Return to the Old House Forum | Post a Follow-Up

preserving history vs cosmetic upgrades

Posted by jiggreen (My Page) on
Sat, Nov 20, 10 at 9:50

As I go around my home and paint, I'm noticing a lot of bangs, dents and lumpy bumps in moldings and beadboard. I really haven't done much in the way of pulling the moldings off for repair (filling holes or sanding lumps)..I'm actually scared to take the moldings off..I'm afraid they might break if I try to get them off! Back in the 1990's, our local historical society came to this house and took photos and featured some original details in a book they published. (the home was originally a tavern, circa 1814..and still retains some original moldings, doors, hardware, staircase and beadboard) I am hesitant to mess w/ anything that they took pictures of (for fear of ruining it!) but I find myself thinking about how nice it would be to have non-dinged up moldings as well as doors that matched (we currently have such a hodgepodge of different interior doors!). I feel a responsibility to "do no harm", especially because the historical society has shown so much interest in the home.....but I want to upgrade a bit from the shabby chic look that I have going on. (basically just painting over the imperfections)

What is the best way to compromise on appearance vs history? (Keeping in mind that I cannot afford to hire a professional restoration company and must do the work myself)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: preserving history vs cosmetic upgrades

There is no requirement to pull off trim to repair minor damage, you just work on it in place.

Painted trim is easily repaired with minwax high performance wood filler and then painted again.

A well done job will be invisible.

RE: preserving history vs cosmetic upgrades

I always sand down and refinish antique furniture and steel-wool old coins till they sparkle like new! It's my stuff and that's the way I like it.

RE: preserving history vs cosmetic upgrades

Did you buy a 200 yr old home to make it perfect?
People PAY to have dents and dings in their furniture to get that old, historical look.
You can always make up stories of founding fathers fighting the British or French and thats why the dents etc. are there. Good conversation.
If you do remove trim etc. and nails stay in the trim, pull the nails through, toward the back (unfinished side) as to not further any finished side splitting. You may find the nails are the old square type. In that case, I would cut them off and leave them in the trim. Lots of damage "can" result in removing them. There is such a thing as a nail cutter at home imp. stores.
If you find any bullet holes that were filled, I would clean and leave them exposed. More cool stories.
Sounds to me that you have a wonderfully warm home. Something to take pride in. Beats the h**l out of a 1960's ranch on a cul-de sac. Just my OP.


RE: preserving history vs cosmetic upgrades

jiggreen, I'm with you. I love that it's old, but I don't want it to LOOK old and run down. I want it to look like it did in it's "glory days". I like the idea of the wood filler, sand it to blend it in, and apply a fresh coat of paint (if it's painted already). or stain. I wouldn't mess with removing it. There's too much at stake. Have you looked for salvage doors to try and match the older ones? That might bring a more cohesive feel for you while preserving the history. In my garage I have some old doors up in the rafters. I think they might be original bedroom doors, as the PO's now have hollow yucky doors. Someday I'll pull them out and measure them!

RE: preserving history vs cosmetic upgrades

"Did you buy a 200 yr old home to make it perfect?
People PAY to have dents and dings in their furniture to get that old, historical look. "

Sounds more like run-down.

And undamaged antique is worth far more than one with lots of 'patina.'

Few old things make it without some damage, making an undamaged item very sought after and valuable.

The more fragile the better.

An unbroken glass colonial candle sconce is worth a much larger amount.

RE: preserving history vs cosmetic upgrades

Houses are meant to be lived in. Repair things that are the result of abuse or neglect, save the evidences of habitation that are fair wear & tear. Decide for yourself which is which. I have seen mars on door jambs about 16" off the floor. Sometimes these are very deep scars. They are from the coal hod bringing in the fuel every cold night for 100 years. Is this abuse or wear? I lean toward wear, myself.

RE: preserving history vs cosmetic upgrades

You can live with imperfections much easier if what you are living with is clean, well maintained and workable for you.
Sometimes it's hard to see that when you are up close working on a house and everything seems to be torn apart and needing some kind of repair.
Imperfections in walls and woodwork fade away once furniture and other homey touches are there to fill the voids.
Houses, old or new are not perfect. Sometimes in the rush to fix up our houses we forget that they have a history to them. When we take the time to learn that history I think it makes us better caretakers. We understand why certain things in the house are as they are.
We have a house here in town with no windows on one side. Most folks would have gone and put windows in the side without them. Nope, the current owners have left it alone because they discovered the reason for the house being like that. Seems the house was built by a doctor. His wife was a busy body and a huge gossip. His office was the house next door. He didn't want her sitting by the window all day taking notes on who came and went so he had the house built with no windows on the side his office was on.
A thing they could easily changed BUT before they made the choice to change they did the research.
Knowing your homes history can change how you see and feel about those imperfections.

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Old House Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here