Box and strip construction is an efficient method of erecting small wooden buildings without elaborate frameworks. It consists of using standard-dimension lumber to build houses or other structures in the manner in which a large wooden box was constructed. Box and strip is a simple technique. Supported upon rocks, wooden piers, or a concrete foundation, a floor platform is first assembled with joists, usually two-by-sixes spaced about two feet apart, and wooden flooring. Nailed vertically (rarely horizontally) to the sides of this platform are one-by-twelve boards forming the walls; there are no studs. Then strips, ordinarily one-by-threes or one-by-fours, sometimes with molded edges, are nailed over the cracks between the boards. A two-by-four plate nailed to the top of the boards forming the walls supports the rafters and ceiling joists, also of two-by-fours. Shingles nailed to strips supported by the rafters complete the roof. Openings for doors and windows are framed with two-inch members. A hammer, saw, level, and square are all the tools required for construction.
The historical origins of box and strip construction are presently uncertain, but the technique probably comes from England, where whip-sawn or pit-sawn boards on simple frameworks were used in buildings. In colonial America barns, shops, and other service buildings also had board walls. Eventually box and strip construction was greatly facilitated by mass production techniques of the Industrial Revolution. The efficient manufacture of dimension lumber by power sawmills and the mass production of nails greatly increased the economy of this type of construction. With the extension of the railroads over the treeless prairies and plains, lumber buildings replaced adobe or sod houses. Although balloon or platform framing with studded walls was generally employed for large houses, box and strip was used for small houses and service buildings.
In Texas box and strip buildings are particularly noteworthy in the treeless Panhandle and on the South Plains and other westerly regions. While the railroads economically transported lumber to numerous towns, it had to be hauled laboriously by wagon to rural areas; hence the need for efficiency in the use of materials. Often the interiors of box and strip houses were lined with either center-matched siding or beaded ceiling material, installed horizontally, which produced both a more attractive and more air-tight building.
Numerous buildings of many sorts, including churches, have been built with box and strip technique. It was used for a jail erected about 1890 in Floydada and a courthouse built in Leakey about the same time. Several examples of circa 1900 can be seen at the Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, where the Harrel House and the Box and Strip House exemplify the technique. It was also used in the Reynolds-Gentry Barn and the Barfield School, although in the latter the strips were removed, building paper installed, and weatherboards applied on the exterior to decrease drafts.
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Andrew Jackson Downing, The Architecture of Country Houses (New York and Philadelphia: Appleton, 1850; rpt., New York: Da Capo Press, 1968). William H. Pierson, Jr., American Buildings and Their Architects (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1978). Willard B. Robinson, Gone from Texas: Our Lost Architectural Heritage (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1981). Willard B. Robinson, The People's Architecture: Texas Courthouses, Jails, and Municipal Buildings (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983).
Styles, Methods, and Technological Innovations
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Willard B. Robinson,
“Box and Strip Construction,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994