Plaster vs Stucco: What’s the Difference?

plaster vs stucco

A lot of folks confuse plaster and stucco in old houses. While they are similar in a lot of ways they are different enough that understanding when and where to use them, especially in renovations, is imperative. Their differences are not readily apparent to the naked eye. Plaster and stucco can both be applied much the same way with the same textures and thicknesses, but the main ingredients in each are what make them different animals. Today’s post […] Read on →

New Energy Efficiency Tax Credit!

energy efficiency tax credit

Rarely is there a week that I can write something about breaking news in the arena of historic preservation, but this is one of those weeks. Congress has done something helpful for us homeowners (amazing, I know!) They have renewed an expired tax credit for energy efficient upgrades made to your home through the end of 2016 (also retroactive for improvements in 2015). You may be asking what qualifies and how much can I get? Well, there are […] Read on →

Easy Fixes For an Energy Efficient Home

energy efficient home

Let’s face it, your home’s utility bills never seem to go anywhere but up. The electric companies steadily raise rates even if the cost of fuels like coal, oil, nuclear, solar, or wind go down. It’s like the third thing you can never avoid. Death, taxes and higher utility bills. There is some good news though. The cost per kW hour may continue to go up but that doesn’t mean the bill itself has to go up. By […] Read on →

How Much Could Storm Windows Save You?

How Much Could Storm Windows Save You

We all know that replacing your home’s original windows is not the solution. Or at least I hope you have seen the light by now. It doesn’t save the money the window companies claim and the replacements rarely last more than a decade before the seals fail and you end up having to replace the windows again and again. If you don’t believe me read what Energy.gov says about replacing your windows. “Unless the existing windows are missing […] Read on →

6 Things I Wish Architects Knew

6 Things I Wish Architects Knew

I recently learned of yet another window project gone awry. The 1920 Lake Ave. fire station in Saratoga Springs, NY is due for an renovation. It needs some structural repairs to its floors, some framing repairs and also window repairs for its almost 100 year old windows. The architect for the job decided that the best way to handle the windows would be to keep the old jambs, trash the original sash (which only lasted 95 years) and build new […] Read on →

BoraCare: Stop Termites & Rot Forever

boracare

You may not have heard of a product called BoraCare, but if you have a wood house it’s something you should know about. The biggest threats to wood are inevitably rot and insect damage. Other than these two issues good quality old-growth wood can last almost indefinitely. But if you fall victim to termites, rot or both then it may be only months before you need repairs. BoraCare is a wood treatment that I use in my shop […] Read on →

How To: Tell If You Have a Balloon Frame House

how to tell if you have a balloon frame house

I’ve written about the differences between timber frame, balloon frame and platform frame houses in an earlier post you can read here, but I constantly get questions about how to tell if your house has balloon framing. Why do people want to know? Well, of the three types of framing balloon frame houses have the greatest danger of catastrophic fires. To be clear there is nothing intrinsically more flammable about a balloon frame house. It wasn’t built with […] Read on →

The Wood Filler & Epoxy Test (Year 1)

wood-filler-test

One of the most popular posts on my site for the last year or so has been The 7 Best Products to Patch Wood. With over 160 comments and well over 100,000 page views I took the hint that people want to know about wood filler and how to patch wood. So, 1 year ago I made a test board of some of my most used wood fillers and epoxies to see how they faired in the Florida climate. […] Read on →

Finding The Best Wood Glue

titebond-1

What’s the best wood glue? That depends. Maybe you’re building mortise and tenon joints. Maybe you’re repairing a small chipped piece of wood or gluing-up a table top. I’ll help you find the best wood glue for your project in this post by showing you 4 of my favorites and when to use them. So, how do you know which glue to use? There are dozens of brands and formulas. All have their time and place and the important […] Read on →

Why Old-Growth Wood is Better

old-growth wood

There is no better wood to use when repairing an old house than old-growth lumber. Though it is hard to come by (it’s not on the shelves at Home Depot) it is the most appropriate and best performing options especially for exterior wood repairs. In this post I’ll explain the differences and tell you some of the main benefits of using old-growth wood. I’ll also tell you some ways to find it in your local area.   What […] Read on →

How Your Roofer is Destroying Your House

drip-edge-problems

Your roof is your home’s main line of defense against water intrusion. It gets baked by the sun, drenched in the rain and covered by snow and ice. It is the workhorse of your house and does it’s job without complaint, but there is one little detail that is missed by way too many roofers that causes big time damage to your house. It’s not valley flashing or underlayments, though those are just as important. It’s something so simple […] Read on →

Electrical Pitfalls of an Old House

electrical-pitfalls-of-an-old-house

If the picture of this breaker box doesn’t scare the pants off you then you are one crazy, living on the edge kinda person. It doesn’t take a professional to know that this is not a well designed electrical system. My wife and I are finally turning our unfinished attic into a kid’s bedroom this year to make room for our growing family (our 2nd boy was just born!). I’ll be doing a few posts on the process […] Read on →

Vapor Barriers 101

vapor-barriers-101

When old houses were built there was no such thing as a vapor barrier. Sure there may have been felt paper or rosin paper installed under the hardwood floors or behind the siding but these pieces weren’t as much about vapor protection as they were about stopping rainwater. Improper use of vapor barriers is one of the leading causes of moisture-related issues like rot and mold in buildings today. Vapor barriers are designed to prevent wall assemblies from getting […] Read on →

4 Easy Ways to Weatherstrip Windows and Doors

spring bronze finished installation

While most of us love our original windows and doors nobody wants to be heating or cooling the neighborhood due to leaks and drafts. Before you break out the caulk gun and seal the windows shut permanently I want to tell you about several different options to weatherstrip windows and doors. These are all DIY friendly options that you can add to your own house. Some are quick, easy and inexpensive and others require more skill and money. […] Read on →