Oct 7, 2016

Bermuda Home Construction

Starting to feel a bit better and I'm on the mend but I was still not able to get out very far today.   Managed a few groceries.  Unfortunately the cold also trigger another aliment that I have and it may take a few days to resolve before I can get out running around the island.   This problem hasn't flared up in about 15 years, why now?   Its like the gods are against me this trip....argh

Arriving in Bermuda the first thing you notice is the splash of colour as each house has it's own.
The house that I stay in is an amazing example of a Bermuda cottage and captures much of the tradition of Bermuda construction.   Being just 750 miles from the US and under 3 hours from Canada you would think the influences would be North American, but they are not.   They have their own traditions and construction is based on the elements they face in an area frequented by hurricanes, dampness, intense sun and everything else you can throw at them.   Some of these images are from past trips.

Beyond the bright colours of the houses - or in some cases a simple concrete wash - is some very unique construction.   The houses are not made of drywall or wood.  Wood is used only for trim or flooring.  The dampness and water here would completely destroy wood construction quickly and drywall wouldn't last at all.  It is not uncommon to have to wipe mold off the walls here after a particularly damp or humid week.  90% of the construction is cinder block which then has a concrete wash over top of it.   From experience let me tell you, deciding to move the location of a picture on the wall is a major chore.  Your wall is concrete, drilling a hole for a hook is not as easy as driving nail haha.  So the walls are built to withstand hurricane strength winds.   The 2nd thing you notice right away is that the roofs are all white and have channels and pipes coming off of them.

Whitewashing a roof
Bermuda has little source of fresh water.  The roofs of the houses are big water catches.   When it rains the water is channeled from the roof down into a tank under the house.   That water is for drinking and everyday use.  The roof and tank must be kept clean.  On a regular basis Bermudians have their roof cloraxed to remove any nasties growing and to apply a new coat of whitewash.   Many also have their tanks cleaned on a regular basis, particularly when water levels are low so good water is not being wasted by being dumped to clean the tank.

The last think you quickly notice is shutters on all windows.   You'll see all kinds from the ones on the side of the windows, ones that fold in and out and roller shutters for patio doors.   Makes sense for ease of deploying when a storm comes along and for keeping the heat of the day out.

Chimneys are another thing that look really nice.   They are usually very wide and are stepped as they raise up.   I image that in the old days the hearth inside was very wide and this visual aesthetic has remained.

I could run around all day just taking pictures of shutters and chimneys, they're so cool!   :-)

The most enduring tradition on the island that I would like to see everyone adopt is the naming of your home.   I will try and remember to take some pictures of house names this trip, like boats, they can be very silly, funny, practical and meaningful.   Lots of thoughts go into them.  And it makes sense, most homes are passed down in the family for many generations but even when you live in a place for a period of time does it not make sense to name your house?  My project when I get home is to name my house :-)  While here in Bermuda I stay at "Staysail" - the sailors will know what this is.

As you travel around the island you will notice the nautical themes.  And it makes sense, this is an island deep in nautical history starting with shipwrecked sailors from storms and the rocks around the island.  It can be subtle but worth watching for.

Look at this door and spot all the nautical things.   Check out the lanterns on either side of the door, green and red (port and starboard), a ships bell for a door bell, door and trip made of teak or mahogany or cedar, multiple panes for windows, brass fittings throughout and brain coral decorating the doorstep.

Moving around the houses you will see other "decorations" such as concrete balls on the ends of the gables (not really sure of the tradition here) and what they call eyebrows over the windows.   Obviously to deflect water running down the wall from the windows.

Haven't tracked down exactly what the circle is :-)

Another feature that I love, but I don't seem to have a picture of so I will get one :-) is the stairs up to many front doors.   They flare open at the bottom as though they are opening their arms to welcome you into the house with a gentle narrowing as you move closer to the door.   Very nice.

This is just a few of my observations on the external sides of the houses.   There are many more internal items with Bermuda cedar trim, open roof beams, split doors etc etc.... maybe a post for another day.   But in the end the houses here are wonderful to see yet built for practical purposes.   So many Bermudians take pride in their houses and it shows with the wonderful traditions they keep in the designs and the care they take to keep everything fresh.   If you come to the island take the time to look around you for these themes. 

Any errors are completely my own.  Any Bermudians reading this please feel free to set me straight or to augment with history that I have missed.

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