Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Building with green timber...

One particular walnut had its entire top busted out during the ice storm, but the following year, it grew a bunch of new branches in the top of the tree, and it resembled a giant lollypop. Impressed by the display of folliage, but sure that the misfigured tree would eventually die due to the ice damage, I decided to cut the tree down. I cut a notch in the side of it and then I cut through the heart of it. I had cut through nearly 90% of the tree's trunk, but my saw was dull or I ran out of fuel or something else distracted me, and I left the tree standing precariously for another season. Miraculously, the tree leafed out the next year as well. I returned to the tree with a sharp saw full of fuel, and finally dropped it just this spring (it was full of sap). I had a special place in the basement planned for it.

I have another post (aka the BHP, or Big Honking Post) in the basement with partial bark on it, so I decided to do the same with this tree and call it the LHP (Little Honking Post). At the sawmill, I merely cut the bark off of the side that would be against the wall, and then cut half of the bark off of the side that would be seen. Because this post was not really in my plans at the time I poured the foundation, there was no plinth for it, so it rests directly on the basement slab. No fear though, it does not support much of the frame above it. I did however splice a piece of stainless into my flashing and ran it down the basement wall and beneath the post, so that if termites should ever make it through a crack in the slab, they won't be able to eat their way into the bottom of this post.

Now for the amazing thing... this tree is leafing out again in my basement. It has formed 4 new branches (albeit small branches), and everyday they are growing larger. The tree has no roots whatsoever, but every time it rains it receives water. And because I haven't put SIPs on my frame yet, sunlight filters into the basement. I have seen this happen with only one other tree in my lifetime - a few years ago, a locust fencepost that I set in the ground decided to leaf out one more season. Who knows how much longer this walnut will grow in our basement!?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't leave the bark on - especially if you are working with black walnut!

The sweet sapwood of the walnut (unlike the hard black core) is a incubator for many kinds of wood destroying insects, including some that are not normally able to establish themselves inside a house. As the green layer between the bark and the sapwood decays, it will draw the flying and crawling adults who will lay innumerable eggs in the bark fissures and the bottom end grain.

I've seen two buildings roughly the same age, over 150 years, both with huge chestnut logs for basement joists and posts. The one where the bark was left on (unfortunately my cousin's ancestral family home) is having those logs replaced, because they are structurally unsound - punky and riddled with bug holes like lace. The one where the logs were barked has almost perfectly intact wood (except where there was a water infiltration at one point) and my entemologist wife says this is because the layer between the bark and the wood is the best place to incubate insects.

Bark your logs always, unless you plan to soak 'em in octoborate and suspend them in mid-air someplace out of the rain!


April 20, 2009 at 8:02 PM  

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