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Historic and Structural Restoration

A fascinating area of home remodeling requiring specialized knowledge and skills is that of historic restoration. Generally, houses built prior to 1945 exhibit vastly different technology from those built since then, mainly because of the advent of modern uniform building codes and practices. Furthermore, houses built before the 1920’s vary even more extensively, while those built prior to 1900 are as different from each other as were the personalities and whims of the individual carpenters and contractors that built them.

Each decade brought with it new methods and techniques, sometimes changing for the better, sometimes not. Although materials technology steadily advanced through the years, there was a steady deterioration of craftsmanship and pride in work, most notably after 1945. One distinct result of the Second World War on the housing market was the realization by most of the world’s people that buildings and construction could, by extreme necessity, be built far more quickly and cheaply than ever before. Unfortunately, with that realization came the almost universal abandonment of many cherished arts and crafts, such as plaster wall interiors, highly detailed woodwork, decorative ornamentation and other “hand built” amenities. And with the decreased demand and appreciation for the detail crafts came the gradual loss of craftsman able to perform the specialized craft-work. Of course, the improvements in plumbing and electrical systems are indisputable, as plumbing was thankfully just starting to come indoors in the late 1800’s and gradual electrification in the following three decades.

It is working within this realm of “lost art” that we regularly perform small and large miracles of craftsmanship every day. We are very experienced with and knowledgeable of the peculiarities of older homes and have developed various methods for remodeling them successfully and sensitively. Visit our project gallery to view some renovations in and of historic homes. Over the years we have accumulated a vast collection of antique house parts and recycled wood and materials. What we don’t have on hand can usually be obtained through our network of suppliers. And in the rare case that an item can’t be found or repaired, we have the skills and resources to reproduce it in our shop.

Structural elements and techniques of construction also varied widely as home building evolved. Performing successful alterations on vintage homes today requires a combined knowledge and experience of engineering principles, strength of materials, antiquated methods, and attention to forensic details. For example, a customer may wish to remove a wall that appears upon first examination to have been built as a non-bearing partition when the house was originally constructed. It is possible that years of settling have now placed an unintentional, yet heavy weight upon this wall, and it is only through experience and careful examination of certain clues that a safe and proper load-carrying beam can be designed to support the load during a remodel.

These “clues” can also reveal other interesting aspects of the house’s history, such as “ghost lines” of an old porch or elaborate millwork having been removed at some point. With careful thought and craft work, these once beautiful period details can be re-created and restored, thus helping return that part of the house to the former charm and character of a particular time period.

It is often a better choice to restore and repair, rather than replace elements of a vintage home, if the properly skilled craftsmen are available. This way the historic integrity, or “fabric” of the house remains intact.

The work could be as simple as patching, or “toothing” in a section of cherished wood flooring so the repair is invisible, or a complex addition to a vintage house designed and built so that all elements of the addition pick up the elements of the original house.

The ultimate complement we can and do receive is when a customer or visitor comments that the remodeled area looks just like the original, or more simply, the question is often asked of the homeowner, “what work have you had done? I can’t tell the new from the old!”.

Many of these restoration talents also transcend themselves into modern construction and remodeling as well. Today, there is a trend in some design circles toward a more “traditional” appearance in new construction and remodeling. What better choice of a contractor could you possibly make than to choose a company that already specializes in historic restoration, thus possessing the necessary “eye” for design, the sensitivity, the skills, and the knowledge to create the traditional theme you may be seeking. There is also a tremendous variety of new building products and materials available today to help achieve this traditional style, from replica period kitchen appliances (with modern operations), to pressed “tin” ceiling panels, to ornate vintage plumbing fixtures and tile, to genuine solid wood “replacement” windows.

Please contact us with any questions or comments you may have about your project or this very unique service.

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