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Once a building or house hits a certain level of decay it's
salvageable with standard techniques. It simply becomes
theoretically cheaper to tear it down and rebuild the exact
from scratch, which of course never happens.
The idea is to take the existing ruins as is, sweep the
the crap out and encase every inch in thick clear plastic
sprayed on coating. This coating would do several things:
arrest further decay from the elements, provide structural
enforcement and retain the finishes and patinas of the
decaying building that I feel can be very beautiful. Doors,
windows and fixtures would all be removed and replaced
after the shell was hardened and preserved in this manner.
See attached examples and imagine these having a shiny
plastic coating, being clean and new, no mildew or rotting
wood smell and then having new fixtures installed.
As far as fixtures, they'd all be attached to the outside of
spray on finish, no attempts being made to run cables
decaying walls and floors.
The existing house would simply be a matrix to hold the
clear plastic that would constitute the structural and load
bearing elements of the construction.
Imagine this only shiny, beautiful and clean.
[doctorremulac3, Dec 15 2015]
An old castle looking style
[doctorremulac3, Dec 15 2015]
This is my favorite.
[doctorremulac3, Dec 15 2015]
Antique door retaining "stressed" finish.
[doctorremulac3, Dec 15 2015]
St Peter's Seminary
a great brutalist building rotting and unusable and trapped by its listing [calum, Dec 15 2015]
Do this but not in a way that looks like this.
[doctorremulac3, Dec 15 2015]
I just think this is really cool looking.
Probably just me. [doctorremulac3, Dec 15 2015]
Soft swirl looking house
[doctorremulac3, Dec 16 2015]
What rounded elements resulting from foaming and fiberglassing the exterior might look like.
Could be interesting. [doctorremulac3, Dec 16 2015]
||Do living inhabitants count as worst of the crap to be swept out or is this a sort of all purpose Pompeii treatment?
||I don't think I'd be super comfortable with plasticized
corpses strewn around the house. Of course I've never
actually tried it, but I think it would be a bit
||Oh, you intend to inhabit this creation. I thought this was to produce museum pieces to edify and inspire. I understand now that you are trying to make an end run around the hassle of maintaining your own house. Have a bun!
||Preheated, recently released. You may not have read it yet.
||William Gibson " The Peripheral ".
||An old Airstream trailer is coated inside and out in a sprayed-on plastic coating.
||Wow, you mean this might actually work? Do you have
a link Norm?
||And thank you B, always appreciated.
||But who would want to live in a place covered in
||All three examples you showed, are fully restorable if
anyone chose to do so - in fact the last one looks
inhabited and in good repair.
||I actually made my living in the archetectural biz in
my youth and dealt with this kind of stuff quite
||These are all known as "tear-downs", structures that
are so structurally compromised that it's easier to
flatten and rebuild rather than repair strictly from a
standpoint. The building we both like for instance
likely has serious dry rot and termite damage in
important load bearing members. Cutting these out
and replacing them is no easy task. For one thing, if
you're replacing a beam that holds everything up, you
need to hold it up somehow while it's getting
replaced else everything collapse.
||As far as the finish is concerned, I believe retaining
the aged look once sealed and shined up might be
very nice looking in some circumstances.
||Pretty common here in Northern California to have
"distressed" antiques. That is, antiques where the age
and disrepair is celebrated rather than covered up.
Let me see if I can find some examples.
||As far as living in a plastic building, as long as it looks
ok I wouldn't mind it.
||//structures that are so structurally compromised
that it's easier to flatten and rebuilt strictly from a
||Ah, there's the problem. It is always going to make
more sense to flatten an old structure and put up
something new, efficient and dull. The point
about restoring buildings is that, if nobody cares
enough to actually restore them, perhaps they
should just be replaced.
||In the UK, we tend to have the opposite problem:
people are obsessed with old buildings, and
anything more than a couple of centuries old tends
to end up being listed and preserved. We have
plenty of wonderful old buildings, but also a lot of
really crap ones that nobody is allowed to replace.
||Just wondering if this might push something from the
"Let's just let it rot" category into the "It's worth
spending $100,000 to restore this mansion" category."
||Remember, the plastic doesn't need to be clear. You
could paint it or color it as you wish leaving some
areas clear to see the distressed finishes underneath.
||Well, I dunno. Given that there a lot a lot of old
buildings around, I'd sooner see the good ones
restored and given some self-respect, and the bad
ones gotten rid of.
||Also, as someone who lives in a reasonably old
house, the only reason I like the olditude of it is
that I can feel where stones have been worn down
by footsteps, and touch bricks that have been
grooved by ten generations of people brushing past
them. And I like the feel of something - like a
door or a window frame - that still works the way
it was built to work back in the day. If it were all
covered in plastic, there'd be
no real sense in keeping it - might as well look at
old houses on TV.
||I think you'd have to replace stuff like doors and
fixtures retaining only the shell, but it's that shell
rebuilding that's the most important part.
||But certainly it would be a weird hybrid of old and
new. Would it be cool? Dunno. Might be. It really is a
shame to see these beautiful old buildings crumble to
||If I was a billionaire, I'd buy one of these grand old
mansions that was crumbling anyway, take the doors
and windows off and spray the whole thing with
fiberglass reinforced plastic, the same stuff you build
boats with. Then, when it was fully cured, I'd walk
around the outside, the inside and see how it looked.
||If it looked promising, I'd say "Put doors and window
up." When that was done, assuming it was still cool
looking I'd say "Put fixtures and finishes in." If that
looked good, I'd say "Let's go buy some old mansions
and give 'em the dip treatment."
||If it looked crappy I'd say "Who cares, I'm a
billionaire. Let's go try something else stupid. This
money isn't gonna spend itself."
||//I think you'd have to replace stuff like doors and
fixtures retaining only the shell, but it's that shell
rebuilding that's the most important part. //
||Hmm. The thing is, the shell is usually the
cheapest part to fix. As long as the walls are still
upright (and, if they're not, there's nothing to
preserve), it's usually just a matter of inserting
damp-courses, replacing joists and roof timbers,
and re-slating or re-tiling (usually using the original
slates/tiles). If the plaster is beyond repair, it's
not that expensive to have it re-done using period-
appropriate materials (lime plaster, horsehair).
||What costs is things like having reproduction
woodwork (panelling, doors, windows, aged oak
floorboards etc) made, if the originals are beyond
||With your plastic coating, I don't see that you're
going to save much. Plus you're going to prevent
the brickwork/stonework/original timers from
breathing, which is usually bad news for old
||A plastic coat with sparkles would be great for concealing that rotting load bearing timber. Would it help with bearing load?
||//the shell is usually the cheapest part to fix.//
||No, the exact opposite. The expression "it's got good
bones" refers to the structural elements being sound.
Without the structural elements being intact there is
no reason to attempt to fix the structure. I mean,
think about it. What's a house? It's a frame with stuff
tacked to it. Now take a house and REMOVE the
frame, what do you have? You need to strip all the
coverings off, drywall, shingles, tiles and replace all
the frame members a few at at time while keeping
the whole thing from falling down. It's a matter of
practicality. It's much cheaper to just start from
scratch. Much. Just look at how much less work you
have to do. Rather than stripping all the stuff off,
stabilizing the existing frame elements, replaceing
them one by one you just build a new frame.
||//Plus you're going to prevent the
brickwork/stonework/original timers from
||Bricks, stones and wood don't breathe. And if for
some reason they came to life and started to breathe
I'd want them smothered in plastic so they'd STOP
breathing. Then I'd hire an exorcist.
|| //A plastic coat with sparkles would be great
for concealing that rotting load bearing timber.
Would it help with bearing load?//
||I picture building this up in layers from the ground
up. Reinforced fiberglass is pretty strong, but it's not
a miracle, you'd need to do your structural calcs.
||Closest thing to this that exists is a restaurant in
Boston that's supposedly the oldest in the U.S. Had
the most amazing lobster and clam chowder ever
there once. Anyway, you can see the old timbers and
various parts of the building that are really just there
for show, the actual modern building being built
around it. The way they did it you can technically say
it's the same restaurant, or inn that all those years
ago hosted dinners where the founding fathers
supposedly gathered to plot against the British.
Anyway, here's a case where the building has such
historical value that they basically just built a whole
new building around it.
||//Without the structural elements being intact
there is no reason to attempt to fix the
||Yes, but how often do you come across a building
where the structure (bricks, stonework)
is unsound? And if it is, a plastic shell is unlikely
to fix it to building standards.
||OK, maybe the situation in the US is different from
the UK. But if I take my current house
as an example... When I bought it, it had only one
significant structural fault: a bay
window was subsiding (possibly due to root
damage) and had to be underpinned - cost was,
I don't know, something like £2-3000, which
included the underpinning and the brickwork.
||Now, the interior was not in great shape - some
lousy floorboards and joists; lots of plaster
had blown; stuff like that. If I'd paid someone to
go through the house and fix all that
stuff, it would have cost maybe £30k or so for the
basics, and another £30k for things like
restoring/replacing oak panelling, re-running
plaster covings. As it was, I paid a few
thousand for plastering; as for the rest, I'm a fairly
good builder/carpenter and did most of
it myself over a long period - it was the only way I
could afford it at the time.
||Brickies and plasterers are cheap; craftsmen who
can repair carved panelling, make
custom mouldings to match existing, etc, are
//Bricks, stones and wood don't breathe.// Again,
this is probably a difference between
the US and the UK. Here, brickwork and timber
has to be allowed to breathe (meaning
that it has to be allowed to change its moisture
content freely). Lime mortar gradually
disintegrates if it can't breathe; and any totally
enclosed timber (I mean old timber, usually oak)
will eventually rot. We
even have building codes that specify things like
ventilation for underfloor spaces, and the
use of breather membranes on new-builds. If you
said you wanted to seal your house in
plastic, you'd probably not be allowed to.
||I'm not aware of any advantage to having materials
exposed to the air or elements, quite the contrary.
You want to seal everything up as much as possible.
||I think you're referring to the fact that, yes, if you
enclose a potentially damp space like an attic that's
not a good thing, but coating them in plastic would
render everything inert like when you see a biological
specimen cast in lucite. Picture a boat, that's why
they use lots of fiberglass in boats. Pretty
impermeable to the water, salt and stuff.
||By the way, this might work for stick built structures
but probably not structural stone that might be
||But using your house as an example, one window cost
a lot of money to truss up. Imagine having to do the
||I just wonder what it would look like. The stuff would
have to be pretty thick so you wouldn't have any
sharp corners anywhere. It might have sort of a
grotto or cave look.
||Like I said, dunno. I'd have to see it.
||Anyway, check the link of an example of sprayed on
walls that DOESN'T exactly sell my idea from a
esthetic standpoint. I'm thinking something less
||I just like ruins. I grew up next to the junk yards that
we'd sneak into until the guard dogs chased us out
and decay and rust just reminds me of my happy
childhood. In an old building you always wonder what
human stories unfolded here. If the walls could talk
you know? Eh, weird thing to like I know.
||//You want to seal everything up as much as
possible. // And, as I said, this might be a
difference between the US and UK - either in
materials or climate. Over here, it's both
inadvisable and, in general, against building codes
not to allow timber or brick structures to breathe;
for new-builds, there's a moisture-permeable
breather membrane. New rooves are, likewise,
required to have a breather membrane under the
slates/tiles; and roof spaces are required to have a
certain level of ventilation.
||New-built boats do indeed have timber encased in
fibreglass, but the timber has usually been dried to
a very low moisture level, and is then completely
encased to keep it that way. Old house timbers
will have a fairly high moisture content, and in any
case your plastic coating will probably not be
complete, allowing more moisture in where it will
//one window cost a lot of money to truss up.
Imagine having to do the entire house. // If
the entire house had been subsiding, then it would
probably have been condemned -
no amount of plastic would have helped.
||I don't know, fiber glass is pretty tough stuff. Are
saying the wood would somehow expand and break
through the fiberglass or something? Remember, it's
not important what the wood does any more, it's
served it's purpose as a matrix for the foam.
||Re: old dilapidated stuff. Am I the only one who's
struck with an urge to go into this place to look
around? (see link)
||//I don't know, fiber glass is pretty tough stuff. Are
saying the wood would somehow expand and break
through the fiberglass or something? Remember,
it's not important what the wood does any more,
it's served it's purpose as a matrix for the foam.//
||Well, OK. The back half of my parents' house was
Elizabethan, and one room had oak beams about
six-inches square by maybe 12ft long, most of
them being supported only at their ends. They
were recycled ship's timbers.
||Rather alarmingly, someone back in the 1800's had
built an entire additional storey on top of this
Elizabethan bit. If you think that encasing those
beams in fibreglass would obviate the structural
function of the wood, think again. For one thing,
plastic has a very low modulus. The beams would
have decayed over just a few decades, and the
fibreglass would have bowed, and the upper storey
walls would have cracked.
||If you go onto any site devoted to the preservation
of old buildings, two of the main things they tell
you are (a) leave stuff alone as much possible and
(b) don't clad old stuff with impermeable
||//Re: old dilapidated stuff. Am I the only one
who's struck with an urge to go into this place to
look around?// Nope, but then again it's not
exactly an old building...
We may not know much in the UK, but we do know
old buildings. And even people like the French
know this kind of thing.
||Let's look at a worst case theoretical. You sppay this she'll
on everything then somehow remove all the house bits.
Why wouldn't that work?
||Well, OK, but then why not just make a plastic
||How do you make a mansion shaped plastic structure with
nothing but a fiberglass gun?
||[Dr] look up urban exploration. As an "urbexer" I've explored and photographed many abandoned buildings - even in central london there are tens of abandoned structures hiding if you know where to look. It was particularly good during the recession where half-built skyscrapers were left unattended.
||However, as [Max] says, you really do want to let old structures breathe.
||Would this plastic spray work for boats ?
||( "A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money." Quote from somewhere unremembered. )
||//Would this plastic spray work for boats ?//
||While most boats are laid up fiberglass I believe they
often have wood structural elements so, yea I think
||I actually used to deal with structural permeability
issues when I did energy compliance reports for
architects when I was a kid. The number I'd type into
my old TRS-80 computer was called the
"infiltration base". It referred to how much air could
get through a given envelope area. You'd change it by
sealing up windows and adding other elements to the
||This breathing thing, like I said before, is probably
referring to not
wanting to create damp areas that mildew can grow
in so if moisture seeps in, it can dry out as well.
||But I don't think that applies here. Just like the
a bug cast in lucite, the old structure is rendered
completely inert. Whether or not that bug needed to
breathe at one time, now it's just a chunk of plastic.
So would a plastic house need to "breathe"? I don't
think so, and this would simply be a plastic house
regardless of what was contained within that plastic
in my estimation.
||So just think of this as a plastic house ignoring what
happens to be inside that plastic just like that bug
imbedded in the paper weight. It's not a bug any
more, it's a hunk of plastic. Now I could be wrong,
maybe the newly enclosed damp areas in the walls
will foster mold growth such that it will somehow
breach the fiberglass but I would be surprised. I
would also think that any decay processes might be
stunted or even arrested by the cutoff of air.
||I do concede that the structural strength of the
fiberglass would have to be the same or more than
the wood it's replacing since that encased wood could
not be trusted to not continue its deterioration even
after being sealed in, although that would slow I
||Anyway, very cool to see that other people are into
crazy old ruins. There is of course the element of
danger which only adds to the fun.
||How thick are you imagining this fiberglass coating to be?
If you reinforce a 6x10 beam with 1" thick fiberglass, I'm
pretty sure a 8x12 1" thick fiberglass box beam is
stronger than a 6x10 solid wood beam. If you had a 1/8"
thick coating in mind, it won't hold a whole lot. You
probably don't need a 1" thick coat over everything, but
you'll have to consult with an engineer to figure out what
you actually need. You might also drill through walls at
some regular spacing to insert reinforcing bits that
embed in the fiberglass on both sides of the wall to
prevent the wall from delaminating from the old
||[Max] structures "breathing" is not just a UK thing. But
the reason is that it is a given that you cannot completely
seal something so you must allow a path for moisture to
escape. The problem is that in most cases waterproof
materials are not finish materials, so you always poke
holes in the waterproof layer. For example on a roof you
lay down felt then nail shingles through the felt. the
shingles are lapped to shed water, but wind gusts can
make small amounts of water go uphill. A torch down
roof is more waterproof, but when you various pipes and
bits poking through, there's more opportunity for small
leaks. If the entire surface is coated in fiberglass (and i
mean a thick structural coating), it's not going to leak
unless there is a very large impact. If a tree falls on it
during a rain storm, your going to have a hard time
repairing this (unless maybe you take the approach that
you leave it as in and coat the tree with fiberglass as a
new addition to the structure).
||Of course adding amenities is where you'll get into
trouble. All the old chimneys will be sealed with
fiberglass, but if you want gas heat, you'll need a new
chimney. I guess if when you drill a hole you always coat
the inside of the hole with fiberglass so if you do get a
leak it leaks into the house not into the wall, you might
make it work.
||Forgot about the chimneys. Adding fire to the
program would definately be an issue.
||Replace them with gas perhaps? Less heat and smoke
to deal with.
||So Scad, do you think this might be an interesting
experiment? Remember, to make this feasible it
needs to be something with little or no prep. I'm
talking about sealing the rats into the walls here.
Maybe not foaming over a deal rat on the floor and
leaving a rat shaped lump in the parlor, but
doing very minimum prep work and just foaming
every surface with inch thick or more fiberglass spray
lamination. Total price for a 5,000 square foot
mansion, 3 man crew plus materials, 1 week work....
$200,000. Not including fixtures that you would let
the buyer put in.
||So you buy the mansion for, whatever, few hundred
grand picking ones that the city doesn't want you to
tear down rendering it worthless on the market, then
spray it and sell a shell for a million bucks, or add
fixtures and windows. Maybe $300,000 worth of stuff
at the most and sell it for five mil. Yes? No? Possible?
||Hmm. Do they make fiberglass spray that's flame
retardant enough to pass building codes?
||//But the reason is that it is a given that you cannot
completely seal something so you must allow a path
for moisture to escape.//
||In the case of a house, your plastic coat will not
extend underneath it, so damp will still get in. And
the structure will probably be damp to begin with.
||Yes, but what would be the effect of that on the
inside of the house?
||I'm thinking, correctly or not, that the house can
continue its decaying, being eaten by termites etc all
it wants. It's like that scorpion in the paper weight
no? There's an impermeable layer between occupants
and old house parts.
||There seems to be a difference of opinion about the
permeability of chopped fiberglass and resin, the
stuff we make boats with. I'm
thinking it's pretty inpermeably waterproof.
||You're asking me like you think I know what I'm talking
||I'm not really familiar with spray on fiberglass and have
only made small fiberglass patches to a boat. I've never
seen fiberglass that's an inch thick that is transparent.
Only translucent. How does it hold up to UV? Or are you
planning to just paint he outside of the house with
marine epoxy paint?
||I hadn't thought about the foundation. I don't think your
idea of continuing decay is a good idea. If the fiberglass
is transparent, the color will change and your goal of
preserving it has failed. In addition we need to worry
about how the foundation supports the structure. When
you start, the walls of the structure are sitting on the
foundation. If the wall inside the fiberglass sandwich
rots away, the fiberglass probably can't hold the whole
load. If you dug around the house and exposed the
footing, the fiberglass could be resting on that, but the
footing is designed to bear weight in the center, the
corners of the footing might shear off if the weight of the
house transferred there.
||... Okay here's the plan. 1" holes through the foundation
every 4 inches along all foundation walls and all supports.
Fill holes and coat the foundation and walls with
fiberglass. Once that is set, drill 1" holes every 4 inches
offset by 3/4 inch from the first set. Fill those and let it
cure. Continue until you have entirely separated the top
and bottom of the foundation and the house is resting on
fiberglass. This will be labor intensive but much less so
than excavating under the entire foundation. Be sure to
consult an actual structural engineer with experience in
home foundations and structural fiberglass before you
attempt this. I am not qualified to design this. I'm just
brainstorming ideas on how it might be done. Or maybe
drill the holes just above the top of the foundation so the
fiberglass that you fill these holes with is resting on the
||Also, you'll need to plan ahead for electrical, plumbing,
heating, and ventilation. Telling the buyer to install their
own won't go ever well since it would be a non-standard
installation and any penetration of the fiberglass could
compromise the structure. Keep that in mind for window
installation as well. If you're not too concerned about
preserving the original torn wallpaper under the
fiberglass you might just surface mount electrical
conduits and piping then cover them all in your thick
coating of fiberglass.
||Yea, you've obviously got different considerations
slab on grade vs raised floor. Not sure what most
haunted houses are built on, probably raised floor.
||So point taken. Even if you've got a solid shell on top
rotting floor, when that floor gives way the whole
||Starting to get more complicated but you could drill
your holes through the existing floor every few
inches as you've suggested, build a dam around the
perimeter and pour a
solid foundation that just covers the whole mess up
and conforms the ground underneath the house. Then
you've got your solid base to build up your
fiberglassed resin with.
||Dumped the idea of clear plastic though. You'd just
have it all be one color and then paint it as
||So, rip out fixtures and windows, smash the first level
floors with jack hammers. (drills would take too long)
Wrap your dam around the perimeter and pour your
foundation material high enough to cover all that
smashed floor. Break for lunch. Fiberglass spray coat
everything working up from first to second floor to
attic. Then spray the outside.
||Install all plumbing, electrical and HVAC inside
tacked on soffits. Attach windows and doors and sell
it for 10 times what you invested.
||I like the idea of adding a slab foundation to a raised
floor house. The main problem with a structurally
dead stick built house usually IS the foundation.
||And by the way, might start getting a bit thick but
you could make your first outside layer foam
insulation then spray your hard shell onto that
afterwords. You'd lose your hard edges obviously.
Might make it start to have a Dr Seuss vibe if that
makes any sense. (see link) But might look
||/If the walls could talk you know?/
You might first need to get past your aversion to having them breathe.
|| Oh - maybe you could use an electrolarynx to hear them talk without breathing? That would work fine.