Implementation: When buying an older property, proper maintenance is essential | South County Life Magazine
Old homes, especially around coastlines, can be battered by inclement weather, rot and neglect. Homeowners can take a variety of steps to protect their investment and preserve the history of what is found on many country roads, seaside roads, and village streets.
“All owners like these should keep a good Rolodex with the names and numbers on hand of the various contractors they might need. It is priceless, ”said Jeff Sweenor, owner of Sweenor Builders and historic Wakefield home improvement contractor frequently featured on the“ This Old House ”television series.
Many considerations go into the maintenance of these homes. The nationally recognized Nantucket Preservation Society, along with Sweenor and Erica Luke, Executive Director of the South County History Center, offer the following suggestions.
These apply whether the house is on a historic register or simply a large old structure that new or existing owners appreciate for its character. Anyone planning work in a locally or state designated historic district should check the additional requirements.
Luke advises real estate professionals and others who are simply buying the home for a quick clean and repair before reselling it to pay attention to historic woodwork.
“You don’t have to paint it white – or any color – to sell a home, and it’s actually more difficult for homeowners to maintain than the natural wood finish. Once the woodwork is painted, it will be difficult to reverse it, ”she said.
Additionally, consider an experienced contractor who specializes in repairing and renovating older homes. Check with local historic district officials for the names of reputable contractors. Ask for three references and call them before hiring someone to work on your property.
■ Create a work plan and schedule. Routine maintenance, like cleaning and painting, especially on a building’s exterior, will help minimize rot and the need for expensive repairs. The sea air and humid winters invite the invasion of humidity. Develop a maintenance schedule with priorities and dates.
■ Limit the scope of repairs and keep original or period details. Some historic trim, around windows and doors and along the cornice or roofline, may need to be replaced. Try to replace only damaged wood. It preserves the rest and saves money and maintains historical integrity. When replacing, take detailed photos before removing them and replace them with a new one, if necessary, a duplicate that matches the original.
■ Maintain historic windows. A related misconception is that new windows are better than historic wood windows. New windows will need to be replaced every 20 to 30 years. Historic windows, if properly maintained, can last for centuries, and there are steps a homeowner can take to improve energy efficiency that don’t translate into perfectly good old windows that end up in a discharge. Research similar homes and how windows can be preserved, and chat with conservation experts.
■ Main maintenance items. Check for water and moisture, especially the roof and basement, and seal in moisture of any kind. Check the plumbing, heating, insulation, hazardous electrical wiring from a previous period or installed without proper permits or inspections and the integrity of structural beams in the basement and elsewhere in the home.
■ Take special care when repairing masonry. More and more old bricks are disappearing because of the mistakes of the past. The main culprit is the improper use of Portland cement. Portland cement is generally not compatible with historic brick and its use can lead to brick damage and structural problems. It is essential to hire a mason who understands the importance of matching mortar to brick.
■ Additions to the structure. Make everything compatible with the old one and avoid extending or enlarging it so that it eclipses the main structure.
■ Maintain the quirks. Straighten that window? Not necessarily. Leave evidence showing the building’s changes and its age. Structural damage can be stabilized while retaining the elements that give the home a sense of place. Cherish the things that show how your home has aged over the generations.
■ Maintain historic interior features. The interior of your home can reveal a wealth of information about its previous owners. Defining elements of the interior may include transoms (that little strip of glass above the doors); panel doors; door hardware; moldings around doors and windows and embedded in plaster, such as chair rails and picture moldings. Some unique features such as moldings or woodwork between windows also tend to remain in many older homes.
■ Keep your plastered walls. In recent years, most conservation contractors know the benefits of holding back plaster walls and repairing them, and if necessary replacing poorly maintained sections. Architectural historians know that old plaster can reveal clues to the building’s evolution by showing the location of old walls and other features. Plastering is definitely a profession, but look for a qualified contractor who can handle this traditional building technique.
■ Pay special attention to your old wood floors. Fortunately, most people want to keep the old floors of a historic home, but there is a right and wrong way to look after them. Too often, old flooring is sanded too much, reducing its overall lifespan and at the same time destroying its antique character. The old floors were planed by hand. Hand sanding, when possible, is one way to keep their character. Simple cleaning and waxing can also work wonders and will retain the old patina.
■ Do your homework and ask questions. Owning an old home can be difficult, as dozens of issues arise when you first become a homeowner. Finding the right material, the right method, or the right person to work on your home isn’t always easy, and sometimes the answers are hard to come by. Research online and ask questions. The South County History Center can help you find photographs that will help with the restoration project. Talk to multiple contractors and get quotes before you agree to work.
■ The National Register of Historic Places. It recognizes buildings, sites, etc. historic sites which have historical significance and which retain their historical integrity. As a general rule, properties must be at least 50 years old to be considered. Today, properties built before 1971 can be listed. Post-war homes and neighborhoods and mid-century modern buildings are regularly added, and there are plenty of properties in South County that could qualify for the National Register without their owners even realizing it. account.
■ Construction of buildings. It can be difficult to maintain / repair homes over 60 years old. Older houses were built with stronger materials, but these materials are difficult to find today. Making a repair or finding a replacement for a newer, historic home may be easier, but the homeowner may find themselves repeating the same repair over the years. Most buildings built after 1940 were designed to be built quickly and inexpensively. These buildings were typically constructed with more standardized prefabricated materials (ie, mass-machined lumber) and newly developed materials (plastics and other synthetics). These materials have a much shorter lifespan than the materials used in pre-war buildings.