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Kalidas Jethabhai House: Wooden repair techniques

Vernacular architecture in Gujarat is divided into five categories based on the type of load-bearing construction used: mud houses, timber and wattle houses, stone houses, half-timbered houses, and brick houses. Wooden architecture in Gujarat typically employs a system of wooden framing with other masonry structures. This style was prevalent from 1600 A.D. to 1900 A.D., after which colonial hybrid structures began to emerge. (Pramar, 1989)

Kalidas Jethabhai house is constructed using timber-lashed masonry. The house is mainly divided into two parts named the front wing and the rear wing, with the front wing having lots of structural timber members, creating a quest to understand its joineries and load transfer system. The house underwent decay of more than 100 years due to lack of maintenance and intermittent restoration against its actual material properties.

A conservation-led design approach is adopted to restore the house, introducing different techniques to repair the wood. The repair work starts with strengthening the structural members such as columns, beams, and roof trusses. Most of the members were decayed due to termite attacks, so as a first step, we started removing termites from the members by applying termite treatment to the wooden members. The repair work of the wooden members is mainly done in two ways: in-place repair and repair in the workshop.

The process/steps we followed to repair the members is as follows:

Step 1: Surface Preparation

Begin by thoroughly cleaning the area of the wooden member affected by termite infestation or decay. Remove any debris, dirt, or remnants of termite activity. Treat the surface with a suitable chemical to eliminate any remaining pests and prevent further damage.

Step 2: Chiselling

Identify the areas where new pieces or members need to be added to repair the member. Skilfully chisel these sections to create space for the insertion of the replacement components. This process requires precision to ensure a seamless fit for the new elements.

Step 3: Crafting and Installation

Craft the replacement piece or member to match the specifications required for the repair. Shape and size the new component accurately to seamlessly integrate it into the existing structure. Utilize high-quality adhesives to firmly secure the new element in place. Additionally, insert dowels into the prepared holes, ensuring they are inclined appropriately to enhance stability.

Step 4: Surface Finishing

Once the new component is securely in place, use chisels and randha tools to flush the surface. Carefully smooth out any rough edges or uneven surfaces to achieve a uniform appearance. This step is crucial for both aesthetic appeal and structural integrity, ensuring that the repaired wooden beam retains its functionality and visual appeal.


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