Home Remodeling: What Should You Keep? (Pt. 2)

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Home Remodeling: What Should You Keep? (Pt. 2)

6) Windows. If your home is a century or more old and its windows are original, the best approach to home remodeling almost always is to conserve rather than replace them. New weatherstripping can be added quite inexpensively, as can storms (sometimes on the inside, especially on historic houses). Old glazing compound can be repaired and even rotted elements can be replaced or the wood stabilized with epoxy or other consolidants. On newer houses, good copies of the original windows may well be available inexpensively. Whether you choose to replace or restore, do try to retain the original configuration. A homeowner who replaces the original multilight windows with single-pane sash (substituting, say, 1/1s for 6/6s) will change the appearance of a house, rather in the way that a pencil drawing is transformed when someone erases some of the shading. It’s probably a bad idea.

home remodeling7) Doors. As with windows and other details, try to save original doors. Doors removed in one part of the house can be recycled elsewhere. Find similar style doors at architectural salvage – they don’t have to be identical, but if they resemble the originals, they won’t seem out of place.  The hold-on-to-the-original notion applies to exterior doors, too. Replacing a paneled front door that shows the wear and tear of many years may seem like just the right thing to do to save energy and tighten up the house. Yet many replacement doors today – sometimes of steel, often with faux graining stamped into the sheet metal – look like the architectural equivalent of a black eye. Think first about restoring the original door or, at least, finding a replacement in the same spirit as the original.

8) Hardware. Most vintage houses have been altered over the years and, typically, hardware is among the first elements to be changed. Hardware can wear out or break. Changing tastes may make a different style of doorknob desirable. Added security may call for updated locks. As a result, many houses have a range of hardware. Past remodelers may also have skimped on hardware. In new construction, most contractors specify inexpensive hinges and lock sets – and they look cheap, too, as the plating scrapes off. Often the quality of hardware changes from the public sections of the house to the private – expensive mortise locks in a high-style Victorian house often give way to simple latches in upstairs bedrooms. Know what your house has for hardware. Make sure you recognize the evolution of locks, latches, hinges, door knockers and bells, hooks, and the rest. Hardware is too often overlooked, both as a source of style ideas and for the clues it can offer about how the house was changed over time. A simple latch from an upstairs cupboard can prove to be the inspiration for the closure on the cabinets in your new kitchen or, when removed from a door, may reveal unpainted wood beneath, indicating it is original.

Other Original Elements: Not Necessarily Intended for the Public Eye. The skeleton of the house – its wooden frame, usually visible in the cellar and attic – may also give you some ideas. Solid old beams have been revealed in many old houses, though they often look like what they are: rough structural elements that the builders never for a moment intended visitors to see. Old masonry is to be regarded with the same wary eye: always conserve what you can, but don’t be tempted to reveal surfaces if you believe that was never the mason’s intention. Sloppy, untooled mortar joints and broken brick pieces that are just packed at random into openings are signs of masonry work that was to be covered up, perhaps by plaster or other surfaces. – Bob Vila

Interested in home remodeling? Contact Medina Exteriors today, (330)591-4040


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