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Fire-Proof Houses

iron, fire, tiles, roofs, staircases, laid and floors

FIRE-PROOF HOUSES, such as are built without the use of any combustible matter : for this purpose, vaulted or east-iron floors and roofs should he employed in every apartment. Vailltinpt is m ell adapted to the lower story of a building, hut if used in the upper stories, the walling must be carried up very thick, in order to resist the thrust of the arches ; and this extra substance not only darkens the apartments, but occasions an enormous expense. The builder is therefore obliged to have recourse to other modes of Construction f'o• common purposes- The most convenient substitute is east iron joists, vaulted between with brick. or covered with cast iron boards flanged and keyed together.

Mr. Bartholomew strongly recommends that roofs should be so constructed as to lessen as much as possible the possi bility of fire. It should be." he observes. "the architect's study, in all roofs, to have as little as possible that will either burn or nit ; if the roof-trusses were made of cast-iron, as Mr. Uwilt has made those to his restoration of the choi• of St. SavionC4• Church, Southwark ; and it' slight horizontal rafters, reaching from truss to truss, supported tiles of the ornamental description above refired to, (tiles made of burnt earth, moulded in the form of leaves. &c..) all combustible materials ini!_rht be banished from our invaluable cathedrals." —We quite agree with 11•. Bartholomew in principle, but, in such eases:would beg to recommend a vaulted stone roof in preference to one of iron. • The late Sir .1t)hn Soane constructed nearly all the apart toeing of the Bank of England fire-proof, and without any carpentry whatever ; in his arches and domes, making use largely of hollow pots u-r cones of coarse earthenware ; these, Nv bile strong enough not to crush, by their lightness relieve the walls in a great measure, both from the lateral thrust, and the perpendicular pressure, caused by the use of heavier materials.

A method of rendering the floors of houses tire proof, has been adopted with success in many parts of France. After the joists arc laid they are boarded over with rough boards, and these covered with a coatiirg of plaster of about eight inches in thickness, above which are laid tiles of an orna mental or sometimes a flour of parquetry. In

some instances, the boards on which the plaster is laid, are omitted altogether, and the plaster inserted between the joists. The staircases likewise are made of brick-nogging, and covered with tiles.

It is a cause of wonder and regret, that these or similar means for rendering buildings fire-proof, are not adopted in London, where so great a loss is annually sustained by neglect on this head : the immediate outlay would not be very much greater than at present, and in the end the practice would assuredly prove the more economical. Uur timber partitions, roofs, and staircases would seem to be made for the purpose of burning ; and when once a portion a building takes fire, there is little chance of saving the remainder ; whereas if the chambers, or at least the floors, were isolated by fire-proof partitions, a fire could readily be confined to that part of the building where it commeneed.

But perhaps of all parts of a hc.use, that which requires the greatest care in this respect is the staircase; it is no easy matter to calculate how great a loss of human life has been occasioned by recklessness on this point. The stairease forms a shaft to carry up the flames, and is one of the first things to be destroyed, thus cutting otr the means of escape from persons above the ground-floor: if nothing else be attended to, surely our staircases should be rendered fire proof.

Iron has of late years been much used for the purpose of rendering buildings more safe from the of tire, but we are inclined to think the success of this application doubtful. This material is generally used as a substitute for summers, girders, or bond-timber, in which instances wood is almost as secure as iron ; for in the l'ormer cases, the timbers are of too great scantling thoroughly to ignite, and in the latter they are well protected, and will be seldom found more than charred on the exposed surthees. Besides this, iron has its disadvantages, for it is liable to expand and con tract under the influence of heat and cold, and is known by this means to destroy the brickwork.