Kieron Gait’s L-shaped extension includes a Garden Room and deck orientated towards the North facing lawn. A careful reconfiguration of the existing layout also helped make the most of natural sunlight as well as a palette of building materials.
Plasterboard has been artfully cut away, revealing a timber stud wall made from LVL’s. LVL’s are the economical and cheerful choice for floor joists and roof rafters in house construction. They are manufactured glued timber products that are usually covered in ugly stamps.The general understanding is that the members will be masked away.
In this house, Kieron Gait explores LVL’s as an aesthetic choice. They’re cheaper, made of timber sourced from sustainable, local pine plantations, and are manufactured very straight. The choice created an opportunity to balance a humble basic product against finer architectural detailing.
The LVL mullions were originally 150x50mm but have been planed down by 3mm on each face to sharpen the shape. This also cleaned away the manufacturer’s stamps. LVL’s with an attractive timber grain were featured as mullions, while the studs with visible knots were hidden behind plasterboard.
The theme of exposed, sanded structural LVL’s continues into the roof rafters, with translucent Danpalon sheets creating a skylight in the bathroom.
Finlayson’s timber and hardware supplied the LVL’s, which were manufactured by HYNE. Internal members were treated to hazard level H2S which is appropriate for timber that is internal and still vulnerable to termite attack. ‘S’ specifies glue-line treatment.
LVL’s are an intriguing choice for the external deck balustrade and special precautions were taken to protect the softwood from the elements. The balustrade is largely shielded from the rain by an overhanging roof, but is also H3 treated to prevent rot and termite attack. Finally, the LVL’s were painted with four coats of Feast Watson Weatherproof varnish to a satin finish. This product is polyurethane based and has excellent resistance to UV rays.
LVL mullions on the right sit in direct eastern sunlight, and they have been sandwiched in zinc plates for this reason. UV rays can adversely affect the glue in glue laminated products and the best form of protection for beams exposed to direct sunlight is physical shielding.
A translucent Danpalon skin spans between the timber mullions and creates shadow puppetry out of the garden activities. For those who know the house well, the changing shadows of the plants reveals the time of day.
At night the translucent sheeting lights up like a lantern.
A couple of timber laminates sit flush with the aluminium channel. Building a stud frame from LVL’s instead of standard MGP studs caused some unexpected site issues. The alignment of the mullions, heads and sills needed to be visually exact, however the nature of LVL beams is that end grain is exposed on the end faces and longitudinal faces of the beam. End grain absorbs moisture easily. This means that during construction, when it rained, the LVL’s swelled horizontally a lot more than standard studs do. Standard studs have end grain at their ends only, and therefore, they only noticeably extend longitudinally. The way the LVL’s expanded in the rain often threw out the alignment of the horizontal and vertical members creating headaches for the Builder. In future projects, Kieron Gait plans to prefabricate LVL stud frames so that they can be erected quickly, wrapped up, and protected from the weather.
Architect: Kieron Gait
Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones