Old House RESTORATION Home
The home was purchased because of its historic character. True professionals will preserve and enhance that character--not demolish your property.
Demand a thorough inspection and firm real estimates in order to accurately calculate the cost.
Learn as much as you can through historic documentation about your home.
Program and Architectural Design
How do you and your family live your lives? How does the house need to work for you? How does modern living integrate into an old house and still increase the value of your house.
Construction and Restoration Drawings
Accurate, detailed drawings are essential for success.
There are numerous allowances or exceptions in permitting rules if you have an old house, and it's essential to have a good working relationship with your local building inspector to know where the rules can be modified. Everyone needs to agree on what can be done before you proceed. (See Massachusetts State Building Code 1 and 2 family, CMR-93.00 Existing Homes, 9309 Historic homes).
Selecting a Contractor
While the contractor's level of experience is important, the number of years' experience is less important than a thorough understanding of the preservation process and a willingness to participate in it.
Consider the scope of the project. Do you need a general contractor, a subcontractor, or a small versatile company? What trades will be involved? Is there masonry, carpentry, painting and roofing? Do you need electrical, plumbing, or heat and air work? Ask your contractor who his sub-contractors are. A company who did a good job last year may have an entirely different crew this year. Any company is only as good and reliable as its workmen.
Make sure your workmen are covered by workers
compensation insurance. The homeowner can be held responsible for injuries on
your property if the workmen are not covered. Small contractors or subs are
not required by law to carry comp insurance, however that doesn't remove
the liability. You may want to inquire about the contractor's credit. The
ability of a contractor to finance his operation, and your project, is key to the construction business. If a contractor is less
than financially stable, you could end up paying him for materials delivered
to your site and then paying for them again if he doesn't pay his supplier.
Review these issues with your contractor before you begin:
Are replacement materials "in-kind"? Efforts should be made to match existing
materials and more importantly, their dimensions and profiles. It is
reasonable to replace, for example, old wood with new wood rather than a
substitute material, while maintaining the dimensions and profile of the old
wooden component. It is usually acceptable to make replacement repairs by
repeating the original technology. Be careful, however, not to repeat a
previous unacceptable repair just because it was what was in place.
Read up on Historic Preservation Skills:
Historic Preservation Books at the Library (Courtesy of the Newburyport Preservation Trust)
"The American Builders Companion,"
3rd and 6th editions by Asher Benjamin
A series of lectures on the Internet on how to preserve your home from architectural styles, preservation techniques, dealing with masonry, windows and any other challenge your home may find for you!