The Ten Books on Architecture, 2.8.20

Vitruvius  Parallel editions

‹‹‹ Vitr. 2.8.19 | Table of Contents | Vitr. 2.9.1 ›››

Gwilt translation

20As to wattled walls, would they had never been invented, for though convenient and expeditiously made, they are conducive to great calamity from their acting almost like torches in case of fire. It is much better, therefore, in the first instance, to be at the expense of burnt bricks, than from parsimony to be in perpetual risk. Walls moreover, of this sort, that are covered with plaster are always full of cracks, arising from the crossing of the laths; for when the plastering is laid on wet, it swells the wood, which contracts as the work dries, breaking the plastering. But if expedition, or want of funds, drives us to the use of this sort of work, or as an expedient to bring work to a square form, let it be executed as follows. The surface of the foundation whereon it is to stand must be somewhat raised from the ground or pavement. Should it ever be placed below them it will rot, settle, and bend forward, whereby the face of the plastering will be injured. I have already treated on walls, and generally on the mode of preparing and selecting the materials for them. I shall now proceed to the use of timber in framing, and to a description of its several sorts, as also of the mode of fitting timbers together, so that they may be as durable as their nature will permit.

Morgan translation

20As for “wattle and daub” I could wish that it had never been invented. The more it saves in time and gains in space, the greater and the more general is the disaster that it may cause; for it is made to catch fire, like torches. It seems better, therefore, to spend on walls of burnt brick, and be at expense, than to save with “wattle and daub,” and be in danger. And, in the stucco covering, too, it makes cracks from the inside by the arrangement of its studs and girts. For these swell with moisture as they are daubed, and then contract as they dry, and, by their shrinking, cause the solid stucco to split. But since some are obliged to use it either to save time or money, or for partitions on an unsupported span, the proper method of construction is as follows. Give it a high foundation so that it may nowhere come in contact with the broken stone-work composing the floor; for if it is sunk in this, it rots in course of time, then settles and sags forward, and so breaks through the surface of the stucco covering.

I have now explained to the best of my ability the subject of walls, and the preparation of the different kinds of material employed, with their advantages and disadvantages. Next, following the guidance of Nature, I shall treat of the frame-work and the kinds of wood used in it, showing how they may be procured of a sort that will not give way as time goes on.