Systematically, and sometimes not, the remodelings were peeled back till the original house was revealed along with all the problems. This is where your structural problems, and possible solutions are put into a plan. No, you don’t have to strip a house. In fact this is the last thing you should do. We stripped away all the incorrect material in preparation for the period of interpretation – 1822-24. This is something you need to determine if you’re going to apply for the investment tax credit. We took stock of the condition of the remaining materials, decided how to proceed and started to plan the process.
Key to the restoration was my wish to use as natural materials as possible and to do it as sustainably as possible. An existing historic structure is the most sustainable of all structures. The materials are all in place and the energy is already embodied in the structure. By adding a bit more energy and materials you have a shelter of character and history – or a sustainable structure – where energy, materials and culture were preserved. When you see a brand new building being touted in the news as sustainable, is it really? If no old materials were re-utilized, but only new factory built materials and equipment used, then there was a lot of energy put into its components and labor in erecting it. Who’s fooling who? It may save energy going forward, but not in the construction. So in our case this meant locally sourced materials and local labor adding to the energy embodied in the already existing building. Locally sourced didn’t mean the local home improvement store either who received in shipments from around the world. This meant sourcing local lumber from a local saw mill, milling and molding it ourselves, often by hand with hand tools, and painting it with our own formulated paint. I only shipped in what was needed if it was not available locally.
Energy efficiency was also a goal. I wanted the building to offer modern conveniences we all demand but at the least cost in energy consumption. Water consumption was also a goal and water saving appliances and fixtures were all sourced. Even the plumbing is unique delivering water directly to each fixture to minimize line loss. And as mentioned, once the historic colors were determined I mixed them myself as much as possible with basic naturally sourced ingredients. You decide in every purchase you make, consciously or not also. If you are of the same mind, you have the habit to go directly to the local store that you must break. Start to consider every time in every purchase the alternatives. Pause first, ask if there is an alternative to this paint, floor cover, wall finish, floor material. Can I refinish, salvage, reclaim, re-utilize? Its hard to do at first. You’ll end up with a mountain of materials. That’s the easy part. The hard part is the reclaiming and refinishing. You’ll make mistakes and poor decisions, but anyone can buy a house off the shelf.
Consider a restoration. The effort to preserve what is original, repair what is existing, but in need of some help returning it back to what it was in all its glory. If you have a commercial use in mind, such as a B&B or combination gift shop and apartment for yourself on the second floor, you may want to try for a historic tax credit. It’s a simple concept, that is somewhat difficult to execute. Too often the bureaucrats who spent way too much money on their education and are now trying to live off a government salary are going to help you as little as possible but sometime make the most unreasonable demands on you as they probably never lifted a hammer to ever attempt their own restoration, but will tell you what and how and no, you’re not qualified.