Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 03/18/2010

Steel Installation

The restoration project at the Pearl S. Buck House has progressed nicely and has entered the structural steel support installation phase. All steel plates and beams have been fabricated off-site and began to arrive for installation this week. Special inspections at the fabrication plant have been conducted by an engineering firm in accordance with code requirements. The following pictures provide a glimpse of the process undertaken to install some of the first floor beams.

The project mason has removed the stone from an exterior wall area above the kitchen window, revealing the steel lintel. This opening is created to receive two beams which will rest on the steel lintels in place on the east and west walls of the kitchen.

The blue tarpaulin is in place over the scaffolding for weather protection, allowing the mason to continue his work through inclement weather and to protect the interior of the home.

Working from atop the scaffolding, the team hoists a beam weighing over 400 pounds, and guides it through the opening, while a team in the kitchen receives it and positions the beam into its resting place on the interior west wall.

The men maneuver the living room steel beam for an east-west placement just under the Pearl S. Buck bedroom.

Viewing the ceiling from below, one can see the beam originally placed in the room in 1937. Home movies from the Walsh family collection reveal men using chains to hoist the “thunder beam” in place.

The north-to-south running thunder beam has been abutted with an additional steel beam for further reinforcement and support of the east to west running summer beam which supports the Pearl S. Buck bedroom above.

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Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 03/12/2010

March 11: Wood Epoxy Reinforcement

To date, the design specifications of the structural steel members to be installed in the House have been submitted and fabrication of the steel components is in process. Since the Wood Epoxy Reinforcement (W.E.R) system is crucial to the work that is being undertaken to sure up the floor of the Pearl S. Buck bedroom, a mockup of the W.E.R installation process is undertaken. Two separate lengths of wood troughs meant to replicate some of the existing conditions of the rough hewn summer beam has been made to receive the epoxy used in the W.E.R. system.

The preparation of the epoxy mixture and installation into the cavity of the summer beam must be done correctly and within proper time limitations. The mixture (comprised of a modified epoxy resin mixed with a reaction product until the desired viscosity, pigment and accelerators are achieved) is similar in composition and color to motor oil. Once mixed the epoxy needs to be installed (poured) before the liquid hardens (within approximately 20 minutes). Working quickly but meticulously, the epoxy is mixed in a bucket, and then poured into a funneling tray to direct the epoxy into the channels of the mock beam. Another funnel like tray is placed on the other side to catch any overage and to prevent slow moving epoxy from escaping.

Because the liquid must be evenly distributed throughout the routed beam, a worker hammers the wood mock up case, to create a vibration resulting in a leveling of the epoxy liquid.

Given the full span of the massive summer beam supporting the second floor under Pearl Buck’s bedroom, bolts will also be installed to control potential expansion and support the steel plates, wood inlays, and epoxy of the W.E.R. system. During the mockup demonstration, the bolts, as well as any natural checks in the lumber that may not be evident to the eye are monitored throughout the pouring process so that any epoxy leakages are promptly eliminated. If leaks are evident, additional plasticine is applied to further seal the area.

Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 03/04/2010

Support for a Lintel

Phase II Project Site Supervisor Glenn Wesley points out a wood 4 x 6 lintel that remains in place from 1825. The lintel supports the stone above the existing cabinet on the east side of the living room wall and the western end of the summer beam that runs east and west in the living room. A new steel beam will be put in place of this lintel, and a narrow steel post will be concealed within the furrowed-out wall on the south side of the corridor that leads from the dining room to the living room. This post will bear on the stone wall in the basement below. The addition of this new steel beam and the steel post will ensure the massive summer beam in the living is properly supported, whereby live load capacity in the rooms above will be increased.

The wood lintel is evident above the stone. The plaster layers over the stone were likely made during renovations by the Walsh family (Ms. Buck privately used Mrs. Walsh, from her husband Richard J. Walsh). Plaster walls and arches between the living room and dining room remain in place from the Walsh renovations between 1935-1938.

Our last entry explained the routing and leveling of the first floor summer beam which supports the Pearl S. Buck bedroom. The application of plasticine (grey) which will prevent the epoxy from escaping is evident in this photo. The next step is the installation of the steel plates and epoxy. Note the silver conduit is for electrical wiring which runs along the summer beam interior. A portion of a red clamp can be seen in place above the living floor and under the Pearl Buck bedroom. The clamps are in place to help prevent changes to the summer beam as a result of the W.E. R. system installation.

A closer view of the plasticine application.

Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 02/25/2010

Preparation for Beam Placement

The following photos are of the top side of the east-to-west summer beam that supports the floor of the Pearl S. Buck bedroom. This beam ends just under the hearth of the west fireplace of the bedroom. The west fireplace is one of the oldest in the house, dating from the original 1825 construction. The east fireplace was added during the family occupation of the house, and is angled in the opposite corner of the room.

In the photos, you can see the preparation of the existing summer beam for the installation of a W.E.R system. The photo shows the beam after a large circular saw was used to hollow out the center of the beam. After the saw carves out the channel as needed, a member from the restoration team is photographed as he chisels the bottom portion of the beam. This will provide a level surface for reinforcing steel plates and epoxy to be added into the carved out hollow.

Before pouring the epoxy, all cracks and holes in the wood must be sealed with Plasticine to prevent epoxy from leaking. After pouring in some epoxy, the reinforcing steel plates are added and the remaining open space is filled up with more epoxy.  The original floor boards are put back into place once the W.E.R. system has fully hardened.  While this activity will create a stronger, augmented, solid beam, reinforced with steel and epoxy, our future visitors will be hard pressed to find any visible evidence of the work that has been completed.

Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 02/16/2010

Feb 16: Continued Preparations for Added Support

The kitchen ceiling has been removed in order to prepare for the installation of a new structural support beam. Modification to the second floor joists and structural wall supports were determined necessary due to inadequate spacing. To date, the supports were on the north and south walls. An additional beam will soon be inserted that will run east and west.

The newly inserted steel beam will rest on the steel beams that are pictured here. The west beam directly over the kitchen window was added during Phase I. With the use of the east west running beam the weight of the second floor over the kitchen will now be more effectively distributed. Note: the joists are cut to accommodate the addition of the new steel beam insert. All of these modifications will be in place and covered with a new ceiling, rendering the resulting work unnoticeable and undetected by future visitors.

The team stone mason has identified this stone as argillite. Argillite is a very strong material that was most likely quarried near the home.

The removal of the ceiling and plaster wall board reveals a portion of the stone wall that has been undisturbed since the origins of the 1825 portion of the house. During tour seasons, this portion of the wall is found directly behind a Pennsylvania Dutch armoire which resides in the living room near the piano.

The rough framing for the new wall that is being built to divide the room as it once stood is now in place.

The double sided LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beam is shown with north south surfaces for each side of the new room.

Although the wall support appears to be strengthened by the framework below, the support of the wall itself is mostly carried on the east west beam ends.

Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 02/04/2010

Feb 1-4: Floorboards and Fireplaces

In this photo of the corner fireplace in the Pearl S. Buck bedroom, you will see the stone hearth taken apart in puzzle-like pieces. The floor boards were lifted for structural examination. Reinforcement, not replacement, is the goal in successful historical restoration.

A closer view of the area reveals the original floorboard color that has been hidden under the masonry. This corner fireplace was added by Miss Buck during the family occupation of the house.

This fireplace on the west wall of the Pearl S. Buck bedroom was originally the room of Mr. Richard Walsh, Miss Buck’s publisher husband. This fireplace dates to circa 1825. The absent floor board will cover the existing beam after it is reinforced for strength with a steel plate and an epoxy filling. Note that the hearth stone has been lifted and a small area has been recessed into the hearth area awaiting replacement of the treated beam.

A detail of a peg in a hand-hewn beam. Note the chisel marks of the builders from long ago, perhaps from 1825.

The flooring of the balcony room is examined. This room had many uses during the Walsh family occupation.

The balcony room floor reveals itself to be much stronger than believed. Note what appears to be a sub floor evident between the beams. Perhaps this was a sound proofing effort to protect the room occupant from the busy dining room below.

Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 01/28/2010

January 11-22: Work on Floorboards Reveals PA Dutch Handiwork

PSB Bedroom Floorboards

Workers stand atop floorboards of Pearl S. Buck's bedroom before their removal.

The Pearl S. Buck bedroom floor has had several floor planks removed to assess structural integrity. The exposed beams reveal workmanship of wooden pegs; not a single nail. The Pennsylvania Dutch barn and house builders of the area have left exceptional work evident in this 1825 portion of the house. Roman numerals superficially carved into the end of each beam reflect mortise and tenon joinery.

The Roman numerals are in ascending order across the floor. This indicates that the beams were cut and hewn off site and joined together here in the house.

Bedroom Floorboards with Pegs and Numerals

Removal of floorboards revealed planks held together solely by wooden pegs. The roman numerals etched into the wood are visible above.

Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 01/28/2010

January 7-11: Supports are Built

The restoration teams have built interior scaffolding for support, hung heavy plastic sheeting to control dust and plaster infiltration, wrapped the plaster wall corners and wooden banisters, and built a temporary wooden crate to protect the rare 1936 oak Steinway Piano.

Fireplace with Supports

A shot of the fireplace flanked by wooden supports to the second floor.

Piano Area with Supports

Before: The piano area during the 2009 Festival of Trees Display. After: The piano area with decorations removed and artifacts packed away to make room for the wooden supports to the Pearl S. Buck bedroom on the second floor.

Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 01/28/2010

January 6: Everything is Packed

PSB Kitchen Before and After Photo

Before: The kitchen as it normally appears for tours of the Pearl S. Buck House. After: the table, chairs, and artifacts have been packed away in a safe place!

PSB Fireplace Before and After Packing

Before: The fireplace was all decked out for the Festival of Trees display, which took place from November 17 to December 31, 2009. After: Decorations and artifacts have been removed, leaving the fireplace decidedly empty looking!

PSB Large Library Before and After Packing

Before: An image of the large library from August 2009, when the original manuscript of The Good Earth was on display on the famed 'Good Earth Desk'. After: All of the furniture has been moved and covered with sheets, blankets, and plastic to keep out the dust and debris that will occur during the restoration.

Awards Room Before and After Packing

Before: The Awards Room was full of important artwork, certificates, medals, and other items bestowed upon Pearl S. Buck in honor of her accomplishments. After: Each item has been carefully packed away and archived for the duration of the restoration project.

Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 01/28/2010

December 31: A House of Boxes

Today is our last day of our Festival of Trees Holiday Event. Nineteen rooms in the historic house were decorated floor-to-ceiling for the holiday season. We now have five workdays to have the rooms undecorated, packed, stored, and protected.

In our efforts to protect the intact collections and household furnishings of Pearl S. Buck, the contents of entire rooms will be packed in tissue paper, bubble wrap and archival boxes. Each box and its contents will be entered into an inventory system for reinstallation and retrieval. Seven rooms will be packed and two rooms covered for protection through Phase II. This nine-room preparation will take about 167 work hours.

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