Gas tar and sand are sometimes used, but it deteriorates and cannot be depended upon for any length of time. The damp course should invariably be placed above the level of the ground around the building, and below the ground floor joists. If a basement story is necessary, the outer walls below the ground should be either built hollow, or coated externally with some substance through which wet cannot penetrate. Above the damp course, the walls of our houses must be constructed of materials which will keep out wind and weather. Very porous materials should be avoided, because, even if the wet does not actually find its way through, so much is absorbed during rainy weather that in the process of drying much cold is produced by evaporation. The fact should be constantly remembered, viz., that evaporation causes cold. It can easily be proved by dropping a little ether upon the bulb of a thermometer, when it will be seen how quickly the mercury falls, and the same effect takes place in a less degree by the evaporation of water. Seeing, then, that evaporation from so small a surface can lower temperature so many degrees, consider what must be the effect of evaporation from the extensive surfaces of walls inclosing our houses.
This experiment (thermometer with bulb inclosed in linen) enables me as well to illustrate that curious law of nature which necessitates the introduction of a damp course in the walls of our buildings; it is known as capillary or molecular attraction, and breaks through that more powerful law of gravitation, which in a general way compels fluids to find their own level. You will notice that the piece of linen over the bulb of the thermometer, having been first moistened, continues moist, although only its lower end is in water, the latter being drawn up by capillary attraction; or we have here an illustration more to the point: a brick which simply stands with its lower end in water, and you can plainly see how the damp has risen.
From these illustrations you will see how necessary it is that the brick and stone used for outer walls should be as far as possible impervious to wet; but more than that, it is necessary the jointing should be non-absorbent, and the less porous the stone or brick, the better able must the jointing be to keep out wet, for this reason, that when rain is beating against a wall, it either runs down or becomes absorbed. If both brick and mortar, or stone and mortar be porous, it becomes absorbed; if all are non-porous, it runs down until it finds a projection, and then drops off; but if the brick or stone is non-porous, and the mortar porous, the wet runs down the brick or stone until it arrives at the joint, and is then sucked inward. It being almost impossible to obtain materials quite waterproof, suitable for external walls, other means must be employed for keeping our homes dry and comfortable. Well built hollow walls are good. Stone walls, unless very thick, should be lined with brick, a cavity being left between. A material called Hygeian Rock Building Composition has lately been introduced, which will, I believe, be found of great utility, and, if properly applied, should insure a dry house.
A cavity of one-half an inch is left between the outer and inner portion of the wall, whether of brick or stone, which, as the building rises, is run in with the material made liquid by heat; and not only is the wall waterproofed thereby, but also greatly strengthened. It may also be used as a damp course.
Good, dry walls are of little use without good roofs, and for a comfortable house the roofs should not only be watertight and weathertight, but also, if I may use the term, heat-tight. There can be no doubt that many houses are cold and chilly, in consequence of the rapid radiation of heat through the thin roofs, if not through thin and badly constructed walls. Under both tiles and slates, but particularly under the latter, there should be some non-conducting substance, such as boarding, or felt, or pugging. Then, in cold weather heat will be retained; in hot weather it will be excluded. Roofs should be of a suitable pitch, so that neither rain nor snow can find its way in in windy weather. Great care must be taken in laying gutters and flats. With them it is important that the boarding should be well laid in narrow widths, and in the direction of the fall; otherwise the boards cockle and form ridges and furrows in which wet will rest, and in time decay the metal.
After having secured a sound waterproof roof, proper provision must be made for conveying therefrom the water which of necessity falls on it in the form of rain. All eaves spouting should be of ample size, and the rain water down pipes should be placed at frequent intervals and of suitable diameter. The outlets from the eaves spouting should not be contracted, although it is advisable to cover them with a wire grating to prevent their becoming choked with dead leaves, otherwise the water will overflow and probably find its way through the walls. All joints to the eaves spouting, and particularly to the rain-water down pipes, should be made watertight, or there is great danger, when they are connected with the soil drains, that sewer gas will escape at the joints and find its way into the house at windows and doors. There should be a siphon trap at the bottom of each down pipe, unless it is employed as a ventilator to the drains, and then the greatest care should be exercised to insure perfect jointings, and that the outlet be well above all windows. Eaves spouting and rain-water down pipes should be periodically examined and cleaned out.
They ought to be painted inside as well as out, or else they will quickly decay, and if of iron they will rust, flake off, and become stopped.
It is impossible to have a sweet home where there is continual dampness. By its presence chemical action and decay are set up in many substances which would remain in a quiescent state so long as they continued dry. Wood will rot; so will wall papers, the paste used in hanging them, and the size in distemper, however good they have been in the first instance; then it is that injurious exhalations are thrown off, and the evil is doubtless very greatly increased if the materials are bad in themselves. Quickly grown and sappy timber, sour paste, stale size, and wall papers containing injurious pigments are more easily attacked, and far more likely to fill the house with bad smells and a subtile poison. Plaster to ceilings and walls is quickly damaged by wet, and if improper materials, such as road drift, be used in its composition, it may become most unsavory and injurious to health. The materials for plaster cannot be too carefully selected, for if organic matter be present, the result is the formation of nitrates and the like, which combine with lime and produce deliquescent salts, viz, those which attract moisture.