My house was built in 1820 and the beams (floor joists) in the basement
below the first floor are "and hewn" beams where the two verticle sides
of the beam still show the shape of the tree and some still have bark on
them whereas the upper and lower surfaces of the beam show the marks
where the beam was cut amd leveled out by hand. I'm not real familiar
with exactly how they cut beams back then by hand and was just curious
about it. Does anyone know of a website that shows the tools and methods
Also, there are a few of these beams that have been damaged over the
years by water and such and I was interested in replacing them with
beams that fit in with the rest of the construction. Is this something
that is done often, or would replacing the beam with a beam from the
lumber yard be the wisest move? The beams vary in size but most are
probably around 10" square or thereabouts.
The work was probably done with a broadaxe or adze. I've been a remodeling
carpenter since the 80's and have not seen a restoration job in your
instance. Consider oversizing the replacement members, as modern homes
typically have greater loads on them due to more finished space and
furnishings (plus that old growth timber is no mo).
Were it me, I'd contact the Timber Framers Guild at (hold on, let's see
here...Ah! There it is!) http://www.tfguild.org/ and find out about
replacing the floor joists with like timbers. At a minimum, I would
think that using engineered lumber would lower the resale value of the
Just my $.02
There are still people that do this sort of work. If you can't find one,
contact your local historic society as they usually know the restoration
experts. I've seen the work being done at Sturbridge Village and Hancock
Shaker Village. The guy giving the talk at Sturbridge told how they found
the best way to cut the beams. They tried different methods and some were
better than others. Then they decided to just try to duplicate the cut
marks on the original beams and that showed them the best way to swing the
There are some hand hewn beam and post listings on eBay at the moment...
Colonial Williamsburg, VA is another living history museum where they make
hand hewn posts and beams, and pit sawn lumber. A couple of the former
carpenters at CW were making new hand hewn posts and beams as a commercial
venture--unfortunately I lost track of them over the years. Perhaps
contacting the carpenters at CW might give you a lead to some new beams.
CW's contact information: http://www.history.org/ or 1-804-229-1000 -- ask
for the carpenters in the crafts department.
I took enough of this stuff out of a house of mine (RI, 1680) to ring a
DON"T leave the bark...BUG CITY.
IF you can find some nice trees, have one side straightened by a sawmill and
do as you like with the rest.
If you want to stay round, strip the bark, otherwise just square them up
with the mill. Or maybe cut to 4-5X10 and beat them up with an axe if you
like. Unless the house has real historic character, I think most buyers
will be indifferent to your concern. I've sold a few houses and NO ONE has
shown any sensitivity to their structural details. They want a clean
inspection, good kitchen, and clean bathrooms!
If this is like my old ones, it would benefit from more joists closer
together. The floor structure was usually marginal. Don't forget, it's the
strongest houses that have survived. MANY old houses were built very
lightly and have fallen down. Wood was very dear in the not so good old
days and people were prone to skimp. Not to mention that real engineering
was not generally available. I've seen 4X4 rafters that had sagged several
inches in the middle. Many attics had no collar ties.
Thanks for the response. My house is not a frame house, but just has
wood in the interior floors and floor joists. The outer walls are all
stone (about 2.5 feet thick). A stone house is interesting because the
outer walls don't change position much at all but the interior wood
structures do sag somewhat.
Wilson Lamb wrote:
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