Good floors may be laid in concrete slabs between steel framing by any of the standard methods, or by pouring liquid gypsum over squares of wire mesh. In each instance they must be top-finished with a hardening compound or with any one of a dozen different floor compositions. The stage floor of a theatre should be covered with comb-grained T. & G. North Carolina pine 7/8 inch by 2 1/2 inch, and all traps should be lined underneath with asbestos boards to make them fireproof.
The better to preserve the stage floor from wear, scene braces and the like should not be screwed to the floor, but held in place by finishing nails partially driven into the stage through metal hinges attached to the braces. Stage screws permanently mar a finished floor, while finishing nails if not fully driven home may be quickly and easily extracted with the nail pulling clamp of a hammer.
The safe live load for all theatre floors should be as follows:
100 lbs. to the square foot
100 " " "
80 " " " " """
80 " " "
200 " " "
100 " " "
150 " " "
60 " " "
60 " " "
30 " " "
This table should be consulted before designing steel framing for the various floors and roof.
Excellent and cheap roof structures can be built of gypsum blocks laid on steel purlins. In the absence of gypsum blocks a four-inch concrete slab may be used. With either material a "Barret specification" roofing may be employed as a covering, or if desired for appearance's sake a shingle roof may be nailed directly to the gypsum blocks.
Emergency stairways inclosed within fireproof walls should be composed of concrete, with steel tread pieces imbedded in the edge of each step. Elaborate open stairways for the lobby or elsewhere should have marble treads and risers with a marble balustrade, or an ornamental iron or bronze railing. If concrete treads be substituted for marble the steps should be covered with plain carpet. Ornamental stairs should be purchased from the manufacturer direct and installed by the mason-builder.
Exterior windows should be of steel, glazed with wire glass. Steel windows come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and whether ordered directly from the manufacturer or not these windows should be installed by the mason-builder at a price agreed upon for each opening. All window sills should be brick, smoothly covered with concrete. The door frames should be formed of steel channels, with or without a trim. It is optional with the owner whether hardwood doors or steel doors be employed, for there is a wide range in the cost of different grades of doors. All doors and windows should be purchased completely fitted. The great difference between the price of appropriate steel doors and equally well appearing hardwood doors and the slight liability of the latter to fire make the use of hardwood doors most excusable, especially where insurance rates are not materially increased by their use.
The ceilings of a theatre auditorium should be hung as low as is compatible with the design, in order to secure good acoustics and to provide a material saving in heat. The basis for the ceiling of the audience hall and the horizon device on the stage should be of expanded metal or self-centered wire-lath suspended by heavy wires from the construction trusses. The plaster, whether ornamental or not, should be applied to the expanded metal after it has been fixed in place. The plastering of an ordinary interior and the stuccoing of the exterior constitute part of the rough building and properly belong to the mason-builder.
All work demanding special contracts, such as heating, ventilation and plumbing, should be awarded independently to specialists in this class of work rather than to a general contractor, who usually has nothing whatever to do with its installation other than collect an additional profit. The architect or superintendent should be relied upon to check the work. In addition much of this work should be guaranteed by the individual contractors for a specified time. Unfortunately, trade union rules and customs governing several of the above classes of work prohibit the obtaining of prices on a "quantity basis," and the old undesirable system of "lump" sum bids must be adhered to in such contracts.
Elevators, not generally regarded by law as exits, are frequently installed in theatres. These are put in running order by the various firms who manufacture them, and this contract should be given direct to the maker of the elevator instead of to a general contractor.
The interior decorating of a fine theatre should be intrusted to a recognized firm of decorators in preference to the architect. An artistic decorator better understands the employment of art in detail than most architects, whose forte is the consideration of art in the mass.. The artistic decoration of a theatre should not cost more than $5,000 to $6,000.
The chairs also should be ordered direct from the manufacturers, and should be of low-backed, tip-up variety, with leather or imitation leather upholstery to match the decorations.
The space allotted for construction in this volume will not permit of exhaustive details, but the application of the above method of awarding contracts will lessen substantially the cost of the building. Theatre building under prevailing methods costs entirely too much money, and for no apparent good reason. It is difficult to conceive how a structure composed mainly of an empty shell should cost as much per cubic foot as a commercial building completely fitted with floors and partitions.
Unique Application of Cantilever Principle.