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 →

How To Weatherstrip Wood Windows

How to weatherstrip wood windows

There are a lot of different techniques to weatherstrip wood windows. Like anything, some are more effective than others. In this post I’ll show you how to install spring bronze weatherstripping on your old windows. Spring bronze is without a doubt my favorite type of weatherstripping for a few reasons: Very attractive and gains a nice patina as it ages Lasts well over 100 years when installed properly Very effective at air sealing Extremely adaptable to seal gaps [...] Read on →

Choosing Rot Resistant Wood

rot resistant wood

Old houses are constantly having to deal with wood rot and insect damage. While the old-growth wood used in houses built before the turn of the 20th Century are a more rot resistant wood than anything available today, no wood is rot or insect proof.  Insects and fungi (aka rot) love soft wood. Preferably soft, wet wood, which is why you’ll find termite damage in water logged areas of an old house. The soft pine, fir and other [...] Read on →

Selecting The Right Wood Finish

Wood Finishes

You could fill a library with the different ways of finishing wood. There are oils and lacquers, urethanes and stains, sealers and varnishes. Some are wiped on, some are sprayed, while still others are brushed on. I could fill a book on just this subject alone so this post will be more of a primer to get you pointed in the right direction. Finishing wood is as much an art as it is a science. Each finish can come [...] Read on →

25 Old House Terms Defined

Balusters in a balustrade

Old houses have a lot of terms that you may not be familiar with. So, having a working definition of those terms will help save you confusion and overuse of phrases like Whatchamacallit or Thingamajig. Save yourself the hassle with this handy guide to 25 old house terms you need to know. Baluster (Balustrade) – Balusters are sometimes referred to as spindles. They are the vertical members (often decorative) that make up railing on porches and stairways. A [...] Read on →

Choosing the Right Fastener (Part 2 Screws)

Choosing the right fastener

Last week we talked about how to pick the right nails for the job. You can read that post here. This week we’re going to discuss how to choose the right kind of screw for the job. There are tons of different kinds of screws. While you don’t have to deal with pneumatic sizing like you do with nails you have lots of variety in screws. We’ll talk about sizing which is important toward the end, but first [...] Read on →