The wood frame house has been one of the most prevalent forms of shelter in the United States since the days of the early settlers in the 17th century. As a result, there are houses of various ages in almost every community across the country. Some have been well maintained and remodeled to keep pace with contemporary living requirements and some are lacking in modern conveniences and comforts. Still other houses are in a deteriorating or dilapidated condition.
Unlike most material objects, a well-built house, properly maintained, does not wear out - at least not over a period of several hundred years. It may become outdated and lack the newest conveniences, but it does not wear out. Tests conducted by the Forest Products Laboratory show that when decay or other abnormal environmental factors are not present, wood does not deteriorate in strength or stiffness from age alone for periods of 100 years or more. Limited tests conducted on a few timbers from Japanese temples 3 to 13 centuries old indicate that shock resistance is seriously reduced after several centuries, but effects on the other structural properties are small.
In spite of the wood-frame, some of these houses have deteriorated to a point where rehabilitation would be impractical; but many could be restored to a sound condition and updated in convenience and comfort at a lower cost than that required to build a new house. In addition to monetary savings, rehabilitation has other advantages: The owner can stay in familiar surroundings; some older houses provide more space than can be achieved in a new house at reasonable cost; the work can usually be done as finances become available; and the character of the older house is often preferred to that of a new one. Finally, one of the most important aspects of rehabilitation is conservation of our timber resources.
For many years the Department of Agriculture, specifically through the Forest Service, has been concerned with wise use of the Nation's timber resource. And because so large a part of the timber harvest goes into housing, it is understandable that research on phases of wood house construction has long been a part of the Forest Products Laboratory Program.
If the foundation is good and the floor, wall, and roof framing are structurally sound, the house probably is worth rehabilitating.
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