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 →

How To Remove a Popcorn Ceiling (and keep your sanity!)

how to remove a popcorn ceiling

Popcorn ceilings came to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s and were a very popular ceiling treatment in homes across America. They became popular because of their inexpensive price tag and ability hide most ceiling imperfections. Rather than applying 3 coats of mud (joint compound) and sanding to perfection, builders could apply just one coat and then spray this thick covering over everything. Once the 1980s were over popcorn ceilings fell out of fashion along with leg warmers [...] Read on →

How To: Find Studs in a Plaster Wall

How to find studs in plaster wall

If you own an old house with plaster and lath walls you may have discovered how utterly useless a stud finder can be. Most smaller items can be hung pretty securely anywhere on the wall by screwing into the wood lath, but for heavy things that weight more than 10-15 lbs, like large mirrors and TVs, you’ll need to learn how to find studs in a plaster wall. Don’t waste your money on that stud finder. Try these [...] Read on →

How To: Repair Plaster Walls

How to repair plaster walls

Plaster walls are some of the most misunderstood parts of an old home. And many homeowners are quick to tear them down and put up drywall. But replacing plaster walls with drywall is not only a major mess and expense, but it also destroys the character of your home. Each plaster wall is unique. You can truly see the hand of the plasterer who made the wall as opposed to monolithically boring drywall. Combine that with the extra [...] Read on →

Why Drywall is Dead (and what I’m doing about it)

Old Drywall

Drywall is dead. Long live drywall. I can’t say that I’ll miss him (I’m assuming drywall is a him), but he seemed nice enough. Faster than a three-coat old-fashioned plaster job and less expensive to boot. But there has always been something about him I just couldn’t put my finger on. Something about drywall that made me a little nuts. And it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I figured it out . . .

My Yestermorrow Weekend

Yestermorrow Design Build School

I recently took the opportunity to travel up to the Mad River Valley in Vermont to attend a weekend workshop at Yestermorrow Design/Build School. Yestermorrow is anything but a traditional design/build school. They offer classes in some trades that are hard to find these days. Classes like plastering, straw-bale construction, tiny house design/build, woodworking, and sustainable design techniques. It was such a unique experience I just had to share it with you awesome folks.

Personality Types (Old House Style)

Old House Personality Type

Personality types are a fantastic way to learn a bit about yourself. There are countless tests like the DISC or Myers/Briggs. And there is one test you’ve probably not heard of. The reason you may have missed it is because . . . well . . . I just invented it. The “SPA” test is an important tool in diagnosing your “Old Home Personality Type,” before it’s too late.

Tudor Architectural Style

Ivy covered stone tudor. Note the slight flair of the roof at the soffit (a distinct dutch influence)

The Tudor style is one of the American Eclectic architectural styles that, like other American house styles, borrows heavily from the original Tudor style of England in the 16th century but adds its own regional American touches. In America, the dates for this style are loosely pegged between 1890 and 1940 though the most popular years were the 1920s and early 1930s when it closely rivaled the Colonial Revival as the most popular style in the country. Defining Characteristics 1890 [...] Read on →

5 Worst Mistakes of Historic Homeowners (Part 4 Plaster)

Plaster Wall Wood Lath

The walls of any pre-war house are most likely wood lath like in this picture covered with 3 coats of plaster. The work took a long time and was very labor intensive. Not to mention it required a skilled plasterer to make sure the plaster was properly applied and the wall was smooth and level. Then when the GIs returned home from WWII the baby (and housing) boom hit America, and there was a huge demand for quick [...] Read on →

How To Repair Old Plaster

Crumbling Plaster Wall

One of the easiest mistakes to make when renovating a historic home is to tear down the old plaster walls and replace them with modern drywall and joint compound. This not only destroys the historic architecture and features that make a historic home great, but it also adds to the overall costs of the project exponentially. Lime plaster has been in use for thousands of years from Japan to Egypt and has been employed in many historic structures [...] Read on →

American Queen Anne Style

A Queen Anne in all its splendor is a beautifully ornate and complex piece of architecture.

The Queen Anne was a vastly popular form of high-style architecture in America from about 1880-1910. It is somewhat less common in the heavily populated states of the northeast; however, the cotton rich states of the New South have some of the most fanciful examples. The style was popularized by a group of 19th century architects led by Richard Norman Shaw. The name is rather inappropriate, for the historical precedent used by Shaw and his followers had little [...] Read on →