Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Clapboards vs match-boards, and why?

More progress on the Duncan House. The front is taking shape now. The portico is virtually built and is very nice.

I've been particularly interested in the boards used under the portico, especially as compared to the other boards on either side of the portico.  It's easy to see the 'clapboards' that cover most of the house.  They are tear-drop boards....larger at the bottom than at the top, allowing rainwater to run off. 

But we are not using clapboards under the portico. The boards we are instructed to use are tongue and groove boards, AND they are of different widths....some are 4" and some are 6", and they are put up in rather a haphazard manner, without a pattern.  I asked Chelius H. Carter about this whole 'style' and here is what he told me (which, actually, is a rather short explanation for him! :-)

"NOW…Why did we use 'match-boards' between the pilasters and in the front gable and regular clapboard everywhere else?
"It is a 19th century (and earlier) carpentry interpretation of Greek temple construction…this being a house in the 'Greek Revival' form or style. Often the front facades of ancient temples utilized smooth, finished blocks of stone termed “ashlar” to formalize the front entry; the sides would have a rougher cut stone. The clapboard is a carpentry representation of the latter material, while the 'match-board,' which are really simple floorboards laid up vertically, represent the finished or 'ashlar' stonework, formalizing the home’s entry. The gable or in proper temple elements’ terminology, the 'tympanum.' accomplishes the same aesthetic function.

"NOW…Why did we use different sized material in this 'match-board' business? In the mid-19th century and before that for centuries, as long as there have been wooden floors and wood siding, it has ALWAYS been “random width”…the planks came out of the sawmill at varied widths depending on what part of the log the planks came from - those people were interested in getting as much material out of the log as possible and that their clapboards and floorboards varied in width was of no concern…I have images of an 18th century clapboard house in Chestertown, Maryland, that has exterior planks ranging from 4 inches in face dimension to 20 inches. If you were to look at the original flooring of the William Duncan House (under two later floors)…you would find 'random width' flooring, varying from 4 inches face dimension to 7 or 8 inches. As for the face of the portico and its tympanum, it was specified that the boards be a mix of 4 inch and 6 inch, installed at random to give the same effect. So…there it is."

My friends, now you KNOW!!!

Ok, don't get too excited about that beautiful wood.  It's got to be painted!  Yes, that's correct!  The only thing that will be stained will be the doors themselves.  The side lights and transom will be painted.  I've begged, but to no avail.  So, we are trying to do it correctly.

More progress was made today (including a primer on that pretty raw wood) and the steps are being put in place.  The steps are huge, as you can imagine, and stretch from brick pier to brick pier.

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