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 →

How To: Keep Critters Out of Your Crawlspace

how-to-keep-critters-out-of-your-crawlspace

Do you know who lives underneath your house? Do you want to know? Old houses are often home to a lot of unwanted visitors in the crawlspace and these unwanted pests can cause major damage to things like ductwork, electrical and plumbing. You need to find an attractive way to keep them out. And just for fun I’m going to see how many synonyms I can come up with for “critters” (that’s 1).   Old houses were often […] Read on →

6 Things That Can Wrong: Your Bath Remodel

6 things that can go wrong with your bath remodel

Remodeling the bathroom in an old house is an experience that turns out to be more difficult than a lot people expect. It’s not as easy as the HGTV shows make you think and it certainly doesn’t take a quick weekend to do right. After doing my fair share of bathrooms I figured I’d give you my list of things that can go terribly wrong with your bath remodel that many people never think about until it’s too […] Read on →

Is Your Siding…Vegan?

is your siding vegan?

Vegan is all the rage these days along with gluten-free everything. I remember as a kid the strangest diet I every heard of was a vegetarian which I could understand, but knew wasn’t for me. Today things are very different. The complexities with which people decide which food they will eat is baffling to me especially in the vegan world. I don’t have the energy or time to scrutinize all the details of where it was sourced from and […] Read on →

Preservation Lies

Preservation-Lies

I feel like I post on this topic more than almost anything else, but until the truth is readily known I feel it’s my obligation to let the world know how badly government and industries like the replacement window industry are lying to not just homeowners but also architects and contractors. If you care about spreading the truth about preservation then share this post as much as possible. Writing about the how-to’s of preservation usually has very little to do […] Read on →

How To: Make Distressed Wood Floors

how to make distressed wood floors

Usually I focus on how to restore the older elements of your house, but today I’ve got a little tutorial for making something new look old. My wife and I are just finishing our attic bedroom project (more on that soon) for our 2 boys and I have been working furiously to meet our (read: her) deadline for completion. One of the last pieces of the puzzle is installing wood floors. The rest of our 1929 house has […] Read on →

How To: Glaze Wood Windows

Tool surface to a smooth 45° bevel

Continuing our focus on window restoration to mark the release of my new book Old Windows Made Easy I decided to post about putty glazing today. This skill is one of the most important and difficult to get right. Proper glazing makes for long lasting, well-sealed windows. The good news is it doesn’t need to be perfect, just done well enough so that it sheds water and seals the glass properly. The nice thing about putty glazing is […] Read on →

Old Windows Made Easy

old-windows-made-easy-3D-cover

If there is one element of an old building I get more questions on it’s windows. How do I glaze my windows? What about lead paint? How do I fix a broken rope? The questions go on and on about this often misunderstood element. There are over a dozen books on the topic of repairing historic windows available today, and I have read almost every one of them. While they are usually full of valuable information none of them […] Read on →

What is a Bullseye Rosette?

Bullseye Rosette

This week’s Ask the Craftsman Question comes from Jasper. “What is a Bullseye Casing?” Jasper, a bullseye casing or a bullseye rosette is the item pictured here. Rosettes were historically a very popular way to dress up door and window casings. They also made installing interior casing much easier by eliminating mitred cuts. The head casing and side casings would simply intersect the rosette in a butt joint which simplified the process. There have been many different styles […] Read on →

How To: Cut Plaster Walls

how to cut plaster walls

Yes, there are times when you need to cut a hole in a plaster wall. And before you do it wrong and knock big chunks of plaster from your walls or ceilings I thought I’d give you some tips on how to cut plaster walls the right way. I see tragically destroyed original plaster walls all the time. Usually, the damage is courtesy of a hurried plumber or electrician who doesn’t care since they aren’t the ones patching […] Read on →

What is a Dovecote?

Dovecotes

This week’s Ask the Craftsman question comes from Jennifer. “I have these little pentagon shaped openings near my roof and I’m wondering if you can tell me what they are.” Jennifer, it sounds like you’ve got dovecotes which were a popular feature on mid-century storybook style houses. A lot of folks mistake them for attic vents and in all fairness that’s all they usually are in mid-20th century houses. Dovecotes were traditionally found in the homes of nobility […] Read on →

Why Do We Restore?

Why do we restore

I just returned from a much needed 10-day vacation visiting friends and family. Over that time I had a lot of time to slow things down and do some long overdue reading and reflecting. It wasn’t long before I knew exactly what I wanted my first post of the year to be. There was one question that kept coming to my mind and to be truthful I didn’t have a good answer. Why Do We Restore? I’m sure […] Read on →

How To: Research Your Home’s History

how to research your home's history

Most of us know little about our own home’s history, but researching your home’s history can uncover all kinds of interesting stories. For some properties that history begins with the city or county platting the area and opening it up to development. For others with very old properties it may go back far enough to include land grants from nobility. Either way it’s a lot of fun play detective to piece together decades or centuries of stories.   Making an […] Read on →

Taking Back Preservation

taking-back-preservation

I’ve watched too many old windows get ripped out of houses and throw to the curb over the years. It’s a wasteful tragedy that seems to only grow. Every year there are fewer and fewer of theses original windows in our historic buildings. It’s a disturbing trend that has made myself and other preservationists feel absolutely powerless in our aims to save America’s windows. My restoration company, like many others, works tirelessly restoring hundreds of old windows every […] Read on →