Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Our clapboards

An end view of one of our clapboards showing the vertical grain running across the clapboard

The following is a little background on the siding we are installing on the house over the next few weeks.

The siding we are using is locally milled, quarter-sawn (therefore vertical grain) spruce clapboards supplied by the Ward Clapboard Mill. The mill has been in operation since 1868 in Moretown village, two doors down from my sister's house. The mill suffered a fire eight or nine years ago, but gladly they rebuilt the lost section and continue supplying a product that is deeply woven into the historical fabric of local architecture.

The term quarter-sawn describes the way a piece of wood is cut from the log from which it came. The illustration above shows how a log can be cut so that you are essentially cutting clapboards in a radial pattern from the center of the log. Cutting in this manner results in what is known as "vertical grain", meaning the grain runs across the wood. Another method of milling is called "flatsawn" where the board is cut from the log across the grain, as demonstrated by the rectangular piece of wood shown in the illustration. Wood cut with a vertical grain will stay flatter and hold together better then flat sawn lumber. I think its fair to say that most generally available clapboard material is not going to be quarter-sawn.

Ward supplies three grades of clapboard and we decided to go with the least fancy grade known as cottage. Cottage is economical and the trade off for that economy is the fact that it comes with a greater number of defects or imperfections then the better grades -- but my thinking was this: perhaps those imperfections could be a desirable asset. Being a fan of historic and aged houses I actually see the cottage grade lumber as sort of lending an "instant old" quality to the look of the exterior because it is a slightly blemished finish. Seeing the results on the house this logic is proving to make sense and it is just what I hoped, which is a very attractive but not seamless finish.

Another detail regarding clapboards that I worried over quite a lot is how much reveal to install our siding with. Revel is the amount of clapboard exposed before the next clapboard is attached over it. Generally what you see is a 3" reveal, sometimes 4", sometimes even 5". I decided on 2 1/2", again with a deep appreciation for the way such a tight reveal looks on lots of old houses around Vermont. Its a lot of material and work to put up that much clapboard, but we're going to be living with it for a really long time, so we might as well get it right. There've been multiple instances where I've gone and measured the reveal on a given house to see what it was. There are examples of reveals as low as 2", but I couldn't justify going that far, so settled on 2 1/2" and now that I can see it going up I feel good about the decision.

It feels great to be working with material that is so much of this place.


clapboard said...

Nice informative blog
The clapper board is a tool which used in the production of videotape and motion picture for assisting to synchronize the sound and picture and also for designating and marking particular takes and scenes recorded throughout the production procedure.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience building your home.
It still looks so beautiful!
I am also interested in residing my home with Ward clapboard. Your siding still looks great after 10 years. Did you have it primed at all sides before applying stain/paint? May I ask what product you used? I would be much obliged.