Tips for Historic Home Owners {#7 Hire a Specialist}

I think my family doctor is great. He really is! And one of the reasons he is so great is because he sends me to the best specialists in town. He sent me to a no-nonsense ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) when I needed my tonsils out, a very sweet-natured allergist when my hay fever almost killed me, and I’m sure he will know the perfect specialist for whatever my next dilemma is.

He is smart enough (he is a doctor after all!) to know that nothing beats a well trained specialist! The same holds true for your historic home.

If you are planning a renovation the best thing you can do is hire a historic home specialist. The biggest blunders I run into are from handymen and general contractors who don’t know how to work with the unique materials and techniques present in an old home. Plaster isn’t the same as drywall. Balloon framing is different from platform framing. And wood windows are worlds apart from vinyl. If you want to keep your historic home looking historic, hire a contractor who specializes in historic renovations. Otherwise, you might end up with this . . .

Remuddled Bungalow

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by Scott Sidler

I'm a historic preservationist and author. I help old house lovers understand & restore their homes so they can enjoy the history and character that surrounds them more everyday! When not working, writing or teaching about old houses I spend most of my time fixing up my own 1929 bungalow with my wife Delores and son Charley.

http://www.austinhomerestorations.com

2 comments

  1. Keith on said:

    The home pictured above far exceeds a poorly or even moderately performed historic renovation (although the details aren’t great in general). It is rare that you will be able to match existing historic details well and in my opinion it is far better to build according to your age and period. It is what adds texture to our towns and neighborhoods and keeps the project of Architecture alive.

    If you are going to replace or enlarge a window, repair a bay window or add a small dormer, get a contractor who excels in historic work, however if you are adding a floor to your house or an addition to the back, why would you use faux period details to blend it into the neighborhood (unless the house is in a historic district, however many jurisdictions will PREVENT you from copying historic work for additions to historic buildings)?

    • Keith, I would agree that as far as the “quality of the workmanship” goes I’m sure the addition is excellently built; however, it creates a terribly disjointed and confused house.

      New architecture is always welcome in my opinion but not as a part of a structure that’s style doesn’t lend itself to that new architecture. I really enjoy new (well designed) homes scattered amongst old homes.

      And as someone who’s made a career out of matching historic details I can assure it can be done and done well. No faux beams or fake details. You build it to complement the existing workmanship and style not contrast it.

      But that’s just my 2 cents. Thanks for the differing point of view!

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