This section is from the book "A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction Vol4: Plumbing And Gas-Fitting, Heating And Ventilation, Painting And Decorating, Estimating And Calculating Quantities", by The Colliery Engineer Co. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction.
88. Creosote is the basis of several valuable preparations for preventing rot in wood, and is, in the form of stains, assuming importance in the builder's art, as a substitute for paint. The softer kinds of wood, unless thoroughly seasoned, contain considerable sap, which, if not in some way expelled or neutralized, causes rapid decay. In the application of creosote to the wood, usually by dipping or with a brush, it is quickly absorbed into the pores, counteracts the chemical changes in the sap, and thereby indefinitely insures the durability of the wood. It also prevents dry rot as well as the ravages of wood-boring insects. The valuable qualities of creosote as a preservative of railroad ties, and timber under water, have long been recognized. The great advantage of creosote over paint is that the former, while entering closely into the structure of the wood, permits the evaporation of any moisture. Paint, on the contrary, has no preservative qualities in itself, merely forming a coating impervious to air and water, so that if the wood has not been completely seasoned before painting, the imprisoned moisture will, in time, produce decay.
Creosote stains are now much used instead of paint on parts of buildings much subjected to wet, especially shingles and sidings. The cheapness of such stains, both in material and cost of application, is a factor of considerable importance. The cost of even the very best qualities does not exceed probably one-half that of paint, and as any person can do the work quite rapidly and with good effect, the labor of applying it is also much less than that involved in the process of painting. The saving in time is due to the thin character of the stain, which dries quickly and consequently permits the completion of more work, in a given time, than painting can allow.
From an artistic point of view, the superiority of creosote stains over paint is, even to superficial observers, apparent. Paint is a liquid veneer completely covering the wood and replacing the grainy surface with its own glossy monotony. It is proper to paint all smooth-planed wood in which utility and not artistic effect is of first importance. But when regard is had for artistic effect, paint, let it be noted, gives crude results, entirely masking the grain of the wood-one of the chief beauties of shingled roofs and side walls. Paint gradually becomes oxidized, and growing darker with age, splits and scales off, presenting a shabby and unpleasant appearance. To obviate this result, even the best paint must be renewed every three or four years, while many of the cheaper paints will hardly last two years without freshening.
Creosote stains are transparent and, instead of hiding, render the grain of the wood more prominent. For example, on a roof the surface texture of each shingle is different, and each, if creosoted, retains this characteristic, but if painted loses it entirely. As creosote stains enter into the structure of wood, they cannot split or peel, and as the color gradually disappears-for all colors will fade in strong sunlight-it becomes, in tone, softer and more delicate, producing the antique effect, by so many admired.
One of the principal virtues of creosote stains is that they never turn black-a conspicuous fault of other stains and many paints. Work so treated can, therefore, be perfectly renewed with one coat of stain-an impossibility with a stain that turns black. The color effects of creosote stains are soft, warm, and rich, harmonizing perfectly with nature's tints, and seem to improve rather than deteriorate with age. Stains are as durable as the best paint-far more, indeed, than the inferior kinds-and, when properly applied to dry wood, quite as efficient as paint in preserving qualities.
Creosote diminishes, while paint in some cases tends to augment, the inflammability of wood. For use over weatherworn paint, the darker, heavier stains are to be preferred, yielding, in this respect, satisfactory results. Light stains should not, in fact, be applied over a dark paint. On newly painted work the use of stains cannot be recommended, because, where the wood is so covered, its absorbent quality is lost, and a stain effect impossible.
Paint may, however, be laid as well over a creosote stain as if applied to new wood. For this reason, a stain makes an admirable primer of smooth surfaces on which paint is to be subsequently laid, as it fills the wood and has preserving properties not to be found with common primers. Paint used over a creosote-stain priming coat will never mildew.
89. Clapboard sidings, as well as shingles, are susceptible of rich and delicate treatment with creosote stain, and at much less cost than painting involves. As a rough surface takes the stain better than a smooth one, sawed clapboards should be laid rough side out. When so treated they show a deep, rich color effect, almost equal to that of shingles. Fences, sheds, and other outbuildings may be stained at from one-quarter to one-half the cost of painting, besides being more effectually preserved from decay than if painted. The cheaper stains are very desirable for the insides of stables, coops, cattle sheds, etc., where the powerful antiseptic properties of creosote are of great value in destroying parasites and preventing disease.
When rain water from roofs is collected in a cistern, and used for domestic purposes, care should be taken, if creosote stain is used, to prepare the stain so that it will quickly dry-after application. The reason of this is that creosote, while uninjurious, is unpleasant to the taste; but upon drying rapidly will, after the first few rains, leave no foreign taste in the water. In fact, whether paint or stain is used on a roof surface, the first two or three rains should not be, on any account, collected, because, in the case of paint, the superfluous color is washed off and contaminates the water, while creosote affects its taste.
To bricks that are off-color, and in need of an even tone, any of the red stains may, with success, be applied. For this purpose they are, indeed, much used, and always with good results; the fact that they cannot crack or peel, being of great importance. One coat of the same color will usually, whenever needed, renew the stains; two coats, however, will, if a change of color is required, effect the purpose. In restaining, a shade lighter than the result desired should be used, for the stains, being transparent, come out darker on old work than on new wood.
90. The stains may be purchased, ready for use, in any size package required, from a 1-gallon can to a 50-gallon barrel. They do not require thinning and may be applied either with a brush after the shingles are laid, or the latter may be dipped in the stain, before being laid. The advantages of dipping are that the shingles are more fully impregnated with creosote and consequently more thoroughly preserved, and when, in the course of time, they shrink, no untreated wood will show through the splits. Brush coating is, however, much the cheaper method. But even where the dipping method is used, it is advantageous to apply a brush coat after the shingles are laid, as it renders the color more permanent and yields a more uniform effect, covering raw edges where the shingles have been cut to fit corners, window frames, etc. In the brush treatment, two coats should always be applied, such work being far more lasting than if but a single coat is laid. That the color effect may be uniform and permanent, care should be taken before using the stains, that they are so thoroughly stirred as to bring all the coloring matter into suspension. If the creosote be in a can, the stirring may be done through the opening in the top, but if in a barrel or keg, the head must be removed and the stain stirred every time a pot or tubful is taken out.
In dipping shingles, it is economy to fasten on the edge of the dipping tub, a brush on which to wipe each shingle as it is withdrawn, as shown in Fig. 1. This saves stain and hastens the drying. The shingles should not be soaked, but simply dipped in the stain, then removed as quickly as possible, and thrown in a loose pile, which a free circulation of air passing through, will speedily dry. One man can dip 7,000 per day. One gallon will cover 150 square feet of surface with one, or 100 square feet of surface with two coats. Dipping a thousand shingles requires 2 1/2 to 2f gallons, but the dipping and brushing of the same number of shingles demand 3 gallons. Two-thirds only of the length of the shingle need be dipped.
91. Creosote bleaching oil is used for producing a silver-gray effect on shingles. This material, at the time of its application, colors the wood to a slight degree only; a few months' exposure to the weather, however, bleaches the surface of the shingles to the beautiful silken silver gray, sometimes seen and admired on ancient seaside edifices. This charming color improves with age, and never calls for renewal, while the creosote preserves the wood, preventing mildew and the consequent blackening of the shingles. The creosote bleaching oil should be used on new work only. Its covering capacity is about one-fifth less than that of the ordinary stains.