Archive for the ‘Poplar bark’ Category

Front Porch

December 19, 2009

Lewis and the crew built the front porch this week and finished putting the poplar bark siding on the front of the timber frame. Bunny Vista is so different now–it begins to feel like home. From the road that runs along the ridge just west of us, the house is so intriguing. The porch roof and cedar posts somehow tie the house to the ground so that it looks as if it’s part of the landscape. As Erin said, “it looks so snug.”

So here are some photos from the building of the porch and from the second snowfall of December.

Aaron and Braxton scamper along on the rafters. Kelley says they were like Tigger bouncing up there. The rafters are hemlock, which Kelley bought several years ago and stored at John Boody's sawmill. The beam that supports the rafters is cypress, left over from the timber frame.

The bark shingles await.

It is such fun to stand on the porch and look at the log section--there is snow on the windows and logs and stone and even on the poplar bark siding.

Standing on the front porch watching the snow. I hear that the light fixtures are done, and I'm anxious to see how they will look beside the French doors. The porch rafters and roof are hemlock, which Kelley says is resistant to boring bees. Thank goodness for that.

From the top--hemlock roof, hemlock rafters, red cedar posts from Aaron Tammi's property, cypress rafter-bearing beam, Atlantic white cedar decking, cypress deck frame, hemlock deck joists

Let's see. . . from the top: hemlock porch roof, hemlock porch rafters, cypress rafter-bearing beam, red cedar posts from Aaron Tammi's family property, red cedar posts, Atlantic white cedar decking, cypress deck framing, hemlock deck joists.

Kelley says there is enough poplar bark to finish the work on the front--the basement entrance and the little porch between the two log rooms. The door for the basement is here, and Kelley is going to make a door for the little porch. Someday we will say goodbye to all the Tyvek.


Cypress Paneling and Poplar Bark

December 13, 2009

Kelley and the crew made cypress paneling for the hallway and the small office nook, which, along with the master bathroom and the kitchen, are in the shed addition at the back of the house. The paneling runs horizontally and is an amazing complement to the logs. Kelley took the photos of the paneled walls November 14.

On November 24, Lewis, Braxton, and Aaron started siding the timber frame with the poplar shingles. They had stripped the bark from poplar trees in the spring, and John Boody dried it in his kiln in the early fall. Once the bark was dried, the workers sawed it into shingles. The bark itself is very rough in texture, and some parts are covered with lichens. The rough vertical lines of the bark make an interesting contrast with the very regular horizontal lines of the siding. I think it is perfect with the stone foundation and the log walls.

At the left, the doorway in the log wall leads to the guest bathroom and laundry area. The doorway in the paneled wall nearer the camera leads to a closet, and the third doorway is the main entrance to the house.

I love this shot of what will be my office, which was taken from the dining area near the top of the stairwell. There will be lots of room for books and a great window above my desk. And there will be lots of electrical outlets. Just count 'em.

The crew began to put the poplar bark siding onto the timber frame section of the house on Nov. 24. Here's how it looked after a couple of shingles went on. Other shingles are in the foreground.

Here are the first few shingles, juxtaposed with the limestone at the bottom, the sandstone at the right, and the Tyvek at the top.

Aaron Tammi, Lewis Wright, and Braxton Wood

Once the porch is completed, the crew will continue siding the house with the poplar bark shingles.

Snow at Bunny Vista

December 11, 2009

The stone and log section of the house--see the retaining wall at the left and the remains of the Pufferbellies Christmas float in the foreground.

The work on Bunny Vista continues, and I’m excited that Lewis and the crew have put some of the poplar bark siding on the timber frame section of the house. They finished the deck of the front porch today, complete with posts made from cedar trees cut from Aaron Tammi’s family’s property. The joists for the porch deck are hemlock, which Kelley bought a long time ago and stored at John Boody’s sawmill. The decking is Atlantic white cedar. On the interior, the heating and cooling systems are complete, the drywall is nearly all installed, there is beautiful cypress paneling on the back hallway, and the ceiling is almost done.

Kelley walked around the house while it snowed and took these photos, so here’s a virtual visual tour of Bunny Vista as it looked last weekend. Just pretend you’re walking in the snow all the way around the house. Then come inside for a cup of coffee.

The cedar posts for the front porch with their little snow caps. The crew was able to put the decking on the porch after the snow melted this week.

At the right, under the porch, you can see the poplar bark siding. It transforms the house.

The gable at the bedroom end of the house has a temporary siding, which will be replaced with poplar bark.

The main entrance, at the right, will also have poplar bark siding. The kitchen is at the left. I love its big windows, which give such a clear view of the wooded area behind the house--also of what seems to be miles of mud, when the ground is not covered with snow.

Poplar bark siding is under the porch. The entire timber frame section will have poplar bark. The white doors, which lead to Kelley's workshop, will be painted red to match the other doors and windows. The porch will have a roof, and the crew put the porch deck on this week after the snow melted. The cedar posts supporting the porch are set on big stones.

Poplar Bark Shingles

May 30, 2009
Kelley relaxes after stacking the poplar bark. Bark is not as heavy as stone.

Kelley relaxes after stacking the poplar bark. Bark is not as heavy as stone.

In March when Kelley was looking for logs in Nelson County, he met someone who was building his own house, using poplar bark for siding. Kelley loved the look of the poplar bark siding. He wanted to explore the idea of using poplar bark to finish the gable ends of the log house. I, of course, was skeptical. When I asked if poplar bark would be long-lasting and low maintenance, Kelley pointed out that trees have bark for many years and do no maintenance at all. Which made sense to me–in a way. When I asked how it looked, Kelley found photos on the Internet that showed beautiful houses with rustic but elegant style. When I asked how expensive it was, Kelley told me that, since loggers routinely strip the bark off poplar trees and discard it, poplar bark is free if you know when and where to get it. “Free” is an enticing word.

We found a lot of information that indicated that using poplar bark to side houses, while perhaps eccentric, is not crazy. In fact bark is an extremely practical alternative to  other siding materials. Bark shingles are durable and can last 100 years. They require no painting or other maintenance. They have a rustic textured appearance that complements the look of other natural materials, such as log and stone. Using poplar bark shingles is also an earth-friendly–the bark that is used would typically be left to rot, burned, or used for mulch.

Using bark for housing has a long history in this country, beginning with structures built by native American Indians. There are examples of more recent bark houses in New England and in the Northwest. In 1895, architect Henry Bacon, who is most famous for designing the Lincoln Memorial, designed a house sided with shingles made from American chestnut bark. This was probably the first use of bark shingles with sawed edges. The house was  built in Linville, in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Between 1895 and 1930, many stylish and expensive vacation and summer houses were built in that area using chestnut bark shingles. Chestnut blight, which began to strike trees around 1900, killed off the trees from which the bark was taken, and after about 1930, no more chestnut bark houses were built in that area. Some of the houses built during those years still stand. Many of the original chestnut shingles have been replaced with shingles from tulip (yellow) poplar. Since the mid-1990s, the use of poplar bark for siding has become popular in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, often in high-end houses and resorts, and there are several manufacturers of poplar bark shingles in that area.

Although he could have purchased poplar bark shingles from North Carolina manufacturers, Kelley decided that it would be practical and interesting to track down some poplar logs locally and make shingles for the house. He and Lewis checked with loggers, lumber mills, and even the Forest Service to locate poplar logs. When loggers cut poplar trees, they drag the logs from the forest to their trucks and take it to lumber yards where the bark is stripped off and discarded. The bark is considered waste material, and after this rough treatment it is not suitable for shingle-making. Kelley and Lewis needed to locate logs still on the ground in the woods before they were dragged, trucked, and stripped. It was also important to find the logs in late spring or early summer, because this is when the trees create new growth and the bark slips off most easily.

After six weeks or so of searching, Lewis found out about someone cutting poplar on a remote mountainside between Craigsville and Goshen. He was willing to give the bark to us, so yesterday Kelley, Lewis, Aaron and Braxton took Lewis’s trailer to Goshen and found six sixteen-foot poplar logs lying in a meadow near the woods. And it wasn’t even raining.

Lewis uses a chainsaw, Braxton and Aaron follow with bark spuds to strip the bark from a poplar log. They have already stripped the log on the right.

Lewis uses the chainsaw. Braxton and Aaron follow with the bark spuds.

To harvest the poplar bark, Lewis made a cut with his saw through the bark along the length of the log. Then he made crosswise cuts at twenty-inch intervals. Aaron, Braxton, and Kelley followed him, stripping the bark using bark spuds and loaded it into the trailer. Aaron and Braxton bought their antique bark spuds from Menno Kinsinger, who also sold us some logs. I will get a photo of a bark spud next week and post it. The bark spuds look something like a shortish hoe with a curved blade. The blade slips under the bark and helps to loosen the bark from the log.

Braxton uses a bark spud to slip the bark off a poplar log.

Braxton uses a bark spud to slip the bark off a poplar log.

The bark leaves the mountains and heads for Bunny Vista.

The bark leaves the mountains and heads for Bunny Vista.

When the bark arrived at our property, Aaron and Braxton unloaded it from the trailer and stacked it on pallets near the house. This morning I helped as Kelley sorted the bark slabs and restacked and stickered the pieces. Kelley weighted the stacks with cinderblocks so that the bark will flatten as it dries. Pretty soon he will take it to the Taylor and Boody kiln where it will dry for about a week. After that it will be ready to use.

Kelley and Lewis plan to get more poplar bark from the same site as soon as the ground is dry enough for the loggers to get back into the woods.

Poplar bark stacked and weighted

Kelley carefully sorted the bark this morning and stacked and weighted it. There are wooden sticks between each layer. We have three pallets of bark slabs.

Kelley got great and friendly advice from Danny Heatherly, owner of Barkclad Natural Products ( Kelley called him after finding the company Website, and Danny was kind enough to share his knowledge about gathering the poplar bark. His Website has lots of interesting information, great photos of a much larger operation than ours, and a certain “mountains of North Carolina” flair.

Some of the bark has green lichen. The slab on the right has large and interesting knot. Each slab is different. Cool.

Some of the bark has green lichen. The slab on the right has large and interesting knot. Each slab is different. Cool. It's going to look great made into shingles and juxtaposed with the old logs and the stone.