Bringing Back A 1720's New Canaan Home

Historic renovations completed by Clark Construction on New Canaan's second oldest home, the Seth Weed-Chapman-Martin house.

For the current owners of the Seth Weed-Chapman-Martin house, the second oldest house in New Canaan, what started out as a straightforward siding and window replacement project grew to include complex structural repairs. Once we opened it up, severe rot and structural instability were discovered. The framing had to be replaced and re-worked from the foundation up to strengthen this much-loved historic home.

 

Antique beams and attention to detail make the home look as it did hundreds of years ago.

 

Despite extensive structural issues and a crumbling foundation, the family was able to comfortably live in their home and go about their daily lives while we made the necessary repairs and home improvements around them.

 

The final result, with renovations complete - this home is now structurally safe, energy efficient, with a low maintenance exterior, ready for another century or two.

 


 

1700s home in New Canaan CT before remodeling.

The original portion of this home, built in 1720, can be seen in the "Before" picture to the right.

 

At one time the Weed Family owned about 500 acres in the New Canaan area and had this particular property in their possession until the early 1920’s, when it was purchased by Mrs. A.C. Chapman.

 

Prior to its' sale, the Weed family had the property remodeled to “modernize” it. This included changing the home’s original identity completely; “An overhanging room was imposed on the front with a stone porch below supported by white posts. Inside, the beams were covered and the fireplaces bricked up”.

 

"Mrs. Chapman had an entirely different vision of the home and made it her mission to restore the home to its original state. During the 23 years of her ownership, she and her children dreamed, worked for, and achieved the final result which is an authentic example of an early American dwelling."


historic New England home viewed from the rear before home improvements are completed

"By the addition of a new wing, [which includes a garage, den, and bathroom], Mrs. Chapman succeeded in [making the home] livable in our modern sense without destroying the charm of its antiquity."

 

In the 1950’s the home was sold again, this time to Mr. and Mrs. LeRoy C. Martin. With an “intense interest in early Americana and a choice collection of antique furniture” these new owners continued to cherish the authenticity of the home.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Martin had the house renovated once again to bring to the state it is in today.   Their primary project was an addition to the back of the house comprised of a sunroom and an extension of the great room. 

 

The new owners are Mr. and Mrs. Murray, who have continued the tradition of cherishing and restoring the home to its original condition.


 

Antique home prior to renovations as seen from the side.

It’s not easy to see, but if you look closely you can notice a bulge in the side of the home around the lower left window in the picture to the right.

 

This bulge was the first indication, prior to starting the home improvements, that there may be hidden structural problems.

 



Lead-safe work practices are underway as construction begins

Construction Begins

Due to the age of the home a lot of lead based paints had been used over the years. We used “lead-safe” work practices to safely remove the painted materials as required by the EPA to lead contaminants while renovations are underway.

 

Suits and respirators are used by the workers for their safety, to prevent exposure.


Ground is covered with plastic and caution signs have been posted on this CT renovation.

Caution tape, warning signs, and copious amounts of plastic are used for other people’s safety.


Serious structural problems are seen on this historic home.

As the siding demolition progressed, the framing of the home became visible.

 

It became apparent that there were some serious structural problems due to rotting wood and insufficient repairs in the past.


The corner post is buckled and was almost completely rotted.

The corner post (seen to the right) was almost completely rotted through and was starting to buckle from the weight of the roof above.


The antique beam supporting second floor has fallen apart.

The beam that holds the second floor framing in place had completely rotted through and fallen apart as seen to the right.

 


Detailed Professional Engineering drawings of the proposed repairs and structural improvements.

At this point, when we had uncovered extensive rot as well as discovering post beetles in some beams, it was determined that a Professional Engineer should be contacted to inspect the house for the Murrays and provide a plan to restore the home's structural integrity.

 

He needed to prepare detailed drawings of the extensive structural work that was required to put the house back together.

 


Histoic house is tarpped to protect it from weather and animals.

With rain coming, and the engineer working on the drawings, we buttoned the house up tight to protect it from the weather and animals.

 


Lower section of walls removed to allow for new foundation to be built.

 

Once we received documentation from the client's Professional Engineer, we were able to start on the path to restore this once beautiful home's framing.

 

First, the majority of the floor joists, accessible from the basement, had to be replaced, as there was damage from insects and rot. You can see the first few joists being replaced to the right.

 

After this necessary reframing was completed, we moved up to the sill plate, side wall, and beam, which all needed replacing.

 


Temporary supports hold the house up so that the foundation can be constructed.

Temporary supports were put in place to support the home upon removing the sill plate.

 

Additionally, temporary electric service was installed so that the home would have electricity for the duration of the work.

 


Professional Engineering drawing of the sill plate.

The new sill plate was installed per the engineering specification to the right.

 

 

Pinning the rim board to the foundation and repointing it provided a solid surface upon which to build a new wall.

 


Extensive temporary supporting and tarps keep the house safe while remedial repairs occur.

More temporary supports and a temporary interior wall were put in place to support the home while the new wall was built.

 


Workers protect the antique home, while building a new wall.

A new 2x6 wall was constructed, the beam replaced, and the corner post replaced, all using conventional lumber.

 

With this area now structurally sound, the challenge of returning the interior to its original condition had to be addressed.

 


Original beams holding up the second floor.

Because the beam shown earlier was rotting, the 2nd floor joist beams had started to fall out of the pockets; in the main beam, resulting in the wall being pushed out (causing the bulge we originally noticed.)

 

To make this room look as authentic as the first day it was built we needed to create a wood veneer that would hide the fact that conventional lumber was used in the repairs.

 


Antique beams sourced from a barn in upstate NY.

We searched near and far for a matching antique beam we could use for the veneer. 

 

Eventually we found an antique hand-hewn oak beam; originally from a barn in upstate NY, that was a perfect match.

 

 


Antique beam installed with precision.

A 1” slice of the beam was cut at a mill and was installed as a veneer. This required the carpenters to precisely notch out for each and every beam so that it could be slid into place.

 


Custom plus make the vintage beam look like it was always there.

Once in place, custom made plugs of the same beam were used to cover the bolts holding it in place, so it truly looks like it has always been there, and that it was installed before the beams.

 


Gunstock corner post.

The second challenge of restoring the interior appearance was reproducing the “gunstock” corner post, which is an original feature of the home's framing.

 

We were able to carefully cut the rot from the original post and re-install a portion of it to create the illusion that the post is still in its original condition. This is truly a work of art!

 

You can see the "Before" and "After" pictures of the post to the right.

 


Work is under way to remove the sill plate on the right side of the home.

Once the right side of the house was fixed up we moved to the front where we had to remove the rotted sill plate to replace it, in accordance with the engineering detail.


Sill plate is inspected.

With the sill plate removed, the area was cleaned to accept new framing.

 


Professional Engineering details shows foundation and wall detail.

In addition to replacing the sill plate, the studs needed to have the rot cut out of them and be reinforced as shown in this engineering detail.

 


Replaced sill plate and strengthened framing.

With the sill plate replaced and the studs strengthened, the front of the house was ready for sheathing and insulation.

 


Fiberglass insulation was blown in as part of this New Canaan home improvement project.

Fiberglass insulation was blown in through holes that were drilled in the sheathing. Wood plugs were used after insulation to close the holes.

 


Moisture barrier has been applied to the house, along with Anderson Series 400 windows.

After the insulation was done, a house wrap was applied to act as a moisture barrier, protecting the sheathing and framing.

 

In addition, new Anderson Series 400 windows were installed, and low maintenance composite trim applied around them.

 

 


Significant rot discovered on the front of this Connecticut antique home.

Once the front was complete, we moved on to the left side of the original portion of the home and opened it up.

 

Significant rot was discovered in this area as well which required reframing and replacement of a main beam.

 


Sill plate has been removed and temporary supports put in place on this side of the house.

As with the other areas, the sill plate here had to be replaced and the foundation rebuilt, as it had crumbled with age.

 

Temporary supports were put in place to hold the side of the house while this work was done. 

 


New sill plate follows the Professional Engineering detail.

After the foundation was rebuilt the sill plate had to be replaced using the same engineering detail as seen previously.

 


Workers remove the rotted beams and studs on this antique New England home.

With a solid foundation and sill plate below, the workers carefully removed all the rotted beams and studs.

 

Great care was used in their removal so as not to damage the plaster walls inside.


Wall is reinforced and beams have been replaced.

Moving from the ground up, the wall was reinforced and beams replaced as needed.

 

The new framing had to be cut out over the existing to reinforce what was remaining. This work was exacting, tedious, and time consuming, but it was the right way to do the job. 


Section of house ready for sheathing and insulation.

With the reframing of left side complete the sheathing and insulation could be installed.

 


Hardiplank siding has been installed to the front of this Connecticut antique home.

The home now had solid, well insulated, framing so it could be closed up with a low maintenance concrete siding product called Hardiplank.

 


Rear of the New Canaan, cT historic home has been demoed.

Now that the entire original section of the home was completed it was time to move on to the back.

 

Much like the front, rot was found in the back on the sunroom.

 

The EPDM roof had been leaking and had almost completely compromised the structural integrity of the room.


Detail of rotted framing on the corner near the roof.

As you can see on this corner of the sunroom, the framing had completely rotted out leaving very minor amounts of wood holding the roof up.

 


Rotted wood and sheathing has been replaced.

The rotted wood was all removed and the roof removed of all the sheathing.

 

The roof was reinsulated and all the rotted framing replaced.

 

 


Workers complete the EPDM roof, siding and exterior trim.

Finishing touches were done on the new EPDM roof while simultaneously installing siding and exterior trim.


Tradespeople put the finishing touches on the Hardiplank siding and exterior trim.

Luckily, no significant rot was found on the exterior of the great room so a new moisture barrier was installed along with new siding and exterior trim.

 


Seamless gutters are formed on site in Connecticut.

With the whole house sided, trimmed, and insulated it was time for the finishing touches.

 

Seamless aluminum gutters were made and installed on the home.

 


Renovations of the historic house are complete, with window grill's matching the historical home's original style.

Everything is complete. The grills for the windows at the front of the house were custom ordered to match the house’s original style.

 


Historically correct set of windows grace the back of this New Canaan antique.

 

 

Here you can see the back of the completed house.

 

All the double hung windows were replaced and the large picture window in the great room was replaced with a more historically correct set of four casement windows.

 


Clark Construction's renovations complete - New Canaan's second oldest home after a snow storm.

The house is finished and was returned to its original condition.

 


The historical home from the back, with energy efficient, low maintenance home improvements completed by Clark Construction.

Here is a shot of the whole back of the house.

 

Note the addition to the original structure on the right that was done by the previous owner. (This is the garage etc.)

 


Historical renovations of this 1720s home completed by Clark Construction of Ridgefield, Inc.

With everything complete and a happy client, this structurally sound, energy efficient, low maintenance home is ready to weather another few hundred years.



 

We would like to give a big thank you to the Melissa Murray and The New Canaan Historical Society for assisting us with our research on the history of the Seth Weed-Chapman-Martin House.


 

References

Landmarks of New Canaan. New Canaan Historical Society, 1951. Print.