What I'm Seeing Now

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Sap In The Attic Wood Of An Historic House

It is not unusual to find sap in the attic wood of an historic house.  This house was built in 1870.

There are many, many more trees in the country now than there were 1870.  Why?  Husbandry. 

But the pine wood used now is different.  Pine trees in that era, that were used for construction, grew naturally and were older than pine trees used now.  So they grew bigger!  There was more heart wood in the tree.

Heart wood is the darker wood in the center of the tree.  Heart wood was the more desirable wood selected and used for furniture, woodworking, and construction.

In Virginia in 1870 the most abundant pine trees, and the most popular used for woodworking and construction, were the Virginia and Loblolly pines.  They both grew to 100'+.  They produce good, straight trunks that were efficiently used for wood needs.

Lumber yards carefully planned how to use the logs for cut wood boards and beams.

And depending on where the wood was used the grains created boards of different strengths and tendencies.

Sap flows through the outside areas of the tree called sapwood.

Sapwood is made up of actively-growing cells that trap water and nutrition derived by the roots from the ground.  The sapwood conducts water and nutrition up through the tree and out toward the branches.  Nutrition (sap), which is sugar, is pushed through the cells by pressure created by carbon dioxide. 

But after the wood is harvested and dried in kilns, and then used in construction, carbon dioxide is no longer present. 

When wood was selected, the sapwood was less desirable.

But if it was used in construction, then exposed areas like the attic would be where it would most likely be put.

If sap is present, and in this 1870 house I saw a few members of sappy wood, what makes the sap move since  there is no carbon dioxide to create the pressure necessary to push the sap?

This wood has had 140+ years of hot and cold seasonal cycles!  That causes expansion and contraction of the wood.  And if there is sap present in the wood, such natural thermal change certainly creates enough pressure and movement to push the sap!

This board was very colorful indeed.  And yes, it smelled like pine!

My recommendation:  you might see sap in pine wood used for decks.  I do all the time.  But sap can also be seen from time to time in wood trim used inside the house.  It will bleed through paint, and is usually seen as knots or lines.  This is quite a natural process.  But hopefully the trim on the door to the bedroom doesn't look like the board above!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 32 commentsJay Markanich • February 15 2016 03:24AM

Comments

Good morning Jay! Have not seen that extreme of an example ever! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) over 2 years ago

I do see it in historic construction Wayne.  So I thought I'd made a fun post out of this one!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Wow, what a picture!  Thanks for the interesting overview of sap in building materials. I had no idea this was even possible.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) over 2 years ago

Jay Markanich I haven't seen pine boards weeping sap in years and it did not occur to me why, until you provided the answer. Thanks!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (Realty National) over 2 years ago

Great post and very interesting stuff. Thank you.

Posted by Peter Mohylsky, Your Bucket List Broker Along Scenic 30A (BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS REAL ESTATE) over 2 years ago

I have seen it a lot Kat.  Every board is different.  They can get really pretty.

S&N - pine woods are full of sugars.  It takes physics to get it to come out.

Thanks Peter.  Glad you enjoyed it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Thanks for the explanation. Have seen only one with sap here but as the wood looked good and the inspector said nothing was wrong it was a sold home!

Make yourself an astonishing day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 2 years ago

Thanks Raymond!  It's snowing again, but I am not astonished.  It's winter, after all...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Jay Markanich Nice post captain goober ;)

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Don't be so sappy! The diagram showing how they cut the lumber was good, no waste! Good one Mr Jay, have a great week!!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 2 years ago

That was one heck of a sneeze, Don!  I had to cover my butt with a post about sap...

Fred - some things are typical in historic properties, and sap is one of them!  And the sap runs all year!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Another informative lesson for a slow snowy morning.  Thanks Jay, enjoyed the read.

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) over 2 years ago

Stephen - in the Scouts we have a fireside skit where four people stand in a row and represent each of the four seasons.  One new Scout is selected to run in and out and around and around all four.  The narrator speaks eloquently about each season and what each is like.  And at the end says something like, "And you can all see that no matter the season, the sap still runs."

The new kid running all around usually doesn't understand the big laugh.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Hi Jay - Cool post. I had a friend who owned a sawmill and he once showed me how they cut the big logs - it was a fascinating process, and mostly depended on the experience of the guy running the saw.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) over 2 years ago

I have seen the big saw blades Dick.  They are not in a flat plane, but curved!  And the yards have used the same techniques for a couple of hundred years.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Jay- now this is interesting!  If I had a home with that coming out of the wood, I wouldn't know what to think. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 2 years ago

Glad you enjoyed it Kathy.  And contrary to what I say to Don, I did not sneeze...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

 

                      Thanks Jay Markanich for my Ah-ha moment. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 2 years ago

Thanks Kathy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

I'm closing a loan on an old farmhouse next week that has some signs of this in the attic Jay Markanich .   The appraiser and inspector didn't seem concerned about it but I was a little.   I found your explanation quite reassuring.   Thanks. 

Posted by DEANNA EARLY - ( NMLS #268590 ), Virginia Mortgage Loan Originator (American National Bank and Trust) over 2 years ago

Very good Deanna!  I wouldn't be concerned either.  But I see it enough that I thought it would be interesting to write a post.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Very interesting post and great photo.  As I typically do with your posts, I learned something today.

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) over 2 years ago

And I'm happy you do, Susan!  That's why I post.

I am shocked, shocked(!) I tell you, that you didn't see this when I first put it up!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Great job on being honored by Kathy this week...I can see why with this post!

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) over 2 years ago

I can honestly say I had no idea Jay Markanich

I'm glad Kathy Streib featured you this week! 

Posted by Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®,CRS,, Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority! (RE/MAX Professionals.) over 2 years ago

Thanks Kristin.  We try, we really try.

Paul - and thank you.  Now you know a little more.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Very interesting lesson about sap wood. I'm glad Kathy Streib gave us the heads-up about your post, Jay.

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Serving San Francisco and the Silicon Valley (Pacific Union International) over 2 years ago

Thank you Lottie.  I'm glad too.  You can subscribe and not miss any of my posts!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

I have a drawing similar to yours.  One of the historic homes I worked on last year had red heart pine floors (gorgeous) and I had to explain to the agent what the "deal" was when I was creating the marketing materials for him... as he was not familiary with the term (or the explanation).   

Posted by Judith Sinnard, The SMARTePLAN Lady (SMARTePLANS; Houston, Texas) over 2 years ago

Apparently the floors had a lot of heart Judith?

If you are creating marketing materials, it is best to use proper verbiage to convey what you want to market!

In MBA school I heard over and over that 50% of what someone pays for something is because of marketing, but no one knows which 50%...

My profs always said that with a wink.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Jay, thanks for this very informative post. I haven't seen this in any of the old homes here, but if I do I will know what it is. Excellent post.

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®, Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate (Vision Quest Realty, Martha Hilton, Broker) over 2 years ago

It's out there Rebecca.  But certainly not in every house.  Sooner or later!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

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