Having agreed on a footprint (16' wide by 28' deep), Scott and I set about planning the components of the addition. Two friends of ours, who also own historic buildings in Cape May County, had used a timber framing company from Lancaster County, PA (Riehl Construction) to design a timber frame addition for their historic houses. Our ca. 1790 house is built with a timber frame; everything is pegged together, with exposed corner posts in most rooms, and exposed joists overhead in the kitchen.
Riehl Construction has done some phenomenal buildings, from modern houses to barns and everything in between. The cost was considerably less than hiring someone to frame the building, and the look cannot be beat, with exposed beams overhead and exposed corner posts. These exposed framing members are characteristic of most Cape May County houses built before 1830. We have exposed joists in two of our rooms, and corner posts in several, too, so we like the look and it is appropriate for our house. We met with them and quickly decided to have them build a heavy timber frame for our addition. Decisions, decisions. What kind of wood? Oak, heart pine, or something else? (we choose oak) Shouldered corner posts or straight? (we choose straight) Decoration on the joists? (we chose a 3/8" bead)
We didn't want the addition to look exactly like the main house, just inspired by it. Three hundred years from now, we want it to be clear that the addition we built was erected in the early 21st century, not at the end of the 18th century. The original, ca. 1790 house has straight corner posts wrapped in beaded edge boards, so we chose straight ones, not wrapped, for the addition. The original house has cedar posts and joists so we chose oak (if you read my book, you'll learn that in Dennis Township where we live and in neighboring Upper Township the oak was of inferior quality so locally-grown cedar was used). The exposed joists in the oldest part of the house have chamfered edges, so we choose beaded edges.
Below is the smallest bedroom in the original part of the ca. 1790 house; just 6' wide, it has two straight corner posts, both wrapped in beaded edge boards. One of them is seen here behind the bed.
We also wanted to use true divided-light windows, but with energy-efficient Thermopane glass rather than the single glass we have in the original building. Again, we found a wood window maker in Lancaster County, PA who could make these for us, and the frames as well, at a cost considerably lower than what we priced at Lowe's and Home Depot (and those were full of plastic and vinyl). He's making them from Spanish cedar which is highly resistant to rot. The downside is that we'll have to prime and paint them, but the look cannot be beat, so we both agreed the extra work is worth it.
Other details that will make our addition special have to do with being scavengers. Actually, George (the man we bought our house from) was a scavenger extraordinaire. He took parts from houses that were being torn down in the mid-1970s to build the 16' x 20' addition (living room with master bedroom above) to our historic house. He told me where the winder stairs came from, the wood paneling, the joists overhead, the wide cedar and heart pine floors, the rafters, the doors, and so on. I have it all written down for passing along to the next owner several decades from now.
Also on the property when we bought the house was a former 1-room, ca. 1850 schoolhouse (also moved by George to the lot in the 1970s) that was filled to the rafters with historic building materials, not to mention a lot of junk also, that he had saved for "some day." We found at least 20 doors (paneled and board and batten), part of a late 18th century corner cupboard, a ca. 1810 jelly cupboard (now restored and used for a book case in my home office), weather vanes, antique floor boards, and a whole, whole lot more. Much of this will be used in the addition.
But, we've also played scavenger hunt, too. A friend had rescued three ca. 1800 paneled wood doors from a local house slated for demolition about 10 years ago. They'd been collecting dust in his barn and when we offered to buy them, he was happy to see them go to a good home. Scott loved the fact that they had their original hardware and locks. We've got a place for all three on the first floor.
Below: one of the three doors that will be recycled in the addition. In the right light, you can still see the marks of a hand plane used to smooth the panels.
George also came over one day, a short, one-board door tucked securely under his arm. Truly, one board about 18" wide. "The door belongs in this house," he declared, as we were patching plaster in the parlor one very hot July day. I don't recall where the door came from, but it's a beauty. It originally went to a closet under a winder stair, and we're going to use it under our stair to the second floor in the addition.
Coming up next: The Money Tree (true story)