Construction Details of Two Outbuildings c. 1920

On Halloween the Architectural Observer will visit a cemetery to examine the architectural qualities of grave markers, but today let’s take a closer look at the kind of vernacular buildings commonly built on farms in the early 20th century.  The first structure was used over the years as both a milk house and a wash house.  The second structure was used as a workshop; both were built around 1920.

 

The windowless front of the milk house/wash house is clad in tongue-and-groove drop siding.  An old tarp from a semi tractor trailer protects the structure from further water damage.  Used truck tarps are an inexpensive way to help stabilize and protect historic structures.

 

The simple, utilitarian, door was made of the same T&G siding.

 

The builder of this clinch-nailed door meant well, but the diagonal brace works best when oriented differently.  Here, steel plumber’s strap supports the door more efficiently to prevent sagging.  The top of the strap or brace should always be on the hinged side of the door to most effectively prevent sagging.  Clinch-nailing utilizes the projecting length of nail on the backside to fasten two pieces tightly when the nail is bent over.

 

The jamb was created by holding the siding back an inch to expose a part of the wall stud.  The profile of the T&G drop siding may be seen here.

 

A south-facing gable window brings light to the interior, but someone installed it backwards; the puttied side faces the interior.  Note that like the door, there is no casing – just a sill let into the siding.

 

Butt-jointed corners were protected with ridge cap intended for a roof.

 

Walls were built atop a poured concrete foundation; the 2-stud corner is characteristically minimalist and economical.

 

Looking up!  The rafters do not utilize a ridge board as one was not really needed.   Gussets made of scrap material provide extra strength to the joined rafters.

 

The eaves are also minimilist.

 

And now to the workshop:

 

Yes, the structure is leaning.  In several directions!  The windows at right are original and in better condition than the 1960’s-era replacements on the left.  Another semi tractor trailer truck tarp protects this structure as well.

 

The patched wall (left of windows) shows that the original windows were identical to those to the right of the door.  The door itself once swung inward; it was later hung outside, exposing the rim lock to the weather.  The sagging and ill-fitting door is fastened with an exterior hook.  Rim locks such as these were designed for interior use only.

 

Wall studs are notched to receive the rafters.  Scraps are again used for gussets.

 

Window sash is placed between studs; a 1 x 1 strip nailed to the studs creates a track for the sash to travel in.

 

Bottom of wall atop poured concrete foundation.

 

Looking up!  Original wood shingles may be seen between the sheathing boards.

 

A different type of 2-stud corner!  The white truck tarp allows light to filter through numerous holes in the roof while keeping the interior dry.

 

Another backwards diagonal brace; this has not stopped the door from sagging and has allowed the door to pull apart at the top.  A classic example of the proverbial road to Hell being paved with good intentions!

 

4 Responses to Construction Details of Two Outbuildings c. 1920

  1. Those look like the familiar quirks of farmer-built structures I grew up with (and some of which I contributed too, haha!). It’s good to be reminded that not everything old was built with sophisticated craftsmanship, or even done very well. There was plenty that was just quick and cheap to get the job done, often by people who were far from expert tradesman.

    That reminds me of a book you might enjoy: “The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship”
    https://www.amazon.com/House-Sixteen-Handmade-Doors-Architectural/dp/0393242048

    • Thanks! I just ordered (what they claim was) the last copy on Amazon… looking forward to it! Update a few minutes later: Now, magically, there are 6 in stock with “more on the way”. Whatever.

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