A Victorian Housebuilder's Guide: Woodward's National Architect of 1869

A Victorian Housebuilder's Guide: Woodward's National Architect of 1869

by George E. Woodward, Edward G. Thompson

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Plans and specifications for 20 distinctive Victorian structures, from a simple cottage to an ornate brick villa. Over 580 black-and-white illustrations.  See more details below


Plans and specifications for 20 distinctive Victorian structures, from a simple cottage to an ornate brick villa. Over 580 black-and-white illustrations.

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Dover Publications
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A Victorian Housebuilder's Guide

"Woodward's National Architect" of 1869

By George E. Woodward, Edward G. Thompson

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1988 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-15766-5





For Dimensions, heights of stories and internal arrangement of the building, see drawings.

The figures on the drawings to be followed in the construction in all cases in preference to measurement by the scale.



Furnish all the Timber used in the construction, of good sound square-edged quality, free from any and every imperfection tending to impair its durability or strength, and as well seasoned as any convenient market will afford. The Sills, Posts, Floor Joist and Rafters, to be of Chesnut, Pine or Spruce, and the remaining framing timber of Hemlock, Pine or Spruce, at the option of the Contractor.


of the Timber, as follows:

Sills, 9×4 inches.

Angle Posts, 8×4 do

Intermediate do 6×4 do

Girts, 6×4 do

Plates, (main
building,) 6×4 inches.

do (Wash Room Extension,) 4 × 4 inches.

Valley Rafters, 7 × 4 do

Common do 6 × 3 do (20 inches from centres.)

Carriage Beams and Headers, 4 inches thick.


Cut in one row of cross bridging in each tier of Beams.

Execute all the framing in a workmanlike and thoroughly substantial manner, and in strict accordance with the requirements of the design.

Double the Beams where the partitions bear on them.

Cut the lower end of the Rafters where projecting beyond the Plate, as required by the detail drawings.

Nail the Braces in bare-foot.

Support the Rafters, centrally, as hereinafter described under the head of "PARTITIONS AND FIREING."

Support the Cellar Girders (under the floor-bearing partitions) on Locust posts, to average about 4 feet apart.


Outside Sills and Cross Sills (at each post), 6×4 inches.

Floor Joist (2 feet from centres), 6×2 do

Plates (Piazza), cased all around, 7×4 do

do (Veranda), 8×3 do

Rafters, 4×2 do

The Rafters planed three sides with inch half round, nailed to bottom edge, as per details.

Support the floor upon locust posts set 3 feet in the ground.




Cover the Piazza and Veranda roofs, with 1¼-inch perfectly sound, narrow plank, planed side down (planed smooth)—no beads.

Cover all other roofs, with 1-inch tongued lumber, free from rot and holes.

Case up for and finish a 2 × 3-feet scuttle in the roof, and provide with tongued plank cover, hinged with strong butts, and fastened with hook and staple.

Case up the ends of the rafters, and form the gutters as shewn by the drawings. The Cornice soffit to be sheathed with narrow 7/8-inch beaded sheathing.


Cover all the roofs and line the gutters with charcoal roof tin I. C. brand, the sheets nailed, clenched and white leaded in the best manner and laid with the standing lock joint.

Extend the tin well into the joints of the brick chimneys, and where the Piazza and other roofs abut against the siding, at least 6 inches up behind the boards. Nail strips of tin on top of window casings—water—tight.

Furnish all the required leaders of sufficient size to convey the water from the gutters to the cistern and the tank in attic. Put up said leaders, with neat, ornamental, galvanized iron holdfasts.


Provide the ridges with 3-inch roll moulding, covering the same with Zinc, and finish with scroll-sawed finials at the gable terminations.


Cover the exterior of the frame with first class clear clapboards, showing a uniform weathering and rebated in no case less than ¾ inch.

Furnish the angles with 5×5×1¼-inch returned corner boards.

Put on 1½-inch canted water-table, rebating over the underpinning and tonguing under the siding, as per drawings.


Provide the eave and gable cornices with sawed brackets (4 inches thick), architrave and bed moulds, and scroll-sawed gable pendents, 2 inches thick.


Case all the doors and windows on the outside with 1¼-inch casings, corniced as shown by the drawings, and provide the windows with 2-inch sills.


Case up the piazza columns and furnish with caps and bases as shown. Cut in 2¾inch brackets, form cornice, and mould all as per drawings.

Plane up and chamfer the small columns of veranda and provide with brackets, etc., as per details.

Lay the piazza and veranda floors with narrow, clear inch tongued flooring, blind nailed, joints laid in white lead.

Firr out from the sills, and case underneath the floors down to the grade level as shown.


Build the outside steps and platforms as drawn, with 1¼-inch nosed treads, and 1-inch risers and facias. Provide with cove moulding underneath the nosings of front steps.


Lay the attic floor with wide, perfectly sound 1-inch tongued lumber nailed twice to each bearing.

Lay all the remaining floors throughout, with narrow 1¼-inch tongued flooring, free from defects and blind nailed.

Flush off all the joints of the floors with the plane.

Cut in 2×½-inch borders around all the hearths.

Furnish all the doors with hard wood saddles.


Set all the partitions that support beams, with 3 × 4-inch hemlock, 12 inches from centers, with 3 × 4-inch plates, (sound, straight and square edged,) and 3 × 4-inch sills. Form all the angles solid, and set all door studs double.

Set studs of 3 × 4-inch hemlock, with 4 × 4-inch plate, and 3 × 4-inch sills, 4 feet apart, to support rafters in attic.


Bridge all the Partitions once in their height.

Cross-firr the 1st, and 2d, story ceilings, with 1-inch strip firring, and also firr the closet and bath room ceilings (under tank) down level, 8 feet high in the clear.

Firr off for the segmental arches across halls. Do any other firring required by the design.

Set grounds to all openings and leave them on.



Build stairs to cellar, with 1½-inch strings, and 1¼-inch treads. (no risers) planed up and mortised together. Case up around the well-hole at the top to receive the plastering, and provide the steps with pine slat-rail.


Build step-ladder reaching from attic floor to scuttle, with 1¼-inch lumber, neatly planed up and grooved together.


Build the attic stairs, with 1¼-inch strings and treads, with enclosed soffit, and open risers. Enclose through servant's closet, from string to ceiling, with 7/8-inch vertical beaded sheathing.


Build the principal flight of stairs from main to chamber hall, with 1¼-inch strings and treads, and 1-inch risers and facias; the steps front and back tongued. Return and mould the nosings, and mould the front string in a tasteful manner. Finish the wall string in correspondence with the base in the halls, and support the whole on 6×4-inch timbers rough bracketed to each tread. Surmount with 4½ × 3-inch toad-back moulded rail, 1 7/8;-inch fancy turned ballusters of selected pattern, and provide with 8-inch octagon-turned and veneered newel, at the start. The rail, ballusters and newel to be of the best sound seasoned Black Walnut, oiled two coats, and well rubbed down at the completion.



Make the mullion window frame in parlor front, with box-head, and all other frames throughout, (above the cellar,) the usual box frames for double hanging the sash, with 2-inch best pulleys, iron weights and hemp cord.

Make the Cellar frames with 2-inch plank rebated for the sash to be hinged and opened upwards; the sash 1½-inch thick.


Make the attic frames and sash in the same manner; the sash to be hinged to open horizontally. Fasten these sash shut, with bolts, and open, with buttons.

Make the sash in wash room, and the small sashes in water closet 1½-inch thick, and all other window sash throughout, 1¾-inch thick.


Glaze all the windows throughout, with the first quality of French sheet glass.

Glaze the upper panels of main entrance doors with the best quality of French polished plate glass, and the same panels in the rear hall door opening on veranda, with enameled glass of selected pattern.



Make the front doors 2 inches thick, as per elevation and working drawings.

The 1st story principal room doors, 1¾ inch thick, and all other doors throughout, 1½ inch thick.


Make all the doors four panels each, and double face with mouldings.

Make the parlor doors, 7 feet 9 inches in height, the remaining 1st story room doors, 7 feet 4 inches high, and all other doors throughout, 7 feet in height.

The width of the doors to vary as their several situations require, and as indicated on the plans.


Hinge all the doors on the best quality of iron butts, of the size respectively required.


Put two wrought iron tail bolts, (long and short,) on the standing front, folding door, and two 8-inch malleable iron bolts on each other outside door.


Put a 6½-inch mortise lock on the front door, with night latch and keys and bronzed medallion furniture.

5-inch mortise locks on the 1st and 2d stories, principal room doors, with bronzed medallion furniture in the main hall parlor and dining room, and white porcelain furniture on the remainder.

Put 5-inch rim locks on all other doors throughout with dark mineral furniture.

All the locks to be of the best and most approved manufacture.


Fasten all the sash throughout when not otherwise specified with the most approved sash fastenings, corresponding in style with the lock furniture of the rooms in which they are situated.


Put up with copper wire in zinc tubes in a thorough workmanlike manner, the following gong bells. The pulls respectively to correspond in style of finish with the neighboring door furniture.

One pull from front door to kitchen.



Trim all the doors with 1¼-inch jambs, and all the doors and windows throughout the first and chamber stories of the main building, with neat moulded architraves, 7 inches wide below, and 5 inches above. Trim throughout the kitchen wing, and in all closets, with plain chamfered architraves 4½ inches wide.

All the windows in principal rooms, to be trimmed down to the floors with framed, moulded and paneled backs, and elsewhere throughout on nosing sills with moulded aprons.

Put down 8-inch plain moulded base in the principal rooms of 1st story, 6½-inch do. in chambers, and 6-inch plain chamfered plinth elsewhere throughout (where not wainscoted). All the base to tongue down 3/8-inch into a moulded carpet strip, rebated to receive it.


Wainscot the walls of the kitchen and wash room, 3 feet in height above the floor, with 7/8-inch clear, tongued and beaded sheathing, 4-inch wide, and neatly cap.


Case up the bath-tub and water-closet with Black Walnut, and tongue down a plain beveled surbase over against the wall. Hinge both flap and seat of water-closet, with brass butts. Case up the wash-basin in a similar manner, enclosed below with paneled door, hinged on brass butts and fastened with snap-lock.

Build raised platform 8 inches in height, on which to set bath tub and water-closet, as indicated on the plans.


Construct a tank in attic, over the bath room, 6 feet 6 inches long, by 5 feet 4 inches wide, and 3 feet deep, framed in a substantial manner with 3×4-inch and 2×4-inch joist, lined with 1¼-inch tongued plank. The whole to be suspended upon 14×4-inch beams bearing upon main partition and in-tertie, and framed with headers of the same size over the partitions. The bottom of the tank to be firred and plastered in the bath room, finishing 7 feet 6 inches in the clear above the floor.


Shelve the closets and pantries as indicated on the plans and otherwise required, with clear lumber planed smooth, and put up the required number of double iron clothes-hooks. Both hooks and shelves to be fastened on neatly moulded cleets mitred at the angles.

Fit up each end of the waiters' pantry, with counter shelf, and two dovetailed drawers, as indicated on the drawing. Also provide kitchen pantry with two dovetailed drawers.


Put up in two of the chambers, neat wooden mantels of the design selected by the owner from the examples herein given. The lumber used to be perfectly clear.


Do any necessary cutting, mending, and repairing, required by the work of gasfitters, plumbers, bell-hangers, and others.


Furnish plain outside blinds for all windows (except cellar and attic); hinged on best blind hinges and fastened with approved patent fastenings


Properly stop with oil putty, all nail holes and other imperfections in the work to be painted, and size all exposed knots, etc.

Paint all the wood work of the building outside and inside, (exclusive of the inside floors, and inclusive of the piazza floors and outside steps, and the cutting in of the stairs) two good coats of the best English white lead and oil paint. Also, paint the kitchen fire-place, the chimney shafts, and the brick underpinning where exposed to view, two coats.

Thoroughly cleanse the tin roofs and gutters, and paint two coats of best metallic roof paint.

Grain the wood-work in kitchen and wash room, in imitation of light oak.

Finish all the work in color, as directed by the owner, or his appointed superintendent.


Remove all waste material and ruhbish accumulated by the carpenter, at the completion, and leave the building and premises thoroughly clean; scrub the floors, and wash the windows.



Furnish all the lumber of white pine where not otherwise specified, of good sound quality, and as well seasoned as the market affords. All the sashes, panel work and interior trimmings to be of clear lumber.

The entire work to be completely finished in the best manner of the style specified.

Any work exhibited by the drawings to be executed by the contractor, though unmentioned herein.




Do all the necessary excavating for the cellar, dwarf wall under laundry extension, cistern, cesspool and sink. Grade the excavated earth around the building as may be directed.

Lay aside the top soil and sods at the commencement, and replace over the graded surface at the completion.



Build the cellar and foundation walls of good building stone, of flat bed and firm build, laid in hydraulic ground lime, and sharp, clean sand mortar. Lay down substantial flat-stone foundations under the chimneys, and girder posts in the cellar.

Lay down a flat stone not less than 18 inches diameter under the piazza locust under-posts, bedded below the action of the frost. Fill in around the posts up to the grade level with small broken stone packed in dry.

Lay down footings under all the walls of the building, of flat stones not less than 2 feet long and G inches thick, bedded cross-wise of the walls on the natural undisturbed earth. Build the walls from thence up to the grade in height, by and full to a line on the inner face, and flush and point at the completion. These walls to average 20 inches in thickness—the greater breadth at the base.


Stone up the privy sink, 8 feet deep, of the size shown on the plans. and line with 4 inches brick work. Flush the inner face smoothly with hydraulic cement, and connect with cesspool through earthen drain pipe properly trapped.


Stone up a cesspool 3 feet in diameter and 8 feet deep, covered with a 3-inch rough flag, provided with man-hole, etc., complete.

Make the necessary connections with the cistern to receive the overflow, through earthen pipe of the required size.


Build the wall from the top of the cellar stone walls, 16 inches in height, and 12 inches thick. These walls to be flush with the stone walls on which they bear, on the inner face, and the joints flushed full and rubbed for painting on the exterior, where exposed to view.

Build the brick walls under sills of laundry extension the same height and 8 inches thick; these walls to bear upon the centre of the dwarf-foundation walls below. Finish the exterior face as above described.


Excerpted from A Victorian Housebuilder's Guide by George E. Woodward, Edward G. Thompson. Copyright © 1988 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

George E. Woodward (1829–1905) was a New York–based architect and a prolific publisher of architecture books.

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