Half-timbered houses, or fachwerk. So charming, so old-fashioned, so European.
Stade is in the brick region of Germany, Hämeln is south, in the area where timber was cheaper. Half-timbering is the common link. If you go back a while, before tourism became so important, and before both modern finishes and modern fire-fighting techniques, you would rarely have seen the timbers. Even in the middle ages and later, large, straight timbers cost a great deal of money and labor and transportation costs, even in places like the Black Forest and Harz, so they were protected. And without modern fire-fighting tools and techniques, fire-protection was critical. This the tile roofs in urban areas and thatch in places where one building catching fire wouldn’t threaten the entire town.
We see the outside of half-timbered buildings, or the faux-timbered neo-Tudor style in the US, but it’s a little rarer to see the bones of the house.
One hotel I stayed in, in Lübeck, had a core that dated to the late 1200s, additions in the 1400s, upgrades in the 1800s, and major repairs and restoration in the 1990s. The floor in my room sloped four directions. The stairs dated to the 1400s and, um, let’s just say that they did not quite reach modern code for width, steepness, curvature, and did not have hand-rails on both sides. It was a wonderful hotel, and (for those who wonder) Tycho Gaalnar’s wares-house is based on it in part. Because it had been a merchant’s home, back in the day. OK, where was I? Right. Structure.
At this point all my carpenters, wood-workers, and structural engineers are cringing and making warding-off signs. But you can see how you have the main support for the first [above ground] floor, which yes, has a sistered beam there on the left. There’s been some re-fitting of bits and pieces over the years. Yes, the roof needs better support, and you can see some very modern cross-bracing on the right. But look at the verticals.
You can see how the beams were cut back in the 1400s. The house dates to the late 1300s, per the little sign, but most of what was visible came from the 1400s and later. The pale stuff is probably white-wash, but Sunday is probably not a good time to be trying to clamber over a safety fence to find a ladder to climb up into a construction site to find out. If there is ever a good time. The round log is part of the modern temporary supports while they are re-wiring and plumbing before they put the floors back in. You can see the underside of the second floor in the back of the shot.
I’d love to compare the brick half-timber versus other forms, and see how much bigger the structural supports are, or if there is a difference in the weight and loads. I’m sure there’s a difference between the wattle and plaster or plaster and lathe, but I just don’t know that much about pre-modern and early-modern bricks and their weight versus the current version.