Last week, Preservation Delaware hosted Preservation Weekend in Old New Castle, Delaware. One of the speakers was Richard Byrne, an Architectural Conservator from Staunton, Virginia. After many years of experience, Mr. Byrne had some definite views about preserving older and historic homes.
One of his strongly emphasized statements was that wood needs an opaque coating to preserve the cambium of the wood siding or decking. I had heard home inspectors recommend coating decks with stain, but Byrne strongly disagrees with this advice. "Paint, Paint!" and no alternatives, he advised. Along with this, his mantra included keeping wood in good repair, correctly nailing wood shingles so that they have room to expand and contract, and keeping water and insects away from wood.
Shown above, Mr. Byrne holds a shingle which he passed around the room to illustrate the correct nailing technique of not placing the nails too close to one another to give the shingle room to expand and contract. He told a story about (what sounds like) a fly-by-night contractor who had the roofer pre-assemble six foot sections of stapled wood shingles, nailed to a roof framework at the edges of the units. When a strong wind came along, the owner of a quite expensive home found all the humongous sections had taken flight to distant places. One of the problems was the general contractor gave the non-English speaking roofer incorrect instructions to follow, while he himself had no clue as to how to install a wood shingle roof.
The second picture is of the group standing on the New Castle Green looking at the Old Dutch House (red siding), said to be one of the oldest houses (c. 1700) in Delaware. It is now a house museum owned by the New Castle Historical Society. Mr. Byrne gave a running commentary on the houses along the green, and freely noted what he considered incorrectly installed downspouts and other errors. It's a good thing those historic home owners were not present, or maybe they should have heard him!