Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Biggest Restoration Job I’ve Ever Done


Julia and I bought our property three years ago with the mind to build our own house with our own hands. We talked about the idea of building new but also were hoping we could find an historic home that needed salvation from demolition. We had been casually inquiring about a few places and kept our eyes peeled for a good local candidate for restoration but this spring our vision came to a new clarity.


We found a 200 year old cape which has been vacant for 35 years. This old homestead of a local family has been cherished by the community all these years. It is in need of serious cosmetic and foundation work but is otherwise sound. Julia and I fell in love with it and decided to pursue the family about restoring it.

The Federal Parlor

The Greek Revival Parlor

This house just narrowly escaped a bulldozer because, thankfully, the family was willing to negotiate with us crazy kids from Sedgwick rather than have it leveled. We will be carefully disassembling it and labeling every piece, thoroughly documenting and diagramming everything. Once the trim, flooring, doors, studs, frame, staircase, etc are disassembled, we will be storing it for a few years until we can get ourselves organized to put it up to replace the manufactured house on our property. 


This is the most extreme version of historical preservation but there really is not much hope for the house besides this strategy. The current stone foundation is caving in, the first floor joists and sills are rotted away, and the place is in general disarray. Restoring it on onsite would be an outrageous investment. We will need to do some frame repairs and restore the original elements that have been Victorianized. (Like the front doors, kitchen, middle room, etc.) We plan to return it to original as close as we can decipher. 





The house has to be all packed up and off site by July 31st so I will be hiring some help. I’ll be out there at least three days a week with a crew of friends. I also have hired a house restoration specialist who will be advising and guiding us through the process. We are really excited about this house. It perfectly suits us and we hope we will be able to give this gem a new life.



The corner posts were hewed out so that they would have nice tidy corners in the room


I think it goes without saying you can expect more about this to follow...

16 comments:

  1. You make my kind of crazy look sane ;-)

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    1. Ha! Glad I could help you place your mental condition in context. "At least I'm not as crazy as that guy!"

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  2. Hi Josh: Lots of stripping to do. Have you tested for lead based paint? Steve

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    1. No need. I know the paint is 200 years old.

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  3. Hi Josh,
    My wive Mair and I did the same thing back in 1982 with a "poor man's" Greek revival house we took down on Mud Pond Lane in East Nassau NY and moved into the woods on a hilltop overlooking the Delaware, in NJ. It was one of the great adventures of our life. I'm sure you'll have a great time. You'll end up with an old house with all of it's wonderful textures, but well insulated, with all the outlets and plumbing you'll need and no rot left hidden away anywhere. Enjoy the ride!
    David

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    1. David, that is exactly our thought. It's the best of both worlds! Thanks for the encouragement!

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  4. Hi Joshua.

    What a fine project.
    I am sure it will be worth the effort.
    Best of luck to you both on the project.
    Brgds
    Jonas

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  5. As if you didn't have enough on your plate! Congratulations and keep spreading the inspiration...

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  6. Josh, that house looks like it has great potential. I think you guys will do it justice.

    Be sure to come up for a breath every now and again.

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  7. Looks like a enjoyable and rewarding project . Is that chimney new? A friends house in Indiana had the corner beams notched out like in you photo.

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  8. I wish y'all the best with this endeavor, This will be a new chapter in your life, Take it one day at a time.Nothing will go as you want. Just take it head on my friend...

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  9. An awe inspiring undertaking. Just wondering if anyone has ever done a comparison of the cost of a restoration like this versus actually just replicating the exact house from scratch using new materials? If so, how does the comparison work out?

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    1. I am not aware of any detailed study on that but when I think about the labor comparison there is no contest. It's a lot easier to pull trim off the wall than remake it with hand tools and cut it all to fit. Besides, after recreating all that it still wouldn't have the patina of 200 years of usage.

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  10. A year has passed since we purchased our 1827 Cape from a family that had owned it for eight generations. We were blessed with its condition. It's the youngster of our homes as we own an 1825 in New Hampshire. One day a young man and his children came to our door asking if they might look around as he had been raised in the house. Very special! Our best wishes on this adventure.

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