Fir Framing

That’s fir on the left and farmed hemlock on the right. Note the difference?

I’m spending the weekend in Alexandria, Va, and wandering the streets of Old Town. I’m a complete sucker for plaques, and architecture, and porches that people have stood under for 300 years. It amazes me and fills me with a sense of connection to step on the stone steps that George Washington stepped on to enter this tavern and give his first speech as President. It takes all day for me to make it a block by the time I’m done exploring each plaque and building. My wife enjoys it for an hour or so, and the kids are looking for ice cream in five minutes. As an old art history man, I love the architectural details, too. Even something like this two-hundred-year-old clapboard is great. Do you think the houses we toss up today will last two hundred years?

When I started framing houses as a young guy, we used what we called straight-grained fir for house walls in the Pacific NW. The grain was so tight you couldn’t count the rings. Saw blades lasted only a few days in that wood that was hard as granite. Now we use hemlock that is farm-grown for speedy harvesting. You can usually count five or six rings, and I can break it over my knee.

So, there’s my old man chat. Have a great weekend while I sneak down into this basement and check out the grout in this foundation made of fieldstone.


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