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 →

How To: Install Blown-in Insulation

how-to-install-blown-in-insulation

There are a lot of ways to insulate a house today, and one of the easiest ways to save on your energy costs is to add blown-in installation to your attic. The wonderful thing about this type of insulation is that absolutely anyone can do it themselves. You don’t need a pro to help you, all you need is a free Saturday and you can add huge energy savings to your old house.   Types of Blown-in Insulation […] Read on →

What Causes Wood Rot?

what causes wood rot

Anyone who has owned an old house for more than a couple months will tell that wood rot is a major frustration. In this post I’ll show you what causes wood rot and how to stop it. Wood is an amazingly versatile building material. It can molded and shaped to almost any form. It is an excellent insulator. Its structurally abilities are incredible. Its ability to accept paint, stains and varnishes is fantastic. Its one weakness is rot. […] Read on →

No More Cold Bathrooms

old-tub

This week’s Ask The Craftsman post is actually a user suggestion and not a question from long time reader Mike. Mike pointed out a post on Cold House Journal (you can read the post here) where the author does a little science experiment to keep his bathroom warm and dry in the winter. Tired of the wintertime cold bathroom? It may not seem like sometimes, in the winter our homes are full of warm, humid air compared to […] Read on →

The Thermostat Age

The Thermostat Age

We live in an age of spectacular technology today. We’ve invented creative solutions to countless problems that used to plague humanity. Today you can solve most anything with a simple query from you smart phone. The information age truly has changed our society. But I want to talk about an age just before the one we are living in now. An age that changed the way we built (and consumed!) housing in America. It changed almost everything about how […] Read on →

Why Are There Double-Hung Windows?

double hung window

This week’s Ask The Craftsman question comes from Jeremy. “Why on earth are there DOUBLE hung windows? Everyone just raises the lower sash, but I have a hunch that there may be a reason.” Jeremy, great question and there is most definitely a reason! A single-hung window is one where the top sash is fixed and only the bottom sash will move up and down. While there are many of these around there are more double-hung windows in […] Read on →

The Greenest Building is the One Already Built

Greenest Building

“The greenest building is the one that is already built.” Architect Carl Elefante who is the Director of Sustainable Design at Qunin Evans Architects in Washington, D.C. said it very succinctly. Eco-nerds talk about sustainability and energy-efficient design as much as us preservation-nerds talk about wood windows and plaster. But isn’t it amazing when two worlds that have little to do with each other normally can come together and fight side by side on an issue. Historic preservation is just […] Read on →

3 Reasons I Chose Indow Windows (and so should you!)

Indow Windows

You know that I’m not a big promoter of new products here, but every once in a while someone comes up with a product or technique that makes it easier and cheaper to save old houses. And when that happens I am all over it like white on rice! My company has recently become a dealer for Indow Windows. Why? Because they work! I have them in my own home and it is truly incredible how much of […] Read on →

Replacement Windows: The Real Story

Replacement windows

If you own an old house you are the prime demographic for the replacement windows industry. They would love to convince you to remove all your home’s original windows and replace them with new energy efficient windows. I can hear them beginning to salivate right now. (I have excellent hearing) The replacement windows industry is out to sell a product and sell it often. I won’t hide my bias here. I am not a fan of replacement windows. […] Read on →

Choosing the Right Primer

Choosing the Right Primer

Using primer should be an easy choice before any paint job. You don’t always have to prime before painting, but in the end it saves you time and money. Priming helps your paint cover in less coats, last longer and look better. It’s a win/win/win (if there is such a thing!) Choosing the right primer is paramount to making your paint job last. Using the wrong primer (or no primer at all) can actually cause paint failure if […] Read on →

How To: Insulate an Old House

how to insulate an old house

I get asked a lot about insulating old houses, especially in the wintertime. It makes sense. People fall in love with the character rich architecture of these homes, but they don’t want the crazy heating and cooling bills that come along with that character. Chances are good that if your house was built before the 1960’s there is little to no insulation. Before the energy crisis of the 1970’s energy was abundant and cheap in America and it […] Read on →

What to Do About Asbestos?

Asbestos

Asbestos is that persnickety little thing that can be hiding anywhere in an old house. From siding to plaster, vinyl floor tiles to insulation it can be almost anywhere. What makes matters worse is there is no simple way for the average homeowner to determine if they have asbestos in their house. You can’t tell by looking at a material if it contains asbestos. You can’t tell by smelling, feeling or even tasting (would you really want to […] Read on →

What is a Rumford Fireplace? (and why it’s better than your fireplace)

rumford fireplace

Fireplaces have been around since the dawn of housing in one shape or another. For hundreds of years fire was the only way to heat buildings and with indoor fires you need a fireplace. It wasn’t until 1795 that the fireplace was finally perfected by a brilliant American named Benjamin Thompson “Count Rumford.” His work instantaneously revolutionized fireplace and chimney construction. Strangely, most people today have never heard of Count Rumford even though most fireplaces built between 1796 […] Read on →