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Wood finish recommendations for a wood clad FLW House
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 13773
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pope, photo published in 1999 -- perhaps after a recent cleaning ?






Pew, photo published in 1986:


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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 13773
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wouldn't it be great to be able to arrest the aging process of the Pew house exterior material at the point seen in the photo above. Just wash off the incipient green appearing at some spots, apply whatever chemical or irradiational magic that becomes available, and presto -- sort of like the permanent orange-oxide skin that develops on the surface of Cor-Ten steel ?


Speaking of exterior finishes, the Wright Society today picks up the story of the relocation and dedication of the little Wes Peters house in Evansville. I thought that this house was made entirely of oak. If so, what a shame to have it covered in brown paint. Or maybe a restoration is still ahead ?

http://www.tristatehomepage.com/news/local-news/historic-evansville-house-dedicated-thursday/694987161?utm_campaign=Wright%2BSociety&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Wright_Society_42

Finally, a house small enough to fit on a single trailer !

SDR
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KevinW



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 1252

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I continue to be very pleased with the results with the Vermont Natural Coatings products on the Beharka house. Might be worth a look..and with being extremely low VOC, and how drafty houses like these tend to be, no toxic off gases was a huge plus.
Just my 2 cents..
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 13773
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We'll take any and all help ! How often do you anticipate (or were instructed to) recoat ? Do you expect that the material will build up over time, or might it shed enough molecules between coatings to remain at a constant ?

Does it make a film; what kind of gloss, if any ? Color ? Any photos you'd like to share ?

In polyurethanes, water clear is only available in water-borne form, I've been told . . .

SDR
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pharding



Joined: 25 Jun 2005
Posts: 2195
Location: River Forest, Illinois

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't imagine that given FLW's concerns about his legacy that he intended the exterior finish to weather away and leave the wood unprotected to deteriorate. For me it becomes a matter of balancing what the house looked like originally as designed by FLW and long term maintenance. Plus another factor is the amount of wood cladding. If a FLW House is predominantly brick the opacity of the stain finish system becomes less critical. If the house has a predominantly wood exterior, the opacity of the finish system becomes more of an issue. Solid or or semi-solid finish systems become very paint like in my opinion and do not look natural. The other concern for me is the authenticity of the stain color itself. Some exterior stains come off as too orange or vivid and have limited color options. In my opinion, when it comes to exterior stain finish systems, there are multiple fine options. The ideal finish system need to reflect the unique circumstances of each house and the Owner's goals and objectives.

On the Lloyd Lewis House, we did a test to see how well the existing opaque gray stain could be stripped off. Fortunately that went quite well. Now we will do several options for the stain itself for presentation, with our recommendation for review and approval by the Owner.
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Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3034
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul's last sentence leaves me encouraged that the neat little gray Euchtman house may one day have a clear finish again.

http://wrightchat.savewright.org/viewtopic.php?t=7501&highlight=euchtman&sid=01fa42f3689d822ca1d376aa8f5315b8
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
Posts: 1041

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One would think that the original specifications have been archived and available. Although Wright stated a preference for weathered cypress, he would many times specify "Johnsons Clear Wood Finish" for exterior surfaces. I believe the Johnson Company was located in Madison and existed until the late '80's. Research should be the first priority in the process of choosing an appropriate exterior finish.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very good. As we have said, stains are employed when a particular hue is desired; in addition, they help blend the overall look when boards of different values or hues are present.

If Wright's preference for these houses was a no-finish appearance, that implies (to me) that no added color of any kind might be one goal of a finish system. Anything added to the surface of wood brightens and/or deepens the color of the the material; simply wetting a board demonstrates this, and it would be an unavoidable -- if not indefinitely long-lasting -- consequence of any finish, clear or colored. If a water-clear sealer could be found, that would at least limit the change in appearance as far as hue was concerned . . .

I suspect that Mr Wright continued to experiment with this, as with so many other aspects of the work, house by house. I find it hard to believe that he would differentiate between one commission and another when it came to the appearance of the wood, if we believe that he sought a no-finish effect. Any finish coating suggested by him would be specified only for its ability to prolong that appearance, wouldn't you say ? He surely never specified a stain or other coloring for any Usonian ?

Owner preference set aside for the moment, the appearance of that corner of the Pew residence that is shown just above might be one desirable outcome, assuming it could be prolonged for at least a few years, and assuming that the existing material could be cleaned or sanded to that degree of "freshness." If the graying weathered look is assumed as Wright's intention, on the other hand -- an idea that hadn't really occurred to me until John mentioned it, here -- a gray stain of one sort or another (Mod mom's choice at the Glenbrow house, for instance, when using both old and new material) could immediately gain that effect, which (again) could last for some time before (a) fading, and (be) being overtaken by actual weathering. At least it would avoid the obviously-stained appearance which any warm tone would impart to the house.

All of this assumes the highest degree of transparency possible to the chosen finish. Euchtman is an example of "paint" rather than stain. However, some degree of grain-covering is the necessary effect of some of the methods or materials suggested here. Aniline dye, rather than pigmented stain, might be investigated if a definite degree of color-change is desired . . .

SDR
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 13773
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As we've noted before, a film finish is at the mercy of wood movement, an unavoidable characteristic of the material. Oils, on the other hand, do not pose this risk to longevity of the finish . . .

SDR
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peterm



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 5276
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My opinion, based on many years of dealing with unpainted exterior redwood in California and more recently at the Lamberson house in Iowa, is that oil is the way to go. It will certainly darken the color over time, but definitely slow down the deterioration of the wood. If no finish is used, the wood will become brittle and "thirsty", eventually drying out and splintering. If a film finish is used, be prepared for involved maintenance on a semiannual basis, assuming it is important to maintain a consistent color from year to year. Sanding blistering varnish is a pain unless you have nothing but time and patience.

Interior shellac and wax is a good solution to seal and prevent spills from penetrating, and allowing dust to easily slide off with wiping. I agree with SDR that ceilings needn't be protected unless absolute consistency of sheen is desired.

As much as we would like to think that exterior wood can be turned into a static thing, nature is working in opposition to that. Preserving the original color of wood, or freezing it at a specific point in time is an exercise in futility.

I find it hard to imagine that cypress is much different than redwood:
http://www.calredwood.org/finishing-restoring-maintaining/restoring-redwood/
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beautifully said.

I haven't handled cypress. I imagine it to be about the consistency of hard pine. But the world of conifers gives us such a rainbow of woods, that one is only guessing, based on -- what ? Color ? No, that won't do; soft pine's meat is not much harder than balsa, it sometimes seems, while there are other blond conifers which have grain as hard as the spring growth of Douglas fir.

Redwood is in another quarter of the world of needle-trees; its color and texture are of another order, it's hardness nowadays no more than that of soft pine -- in my experience. And the softer cedars -- Eastern and Western reds -- are yet another animal, with grain like bundles of, say, animal hair -- dry animal hair.

Then there's Port Orford cedar, a firm and friendly substance, almost waxy in texture. For some years I preserved a small box containing machine shavings I made from the wood, to enjoy the lemony scent and the lemon color.

SDR
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 7206

PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim DeLong's house for Bob Scholfield (1953) was built of redwood, exterior and interior unfinished, I believe. Early on, the wood fence that extends beyond the protection of the roof overhang, began to deteriorate, so it was replaced by ironwood. I don't know for sure which kind (there are so many), but undoubtedly either Holodiscus discolor (Ocean spray) or Lyonothamnus floribundus (Catalina ironwood), both of which grew in California, and are now all but extinct. No finish was applied, yet to this day it has held up well.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only reason houses (in this country, at least) are not clad in one or another of these very dense and (sometimes) oily woods, many of them tropical in origin, is their expense, their weight, and the difficulty of fastening them to anything -- I expect. A metal clip system like the one we looked at recently for brick veneer, where the clips or extrusions engage slots in the edge of the material, would make sense if only because no screws would have to penetrate the wood itself . . .

SDR
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

According to Jim, ironwood was used extensively for structures that required great strength, such as bridges. In the 50s, it was still available, but after the only stands left in California were in the Channel Islands National Park, it was declared a protected species, and cutting down the remaining trees was disallowed.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the "ironwoods," Ipe, is now in heavy use for decking and other purposes. It starts out a dark cool brown, and (if untreated) turns gray.

http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?106544-IPE-or-Ironwood-how-well-does-it-weather

SDR
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