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Timber (pine) house - how can I preserve/treat it?  RSS feed

 
N Taylor
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I'm planning to build a small timber house on a subtropical island. It will be situated approx 1km from the ocean.

The only timber available is the local pine which grows prolifically. Other conventional building materials, or different types of timber, need to be imported and are prohibitively expensive.

Most locals treat the pine with Tanalith in order to preserve the wood. I've been told by the locals - in no uncertain terms - that there are no effective alternatives in this climate that won't end up rotting out, and rather promptly.

I figured the best approach might be to limit it's use to framing, exterior weatherboards, posts, and decking - and to attempt to seal the Tanalith with some kind of non-toxic paint or wash.

Are there any other ways of treating these exposed timber surfaces effectively that doesn't involve Tanalith / Tanalization?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi N.T., et al,

Now that gives me more to understand why you thought you "had to" go the way of using "Tanalith."

So, before I get into more details, and for me to perhaps be of more use on this subject, can you please share a "Google map link" to the general island of which you reference? Can you also give a latin species name to the Pinus species you plan on using? Are there arboreal nest building termite species on the island?

I can say this, if the plan that is being suggested to you by locals is to arrest decay...they are not achieving this by any "topical application" of "chromated copper arsenate" solutions of any concentration. The only way (and even this has a great deal of limitations) is by "pressure treating" the wood in a special tank using very special procedures, and very high pressure...one many manufactures fail to achieve. Again, not an industry I would suggest supporting in any way...for the most part.

On a positive note, the dominate species of wood used in traditional timber framing around the glob is a Pinus ssp or other Conifer, not a hardwood species as so many believe. What you may be experiencing, and I see this often in "European and UK" phenomenon of certain cultural influences within this area. The "normative culture" (and underlying belief systems) influencing a building modality can often go well outside "good practices" in architecture, or even basic logic...and/or other overly exaggerated events. For example, the drive of many from the U.K. and its "former satellites" obsessing about the alleged phenomenon of rising damp within stone and masonry.

Let me understand the exact geographic location, and species of Conifer we are dealing with and I can provide a more in-depth view for your consideration.

Regards,

j
 
N Taylor
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Hi Jay C,

The pine is Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), and the place - as you might now have guessed - is Norfolk Island

I understand that the pine is locally pressure treated to acheive Tanalization.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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I have milled a couple Norfolk Island pines in my day and even place a few beams in some of our timber frames. As for a warranted need of treatment...I would say not at all, and strongly suggest this advice is more based on the local normative culture architectural belief, than actual need. There are countless traditional timber frames built of similar pine species throughout the "warm climates" all the way to the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawan Prefecture Japan.) None need or have needed this type of treatment over the last half millenia that many of these frames have endured and still stand.

Perhaps visit the location below and look to build in a similar stile with a solid stone foundation and/or plinth design and solid timber frame armature that you may then insulate accordingly with some given natural method.




St Barnabas Chapel, Norfolk Island

This architecture is built with your intended species and "is not" pressure treated in any form or fashion. I have never used any pressure treated lumber on any project, even in climates similar to what you would find on Norfolk Island.

Please let me know if I can answer any other questions.

Regards,

j
 
N Taylor
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Thanks Jay C - I'm going to go have a good look at chapel as you've suggested when I am back on the island.

In the mean time, any suggestions as to what I might preserve the exterior pine with (e.g. weatherboards and decking)?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi N. T.,

Sure, any of the natural drying oils, (i.e. flax, tung, walnut, etc.) in a given blend to your tasted will work. I can even put you intouch with my vendor for a traditional blend called "heritage finish" that I have used for over 35 years. It is Pine Rosin, Tung Oil, Flax Oil, Beeswax and Citrus Oil. You can even get an "exterior grade" that does have a u.v. stabilizer in it.

Another very simple finish is good old "pine tar oil." This (like the one above) can be applied with a backpack bug sprayer and "toweled off," as you proceed. Pigmenting agents can be added to your desired tone and chosen hue and brightness. There are more we can discuss should you choose that get into lime washes, milk paints, tempras, and related natural blends. Nice part about the latter pigments finishes is you never have to deal with the issues of modern paints..."bubbling and pealing." These finishes just fade into the wood leaving a wonderful aged patina until the next time you choose to apply a coat which can take up to twenty years before actually being aesthetically "out of sorts," to most folks view. Even then the warmth of these old finishes have yet to be match by modern ones. Just last year I remove "sash sawn" pine boards off a barn built in 1768 that had original white and read "washes," these boards became "antique" cabinet material with the original 240 plus year finish still going strong and a patina that could not be matched without extreme effort and work.

We would all love to know more about your project. Let me know what else I (we) can give you. Have you designs yet? Will you be building this structure yourself? Have you found a sawyer on the island as I may have a contact there for you from "logosol."

Regards,

j.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Whatever else you do, it is worthwhile to have a "good" roof overhang. This can dramatically reduce the amount of liquid water that the boards and finish have to deal with.

troy
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Excellent point to add Troy, as the most enduring of architecture typically has this element well beyond what we see today and many modern architectural forms.

After Katrina hit the Louisiana coast many architects jumped on the "NO eave-NO overhang" band wagon for any remodels (historic or not) and new construction within any zone that would be hit by hurricanes and the related weather events....I dialogued, pleaded, argued and did everything I could to "quash" this notion in so many that reached out for my advice. To no avail, this ignorance took hold and only now is being re-examined as water infiltration, accelerated weather of cladding materials and finishes and other issues start to reveal themselves under this very bad idea.

Does many in the architectural-construction field "own up" to this mistake and acknowledge the "bad idea" this was of trying to "re-invent" a time proven architectural feature..."The extended overhang." NOPE!! They continue to battle on by coming up with new ways to "plastic wrap," seal, and "caulk their way around" the many issues "no eave-overhang" creates.

As Grandma would say..."ignorance is bliss," and by the Creator so many of these "all knowing" experts are very blissful indeed....

Create overhangs and evas in your architecture folks...it is time proven, and architecturally beautiful elements in just about every structural form throughout history...

Thanks again Troy for bringing this up!!!
 
N Taylor
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Many thanks Jay C and Troy for your input so far.

Attached is the plan for a shed which I'll be building initially to serve as a place to store stuff, eat my lunch, get out of the rain, etc. Later I'll be designing the actual house, and this structure may eventually become part of that. The actual house design and exact position is still yet to be determined - I'll be studying the landscape more intimately, fine tuning my zone/sector analysis etc., and working out if there are alternative home building materials available locally, when I am on the island building this shed.

My father has building experience and will be helping me to build it. I've never built anything of before besides furniture!

Eves are currently 300mm (12"). Happy to extend these if you think it will make a difference. The deck will be partially protected by the veranda roof.

My problem now is that I'm supposed to be flying to Norfolk in just one week to build this shed. I'll be there for around a month. My concern is whether I will be able to get a hold of one of the treatments you have suggested within the next few weeks. There are a couple of building supplies places on this island with a limited range - I can try to contact them and see if they have anything.
I guess I will have troubles trying to bring in any of those things in on the plane?
Plan.jpg
[Thumbnail for Plan.jpg]
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey Ho N.T.!!!

Sorry I didn't get back to you on this faster...I missed your response to my last here.

I will try to go line by line down you questions/comments/observations.

Attached is the plan for a shed which I'll be building initially to serve as a place to store stuff, eat my lunch, get out of the rain, etc.


That sounds like a really good plan...

As for the ones presented...well....a little too generic to build type plans, unless you have an extensive design build background. I believe you have suggested that is not you?

Of course I would suggest an actual "permie build" being this is a Permaculture Forum so that means an "all natural" and/or traditional structure. Concrete for the most part would be out (seldom is this material actually needed.) I would further suggest trying to find a local custom lumber sawyer and securing your timber and board directly. I would also encourage the construction of an actual timber frame and not some "stick built" structure.

I am glad to work through this process with you. Did you do these drawings in Sketchup or some other CAD program? Either way I would make them more the construction drawings.

It is a challenge to further assess needs, wants, desires, and what we can actually do to support this project without running estranged of local officers.

Eves are currently 300mm (12"). Happy to extend these if you think it will make a difference. The deck will be partially protected by the veranda roof.


Our eaves are always a minimum of 1000 mm.

My problem now is that I'm supposed to be flying to Norfolk in just one week to build this shed.


This shed..by yourself with no experience in one week. Even stick built...that is not going to be easy nor plausible.

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