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Re: Single-wall house

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We saw some single-wall houses on Kauai (after Hurricane Iniki) that were trashed
by the high winds. There was no load path from roof to foundation, so when the
roof blew off, the whole structure was demolished. The walls had -0- lateral
(racking) load resistance.  See APA report on Hurricane Iniki for details.
Somewhere along the line we came across standard construction details for such
houses. I could research it but it's not a type of structure that I would
advocate, knowing what we know about wind and seismic forces.
John Rose/APA, Tacoma, WA

NRoselund(--nospam--at) wrote:

> 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