Gary Morrison

As a remodeler on Boston’s North Shore, I work on my share of older homes. But few are as old as one of my recent projects, which involved extensive structural repairs to a farmhouse originally built in 1723, with a “new” wing off the back dating to the early 1800s.

One fairly minor but challenging part of the job called for beefing up the roof framing in the original attic. It consisted of hand-hewn 6x6 rafters on about 8-foot centers, with unevenly sized but much smaller purlins running the width of each bay and mortised into the rafters on either side. The original pine roof boards ran vertically from...

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