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What’s Old Is New Again—Historic Homes Meet New Owners

Victorian Home

Everyone knows that given enough time every past fashion will come back into style, and this includes in architectural design. In the last 20 years historic homes have come back into demand again around the United States like Society Hill in Philadelphia, the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, the French Quarter in New Orleans, Oak Park in Chicago, Pioneer Square in Seattle, and San Francisco’s Mission District. Along with the charm of Victorian, Bungalow or Art & Crafts houses, new home and business owners alike will also encounter spots that need elbow grease from wear and tear of past decades. After closing on your historical dream home or building here’s an easy way to check off needed renovations going from top to bottom:

1. The Roof

The Roof

Tom Silva, general contractor for This Old House, likes to remind his audience that putting a roof over your head isn’t a one-time investment. “If your roof is more than 20 years old, there’s a good chance it’s due for replacement.” Today there are a variety of roof coatings that can serve as an alternative to completely replacing the structure that are easier on your wallet and more environmentally friendly. Depending on whether your roofing is a metal, clay or concrete tile, metal or asphalt shingle, or fiber cement there are specific coatings to restore and protect the roof from exposure. Other important factors to notice will be the roof’s slope, expected daily heat, UV, and chemical exposure, and its ponding water. Tiny leaks can cause big damages in rotted framing, mold, insulation loss, and ceiling destruction but if you catch the symptoms of a leak early the fix can be relatively easy. Some examples would to be to replace the flashing or fill in worn out caulking with a siliconized-latex version that is resistant to joint movement.

2. The Siding

The Siding

Preventative care taken for walls is just as important as the roof. Sometimes roof leaks are actually the culprit of improperly sealed walls, particularly around access points like windows or doors on buildings or homes with multiple levels. Siding Magazine gives tips to new owners on how to spot moisture damage from faulty siding such as cracking, pulling or warping from the wall, or paint that fades much quicker than it should (ie. 2-3 years after application). Just like roofs, siding comes in a variety of materials like cedar shingle, aluminum, vinyl, and clapboard. One new siding version is fiber-cement; it is a combination of wood pulp and cement that gives it a great value from a durability perspective, AND can be painted to look like any of the former materials to preserve a vintage aesthetic. To help prevent siding failure in the future a high-quality sealer or coating should always be applied prior to painting.

Similarly to the siding, the interior walls of your home are definitely going to reveal uneven or damaged surfaces from foundational changes or just daily use. One of the easiest ways to conceal unsightly blemishes is to apply a textured finish to walls. Textured paint can add depth and richness to color choices and soften the harsh edges and angles of a room with its’ subtle pattern. Many textured products today are available pre-mixed as a finish and coating, and can be applied pain-free with an airless sprayer. Depending on the style you want your older home to have you can choose a texture as refined as Venetian plaster, or something classic but subdued like orange peel.

3. The Deck and Drive

The Deck and Drive

The hallmarks of many older homes are the front porches and stoops that are usually adorned with a charming loveseat swing. If the floorboards feel unforgiving to the feet, however, it is probably time for a cleaning, re-sanding, and new coat of stain. The Family Handyman gives step-by-step instructions on how to prevent decks from cracking and splintering with specialty coatings that will fill all knots, holes, and cracks. Coatings will actually solidify the deck and return texture and traction to its surface to prevent injuries from slipping. Do note that different products are made for vertical structures and horizontal structures of decks. Likewise, if you have a cement or concrete patio, driveway, or garage that is showing watermarks or cracking, nip that in the bud before giving additional moisture time to collect under your structure. There are some amazing concrete and stone sealers available that can transform concrete to resemble marble, adding a high sheen, non-slip texture, and foundational protection.

There are a number of projects between the top to bottom that will enhance the aesthetics of your home such as repainting doors, updating cabinets, and installing new window treatments, but the above three are important basics to hone in on during the initial maintenance of your new-to-you historical home.

How you ever taken on a historic home renovation? What do you look for?