Some years ago, an old farmer from up the road stopped in for a short visit. It was during a cold snap much like the present one. He remarked that the previous night was a real, “nail puller.”
I understood what he meant, since various groans and prolonged creaks had disturbed my sleep.
When temperatures plunge far below zero and remain there for a prolonged period of time, certain things happen to the materials used to build our homes. This particularly applies to older buildings and also, homeowner-built houses that used locally-sawn lumber as sheathing.
My place falls into the latter category. I used galvanized nails to fasten down two layers of one-inch, rough-sawn boards.
As I understand it, certain materials contract faster and to a greater degree than others. So it would appear that the boards contract more than the nails used to hold them. This has the effect of making it look as is someone had gone about with a cat’s paw and pulled the nails halfway out.
And, of course, it’s noisy and a bit unsettling to listen to.
Now what really happens is that after warm weather returns and the wood regains its normal thickness, the nails remain in whatever position they were in when the wood contracted.
This necessitates going around, come spring, hammer in hand, searching for protruding nail heads and driving them back in.
So the next time someone remarks on how the previous night was a nail puller, you might respond by saying, “Yep. Just as soon as spring comes, we’ll have to go around and drive them back in, won’t we?”