Monday, December 13, 2010

Newest Threat for Period Structures

It is always a bit of a shock to me how insensitive builders and subcontractors can be toward period structures. And it's not the stick build remodeling contractors that are the threat but rather the proliferation of restoration contractors who purport to be the absolute authority on period structures and what is best for their care and well being. I don't necessarily blame the home owners. They are looking for guidance usually. An experienced well informed restoration contractor should be in the position of properly advising the owner what is best. However, I have been consulting on many projects over the last few years that have shaken my belief that most of these restorationists are well versed in the proper stewardship of our architectural heritage.
There are many factors that contribute to this new threat to period structures. Not the least of which is the energy issue. Despite the efforts of excellent preservationists such as John Leeke, we continue to see period houses having their original windows ripped out and replaced with vinyl clad argon filled disasters. Not only has the antiquity of the structure been compromised, it has now had its aesthetic ruined.
I recently revisited a wonderful ca 1750 center chimney two story Connecticut colonial of extraordinary historic significance. I was one of many who helped to dismantle the residence and relocate it to another state. So intact was this house, we even moved the chimney stack intact. The care that was taken resulted in a restoration/relocation of museum quality. I was very pleased as I toured the house that it is still very much the way we left it twenty some years ago. However, when I entered the thrid floor level, I was shocked to see that all of the roof framing and white oak sheathing boards are now coated with foam insulation. Ruined forever. That material can never be removed from those 260 year old materials. A classic case of a miss guided owner being convinced that the energy savings from the foam would easily offset any compromise to the historic integrity of the structure.
I feel so passionate about this insidious destruction of our historic structures, I plan on writing several posts about the dangers.
It is absolutely critical that owners of period structures get the correct advice. It is so readily available but so often overlooked. Historic New England's Historic Homeowner program is an excellent souce for getting proper guidance while supporting a venerable organization. More on that soon.


Anonymous said...

Amen to that Wade, I in my short time of interest in period structures have found that those who wish to have period homes with modern amenities to often sacrifice the integrity of the homes to modernize. Why by a period home if you do not wish to live in a period home is a question I often ask after seeing what some folks decide to do to them.

Juniperhillfarm said...

Hi Wade! Great post and I'm really enjoying the blog!--Joe Valentine