This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
The peculiar conditions of house building in Canada have been described in interesting detail by R. Gambier-Bousfield. He alludes to the absence, in the early days of the colony, of the means of quarrying and transporting stone, the small opportunity for making bricks, the unlimited quantities of fir wood, - these conditions have resulted in a method of building which, beginning with the rough log huts, has been perfected until it is now used for the construction of the first-class houses. He has described this method, pointed out many advantages resulting from its use, and offered a, few valuable hints in the arrangement of small houses. The frame house astonishes the novice by its slenderness, and though cool enough in summer, one wonders how it is possible to keep out the intense cold of the winters. Generally, a stone foundation is used of about 1G in. thick rubble work, taken down at least 3 ft. to below the level reached by the post, and raised about 10 in. or 1 ft. above the ground line. Upon this is laid a sill of wood 6 in. deep and 8 in. wide, and at spaces of 16 in. centres, are erected 2 in. by 4 in. uprights, commonly called studding, mortised and tenoned to sills and heads.
The length of these studs depends upon the height of the house to be built, not upon the length of the stuff, as almost any reasonable length can be obtained. If it is a two-storey dwelling, the studs will easily reach the whole height, and the frame is tied at the corners, and strengthened with angle pieces, or with matched boarding. Floor joists are always used of a much greater depth than it is the custom to use in England; 12 in. deep by 2 in. wide, placed at 18 in. centres on the ground floor, and at 1G in. centres on all floors above, is the common arrangement, cross bridging being used to stiffen them. At openings for doors and windows, the studs are doubled. When the studs rise the whole height of the house, without any plate for the support of the floor joists of the first or second floors, ribbon pieces 1 in. by 4 in. are spiked between the studs, horizontally, and the joists rest on these, being spiked to the uprights. But the roofing surprises an Englishman more than any other part. The use of shingles may or may not be new to him, but the slenderness of the roof timbers makes him tremble for the future inmates.
Wood shingles are infinitely lighter than slate, and the common construction is simply long rafters, 2 in. by 6 in., set at 16 in. centres, reaching from plate to ridge without purlins, king posts, or struts; the ceiling joists tie the feet in, and for a span of 20 ft. clear, collar ties 1 in. by 6 in. are just nailed to the rafters. (It will perhaps be noticed that the width of stuff is always quoted before the depth - this is the trade custom in Canada.) On top of the rafters is laid, either diagonally or straight, matched rough boarding, and upon this a coat of hair mortar, 1/2 in. thick, in order to keep down fire as long as possible, in the event of a conflagration; this coat is not a necessity of construction, but is added by order of the City Building Committees. The shingles are laid on the mortar, just like slates, with about 4 in. to the weather, and each shingle is secured with 2 nails. Wood rolls cover all external angles, and except for valleys and gutters, the description of the roof is completed. For these latter there is a further entirely new custom. The heat does not admit of using lead, so in place of it tin is adopted, giving it 2 good coats of paint.
Until lately tin could be procured that would stand the weather without rusting, but that quality cannot be obtained now. The tin is laid in the same way as lead; but in exposed situations it is decidedly inferior, and it is very difficult to keep out the wet in such places. Owing to the heavy falls of snow, gutters have to be avoided, small gablets being erected behind chimney stacks, to prevent the snow lodging. Gn this account roofs of the form of an inverted W cannot be used, as the snow would drift and fill in the whole of the intermediate gutter, and down the roof would come. Consequently, Mansard roofs are resorted to for very wide spans, and sometimes horizontal decks, which are better than inverted W's but are not to be used if it is possible to avoid them. Owing to the expansion and contraction of tin in heat and frost, the down pipes are made corrugated, which allows them to shrink or expand without fear of cracking. The advance of civilization, with local boards in its wake, has insisted upon brick exteriors for all houses within the defined "fire limits" of each city, and although stud partitions are still retained inside, it is not allowed now to have wooden exteriors. But there are differences between the methods of bricklaying here and the ways common to the old country.
Generally speaking, for a one-brick wall there is hardly any bond between the inner and outer half-brick veneer. To all appearances, there is no bond visible on either face, but it exists, however poor it may be. The plan of a course is as seen in Fig. 1420, the brick b being the bond, of which there is 1 at every 2 ft. or so. Another method is to build 5 courses of stretchers, and then 1 of headers, which is better than the first, but Canadian bricklayers have yet to learn English and Flemish bonds. The seventy of the climate demands that great attention should be paid to the outsides of the houses, both walls and roof, and a precaution taken here would if adopted in England, be found of great advantage in keeping out the damp in small houses. This is the custom of fixing grounds to the inside of the brick walls, and lathing and plastering, leaving 1 in. space between the back of the laths and the wall. 15y this means the outer wet is not conducted to the plaster through the bricks, and the houses are thereby kept cooler in summer and warmer in winter.