Friday, February 26, 2016

Historic Truss Bridge

Part of what I do as an architectural historian involves not just assessing historic buildings but other kinds of structures too--like bridges. Bridges can be just as architecturally significant and also very important in their engineering patterns, especially if it happens to be one of the only examples of a specific type of bridge constructed in a unique method during a certain time period.

This particular bridge is a Pratt Thru truss bridge built in 1921 located in Chatham County, North Carolina. It is a 13 span pin-connected truss bridge with floorbeams that carry steel stringers and a wood plank deck. The original railing was replaced in the early 1980s with the current railing shown above. The main span of the bridge is supported by concrete piers and travels over the Rocky River.

Detail of a construction plaque that reads: "Built By Atlantic Bridge Co., Charlotte NC 1921"

Metal truss bridges are rapidly disappearing from our landscape as deteriorating old bridges and new bridge safety standards call for new construction rather than rehabilitation or preservation. The Pratt truss design, patented in 1844 by Thomas and Caleb Pratt, was commonly built throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and offered a simplified construction process.

I don't often post on topics that venture into the territory of my day job, but I thought you might like to see a really cool example of a unique structure.

If you love old buildings and their history, I urge you to also be a champion for the preservation of historic bridges.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Woodstove for the New House

I have a fireplace dilemma for the new house--I can't decide if I want to have an open traditional wood-burning fireplace or a wood stove. There's also the option of a wood stove insert for the fireplace--but I'm not a fan of the look of these. Alternatively, we could put a small wood stove inside of the fireplace, which I like much better but it probably would not heat the entire house.

Below are some of my favorite Pinterest inspiration images for wood stoves:


I love the idea of being able to heat our whole house with a wood stove, but I would also miss not having an open fire in the fireplace. Placing a wood stove inside of the fireplace might be a nice compromise, but it would not be as efficient as a wood stove insert. I would be sacrificing some of the functionality for beauty I suppose....

I'm sure this is just one of the many decisions I will have difficulty making in this journey of building a farmhouse. What would you do?

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Feathered Nest Friday

Monday, February 8, 2016

Homestead Design

There are so many things to consider when designing a homestead. It makes my head spin!

Not only do we have to think of where all the gardens and animals will go, but things like the direction of various features towards the sun, water runoff and retention, and the siting of outbuildings are critically important as well. I hope to incorporate as many permaculture principles as I can into the design.  If you are just visiting for the first time, I'll catch you up on the news: my husband and I have decided to embark on a journey of building a farmhouse and homestead on 10 acres of land in the country. You can read my post on homestead inspiration here.

I thought I would go ahead and take a stab at designing a site plan layout for our property--and I've found it to be a lot of fun actually!  Here is a rough draft of the site plan so far:

We have placed our kitchen garden at the south of the property beside the house so that it receives full direct sun, with the tool shed and cold frames behind it for easy access. We also wanted the tool shed/small barn to be close enough to the driveway that a car could drive up to it if need be. The row crops and orchard will also get full sun and they are actually sited on a slight slope. The chicken coop is behind and away from the house but not too far (gotta keep an eye on things and gather eggs!) and our compost area is nearby so that bird droppings can be conveniently deposited. We will also probably set up a compost bin near the kitchen garden as well.

I thought planting herbs at the rear elevation of the house would be the most convenient place for going outside to gather for cooking. This leaves the south and east (front) elevations of the house for my favorite types of flowers and small shrubs, with shade loving perennials on the north side. We will probably fence off some of the area behind the house for pasture and potentially for chicken tractors to house meat birds.

There are certainly things that can and probably will change from this draft plan. Everything is still all very flexible at this point. I am really enjoying the planning process! Any tips you more experienced homesteaders can give me?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

House Plans

We looked at a TON of house plans before finally settling on a handful that we liked.
A few of these were Southern Living House plans and a few came from

I wanted the house to fit in with the landscape and respect the architectural patterns and history in the area that came before it, rather than stick out like a sore thumb. In other words, even though I might love a storybook Tudor Revival and my husband likes new houses with neoclassical/Georgian style elements, I don't want to build something that is incompatible with its surroundings.

Considering the architectural heritage of our county, that pretty much narrowed the field down to farmhouse-inspired plans, modest cottages, cabins, and bungalows. After much debating we chose a plan that is a little bigger than we had originally wanted to go but I think will work best for our family's needs.  And here it is:
The facade is designed so that we could add on a wrap-around porch in the future if we wanted to.

The only thing I really don't like about the fa├žade is that it does not have an exterior chimney; only an interior one. That's something we are considering adding if it our budget allows. We plan to do wood or hardiplank siding, 2/2 wood sash windows, a solid wood front door and surround, and a metal V-crimp roof. The interior chimney will either be reclaimed brick or stone.

The rear elevation contains a screened porch as well as an entrance into the laundry/mudroom.

With the above configuration, the upstairs bedrooms were going to end up super tiny. Because one of those bedrooms would have to be for our twin girls to share, we knew that could be problematic. To solve this dilemma, our builder suggested adding a dormer to extend the roofline and bedrooms back, adding square footage to the upstairs. The downstairs living room would still be partially vaulted and open all the way to the ceiling (which I really like). Below is what the rear and side elevations and would look like with the dormer added.

We did make a few modifications to the original first floor interior plan. We extended the laundry room  back to include an additional pantry space and provide an area for a small mudroom. Also the bay window in the kitchen was eliminated and replaced with a bank of windows in its place, extending the wall straight across rather than bowing it outward. I am also toying with the idea of putting a wood stove in the kitchen on the other side of the fireplace. It would be so cozy and an affordable source of heat :)

The really nice thing we liked about the second floor was that it had lots of storage. Additionally, each bedroom has its own bath. If we eventually needed to turn the Flex/Attic space into a fourth bedroom, it could very easily be done. The little spaces at either side of the flex/attic space are additional storage spaces and cubbies that are easily accessed.

We are still undecided at this point as to whether we will build a partial basement. It would certainly be nice to have the extra space if we needed it but in North Carolina basements can be difficult to build and maintain, with lots of potential for moisture issues. It also adds quite a bit to the cost. If we decide against a basement, then we may look to eventually building a garage in the future.

If you are interested, linked below are the other house plans that were in our top list of favorites:

Port Royal Coastal Cottage

Of course nothing is set in stone right now. I'm sure there will be things about this house plan that in hindsight I don't like or wish I had changed, but that's all part of what to expect when building a house, right?

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