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ExteriorInterior | Restoration


Read progress reports from October 2003 through August 2004

October 2003

Restoration work began on October 1, 2003 when the general contractor, Voss Industries, nudged their temporary office trailer into the south end of The Gamble House driveway. It has been six years since the idea of restoration was first considered and now, after much planning, research, historic consultant evaluating, and campaigning, we are entering the shortest but most exciting phase; the restoration itself. This phase of the work is estimated to take nine months.

During the next few weeks a security fence will be installed around the House and scaffolding erected. The office trailer, fence and scaffolding will be painted a custom chocolate brown to blend with the house and its surroundings. This attention to detail on a construction site is quite unusual. but fitting for our high-profile National Historic Landmark that will remain open for public touring.

Once the scaffolding is in place, restoration consultants will have an “up close and personal” view of the exterior condition and deterioration before they proceed with the cleaning and treatment.

Progress reports will be posted regularly on this site and The House will be open for docent-led tours during restoration, except on rare occasions. Please come by and visit The Gamble House clad in scaffolding, a sight that hasn’t been seen in over 60 years.

Additionally, Wilkman Productions is creating a video record of the entire restoration process. Additional photos by Matt Jalbert.

March 2004

The Gamble House exterior restoration is underway with the objectives of mitigating the effects of 95 years of exposure to sun and weather, and preserving the historic fabric into the future. Severe deterioration of timber beams and rafter tails is being treated with great care to conserve as much sound historic material as possible, the original split-redwood shakes are being treated with a special preservative, and the roof membrane is being replaced to ensure protection of the interior and its priceless contents.

Diseased wood and rot is being removed from 262 Douglas fir rafter tails and beam-ends using hand-held instruments such as dental tools. In most cases, a breathable, epoxy and cellulose patching compound is replacing rotted material. In the case of very severe deterioration, or where structural integrity is compromised, we will replace missing material will be in-kind, old-growth fir to match the original wood. The beams and rafters will then be finished with a penetrating preservative.

Thirteen different conditions of deterioration have been identified on the 36-inch split redwood shakes, from diseased bare wood to sound material with perfectly bonded paint. The redwood-shake cladding will not be stripped of its 70-year old coat of non-original, lead-based paint, since it was determined that this process could cause further damage to the wood. Instead, the shakes will be conserved with a penetrating preservative, tinted to approximate the color values that the shakes would have today if they had never been painted.

The next milestone, to be covered in a subsequent progress report, is the replacement of the roof with a contemporary material to replicate the original appearance. Weather permitting, this will begin in mid-March or April.

Estimated completion date for exterior work is July, 2004.

April 2004

The rafter tails and beams are 90% complete. In line with our restoration philosophy, treated elements do not look brand new, but show their years. Since much of the original wood was lost to rot and fungus the finish on the beams and rafter tails is a visual interpretation of how they might have looked after 96 years, and include intentional scratches, holes and marks that will allow moisture to escape.

Window treatment is 90% complete. Paint, varnish, dirt and decay have been carefully removed and the wood treated with a special preservative. Now, for the first time in years, the contrast between the wood surrounding the windows and the redwood shakes look like it once did; the window wood is lighter and the shakes dark, creating a lively 3-dimensional effect.

One hundred and thirty five window screens were removed and are now being restored. They had taken the brunt of bad weather, were in serious disrepair, and so require much careful work. Luck was on our side; we found in the basement eleven unused screens in pristine condition providing our consultant with the clues needed for their restoration. The screens will be replaced prior to removing the scaffolding.

The exterior redwood shakes are 70% complete. They have been cleaned and treated individually and have received two coats of preservative. A careful application of a third and final coat of preservative with a color tint will give the shakes the visually integrated look of a 96 year old weathered house that has been well-maintained. In keeping with current restoration methods we have made as few interventions as possible and have left some out-of-the-way shakes untreated so that future generations will have historic evidence of the process. There are a few seriously damaged shakes and these will be replaced with nearly identical shakes that were acquired from a 1905 barn that was being razed.

The wood railings around the sleeping porches are finished. They were cleaned, stripped and then finished with an oil-based preservative that will allow the wood to age. There is a vast difference between their appearance when the work began and now; the qualities of this beautiful old-growth wood that had been hidden by weather and dirt are once again revealed.

After considerable research on the best method to apply the roofing material — a contemporary material that looks similar to the original Malthoid but is more flexible and will have a longer life — work begun in late April. There are several levels of roof and at no time will the whole roof be removed. Currently, the undercoats are being removed and replaced with new material. All remaining repairs that require roof access will be completed prior to laying the final chosen material. A large HVAC hood and several small vents have been removed to return the roof profile to its 1908 state.

Other projects include the treatment of metal straps, some new roof flashing, repairs to downspouts, fabrication and installation of gutter drain screens to ease leader boxes maintenance in the eaves. After the scaffolding is removed, the pebble-dash foundation coat will be repaired and treated to match existing material and a moisture barrier will be installed around the perimeter.

The capital campaign is in the final stretch; we need to raise $80,000 to reach the $3.5 million goal. Work is proceeding well and on target and the estimated completion date is late July, 2004.

June 2004

Following the completion of wood repairs on the main residence, restoration is now underway on the garage (the Gamble House Bookstore), including the treatment of rafter tails, windows, doors and shakes, using identical methods as those used on the house. Being a single story structure, though, the garage can be treated from ladders rather than scaffolding.

A new roof is being installed both house and garage. The new roofing sheet is a close adaptation of the historic Malthoid material, minus the asbestos that the original contained. A detailed plan to protect the House and garage during roof removal and installation requires that the pieces of the old roof be removed individually, by hand. An enclosed chute on the side of the house allows old roofing material to fall directly into a dumpster on the ground without danger of debris hitting the house. In addition, the recently-restored beams and rafters have been wrapped with protective paper to prevent damage during re-roofing. A blast shield affords protections for the house from any mishaps involving the adjacent pot of 450-degree heated tar.

The actual roofing materials consist first of a resin paper sheet placed over the wood sheathing, which is 1-inch thick, vertical grain, tongue-and-groove, Douglas fir. Over this is a fiberglass base ply that is nailed to the sheathing. Finally, a Bitumous cap sheet with a ceramic granule surface is applied to the base sheets with hot tar. The color of the ceramic granule was chosen based on the contrast evident in historic black-and-white photos as well as on the color of the previous roofing material.

All 150 window screens are being restored after having been removed from the house. Due to the weather abuse they have taken over the past 60 years, restoration involves careful stripping of earlier, non-original finishes, and appropriate refinishing and installation of bronze-wire screen.

A final tint will be applied selectively to the redwood shakes during the coming month. This artistic task, to be overseen by our architectural conservator, will consider the age of the house, its original color, its paint color of the 1930s, and its weathering patterns. Some 28 of the original, split redwood shakes are badly damaged and will be replaced by vintage redwood shakes of identical dimensions that were salvaged from the collapsed roof of a c. 1905 barn near Arcata, California.

During June, scaffolding will be removed from the south end of the house to enable a below-grade moisture barrier to be installed around the foundation. The restoration proceeds on budget, with completion estimated for late July, 2004.

August 2004

The Gamble House exterior restoration is now complete. The objectives of mitigating the effects of 95 years of exposure to sun and weather, and preserving the historic fabric into the future have been met. Diseased wood and rot were gently removed from 262 Douglas fir rafter tails and beam-ends and then filled with a breathable epoxy. The roof was replaced with similar material, exterior redwood shakes were cleaned and treated with wood preservative, doors, window frames and screen windows were repaired and restored. The philosophy was to do no harm to the existing fabric and to interpret the exterior so that it once again resonates with the original vision of the architects.