choice of using clapboards, shingles, siding, vertical battens, wide weather boarding and various combinations of two or more of these different forms. Then there are still further sub-divisions; clapboards are made in narrow and wide widths, shingles are made short and long so that totally different effects from an architectural standpoint may be had—all from the same basic material.
For the country house or cottage placed in a rural or wooded setting nothing is more appropriate than a shingled house either stained in some appropriate color or left natural to weather. For the more formal suburban house the use of clapboards or siding is more usual and in better taste. They have smooth surfaces, and being spaced at regular intervals and finished at the corners with corner boards, they present a trim, neat appearance that gives a house a substantial character. If they seem to some austere, relieving notes may be introduced through use of lattices, trellisses and wood shutters.
Siding at present enjoys a wide popularity. Being wider than clap- boards its effect on the building in sunlight is a series of strong horizontal lines about 8 inches apart. Siding should, for most successful effects, be used on large houses; when used on a small house it is apt to give a "boxey" appearance which has the effect of making the house appear smaller than it really is. In this case it is better to use shingles or clapboards. Weather boarding in wide widths is not so commonly used as the previous forms but it nevertheless has many interesting possibilities especially for summer camps and houses in wooded locations. These boards are generally rough sawed and stained which makes them harmonize well with the natural landscape. Batten boards are similarly used for camps and bungalows; they are laid on the building vertically with smaller boards or battens over the joints.
The colonial house which is so universally popular today and is des- tined to remain so because of its eminent suitability to American living conditions, is primarily a wooden form and the many charming examples that have been built in recent years will tend to maintain interest in wooden buildings.
The durability of wood depends on the measures that are taken for its protection. If it is properly cared for there is almost no limit to its age, and if well constructed and given good care it should serve as a comfortable home for several generations.
Wood, of course, will burn and when houses are poorly constructed and crowded closely together there is unquestionably a fire danger, but in the average private wooden house if care is taken in building to see that proper firestopping is installed, which merely means that all open spaces leading into the walls are closed, there is but little danger of fire spreading quickly, and in the event of fire it is more easy to extinguish a blaze in a wooden than a masonry house because the source of the fire can be reached.
Lumber today, possibly more than ever before, on account of the necessity for homes, which if built of any other material than wood might be beyond the reach of the average potential home owner, stands as the most easily procurable, highly desirable and certainly the cheapest building material which can be used.
Lumber prices are lower today by far than at any time during or since the World War. Application of law of supply and demand which always governs prices, with demand at low ebb today, proves beyond much possibility of doubt that lumber prices are right. Contrast them with prices of other materials. Your decision will be to "Build Now" and "Own Your Home" of lumber.
Lumber, being susceptible of working, finishing, staining and otherwise adaptable to the beautiful and artistic as well as the practical, makes the ideal home building material, because it is recognized that in this enlightened age a home must combine the ideal with the practical, if it is to fill the place in the social scheme that it must fill, and our present civilization is to endure.
Source: "Home Builders Plan Book" 1921