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Restoring a Heritage Home

Restoring a heritage home – old, yes, but not forgotten

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Restoring a heritage home – old, yes, but not forgotten

Transforming a heritage home into a real estate jewel through a renovation or restoration is a labour of love – it requires a commitment to architectural character and a willingness to meet the challenge of unexpected surprises along the way. If your client has hired you to preserve the look, but update certain areas, the following are five broad categories that you’ll want to investigate.

HISTORY

Age, general architectural style and condition

Learn as much as you can about the history of the building. The historical society can be a good resource. Also, check archives for any old permits, drawings, photos, or newspaper articles about former owners. Learning about the lives of the people who built and lived in the house can help with restoration decisions. Many styles of architecture have played a role in our history, from Queen Anne, Victorian to Colonial Revival. Occasionally, you might also find a true Arts and Crafts style home too. It’s worth documenting the details of the home and checking books at your local library (or on the Internet) to determine its exact style. By learning the age of the home, who its former occupants were and its architectural style, you’ll be able to more easily piece together the “historic” puzzle for your client.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Structure, electrical, plumbing, heating-cooling and drainage

As far as condition goes, it’s worth investing in the services of a home inspector who is knowledgeable about historic architecture. He or she will be able to create a report that identifies potential problem areas and suggest viable, cost-effective solutions.

Problems with infrastructure can range from knob and tube wiring to clay pipes in plumbing. Foundations can be problematic as well, as old concrete can settle and crack, causing the building to shift; a pencil or a marble placed on the floor may well provide you with a heads-up. Any horizontal cracks in the concrete indicate severe settling and could mean costly repairs. If you suspect any underlying issues with the structure, it’s best to have it inspected by a structural engineer.

Envelope, roof, insulation, walls, windows and doors

Before changing any of the elements that make up the envelope of the building, ensure that replacements or repairs will maintain the architectural character.

Windows and doors on old homes can be problematic due to rotten wood and energy inefficiency. Luckily, most historical boards recognize this and let owners replace them with more modern choices as long as the general character is the same. However, if you are fortunate enough to have windows with stained or art glass, consider hiring an expert to restore them.

Many older homes were originally insulated with horsehair or newspaper. Newer homes, but older than 1990 may also have vermiculite insulation which likely contains asbestos. In most cases, an investment is needed to remove the old insulation and properly insulate the walls, the attic and the roof. Energy rebates may be available for this.

Interior furniture, fixtures, materials and decorative trim

The interior design of a heritage property can be very detailed, and it’s important to decide which characteristics contribute to the value of the home. Ceiling details and interior trim — such as door stiles and rails, wainscoting and any decorative motifs — can be extremely valuable and worth preserving or restoring to its original state. Wallpaper patterns can be replicated and heritage paint colours are available.

Door and window hardware is often bronze, copper or crystal. Sometimes missing fixtures or ornate lighting can be found in architectural salvage stores.

The fireplace was the focus of many older homes. Oftentimes, mantel and hearth details were spectacular and included carved wood or marble. Make sure the home inspector is a bit of a detective as well and removes bits of paint in inconspicuous areas to see if you own a hidden treasure.

Landscaping, hardscape, plantings and style

The landscaping of a historic property can’t be overlooked. Many of our forebears brought their gardening skills with them from England, Italy and France, where gardens were outdoor living spaces. While it may be difficult to determine from an initial observation of what a garden may have once looked like, old photos can provide valuable clues.

Scent gardens, formal seating areas tucked into the shrubbery, and decorative ironwork gateways that framed views of other landscape elements. Gardens can give a heritage property context and take a historic home from stunning to truly spectacular.

SAMANTHA SANNELLA, BFA ID, M ARCH, is a designer, educator and principal at Urban Retreat Homes.

She is an expert in the field of design and construction and is a columnist for several HOMES Publishing Group publications.


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PRODUCT PROFILE: The Pella Difference

PRODUCT PROFILE: The Pella Difference

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PRODUCT PROFILE: The Pella Difference

Whether your home is traditional, contemporary or somewhere in between, Pella has the right options to complement your design needs

With Pella, you get so much more than stunning windows and doors. Its goal is to exceed your expectations well beyond standard product requirements and service. At Pella, quality is at the heart of what it does. They test their products to help ensure the designs will withstand the test of time.

Since the founding of the company in Pella, Iowa, they have challenged themselves continuously to improve. And as a leader in technology and product innovation, Pella has never been satisfied with the status quo. Pella, is committed to doing things right — even if it means doing things a little differently. With features, like blinds between-the-glass and screens that roll up and out of sight, its products are designed to make life a little easier.

Pella Windows and Doors are made specifically for your home because one size does not fit all. Whether your home is traditional, contemporary or somewhere in between, Pella has the right options to complement your design needs. Make your home your own with details perfect for you. With access to more materials, colours and options than other brands, Pella allows you to let your inner interior designer roam free.

Pella understands that home improvement planning can be overwhelming. That’s why it does everything they can to make working with Pella as easy as possible, every step of the way. Pella is passionately committed to bringing you windows and doors that transform your home into the place you’ve always dreamed of. With Pella, you are free to express yourself with a stunning array of unique and innovative window and door design choices. Then you can just sit back and enjoy your new home. After all, you’ve earned it.

Inspired design. Exceptional detail. That’s the Pella difference.

Pella.com


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Body & Soul: Live with Ease - Home adjustments for barrier-free living

Body & Soul: Live with Ease

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Body & Soul: Live with Ease

by Jayne Hobbs

Photography, bigstock.com

Home adjustments for barrier-free living

In a definition from Medical-Dictionary. TheFreeDictionary.com – barrier-free refers to structural or architectural design that does not impede use by individuals with special needs. Currently, there are more than four million Canadians living with disabilities. Aging is one of the biggest contributors – and as the boomer generation ages, this figure is expected to snowball.

It’s increasingly important to adapt our living space in a barrier-free manner. An annual physical will keep us in tune to our body’s requirements – both physically and mentally. Being aware of changing needs will help us to stay safe, and reduce the risk of falls. Often the self-imposed barriers that we put on ourselves can be can be improved. With adaptations to our homes, we can enjoy our retirement in an environment that’s conducive to our changing needs.

HOME SAFETY TIPS

Each of us has unique needs as it relates to barrier-free living. Accessibility and safety are the main concerns as we age. Our mobility is often affected, making us more prone to falling.

As we enter our elder chapter of life, its often difficult to speculate future needs. If renovating and redesigning your existing home, or purchasing a new home for your retirement, factor in these safety tips.

  • DECLUTTER: Remove items that may cause falls, such as scatter rugs, electric cords, bedspreads that may drag on the floor (many falls occur by tripping on bedding in the middle of the night), as well as items on the stairs, stacks of paper and anything that impedes you from moving around safely.
  • LIGHTING: Luminous lighting should be placed evenly throughout the house. Include night lights or motion detector lighting in halls, stairways, bathrooms and poorly lit areas.
  • FLOORS: Use only slip-resistant throw rugs and bathmats, and avoid high-shine, slippery flooring.

  • STAIRS: Consider placing a hand rail on both sides of the stairs, as well as a secure runner if the stairs are slippery. Again, remove any clutter, and when necessary, install an electric lift.

  • DOORS: Change doorknobs to lever handles, and use pull-outs on cabinets for easier access.

  • GRAB BARS: These are one of the most useful, and safety conscious, items that you can install. Ideal for bathtubs, showers and beside the toilet, they can also be installed anywhere in the house where extra support is needed.
  • COUNTERTOPS AND CABINETS: In both the kitchen and bathroom, keep them tidy and only have necessary items within reach. Consider pull-out shelving and adjustable countertops.
  • FAUCETS: Touch faucets are fairly new on the market, and are definitely worth investing in.
  • BATHROOMS: Walk-in tubs and showers that include seating are highly recommended. Other considerations include, higher toilets or raised safety seats that help with aging knees, as well as slip-resistant flooring, and re-setting the water to a lower temperature in order to prevent scalding.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Transitions from one flooring surface to another should be level, as well as all walkways for easy access. It might be necessary to install a ramp or railings where you enter your home. Likewise, widening door openings may be a future requirement.

Inside your home, everything you need on a regular basis should be easily accessible. Use a mobile phone, and ensure that all important numbers have been programmed in.

These helpful suggestions can be adapted to your existing home environment to help prevent accidents – making aging-in-place a realistic reality.


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