Exterior door problems of usonians

To control SPAM, you must now be a registered user to post to this Message Board.

EFFECTIVE 14 Nov. 2012 PRIVATE MESSAGING HAS BEEN RE-ENABLED. IF YOU RECEIVE A SUSPICIOUS DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINKS AND PLEASE REPORT TO THE ADMINISTRATOR FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION.

This is the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy's Message Board. Wright enthusiasts can post questions and comments, and other people visiting the site can respond.

You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, *-oriented or any other material that may violate any applicable laws. Doing so may lead to you being immediately and permanently banned (and your service provider being informed). The IP address of all posts is recorded to aid in enforcing these conditions. You agree that the webmaster, administrator and moderators of this forum have the right to remove, edit, move or close any topic at any time they see fit.
Post Reply
dtc
Posts: 739
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:04 am

Exterior door problems of usonians

Post by dtc »

Many of you know that there are numerous doors that no longer function in the usonians.The reasons are many. First the glazing compounds had a tendancy to dry rock hard and shrink, which let water penetrate the wood and the bottom mortise and tennon joint. The wood stops on the exteriors also dryed,shrunk and gaps open at the joints,which was not a good situation.

And the fact that 1/4 inch plate glass was installed much condensation developed which dripped down to the lower rail attacking the wood from the interior side as well. (the down side of using non-insullated glass)

When the exterior finish failed-9 to 12 months for a Spar varnish. Linseed oil or tung oil almost immediately. And in some cases no finish at all.

(See Wingspread specs.) When it was discovered that the finish failed it may have been months before the weather permitted re- application.

This penetration of water eventually takes its toll, mold develops and rots the wood along with the mortise and tennon joints. Soon the doors can not be operated by a single individual for the bottom rails start their steady decline and soon can no longer seal into the bottom threshold properly.



Note: this condition was found with all usonian woods Wright used. Tidewater Cypress, Red Phillipine Mahogany (Red Meranti) and Redwood.



Doors that do not open to terraces and gardens close one in.They prevent experiencing the freedom of movement Mr. Wright originally intended. And in warmer months prevent the much desired flow of fresh and cool air. It is possible that it was at this time many original clients turned to air conditioning their homes, for lack of proper fenestration.



These doors must operate to fully experience usonian living.There are two ways to address the problem. A total rebuilt door or a technique/process that retains a large percentage or existing wood. One must cut away the lower stiles and bottom rail. Using a Dutchman joint replacing old rotted areas with a new bottom stiles with mortise and tennon joinery.



With todays building sealants and excellent water proof exterior glues on the market one can restore to "better than new" condition. And of course for the oil finish, the finish of choice is Sikkens.



Perhaps in the future I could post images showing the techniques I used to restore eight doors and two mitered windows on the "Dobkins" residence

designed in 1953,built in 54 Canton,Ohio.



DTC

    pharding
    Posts: 2253
    Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 5:19 pm
    Location: River Forest, Illinois
    Contact:

    Post by pharding »

    Thank you for posting about a solution to a common problem. We would enjoy seeing your photos.



    The preferred solution from a preservation point of view is the Dutchman approach with very limited removal and replacement of original material. This is what was done on the Davenport House to restore the 1901 full glass lite doors which were in bad shape. The results are historic doors with like new structural properties. Art glass was removed. Doors were stripped and taken apart. Tendons were repaired or replaced. Missing rotted wood was replaced with recovered cypress only to the extent required. We just replaced part of a rail or stile. Biscuits or dowels were used to make a secure connection. Wood with some rot had the weak stuff scraped away and filled with tinted epoxy to match the finish color. Door was reassembled in square manner and shop refinished on the interior, top, bottom and sides. We stained the exterior in the field. We got great long lasting results that should be good for another 100 years with proper maintenance.



    Festool has a new German joiner tool that they are bringing to the US that is ideal for wood repairs of this type. It is called the Domino. It has has gotten rave reviews in woodworker tool publications. It is fast, accurate, and easy to use for installing very strong wood tenons. It promises to be a great tool by a great German tool company. We will be using it this summer to make interior storm windows, screen windows, and furniture.
    Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

    RJH
    Posts: 682
    Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:33 pm
    Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana
    Contact:

    Post by RJH »

    Usonian French doors and windows are a problem on all Wright houses. It is very unfortunate. I have been to several Wright houses and here are my experiences.



    The worst are the Wright houses that use NO weather-stripping. Wright actually drew Haynes and many other usonains with no weather-stripping. The doors and window would close and hopefully meet to shield drafts. Dr. Christianson

    MHOLUBAR
    Posts: 132
    Joined: Fri Mar 03, 2006 2:22 pm
    Location: Oberlin, Ohio

    Post by MHOLUBAR »

    I'm fairly sure this was why FLW specified the red tidewater cypress whenever he could. The wood is very rot resistant, having grown in the swamp and he seemed to prefer softer wood as well. The pine and redwood in Jacobs I and the redwood at the Weltzheimer House are classic examples, also they were very reasonable in price at that time. I have seen dtc's pictures of the repairs he made in Canton and they show a very good job indeed. The pictures are revealing and informative and his (their) stewardship is impressive.
    mholubar

    pharding
    Posts: 2253
    Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 5:19 pm
    Location: River Forest, Illinois
    Contact:

    Post by pharding »

    70% of the exterior walls on the Davenport House are Cypress. Of the original 1901 walls 98% are still original and in fine shape. The old growth Cypress is quite robust.



    With the new Cypress the results have been mixed. RGH apparently had fine success with it. In Oak Park and Minneapolis the results have been uneven at best.
    Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

    RJH
    Posts: 682
    Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:33 pm
    Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana
    Contact:

    Post by RJH »

    I was up at Wingspread last winter. The exterior cypress was in heavily weathered shape out of any exterior cypress Wright house I

    D. Shawn Beckwith
    Posts: 36
    Joined: Wed May 03, 2006 9:23 pm

    Exterior Doors & window restoration

    Post by D. Shawn Beckwith »

    Dear DTC:

    We experienced a similar situation on the Westcott House, A prarie style none the less exterior casement windows were cypress with exterior glazing stops in which dutchmen methods were employeeed and Abatron products to restore rather than replace original fabric. If you haven't I encourage you to hop onto 71 south and west on 70 to Springfield, Ohio and observe what we did for weather stripping and restoration for the doors and windows at the Westcott House. We restored origional french doors and interior screen doors for the project.

    Also a great resource in your area is the architectural firm of Chambers, Murphy & Burge, East Market Street ,Akron. the firm did the Dana- Thomas house and Westcott House. As Mr. Pharding expressed the techniques which are least invasive and reversable and best for the building is the mantra and what CMB and DSC abide by.



    Best,

    D. Shawn Beckwith

    Project Manager Restoration of the Burton J. Westcott House

    The Durable Slate Company

    www.durableslate.com

    pharding
    Posts: 2253
    Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 5:19 pm
    Location: River Forest, Illinois
    Contact:

    Post by pharding »

    Chambers, Murphy & Burge did not do the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois. Hasbouck Peterson were the Restoration Architects. They did a tremendous job on that project.
    Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

    JimM
    Posts: 1542
    Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2005 5:44 pm
    Location: Austin,Texas

    Post by JimM »

    What restoration? I've never seen anything about a restoration on Dana (unfortunately, it's still on my to do list). I was always under the impression it's excellent condition was due to continual upkeep, and it's original condition made it unique.



    Anything more about how extensive a restoration was done, and when?

    pharding
    Posts: 2253
    Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 5:19 pm
    Location: River Forest, Illinois
    Contact:

    Post by pharding »

    It was a major, extremely comprehensive effort that was completed approximately 20 years ago. It is certainly one of the finest FLW Prairie House Restorations, second only to Meyer May in my opinion. The house itself is an example of FLW on an unlimited budget and an extremely supportive, open minded client. The house still has the original furnishings which are extensive in scope and quite beautiful. This house itself should be on the "must see" list for every FLW enthusiast.
    Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

    JimM
    Posts: 1542
    Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2005 5:44 pm
    Location: Austin,Texas

    Post by JimM »

    pharding wrote:This house itself should be on the "must see" list for every FLW enthusiast.


    Always has been! Springfield has just not yet been on the way to anywhere I needed to be yet. I can remember being about 14 and being intrigued by the "orderliness" of the interior, and how the trim of Dana connected the whole composition-for such an "old" house.



    It's chronological and contextual twin, Martin, will be a fitting addition to these rare "super Prairies", when that massive restoration is complete.

    pharding
    Posts: 2253
    Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 5:19 pm
    Location: River Forest, Illinois
    Contact:

    Post by pharding »

    I ran across my Dana House book by Donald Hoffman. Another great book by Donald Hoffman, one of the finest authors writing on FLW's work. FLW was hired originally to do an addition to moderate sized Victorian. That is exactly what he did. His massive addition literally swallowed the original house. FLW considered the art glass behind the interior fountain to be the finest of his career. The artglass in these windows in particular is incredibly complex, richly varied and very beautiful, FLW art glass on sterioids. The restoration of the house took place September 1987 to July 1990.
    Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

    SDR
    Posts: 19294
    Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
    Location: San Francisco

    Post by SDR »

    It is my understanding that wood rots most readily where it is alternately soaked and dried. The common example is the fence post which breaks off at ground level. Wood constantly immersed (such as pilings, etc) do not ordinarily rot (it's a good thing for Chicago, I guess !).



    The woodworker looks for the most cheek surface on his tenons, if he trusts glue to do most of the "joining" in his joinery (today's glues are far stronger than wood). For me, the depth of the mortise is therefore crucial (onlookers admire the mechanical attributes of the mortise-and-tenon, but no such joint without glue would remain sound for long).



    Dowels are a poor substitute for door construction, as the actual side-grain-to-side-grain glue surface is miniscule. Biscuits are very effective considering their size, but I wouldn't construct a passage door with them. I'll be looking to see if the Festool device makes a mortise deeper than an inch -- though an elongated tenon of that dimension might be adequate for an interior door. (The wood movement of the broad rail against the stile is a culprit in breaking down this connection.)



    Long-fallen old-growth cypress logs are being harvested from southeastern swamps, as I understand it. Anybody used any of this lumber yet ?



    SDR

    Post Reply