The Cross House

Wanna Meet My Water Table?

A water table is an architectural feature designed to shed water.

So, when water drips down exterior walls, a water table at the bottom will “kick” the water away from the foundation.

The Cross House has a highly visible and distinctive water table made from two pieces of wood. These two pieces also protect the all-important wood sill behind, which is what the entire house sits on. Under the sill is the limestone foundation.

Almost all the Cross House water table is being replaced as part of the Heritage Grant work.

 

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This section of water table looks basically brand new, as it has always been protected by the roof of the porte-cochère. Lovely, isn’t it?

 

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And not so lovely. This reveals how the water table is constructed. The two pieces are supposed to be tight! Luckily, the adjacent sill (left) is in near-perfect condition. Most did not look as good. Most proved terrifying.

 

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This offers a better idea of the above.

 

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The poor carriage house is missing almost all its water table.

 

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Save this one section.

 

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Water table, as on the Cross House, is SO not a stock item. Thus…ROAD TRIP! Justin and I drove to Kansas City to the venerable Schutte Lumber to see if they could create what I needed so much of.

 

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I received a quote. And felt faint. Justin wisely rushed me to lunch at the fabulous Blue Bird cafe. After being revived by good food and good dessert, I went next door (left) to the Fervere bakery so I could buy six loaves of freshly baked bread.

 

I could live on bread.
I could live on bread.

 

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“When passion fires the loaves ferment.”

 

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After lunch, Justin and I walked around the corner to visit my artist friend Susi. When we arrived, I was gobsmacked by these delightful fox sentinels! When Susi came out, I exclaimed: “Susi! WHERE did you get these? They are FABULOUS!” She replied, shyly: “I made them.” I gave her a long hug. 

 

In order to create new trim to match my 1894 profiles, knives will have to be made, matching the profiles. After this, creating the trim is easy, and I can select pretty much any wood.

To make the TOP section of water table:

  • $70 processing fee.
  • $350 to create a knife.
  • $3.58 a linear foot for cedar.

To make the BOTTOM section of water table:

  • $70 processing fee.
  • $225 to create a knife.
  • $2.75 a linear foor for cedar.

So, yes, EEK.

The Cross House needs about 100 linear feet of new water table. Just the fees and knives will be $715. The actual finished wood will be, weirdly, less: $633. Total total: $1348. Which actually is not TOO bad for so important a feature. I also love that the exact original profiles will be recreated.

When I get around to the poor carriage house I will of course not have to pay another fee or for additional knives. So, if I need another 100 feet it will be just $633.

Well, I was going to write more about the day but all I can think of now is bread…

And wine…

 

8 Responses to Wanna Meet My Water Table?

  1. I baked bread yesterday. 🙂

    Old recipe and hand kneaded. It turned out super good! Sometimes, for unknown reasons, it doesn’t turn out quite as good. But then it just gets added to the stockpile in the freezer that will one day stuff a turkey.

    That water table looks so much more fabulous than modern flashing does!

    • From time to time, friends ask me to teach them to bake bread and I always have to warn them that it took me 20 years of crappy bread to be able to make something consistently good. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I started a sourdough culture a few years ago. It’s really vigorous and consistent now, but there were several months of where I made lots of really good, albeit dense, stuffing. 🙂

  2. Your story reminded me of when I had some shaper knives made up at a lumber mill like the one you visited. I was restoring my kitchen and needed some matching trim to go around a new door and windows. I payed about the same as you were quoted for the knife cutting. When I went back to the mill to pick up my freshly cut trim I asked if I could have the shaper knives too. The owner said I would have no use for them and they were property of the mill. I was very frustrated over that. The owner also mentioned he liked the profile of my trim so much he made up some trim (using my shaper knives) for all the windows in his new den.

    It was like buying a fresh loaf of bread and the baker telling you that you can only smell the bread and not eat it.

    Moral of the story make sure you are allowed to keep your shaper knives before you pay to have them made.

  3. Ross, your water table is interesting – I can’t recall having seen one like it before.

    What is most interesting about it is that it appears to have been made with two different width pieces of what I call “rake crown”… I should know the name of this molding, but I don’t.

    This is a distinctive profile of crown molding most commonly used along the rake edge of a roof to transition between the vertical flat fascia or barge board and the projecting horizontal plane of the roof shingles.

    Take a look at my version of your drawing here.

    If you look at a typical off-the-shelf gutter profile, you’ll notice it has this same ogee shape, basically imitating the rake crown that was found in the same location along the roof edge.

    In fact, take a look at this photo I just took out of my window of my neighbor’s (matching) 1894 house – you’ll see the rake crown on the angled gable edge, and the ogee gutter covering where the old rake crown was along the horizontal roof.

    I had a reproduction of this profile in my line at Rejuvenation – it can be hard to find, but it is out there. This is a profile that would have had multiple size variations shown in the old millwork catalogs.

  4. One other comment.

    As you know from experience, crucial to the proper function of a water table is that the water must drip off of the outermost projection point. This is the weakness in the Cross House design.

    Because the projecting lip (at least as sketched) is shallow, and there is no drip kerf on the bottom edge, the water will want to stick to the wood and roll back around underneath right into the seam between the two moldings.

    This sketch isn’t perfect, but the idea is clear:

  5. Does this mean no gutters? The water table in principle diverted water away from the house? Maybe the Cross house water table needs a little tweaking as Bo suggested? Great work Ross! By the way I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. I moved to KS (Overland Park) in 1977. Your project and progress is amazing! Has all the Heritage grant work been completed?? Congrats on all the work thus far. Cross House looks beautiful!!

    • The house has miles of built-in gutters!

      The water table diverts rain water falling on the walls away from the foundation.

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