What Should I be Asking?

Old_Home_LoverFebruary 11, 2013

We bought a 138 y/o home that is in pretty good shape for something that has been essentially uninhabited for over half a century. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to RESTORE not remodel an historic home and this place fits the bill, having been built by one of the first settling families in the area. I recognize that there are many things beyond my capabilities and plan to undertake a lot of careful learning and planning in order to do this correctly.

To that end we are having a consultant who works on historic restorations come and do a 'game plan' of the needs for this house before we begin any work. His name is Michael Gioulis and comes pretty highly recommended by some companies that have done large-scale restorations of historic districts and such in the region.

I wondered if anyone here has ever worked with Mr. Gioulis, and if so what was your experience; but mostly I want to know what would you ask? We will be doing a top-to-bottom inspection of the home and I want to be sure to tap him for the correct information. Some things are obvious but I don't want to miss the opportunity to ask something that with my dearth of experience hasn't occurred to me.

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it looks like you are in very good hands. Mr. Gioulis has probably forgotten more than I'll ever know about historic preservation and building systems.

It is paramount that you have a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish and communicate that to your consultant. He is there to work for you. Do you want an open floor plan? Do you want the traditional floor plan? What kind of energy efficiency to you expect? He needs to know all of these things. You wouldn't want to waste his time and your money creating a perfect reproduction and then you're left asking, 'hey, where's the master bath?'

I would ask questions about the foundation and the first floor joists (they often rot in the old stone pockets), the roof. I would think about site grading (water should drain away from the house). I would ask about what he thinks is original and what was added on later. I would ask a lot about floor plan and what he thinks might work.

I would ask a lot about a plan for updating the mechanical systems and air returns in particular, which are always lacking in the old houses.

I'm sure others more knowledgeable than I will chime in.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 9:56AM
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OP said its been a "lifelong dream to restore, not remodel," so that suggests to me that he/she is wanting to work WITH the house, not against it. It's not about "creating a reproduction," some sort of Disneyland version of an old house, its about being in tune with what the house ALREADY IS, and working with that, making the most of it. Which is not to say there can't be some judicious tweaks and changes here and there. But very often there is a logic to it that people come to understand - either you grow up in one or live in one long enough to know For example - the modern craze of large cavernous spaces and tearing out walls. Well, this may not work in an old house, or even be necessary because old houses often have ginormous windows and tall ceilings which keep the house feeling airy and light enough. Actually, depending on the era/style, it may have open dining/living spaces already like some of the earlier farmhouses around here I've seen. Whatever - the idea is working with, and not against.

And so I would go into this yeah, maybe with some ideas and thoughts about what you might think you want - but do be open to suggestions and learning. You are getting information right now which will help you to know what it is you want to accomplish.

Often repeated advice is to live in an old house for a year before doing anything drastic.

Any way congrats OP on your find - I am jealous that you found one that's not been altered much -look forward to the pics. I would suggest bring along a tape recorder AND taking notes, sounds like the kind of guy who is a wealth of information. Have some tape you can put notes on and tape to things.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 2:01PM
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The big 5.

1. Foundation? What is it and is it sound? Or has the rubble stone collapsed in some areas? What about the floor joists dogging into that foundation? The second floor joists that dog into the massive chimney that has settled and now things are going down hill?

2. Roof? What needs to happen to make the old place dry and leak free? Are you OK with a "quick fix" of asphalt shingles for now just to get things dried out enough to work on the interior and then maybe do the more historically appropriate cedar shingle roof later?

3. Other water management? That means gutters and property grading as well as active holes in any of the siding. Water is your TOP enemy. Learn how to fight him in every guise he takes to infiltrate. That means ice dams and damp basements and leaky window panes. Yes, that may mean sacrificing some of the exterior landscape if the property drainage isn't optimal.

Get the top 3 dealt with, and the rest of it can be handled in smaller bites. But you've got to weatherproof and shore up the home FIRST.

4. Plumbing? Galvanized water supply? Gotta be replaced. What else needs to be replaced to merely serve what's there. Much less what needs to be added for any future needs. Like maybe a second bathroom.

5. Electrical? Knob and tube? Or worse? Splices into knob and tube is worse than knob and tube. If you want a kitchen without a coal stove in it, you'll probably need to completely replace the electrical panel with more power from the pole as well as a complete new panel. That is some "modernization" that most old homes can certainly stand!

That's the "bones" and fixing those will take a chunk of change.

After the bones are made sound, you've got the decorative and historic finishes to restore---you know, the "fun" romantic stuff like scraping paint off of original woodwork that people always think of when thinking of "restoring" a house. Only, that's not so fun either when it's midnight and you've only gotten half of one oak door stripped and still haven't had dinner yet nor done any baking for the bake sale the next day.

Miles to go before you sleep.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 5:35PM
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