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Choosing the right wood for Castle Tucker

August 4, 2015

Old vs. New

Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine, is undergoing extensive masonry repairs to ensure its long-term stabilization. Large-scale preservation projects like this often give way to a number of additional smaller ones, as Historic New England's carpentry crew recently found out.

After masons discovered deterioration in two windowsills and four lintels at Castle Tucker, the carpenters developed a plan for repairs. Lintels, which support the structure of the wall, were repaired first. One lintel had deteriorated to the point where it crumbled upon removal.

We purchased a salvaged heart pine beam from a specialty wood supplier to make a new lintel to replace the one that had crumbled. Although Historic New England's preservation philosophy normally advises against the use of salvaged or reclaimed material, we made an exception in this case. This lumber was chosen for its high strength, rot resistance, and dimensional stability. These characteristics made it ideal for supporting masonry while being exposed to weather and in direct contact with bricks and mortar.

The surviving original lintel was repaired in the carpentry shop at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, and used as a pattern for the new lintel. All new material was labeled, and the lintels were installed by the masons.

The repaired windowsills are outstanding examples of skilled woodwork. Each is a massive single piece with a curved front edge that faces the weather. Each features complex joinery and decorative detailing that carries through to the interior finished surfaces. For these repairs, our carpenters prepared large pieces of western red cedar in the shop. They then traveled to Castle Tucker for the final fitting, aided by custom pattern pieces made for each window.

A project like this embodies many of the defining elements of preservation work: unique solutions to unexpected problems; unusual materials; and skilled, intensive labor. Help support the preservation of Castle Tucker and other Historic New England properties with a gift to the Preservation Maintenance Fund.

View a gallery of the repairs.

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Choosing the right wood for Castle Tucker