Need a book? Engineering books recommendations...

Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

Single-wall house

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
I spent the days around Christmas with our family in a single-wall cottage 
where my daughter lives.  

I've designed repairs and strengthening for a few single wall houses and had 
the opportunity to study others.  They are fascinating.  They seem to have 
been built in California in the 19th century and up to about 1920.  The style 
can be found in widely-spread parts of California.

A single wall house is constructed of lumber, with walls, including bearing 
walls, having no studs -- instead, the walls consist of a single layer of 
vertical 1x boards joined with vertical battens.  The wall boards are nailed 
to a ledger on which the rafters bear.  Floor and roof construction is what 
we would now consider more conventional, with 2x or 4x rafters and floor 
joists and 1x board sheathing, but often surprisingly lightly framed with 
widely spaced and seemingly undersized members.  

I sometimes have the impression that they are almost magical -- the lightly 
framed structures showing virtually no signs of distress.  They are 
light-weight and make very efficient use of wood.  They are universally 
thoroughly weather tight.  I've never seen or heard of an earthquake-damaged 
single-wall house -- I suppose because they are very light-weight, in 
addition to being so rare.  They seem typically to have been thoughtfully 
designed and to have been built with very skillful craftsmanship.  Joints and 
other details are always tight and accurately cut.  Cracks and splits in the 
lumber are almost never found.  The widely-spread consistency in the style 
seems to indicate that there used to be a well communicated technology of 
single-wall house construction.  

Because of my niche of structural engineering for repair and strengthening of 
old buildings, I'm always on the alert for old books on archaic construction 
techniques, and have several.  However, I've never found a book with 
information on how to build a single-wall house.  I'm curious how the 
construction of a single-wall house proceeded.  For example, were the walls 
built on the ground and tilted up?  Have you seen or do you know of any 
references on single-wall construction?  I'd love to see something written 
during the era when they were being built.

Nels Roselund
Structural Engineer