I've worked on old houses before, but this is the first time I ran across this kind. The house is 100+ years old ( dating from 1890's, I have no sure date ). I was ripping out walls and found that there are NO wall studs for the outer walls. Instead there are old fashion 1x8's nailed together overlapping.

My question is this, is there any information available on updating this kind of house? I was thinking of adding framing on the inside for insulation, and to run wires / pipes, and plywooding the outside to put up new siding.

My biggest fear is not knowing the load bearing capabilities of such walls, and what can and can not be done to them.

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send me some pictures. email link via my website. www.rmdesignconst.com
Hi Rick;

This wall system is known by various names across America. If you are in the Far West it is most likely known as Single Wall Construction or Board and Batten Construction. In West Texas and part of Oklahoma, Box and Strip. In the Upland South, Box or Boxed Construction, In West Virginia and Part of Kentucky they took the nickname Jenny Lind's (with several spelling variations). In Hawaii they are known as Hawaii Plantation Style.

I have been studying this method of building as part of writing a book on plank construction in North America so I am interested to hear of any other nicknames for them. They were built by the tens of thousands across America with concentrations of up to 40% in a few locations. Over 5,000 were built as earthquake relief shelters after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsiquent fires. The technique probably arrived in California with the 1849 Gold Rush.

As for repairs, they require creativity. Adding studs seems to be something many people do. It is hard to give advice sight-unseen over the internet. You really need to find local people to bounce ideas off of. Take comfort that it has survived the test of time and that some of the oldest buildings in San Francisco are single wall. There may not be much of a foundation so use boards as a finished wall to avoid cracks in your drywall, unless you do foundation work, too.

Keep that Pioneer spirit;
I do not have a camera at the moment, but I'll see if I can borrow one. The basement was dug out some time in the 60's, and the foundation it's self is in fair condition. ( the one corner is rotted out, but easily fixable.)

The more I remove the walls , the more I learn of the past owners of the house. Oldest newspaper I found so far is from Sept 03,1894 ( complete date ), but that is not when the structure was built, it was when whoever lived there decided to re wallpaper.
There is 4 layers of wallpaper, followed by paneling, followed by 3/8" drywall with 1 layer of paint. ( 1950's by the look of it ). Under the drywall is 5 layers of wallpaper, 1 layer of newspaper written in Dutch ( no date found on it yet ), 1 layer of wallpaper, another layer of newspaper ( August + September 1894 ), and than the original layer of wallpaper ( very nice looking purple floral design ). There are a couple sections that have fabric glued to the wall before the Dutch newspaper layer.

The house it's self is located in West Central Pennsylvania, about 90 miles from the Ohio border. ( Brockway PA 15824 ).
Overall condition currently is poor. 20+ years of neglect, and very badly done renovations / additions really left the house in bad shape.
Hi Rick;

By Dutch do you mean Dutch or German? Very interesting.

This type of construction was used in PA for logging camps, coal mining camps, and oilfield housing. If your house is not part of an old camp or hasen't been moved from an old camp. It is a vernacular building technique but also formalized as company housing and instructions on how to build these was published many times starting around 1847 mostly in publications centered around Buffalo, NY. Another use was for summer camps near a lake, etc.

I am new to this forum. If photos can be posted I would llike to see some.

It looks like Dutch. If it was in German, I would be able to read parts of it. ( Took German in high school, but long since forgotten most of it ). The location is in the heart of coal and logging country for the 1800's, so it may have been part of a workers town. Need to do more research when I find the time.
Hi Jim
Did you ever publish the book on single wall?
I came across six this weekend while doing research for a paper
Let me know when you can

Hi Michael;

The short answer is no. I study all aspects of historic carpentry and if I live long enough (I'm in good health but it will take a very long time) I hope to publish a book titled something like An Introduction to American Historic Carpentry. I keep encyclopedic entries on various words which is up to about 180 pages of text and I will need lots of illustrations too; and then their is the text. I just learned about the use of single wall buildings for lime workers in California, another industry which used this construction for worker housing.

Where are the six you just found?

Thanks for asking;


Hi Jim, they are in Colorado county Texas, in the town of Columbus. On was opened up after a fire so I was able to photograph details, pretty interesting, and in good condition, but might demolished by the owners


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