KEEPING YOUR HISTORIC HOME COOL IN SUMMER is an essential part of living comfortably today. But, how was it done in the past, and what can we do now? We’ve outlined the history and applicable steps for you. 

 

1880’s photo of a British home in India. Image source: Wikipedia’s entry on Punkahs

 

Historic Cooling and Passive Cooling

Older buildings (primarily those built prior to the mid-twentieth century) were built to be energy efficient and are the quintessence of passive cooling. Fuel was not easy to obtain or manage and it was not cheap. Many people today are surprised to learn that the biggest energy usage has been attributed to buildings built between the 1950’s-1970’s, according to GSA. Below are several features and methods used in the past that you can still successfully use today:

Homes built between the 1950’s-1970’s have been proven to use more energy than buildings before that time.

 

Cross Ventilation. Cross ventilation was frequently used. Cross ventilation refers to a passive way of supplying air to, and removing air from, an interior as a result of pressure differences from natural forces. This requires one opening for air to come in, and another for air to go out. Windows – particularly double -hung – are one way of accessing these natural forces. Open a lower window on the cooler side of the home, and an upper window on the warmer side of the home to be most effective. Tall, single-hung windows are also appropriate for allowing more air into the home. Opening as many windows (and doors and hallways) as possible will multiply the benefits. Other features that aid this natural cooling process include door and window transoms, undercut doors, window and door screens, louvered shutters, and shotgun and dogtrot/center hall-style architecture (both of which have windows or hallways front to back or side-to-side to allow for natural airflow).

The image above is of the John Looney House, a classic dogtrot-style home, attributed to photographer Chris (last name not listed), as found on the Wikipedia page on Natural Ventilation

 

Thermal Mass. Thermal mass – a building materials’ ability to store heat – can also play a significant role in passive cooling. A house with thick (especially stone-based) walls can act as a conduit for passive cooling via thermal mass, if nighttime temperature is cool enough. Ideally, the building/wall material will cool overnight, allowing for cooler daytime temperatures because it will only slowly warm over the course of the day (and release that warmth at night). 

 

The image above of a stone mason is by flickr user diamondmountain, as found on the Wikipedia page on Masonry

 

Shutters. Louvered shutters (those that are constructed with overlapping uniform slats of wood set into a frame) allowed air circulation and privacy. They allow for air flow while blocking direct sunlight and heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above is of a louvered shutter we built for the Hampton National Historic Site

 

Porches and Awnings. Porches and awnings both act as blocks from solar radiation, resulting in cooler internal temperature. “Sleeping” porches to sleep outside during warmer summer months (popular in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods) were another way to enjoy a cooler experience. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above is of the porch at the historic Harris-Cameron Mansion following Keperling Preservation Service’s porch restoration

 

Shade Landscaping. Shade trees are an obvious aid for a cooler home. Shrubs, bushes, and groundcover are also beneficial; they can provide shade as well as absorb heat radiation and cool the air prior to it reaching your home (unlike a paved yard-space which is more likely to reflect heat). These plants can also shade existing pavement to decrease heat.               

 

The image above is by Arno Senoner on Unsplash.

 

Other Methods. Homeowners of the past also employed other practical ways to cool their homes. According to an article from New Orleans Architecture Tours, homeowners modified interior design and decoration by exchanging heavier draperies for light linens and lace (which could double as window screens). Thick rugs could be replaced with grass mats. Furniture was covered by linen or cotton. They also adjusted food preparation and meal location; preparing foods with minimal cooking to avoid heating the home unnecessarily, and having more picnic meals outdoors. 

 

 

 

Image of the painting “Ready for the Ball” by artist Sophie Anderson, from the Wikipedia entry on Hand fan

 

How to Cool Your Historic Home Today

There may be no need to reinvent the wheel. If you are lucky enough to own a historic home, particularly one whose old features are intact, a practical preservation method would be to use one or all of the time-tested passive cooling methods noted above. This will not only honor your home’s heritage and historic fabric, it will also save you money over the long-term, and benefit the environment. However, we acknowledge that practically-speaking, sometimes passive cooling alone is not sufficient. Below are several modern options that can effectively cool your home and simultaneously have minimal impact on the integrity of your home’s historic fabric: 

Time-tested passive cooling methods can save modern homeowners money and be energy efficient.

 

Window and Portable Units. These are a classic, generally economical option, though there are cautions for historical homes. Window units may not easily fit into old windows due to size differences and inconsistency in some older windows. They also put significant pressure on sills and walls due to their weight. The water drips often created by the cooling system can also cause damage to the window and surrounding walls. Portable units can also sometimes leak, causing damage to historic floors. 

Targeted Cooling. Mini-split systems are a ductless, targeted form of heating and cooling. The indoor unit is mounted to the ceiling or wall and the cooled refrigerant is pumped in via refrigerant lines that run to the outdoor unit. These may be ideal for difficult-to-cool areas of the home, particularly additions or enclosed rooms that do not have ductowork. However, beware that they require drilling through the wall of your home for installation; once this is done, it is hard to undo. Further, these are not low profile, so visually, they disrupt the flow of a historic interior and exterior. 

High-Velocity Cooling. SpacePak and the UNICO system are high-velocity/low impact systems. They work similarly to central air, but are about 1/10 the size of a traditional central air system. Both require ducts, but they are small and the vents are minimally-intrusive. They are generally installed in attics/upper floors to allow cooler air to drop down. These are less disruptive, more visually-seamless options than the aforementioned cooling systems so they are better at maintaining the integrity of a home’s historic fabric, and frequently recommended by preservation contractors. Listen to our podcast with UNICO here.

 

IN SUMMARY:

There are several passive and active options for cooling your historic home. Arm yourself with knowledge before you decide what options are best for your home and your budget. 

 

For further resources and reading:

  • The EPA provides a detailed resource on energy efficiency in old homes here, and we also discuss energy efficiency here and here
  • Read about a historical landmark’s retrofitted HVAC here.
  • Learn more ways people stayed cool before air conditioning here and here.
  • Learn about the advent and evolution of air conditioning here.

PART 3 PRESERVATION MONTH 2020 SERIES

LAST WEEK WE PRESENTED PART 2 on How to Preserve a Building. Part 3 of this series focuses on the economic benefits of preservation. If you’re reading this, you likely already know the qualitative benefits of preservation for communities – aesthetic appeal, educational opportunities, sustainability, and revitalization – but there are also proven quantitative benefits, including economic ones. Although Jane Jacobs – the innovative urbanist and activist – made statements that were not initially supported by factual data, many of her observations have since been corroborated since she first made them in the mid-twentieth century. Specifically, in her ground-breaking book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs stated regarding old houses: 

“Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”

Most writers who’ve analyzed her work and this quote agree that her point was that we rely on the past to build the future, and must refine what worked before in order to meet new needs. In another way, this idea also refers to the reality that businesses (especially newly-launching start-ups) or homeowners need older buildings for their often lower price-points and economic benefits, compared to newer (often more expensive) construction. So, the benefits of old buildings for “new ideas” is both conceptual and practical. Read on to learn more about the economic benefits of preservation.


Photo by Brandon Jean on Unsplash

 

QUANTITATIVE BENEFITS OF PRESERVATION:

The following categories are small a selection of some of the most commonly examined areas of benefit, although many other representative areas of value have been studied and described, including those listed here.

  • Real estate value. Historic designation is a ubiquitous component of preservation in cities and neighborhoods, and one of the most common means of preserving multiple dwellings or buildings. However, common negative assumptions about formally-designated historic districts abound; fear of restriction and violation of property owners’ rights – including untenable regulations and decreased property value – are concerns typically voiced by those opposed to preservation and historic designation. While many preservationist and urban experts agree that more rigorous study must continually be done to examine these concerns, valuable information has been gleaned from existing data analyses that reveals the economic benefits of preservation, and some of the findings do contradict these negative assumptions and arguments against preservation/designation. Community historic preservation has been shown to increase real estate value. Place Economics noted that repeated studies over the past 30 years refute the aforementioned arguments against historic designation and preservation in terms of impact on property value.  While they agree it is often true that increased property value equates in increased property taxes (which can be challenging for some homeowners), simultaneously, they found that the “cash flow problem is offset 40 to 67 times by the increased wealth.” Based on a 2012 study in Pennsylvania specifically, an analysis of 3 separate Pennsylvania historic districts revealed significant property value increases. Homes in designated historic districts realized greater value than homes in non-designated areas, had immediate 2% value increases compared to other homes, and appreciated at an annual rate of 1% higher than other homes. This positive effect spread to homes near the designated district, with those prices increasing 1.6% with each mile closer to the district. 

 

  • Local business promotion/New jobs. Place Economics discussed not only how small businesses are a boon to cities, but also focused on the advantages of small and local businesses housed in historic districts and historic buildings. Among those old-building benefits they point to attractive, small spaces, and competitive rent prices. They cite various cities where a large percentage of small or local businesses are located in historic districts. In some cases, those same districts account for a larger percentage of female and minority ownership. Many of these historically-located businesses are start-ups, which in and of themselves typically account for a significant percentage of new job creation in many cities. David J. Brown of the National Trust for Historic Preservation also noted the power of preservation itself for creating new jobs, including those that cannot be outsourced.

 

  • Neighborhood diversity/Affordable housing. While many still assume historically-designated neighborhoods are made up of upper-class, mostly Caucasian people – and while that is still the case in some places –  there are increasing exceptions. Place Economics shared several illustrative cases of diverse historic neighborhoods, in terms of racial, ethnic, and economic heterogeneity. A related point is that this diversity allows for more affordability in some of these districts, another contradiction to the stereotypical view of over-priced historic homes, and are credited with being part of the solution to lack of affordable housing in cities. Donovan Rypkema discusses old buildings and affordable housing in-depth.

 

  • Sustainability. We’ve discussed the sustainability benefits of preservation numerous times over the years, and recently were fortunate to discuss these things more directly during a podcast interview with Amalia Leifeste and Barry Stiefel, authors of Sustainable Heritage: Merging Environmental Conservation and Historic Preservation. Place Economics also cited several pieces of literature on the topic, in addition to Leifeste and Stiefel’s book. A summation of their cited findings indicates that compared to new construction and development (even when new construction uses allegedly “Green” or sustainable new products), historic buildings not only contribute less to pollution, waste, and use of resources including energy, they have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

 

  • Heritage tourism. Place Economics reports that “Consistent findings in both the US and internationally indicate that heritage visitors stay longer, visit more places, and spend more per day than do tourists with no interest in historic resources.” Heritage tourism as an industry contributes significantly to jobs for locals as well as revenue for the local economy, as the services these tourists consume extend beyond the heritage tourism services alone. These other services include local lodging, food and beverages, local transportation, retail purchases, and entertainment. PHMC’s economic report for Pennsylvania also examined heritage tourism, and included a review of 3 sets of locations which collectively accounted for 32 million visitors annually, as of 2011. An estimation of local expenditures from heritage tourism visitors in 2010 indicated visitor spending accounted for $1 billion annually for Pennsylvania, in the previously-mentioned service categories. 

 

This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but we hope this general overview will give you a sense of some of the most pertinent economic benefits of preservation, historic designation and adaptive reuse. We also hope it will encourage you to explore the topic further on your own. For more in-depth study, you may refer to some of the following resources:

 

Next week: PART 4 OF THIS SERIES focuses on the Substitute Materials.

Winter may soon be coming to a close, but there’s still time during the tempestuous month of March for Spring to “come in like a lion,” as the old proverb goes. The uncertainty of weather related to climate change aggravates the issues we already see at the end of Winter as well, adding to the concerns of homeowners attempting to maintain the energy efficiency and temperature of their homes. With that in mind, we’re focusing on energy efficiency for historic buildings for today’s blog post. 


Photo by Alessandro Bianchi on Unsplash

First, let’s debunk a myth about old homes and energy efficiency. A common misconception about older buildings is that they are drafty, inefficient energy hogs. The truth is that the buildings with the worst energy efficiency were built between 1940-1970. Energy was cheap and there wasn’t a big push to conserve our resources during that time-period. Buildings constructed before 1940 were made with energy savings, thermal performance, and physical comfort in mind. By maximizing natural sources of heating, lighting, and ventilation, these buildings were comfortable in all seasons.

Still concerned about energy efficiency in your historic building or home? Read on for advice on improvements that will not sacrifice the historical integrity of your space.
________________________________________________________________________

TIPS TO INCREASE ENERGY EFFICIENCY

ON YOUR OWN:

  • Change your Habits.  Install timers or motion detectors on lights, attach self-closing mechanisms on doors that might otherwise hang open, install fans and raise your thermostat temperature, use LEDs in your lights and turn off “vampire” devices that use electricity in standby mode or that use electricity in standby mode or whenever that are plugged into an outlet.
  • Remove focus from Siding. Remember our previous post on siding on historic homes. Walls themselves are not a significant source of energy loss, so replacing original siding with new synthetic siding really does not cut costs or improve energy efficiency.
  • Caulking or Weather-Stripping. The easiest tip for increasing the energy efficiency of your building is to reduce the air infiltration using caulking and/or weather-stripping. You can do a self-audit of the envelope of your building (roof; walls and wall penetrations including doors, windows; floor, and foundation) to determine if these methods are necessary. If there are places that you feel cold air coming in you can add additional weather-stripping or caulking to the area and seal the crack. In warmer months this will also stop your conditioned air from escaping to the outside.           2 points of caution:
    • Only use the spray foam against masonry penetrations – it will cause any wood it is against to rot
    • Do not make the building too tight – older buildings were built for air to move and if all air movement is stopped it will cause problems with moisture accumulation
  • Combat the Stack Effect. The method above is helpful, but it does not give you the highest return-on-investment for making your home energy efficient because of the Stack Effect. To combat the Stack Effect, insulate at the basement floor (where the air comes in) and at the attic (where the air goes out). It’s also important to determine the R-Value (measure of thermal resistance) for your area to ensure you are most effectively stopping air leaks.  You can find your recommended R-Value here.                                                                                                                                                                Options for insulation:
    • “Green” or environmentally-friendly options (natural materials like cellulose and wool)
    • Fiberglass
    • Spray foam
    • Foam board (purchases can be made at big-box stores or SIPS)

WITH PROFESSIONAL HELP:

  • Seek Professional Assistance. Review our post on hiring the best person for the job. 
  • Have a Maintenance Appraisal Performed.  If you are concerned about identifying air leaks on your own, a maintenance appraisal performed by a qualified contractor will locate any source of air leakage and provide you with a plan-of-attack to remedy the problem without damaging the historic aspects of your home.
  • Schedule an Energy Audit.  Both the maintenance appraisal and an energy audit are absolutely essential things that need to be done BEFORE you implement any energy improvement measures in a situation where you do not have enough knowledge to take care of things yourself.  The energy audit will evaluate your home’s current energy performance and identify any deficiencies in both the envelope of your home and/or mechanical systems.

FURTHER READING:

THIS IS A RE-POST OF A PODCAST INTERVIEW WE ORIGINALLY POSTED FEBRUARY 2019:

John Walters from LeWalt Consulting Groupe joined me to discuss how tax strategies can help with land and property preservation efforts.

We covered:

John’s contact information and additional resources:

LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC
https://www.facebook.com/LeWaltConsulting

727-388-9024

Tax Codes Referenced:
Conservation Easements
Historic Preservation Tax Incentives
Energy Incentives

Bio:
John is an Enrolled Agent, Certified Tax Coach, Best Selling Author, Instructor and Speaker at the firm LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC located in St. Petersburg, Florida.
He is known on LinkedIn as:
“Florida’s Leading Pro-Active Tax and Financial Change Agent for your Diverse needs and Individual Lifestyle”
At LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC our PASSION is creating “Tax Alpha” that helps you, as the Entrepreneur and Business Owner, live the “Ultimate”​ TAX-FREE lifestyle you desire using the complexities written into the Internal Revenue Service Tax-Code to your favor!
After all… We believe those numbers on your TAX FORMS is your “REAL” money, why not protect, preserve, and keep it for you and your family?
How may we Help You Live a Life that is less taxing…?
________________________________________________________________________

Transcript:

Announcer: Thank you for tuning into the Practical Preservation podcast. Please take a moment to visit our website practicalpreservationservices.com for additional information and tips to help you restore your historical home. If you’ve not yet done so, please subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher, and Sound Cloud, and also like us on Facebook.

Announcer: Welcome to the Practical Preservation podcast hosted by Danielle Keperling. Keperling Preservation Services is a family-owned business based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania dedicated to the preservation of our built architectural history for today’s use as well as future generations. Our weekly podcast provides you with expert advice specific to the unique needs of renovating a historic home, educating by sharing our from-the-trenches preservation knowledge and our guests’ expertise, balancing modern needs while maintaining the historical significance, character, and beauty of your period home.

Danielle: Thank you for joining us on the Practical Preservation podcast. Today, we have John Walters speaking with us about some tax tools that you can use to help preserve buildings. John is an Enrolled Agent, Certified Tax Coach, best-selling author, instructor, and speaker at the firm LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC. located in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is known on LinkedIn as Florida’s leading proactive state and financial change agent for your diverse needs and individual lifestyle.

Danielle: “At LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC., our passion is creating tax alpha that helps you as the entrepreneur and business owner live the ultimate tax-free lifestyle you desire using the complexities written into the Internal Revenue Service tax code to your favor. After all, we believe those numbers on your tax form is your real money. Why not protect, preserve and keep it for you and your family? How may we help you live a life that is less taxing?”

Danielle: So John, thank you for joining us and sharing your knowledge about the tax code and how that can be used to help us preserve buildings.

John: Well, thank you Danielle. I enjoy talking to people about taxes even though, I’m sure for most, it seems like a boring subject, but it’s one of the most things you’re going to pay all of your life and you might as be able to control it to your best ability.

Danielle: And understand it the best you can. I know I don’t feel I understand everything as much as I probably should. But yeah, I think the protections that people don’t understand that are written into tax code are really interesting because they can help you finance a project, they can help you make sure the building is preserved. Those things, I don’t think people necessarily think that those are tax code things, but they are. So thank you for sharing that knowledge with us.

John: Sure, no problem.

Danielle: I know one of the things that most people don’t either understand or are aware of is the tax conservation easement. If you could talk to us a little bit about that and help us understand. I understand a little bit from a preservation standpoint that the easement means that the outside can’t be changed because it’s protected, but I don’t understand what the tax ramifications of that is.

John: Okay. In the Internal Revenue Code, there’s a section called 170(h) and it talks about land conservation strategies, especially for federal and state taxes. What a land conservation strategy is designed to do is it’s designed to meet basically the tax payer’s – in this case, your client or whoever you’re working for – financial goals and take into heart their charitable desires.

John: In essence, it’s to preserve their properties and realize their most favorable economic outcomes, and actually, you get some tax savings out of it too. You become part of what we call the ready to conserve your assets for individuals and enjoy the related tax savings possible and the income opportunity in the property’s amenities.

John: In essence, what you want to do is let’s say you have a piece of property, but you don’t want it to be built on or you want to preserve it for generations to come and things like that. There are provisions in the tax code under the land conservation easement strategies is to actually give that land away. In essence, you’re giving it away for the purposes of being able to develop it or use it for some other commercial purpose to the government and you have official documents that tell you that you can do that. In turn, there are charitable deductions that you can take for that conservation.

John: With that, your land is preserved. Basically, you still retain rights to it, but you just can’t use it for other purposes, intended purposes.

Danielle: So it almost restricts you? Yeah, it restricts what you do with it. Okay.

John: Exactly. You have basically a deed of restriction, but that land can be used for whatever thing that you set it up for.

John: For instance, let’s say that you have land and you want to preserve it for hunting and you don’t want anybody to build anything on it. You could have a land conservation easement for that property; it could still be used for hunting and you can use for that purpose. You can even build a structure on there like a lodge or something like that and people could use it for hunting, but they wouldn’t be able to use for some other commercial development.

Danielle: [crosstalk 00:06:17] Yeah.

John: Yeah. In turn, when you take that conservation easement, the government’s giving you a tax deduction and it can be up to 50% of your adjusted gross income. Let’s say for every dollar this property is valued at, you go get it appraised and stuff, sometimes you can get to four to five times the benefit. In essence, what you’re telling is, well, if I built it commercially, this is what it would be valued at. But if I-

Danielle: So if you develop the property, that’s why they use as your [crosstalk 00:07:00]

John: Right.

Danielle: Okay, that makes sense.

John: So if I was going to put a housing development on it, it would be worth X. But if I say, “I don’t want to allow that on there,” they’re going to take that value of the housing development, it’s appraised out, subtract what the land is worth right now, and you get the difference in the tax credits.

Danielle: Okay. Okay, and then is that an actual credit onto … I’m trying to think about what I’m familiar with preservation easements. You usually then donate that to a nonprofit, is that correct? Or is the conservation a little bit different?

John: Yeah, it’s actually donated to the government, per se, because it’s under tax code. Now, there’s the charitable contributions fall under the federal tax code, but you can also get state tax credits too, depending on what state you’re in and the property.

Danielle: Yeah, I know. Yeah, the preservation tax credits are very dependent on which state you’re in, how robust they are.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly.

Danielle: Yeah. So this benefits the person that’s doing the easement by reducing their taxable income. Is that pretty much what the goal is?

John: Right. You can reduce your actual tax that you would owe by between 30 and 50% of your adjusted gross income.

Danielle: Okay.

John: Now, let’s say it exceeds 50% of your gross income in that particular year, those charitable credits can be carried over for many years into the future until you can use them up.

Danielle: Okay.

John: Yeah, so typically, if you don’t have a whole lot of income in that particular year, it will just carry over until you can use those up.

Danielle: Use it up, so there’s not a time limit. I was thinking there’s a difference – and now this is telling you what I don’t understand about taxes. There’s a difference between a credit and a deduction, is that correct? So the credit is like just straight money to you, it’s not based on any kind of scale, correct? Is that what-

John: Well, yeah. There are credits that are basically a one-to-one dollar reduction in your taxes. Now, in the credit world-

Danielle: Okay, so [crosstalk 00:09:27] a percentage. Yeah.

John: Exactly. In the credit world though, you have two types of credits. You have what we call non-refundable, meaning that it can reduce your income, your taxes to zero. Then after that, if you still have more credit, you can’t use it anymore. You won’t get additional money back. But if they’re refundable, that means that you could have zero income tax that you owe, and still get a refund back from the government. Now-

Danielle: Oh, okay. Makes sense. Yeah.

John: And with the deductions, they are a percentage, depending on what your marginal tax bracket is. So in essence, a deduction, if you’re in the 25% tax bracket, then you’re going to get 25% or 25 cents back on the dollar for every dollar you deduct.

Danielle: Okay, okay. I know I see, in this area, a lot of conservation easements for farmland.

John: Exactly.

Danielle: Where the families want to preserve their farms from development but they still want to be able to use them and farm them. The easement doesn’t stop you from being able to use it from how you’ve been using it; it’s how you write the easement. Is that correct?

John: Right. So for an example like that, in farming and ranching, Ted Turner, which we all know from the broadcasting world and everything else, he has huge tracks of land in Wyoming and Montana that he has easements on. He still allows – there’s wild buffalo that run on there. He has cattle that graze and everything so it can still be used for ranching, but no one can actually develop it into a housing development or any commercial purpose.

Danielle: Okay, okay. Very, very interesting. Thank you. So then when you go to do the charitable deduction, then they figure out what the amount would be if they developed and then they give you … Is it the difference? Is that pretty much what your credit is?

John: Yeah. So for instance, let’s say it would be valued, appraised, at a million dollars if it was fully developed, but right now in your hands, ownership, it was worth really only $100,000, per se, in undeveloped land and everything else. So in fact, you could probably get a deduction for the $900,000 difference there.

Danielle: Because you’re not using it to develop it completely. It is a benefit then to the community too. That does make sense to me as to why it would be a tax credit also because you’re agreeing to leave it the way it was. It’s not [crosstalk 00:12:20].

John: Right, yeah.

Danielle: Yeah. So what are the risks to somebody who wants to use an easement or a land conservation easement to preserve their property? What would the risks be to that?

John: Well, a couple risks, not necessarily to the owner of the land. There are people that actually don’t own the land but want to invest in the ownership of that property with the original owner to get these tax credits.

Danielle: Oh, right.

John: So some of the risk there would be basically you may not get the asset protection as a limited partner instead of the ownership of it. Operating reserves set aside at a closing. There may be monies that are needed in excess of that property for the conveyance of it and the deed. Could be additional capital calls if other risks – or not risks but unknowns are known about the property. Maybe there was so encumbrances on the property that you didn’t know about and stuff, so money would have to become available to take those encumbrances away so that deed could be unrestricted.

John: Sometimes there’s a taxation risk basically due to audits because sometimes these things are not put together correctly. Lately, there’s been a little bit of talks in the IRS about making this what they call a listed transactions, where they still allow it, but you would have to list it there of what the transaction was and basically have your, per se, ducks in a row if you wanted to-

Danielle: [crosstalk 00:14:19] yeah.

John: Yeah. Of course, as always, anything in the code is subject to abuse.

Danielle: Right.

John: You may be working with unscrupulous people, a.k.a. crooks, that want to take your money basically and don’t do it properly so the whole deal falls apart.

Danielle: Yeah. That and I know that when we talk to home owners about it, people are nervous about restricting their deeds. I don’t know if you have that knowledge if it … Does it lower the value of the property or is it usually somebody who would be interested in conservation, is that something that would be appealing to them?

John: Oh, it would be very appealing to someone because most of us do have a charitable gift to us or want to do something, either that, preserve it for nature or actually for our legacy and stuff like that. But even if you end up selling the property or whatever, that easement and everything else can convey to the next group of people in ownership.

Danielle: Yeah, it attaches to the deed. Yep. Then they then have to … As far as I know, that is the only preservation tool that actually restricts what you can do because even being on the National Register, that building can still be torn down if you take the appropriate steps and get approval. You know what I mean?

John: Right.

Danielle: So that doesn’t protect it as much as the easement does. I know of a project here in Lancaster that they were going to develop. It was where Thaddeus Stevens had his offices in Lancaster. They were going to tear it down and then the nonprofit that held the easement came forward and said, “No, you can’t. We have an easement on this property.” And they actually ended up, it’s really a cool building to look at now because they incorporated the modern construction around this building. It’s marrying that old with the new, but they had to keep the original building there because they did hold the easement.

Danielle: That’s the only preservation tool that I know guarantees that the building will not change and have to stay the way it has been. So very, very [crosstalk 00:16:51].

John: Yeah, exactly because you are actually accepting a deed of restriction that permanently prohibits some sort of commercial exploitation and rights to the real estate property and stuff. You’re absolutely right. That’s pretty much the most ironclad vehicle there to be able to preserve something.

Danielle: Right, okay. And then I know you had given me some notes. I have that you would talk about the energy efficient property credits.

John: Sure, sure.

Danielle: Those are being extended, which is kind of exciting for people who are wanting to maybe put some green energy to use in their homes.

John: Yeah. The wind and solar credits have actually been extended to 2024 because our government sees the value of doing that and making us less reliant, basically, on fuels like oil and gas and things like that. The interesting thing is for these types of credits, you can qualify up to 30% of the eligible cost, which in fact, I just did one for a client this tax season.

John: They invested in a solar roof. They spent $52,000 on the roof. They ended up getting a $17,000 tax credit back, so it kind of wiped out all of their tax that they owed. Yeah and they’ll actually get to carry some over into the subsequent years because they used up all the taxes that they had this particular year.

John: So yeah, the beauty about theirs is … They were so excited because they started getting checks from the power company. In fact-

Danielle: Oh, that is exciting.

John: Yeah! They got a $400 check back from Duke Energy, which is the provider in the area. They were so elated because now the power company owes them money.

Danielle: Yeah. I know that when we started talking, you and I had started talking about doing this podcast topic, we had just been talking about the Tesla roof material. Those are individual solar cells. They picked all things that would be traditional materials and you can’t tell the difference. I’ll be curious to see how those are embraced, once they do their full roll-out, by the preservation community because those solar panels, the types of [crosstalk 00:19:42] they chose-

John: Oh, the new shingles?

Danielle: Yeah, but they chose slate and tile, those are not inexpensive roofing materials anyway. So if somebody’s going to do that, I’ll be curious to see how it’s embraced by the preservation community because there’s definitely that intersection of green and then traditional-looking materials at least.

John: Right.

Danielle: I think that’s pretty exciting.

John: Yeah. A lot of those things are coming out from the world of the Tesla vehicles and all of that to Elon Musk and producing new types of materials.

John: Yeah, that was the thing is people, they liked the idea of the solar, but they didn’t want to have these what they would consider ugly panels on their roof. So now-

Danielle: [crosstalk 00:20:29], yeah, yeah.

John: Yeah. It’s probably going to be in your world, open up a lot more opportunity and people to want to do that because yeah, now they can more look like the original property that we’re trying to preserve and everything, and get the efficiency out of it of modern energy systems.

Danielle: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s something exciting to definitely keep an eye on.

Danielle: The other thing and something that I think that people know about but it’s kind of like they don’t know a lot about it is the rehabilitation credits. I know the federal government has theirs, and then the State of Pennsylvania has some. There’s not a lot of money in the state. The tax credits here are very new for rehabilitation. I think they’re only a couple of years-old. I know that the federal tax credits have been around for a while and they’ve actually shown good economic development benefits, but if you could talk a little bit about the Rehabilitation Credits in the tax code.

John: Yeah, there’s rehabilitation credits.

Danielle: That’s a tough word.

John: Yeah, I know. That’s under Internal Revenue Code Section 47. There are actually two of them. One, it’s a 10% of the qualified rehabilitation expenditures, or whatever you spend, with respect to the qualified rehabilitated building. Other than a certified – it doesn’t have to be a certified historic structure in this case, okay?

Danielle: Right.

John: You can still get 10% of that. Now, in the second case, you can get 20% of the qualified rehabilitation expenditure, or cost, if it is a certified historic structure. So there, you can benefit even more.

John: Basically, the federal government is telling us, “Look, we understand you want to keep these buildings. They’re great buildings or whatever like that. They just need some tender love and care. We’re going to help you lower the cost to go ahead and rehab these buildings, especially if you’re going to keep them in order, use them for an economic purpose.”

John: So what we’re kind of looking at too is, okay, what’s in it for the government? Well, obviously if you’re going to be able to use that building, rehab it, for its use or just bring it back up to code so you can keep using it, well, they’re going to get more tax money, right?

Danielle: Right, right.

John: Because you’re going to remain in business and use that building. Well, the states, obviously, are still going to benefit because they’re going to get additional property taxes and they’ll probably reassess it on the rehabbed cost of it because, oh, it’s gone up in value because you rehabilitated it. There’s two benefits there.

John: Now, obviously the states benefits aren’t as rich as the federal government because, as we know, our government’s got plenty of money to throw around. Right?

Danielle: Right. Maryland has a really good rehabilitation credit system though. Theirs is, I think if you combined the federal and Maryland’s, you can get up to 50%.

John: Yeah.

Danielle: Yeah, so some of the states have a really good system.

John: I think it’s great. And so basically, it’s something to take into benefit there if you have a building that would meet those criteria. There again, you might get a little bit if it’s not a historic building, but still, it might be in your benefit to do it.

John: Now, like everything that we do in the tax code, there’s good and bad things. Well, the good thing is, yes, you could get some assistance there for doing it. The bad thing is you might have to jump over some hurdles, some paperwork, this and that, and everything else. But I found that once you do it, it’s well worth it.

Danielle: Yeah, I agree. It is a process to get through that because at first, you have to be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office, and then you go. They actually, once they have everything that they need, then they forward it onto the National Park Service for review. But typically, it is a lot of paperwork, but most people can get through it. It’s just having to stay on top of it.

Danielle: I do know one thing that is, and the tax benefits, one thing that’s kind of frustrating to homeowners that this is mostly or it is just for income-producing properties. So you’ve either gotta be a business or a bed and breakfast or rental unit, something like that.

John: Right.

Danielle: One other thing that I learned that’s very interesting is the tax credits on your passive income. Well, most people don’t have a lot of passive income. So I sat through a presentation. I’m like, “Oh, that makes so much sense.” Banks are willing to pay, buy the tax credits from you, because they have passive income and they can use them. The credits are transferrable. I didn’t know that.

John: Yeah, yeah.

Danielle: When I heard that, I was like, “Oh my goodness. I never would have thought to shop my tax credits to anybody,” but there are people who do it.

John: That’s an interesting point that you bring up. You know, a lot of people say, “Well, if I can’t use them, I lose them.” No, they actually have benefit and people are willing to use them. The other thing too is you’ve heard of those called carbon tax credits for pollution and everything else?

Danielle: Yeah, yeah.

John: Well, let’s say you have a business and you get X amount of tax credits, but your business is pretty efficient, non-polluting, and everything else. You get these credits but you don’t use them all the way or whatever like that. Well, there’s certain other businesses that are more polluting and they need more credits than they actually get from whatever they’re producing, so they’ll buy those credits from you and that helps them out too. There is a market for that.

Danielle: Yes, I would have never even thought that until I was sitting in that presentation. I’m like, “That makes so much sense.” Because most people, even if they’re high-income people, don’t have a lot of passive income, but banks do. I thought that was a really, really interesting thing that I learned.

John: Yeah. And the thing most people don’t understand is you have to match up the types of income and losses to be able to take them. For what you’re just saying there, if you have passive income, you have to have passive losses to match up against them. You can’t take income that you earned from your job and actually offset passive income or investment income in there. That’s a key.

John: What we try to do there is if we do have a client that does have lots of passive losses, we try to find some passive incomes. We call it a PIG PAL strategy. Passive activity losses matched up with passive income generations.

Danielle: Oh, okay. Very cool. Yeah, you understand how to maximize these strategies. I thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and our listeners. Could you tell me, unless, did you have anything else you wanted to share or anything that we didn’t care that you wanted to?

John: Well, I think that’s pretty good.

Danielle: Oh, okay. Very good.

John: There’s so much embedded in there.

Danielle: There is.

John: Yeah.

Danielle: And I’ll definitely, the tax codes or sections that you referenced, on the website resource section, I will definitely put those there so people can go and read them.

John: Okay.

Danielle: And your information will definitely be on the website too, but how can our audience get a hold of you if they have specific questions or they want to use your expertise to help preserve their buildings?

John: Well, they can actually call my office if they want. My phone number directly is 727-388-9024. If, by chance, somebody doesn’t answer the phone, leave a message and we get back to you in a short amount of time.

John: You can also go to my website it’s www.lewaltconsultinggroup.com and leave a message there or we have lots of information on the website that you can contact us or find out some other information about the different tax codes. I think you’ll probably put our website on your-

Danielle: I will, yeah, I’ll definitely make sure that gets put on the website too. We’ll have links, and I’ll have the additional information, and anything else that we think that would be good resources for all of our listeners.

Danielle: Thank you so much for joining us today.

John: Okay, well, yeah. It was a pleasure talking here and one last thing.

Danielle: Oh, sure.

John: With the broadness of the tax code, people think, “Oh, it’s just in general,” or whatever. There’s really something for everybody in there, we just have to sometimes dig deep for you. If you employ certain people, there’s tax credits for employing certain groups of people.

Danielle: Right, yeah. We had just learned that we could get a Made in America tax credit because we manufacture. I never even thought about what we do as manufacturing, but it is! There’s always something in there that you might not even think would apply to you.

John: Yeah, so every situation, individual situation, is different. Don’t think that there’s nothing in there for you. There may be, depending on what you want to do. Hey, it’s worth a phone call or a short email conversation. We can see what we can do for you.

Danielle: Okay, very good. Thank you so much again.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the Practical Preservation podcast. The resources discussed during this episode are on our website at practicalpreservationservices.com/podcast.

Announcer: If you received value from this episode and know someone else that would get value from it as well, please share it with them. Join us next week for another episode of the Practical Preservation podcast.

Announcer: For more information on restoring your historic home, visit us at practicalpreservationservices.com

 

Window repair, restoration, or replacement is an unavoidable topic of concern in historic buildings. Windows in your historic property are like the eyes of the home. They are an important piece of the historical fabric of the location, and also play an integral part in energy efficiency of the property. Simultaneously, they are one of the most vulnerable and “at-risk” elements of our architectural heritage. Replacement is not always the most cost-effective or energy-efficient answer. Determining the extent of disrepair in your windows is your first step in deciding whether to repair, restore, or replace them. 

Photo of our restoration work on windows at Franklin Street Station in Reading. 

Why are original windows important? They are considered a significant feature of a building, making up both exterior and interior architectural elements and usually 20-to-30 percent of the surface area of the building. The shape and materials, moldings, trim and window pane arrangements are all clues to the age of the building. To further illustrate these unique characteristics, here are examples of window styles and characteristics from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century. The majority of the features that make original windows special are not replicable in replacement windows; you could replicate them in reproduction windows, but that is not what most people think of when they are discussing replacement windows. These elements include antique (wavy) glass, true divided light sashes, and traditional joinery.

Why are original windows endangered and at-risk? Several preservation organizations, including Maine, Virginia, and New York, have noted in recent years the endangered status of historic original windows. Even we have had first-hand experience talking with well-intentioned homeowners who’ve been convinced by saavy sales people to replace their original windows with modern ones under the guise that they are more cost-effective or energy efficient, only to regret the decision a few years later when the “superior” new windows are no longer functioning properly and are incurring more costs for energy, repair, and replacement. 

Are original windows energy efficient and cost-effective? Energy efficiency is a major concern when it comes to windows. We’ve noted in a previous post on Siding on Historic Homes that heating and cooling energy loss is associated most with windows, doors, and roofs, and this is often worse with modern replacements and materials. Meanwhile, original windows have a proven track record of durability that far exceeds that of new replacement windows, as long as they are properly maintained. In fact, most are 100+ years old. The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 3 and their Testing Energy Performance of Wood Windows in Cold Climates both discuss energy efficiency in greater depth. The latter of the two aforementioned resources points out that replacing historic windows does not necessarily result in greater energy savings than upgrading that same window. If you’re short on time, you may instead choose to read one of our other brief articles on energy-efficiency and cost-effectiveness of original windows. On average, the energy savings after a replacement window is installed is less than $2/year. Restoring and repairing original windows can achieve almost the same energy efficiency, and is more cost-effective in the long-run because new windows will not last as long. 

Now that you understand the significance of original windows and the importance of saving them, how do you know if your original windows are repairable or restorable? First, consider that most materials and methods used to build the original windows are made to be repairable, so there is a higher likelihood that they are salvageable. Replacement pieces can be made rather than replacing the entire unit (consider our woodwork at the formerly abandoned Franklin Street Station in Reading, PA, whose windows were in a shocking state when we first encountered them; alternatively, you can see the results in-person while enjoying craft beer and a bite to eat at Franklin Street Brew Pub now in the station). Things to evaluate to see what repairs windows might need:

  • Loose frames and sash components
  • Slipped sills
  • Poor fitting sash and storm assemblies, and misaligned frames
  • Loose, open, or decayed joints at sash or frame corners
  • Loose hardware, broken sash cords/chains, worn sash pulleys, locking difficulties
  • Deteriorated weather-stripping
  • Broken/cracked glass, loose or missing glazing putty
  • Peeling paint
  • Window well debris accumulation

Some of these issues are easy to see and address. Others, including locking difficulties and window well debris accumulation might signal a misaligned sash and could necessitate the involvement of a skilled person to make those adjustments (or at least consult with you about what to do). All of these repairs will increase the energy-efficiency of your windows.

What do I do if a previous owner already replaced the original windows and updated replacement is necessary? There are several options to choose from:

  • Rebuild with antique glass
  • Rebuild with true divided lite and insulated glass
  • Replacement with modern replacement windows – The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 9 has a list of what to look for in replacement windows, as well as ideas of where to find historically sensitive replacement windows

For more information and resources:

  • Visit our window post archives link
  • We typically recommend 2 Canadian manufacturers for modern replacement windows: Norwood Windows or Loewen

Age is not the only thing that makes a building historical. The traditional materials and craftsmanship in the original construction of your historical building are an essential part of its historical fabric. Preserving its architectural integrity can only be done by using the same traditional materials and craftsmanship that made your building what it is today – a picture of the past. Original or historically-accurate siding on a historic home or building is an overt example of a building’s era and unique characteristics. 


Photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti on Unsplash

 

Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Life-span

  • Synthetic siding has a potential life of at least 50-60 years
  • Wood siding has a potential life of at least 200+ years

Wood was abundant in Early America (and continued to be so throughout our history), and thousands of historical buildings in the Northeast are adorned with wood siding. Often, owners of these buildings look to alternative siding methods to replace wood siding deteriorated beyond repair. Their rationale for such practices is that they want to reduce the cost and effort of its maintenance, or to save on energy costs; conventional building wisdom maintains that vinyl and other synthetic siding lasts longer, requires less maintenance, and wastes less energy. The truth is this: in almost every instance, installation of synthetic siding will not save energy and maintenance costs. It will last a very long time; there are buildings that still retain their original synthetic siding applications from when they first appeared 50-to-60 years ago. And while that sounds significantly durable, it rather pales in comparison to the fact that there are historical buildings from 200+ years ago that still retain their original wood siding (siding that doesn’t sit many, many years in landfills when it needs to be removed). Synthetic siding won’t only add to landfills, it will also compromise the building’s historical integrity, and can cause irreversible damage to the building. 

________________________________________________________________________

 

Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Energy efficiency

  • Since walls are not a significant source of energy loss, synthetic siding proves, at best, a nominal energy savings

The myth that synthetic siding is more energy efficient than wood siding is pervasive and persistent – perhaps because it is easy to fall into the habit of assuming newer is always better. Newer is not always better, and even newer-with-an-insulated-backing is only nominally, if at all, better. The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 3 highlights the fallacy regarding the weight placed on siding for energy efficiency, noting that walls aren’t even where the most heating and cooling energy is lost in historical buildings – the roofing system is. Spending money to replace wood siding with synthetic siding will not usually return the investment in energy savings for this reason. A much more cost-effective focus for energy savings are the windows, doors, and roofs of historical buildings.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Maintenance

  • Synthetic siding materials require much maintenance and can even create additional maintenance for other parts of the building

Synthetic siding materials are not maintenance-free. Aluminum will dent, and if painted, requires the same amount of paint maintenance as wood siding. To properly maintain and preserve aluminum siding, it must be cleaned regularly. Vinyl is a plastic and vinyl siding is subject to the same pitfalls as any other plastic: it cracks and shatters if impacted, it deteriorates with exposure to the extreme temperature changes of summer-to-winter and back again, and it simply cannot be installed to maintain a tight fit in both summer and winter because of the amount of expansion and contraction those extreme temperature changes cause. Vinyl siding will even interfere with a building’s ability to “breathe” and result in excess moisture retention and airflow problems causing unhealthy air quality for the building’s occupants, actually creating additional maintenance needs for other materials, systems and areas of the building.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Historical integrity

  • Synthetic siding does not preserve the many features of wood siding applications that contribute to the very fabric of a building that makes it historical

Synthetic siding will compromise the building’s historical integrity. The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 8 explains that the materials of a historical building contribute to its historical fabric, noting that “Preservation of a building or district and its historical character is based on the assumption that the retention of historical materials and features and their craftsmanship are of primary importance.” There are many features that make wood siding of primary historical importance to your building. The tools used, geographically-specific craftsmanship techniques, types of clapboards and how they are manufactured and installed, the profiles, decorative edging, and patterns of application that make historical wood siding worthy of preservation are all lost when synthetic siding is used. For example, wood siding on Mid-Atlantic buildings from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s had distinctly different looks, features, and craftsmanship techniques than those in New England during the same time frame. The stock synthetic siding options available today simply cannot achieve that same level of variation between historically significant architecture styles. 

________________________________________________________________________

 

Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Serious health problems

  • Synthetic siding not only masks the health of a historical building, it deteriorates it, endangering both the building and the people who live or work in it

Synthetic siding causes more serious problems. Wood siding on a historical building is also one of the most easily read indicators of the general health of the building. Paint peeling from wood siding can be an early warning signal that there are moisture problems threatening the building, and can sometimes even indicate where those problems are rooted (e.g., gutters or downspouts that aren’t working, improper flashing/weatherproofing, etc.). If wood siding is replaced by or covered with synthetic siding, it often masks any early signs or symptoms of moisture issues and results in more extensive moisture damage. Not only does synthetic siding mask the health of a building, it deteriorates that health. Since synthetic sidings to not allow a house to breathe the way wood siding does, it exacerbates any moisture problems that are present or develop in the future by essentially locking the moisture in the building. In doing so, synthetic siding encourages the growth of molds that turn the building’s air quality into a toxic environment that endangers the health of its occupants. Vinyl siding specifically also carries other health and safety concerns like the toxic fumes it emits when heated, and the cancer risks currently thought to be connected to the polyvinyl chloride plastic resin vinyl siding is made out of. 

________________________________________________________________________

 

Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Damage

  • Synthetic siding can result in permanent damage to the character-defining features of a historical building

Synthetic siding can cause irreversible damage to the building. An uneducated, and often heard argument claims that when need be, vinyl siding can simply be removed if it is applied over top of the original wooden siding. This is in part true, but it is in part reflective of a naïve understanding of what contributes to the historical fabric of a building, and how even seemingly simple changes can result in permanent damage to that fabric. Once again, Preservation Brief No. 8 from the National Park Service sets the record straight. It states, “there is frequently irreversible damage to historic building materials if decorative features or trim are permitted to be cut down or destroyed, or removed by applicators and discarded.” During the installation process of synthetic siding, even if it is only being applied over existing wood siding, the original wood siding can be permanently damaged by furring strips nailed onto the walls to create a flat surface to install the new siding on. Windows, door trim, cornice, decorative trim and molding, and other projecting details are sometimes permanently altered because the cost of custom-fitting the new synthetic siding to retain their character is too much.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Evaluate your building’s siding:

  • Do any areas of my historical building have synthetic siding materials applied over wood siding?
  • If yes, do I have a plan for restoring the original wood siding?
  • Are there areas of my wood siding that have already been replaced because of deterioration?
  • Were they replaced with comparable wood materials and craftsmanship features?
  • Do they blend in with the original siding?
  • Is my wood siding evaluated regularly and properly maintained? Is it re-painted every 5-10 years?
  • Do I have a maintenance plan and agreement with a qualified and competent historical restoration company to ensure proper maintenance of my wood siding?

 

Historical buildings were built when neither advancements in technology nor construction technology was in abundant supply.  Early designers made the most of building materials and design options to construct buildings with a powerful combination of harnessed natural resources and innovative design that worked together to maximize energy efficiency.

Everything from exterior paint colors, locations of balconies, numbers and placement of windows, to physical placement of buildings on lots was carefully considered to maximize heating, lighting, and ventilation in traditional construction.

The results are astounding, and studies have shown that properly restored and maintained 18th-, 19th, and early 20th century buildings can be just as energy efficient as new construction, and in many cases even more efficient.

The historical wood windows in your building contribute to that energy efficiency, and, contrary to urban legends, new replacement windows are not more energy efficient than historical wood windows.  Typically, studies that conclude such a finding have compared new replacement windows with historical windows that have not been maintained or restored, are decaying, and have no complementary energy retrofits, such as weather-stripping and storm windows.

Studies on energy efficiency also usually fail to consider “embodied energy”. Embodied energy represents the energy it took to manufacture a product.  They say the greenest building is the one already built.  This is true when you consider the embodied energy – an existing energy investment that will never be able to be recaptured once you destroy the product it’s embodied in.

Historical wood windows have an embodied energy value that includes all the energy from harvesting and milling the wood to transporting and manufacturing the windows to installing them in your historical building.  Preserving existing windows conserves that embodied energy and eliminates the need of additional energy to manufacture replacement windows.  When you take all energy into consideration for defining the energy efficiency of windows, historical wood windows are far more energy efficient than replacement windows.

Tips For Improving Energy Efficiency

Here are some tips for improving the energy efficiency in your historic home.

  1. Have a maintenance appraisal performed.  When not properly maintained, there are many ways a historic home’s energy efficiency suffers – such as air leaks into and out of the home.  A maintenance appraisal performed by a qualified contractor will locate any source of air leakage and provide you with a plan-of-attack to remedy the problem without damaging the historic aspects of your home.
  2. Schedule an energy audit.  This could really be tied for the #1 spot; both the maintenance appraisal and an energy audit are absolutely essential things that need to be done BEFORE you implement any energy improvement measures.  The energy audit will evaulate your home’s current energy performance and identify any deficiencies in both the envelope of your home and/or mechanical systems.
  3. Implement these findings.  Hire a qualified contractor to eliminate any air infilitration, repair windows and perform the other maintenance affecting your home’s energy efficiency.  Hire a qualified energy contractor to replace any mechancial systems found to be deterimental to your home’s energy efficiecny.  Make sure both of these contractors have a proven track record of working with historic buildings in a way that does not damage the architecture and its features.
  4. Change your habits.  Install timeers or motion detectors on lights, attach self-closing mechanisms on doors that might otherwise hang open, install fans and raise your thermostat temperature, use LEDs in your lights and turn off “vampire” devices that use electricity in standby mode or that use electricity in standby mode or whenever that are plugged into an outlet.
  5. Install insulation. Ther is a lot of misinformation regarding the best ways to insulate your house, and some of them can even damage your home.  Have the historic contractor and energy consultant you hire work together to devise an insulation plan specifcially tailored to your home, so you won’t compromise its architectural integrity.

Robert Young, PhD of the University of Utah’s College of Architecture + Planning joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss the intersection of sustainability and preservation. During our discussion we discussed how stewardship of existing buildings is the ultimate green building (plus it is large scale recycling). Some of the other topics we discussed are:

  •  The environmental impact of building
  •  The Three Pillars of Sustainability 
  •  Trends in technology and preservation
  •  And the challenges he sees facing adaptive reuse and how to combat common myths

Robert Young, authored two books, Historic Preservation Technology and Stewardship of the Built Environment.

Contact information:

Robert A. Young, PhD, FAPT, PE, LEED AP

Professor of Architecture

Historic Preservation Program Director

University of Utah College of Architecture + Planning

375 South 1530 East; 235AAC

Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0370 T: (801) 581-3909 E: [email protected]

Bio:

Robert A. Young, PhD, professor and historic preservation program director at the University of Utah College of Architecture + Planning, specializes in stewardship of the built environment which synthesizes historic preservation, adaptive reuse, sustainability, and community revitalization. His career bridges both professional practice and academia where he has advocated for stewardship of the built environment. He is the author of the books Historic Preservation Technology and Stewardship of the Built Environment. He holds a doctorate in Metropolitan Planning, Policy, and Design and has several graduate degrees that explore resource conservation in the built environment.

Professor Young has won numerous awards for his leadership in advocating historic preservation education and practice including the Utah Heritage Foundation Lucybeth Rampton Award, the University of Utah Distinguished Teaching Award, and the University of Utah Distinguished Service Professorship. He is a licensed Professional Engineer, a member of the Association for Preservation Technology College of Fellows, and an honorary member of AIA-Utah. Originally from Maine, he has travelled to all fifty of the United States, several Canadian Provinces and parts of Europe.

John Walters from LeWalt Consulting Groupe joined me to discuss how tax strategies can help with land and property preservation efforts.

We covered:

John’s contact information and additional resources:

LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC
https://www.facebook.com/LeWaltConsulting

727-388-9024

Tax Codes Referenced:
Conservation Easements
Historic Preservation Tax Incentives
Energy Incentives

Bio:
John is an Enrolled Agent, Certified Tax Coach, Best Selling Author, Instructor and Speaker at the firm LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC located in St. Petersburg, Florida.
He is known on LinkedIn as:
“Florida’s Leading Pro-Active Tax and Financial Change Agent for your Diverse needs and Individual Lifestyle”
At LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC our PASSION is creating “Tax Alpha” that helps you, as the Entrepreneur and Business Owner, live the “Ultimate”​ TAX-FREE lifestyle you desire using the complexities written into the Internal Revenue Service Tax-Code to your favor!
After all… We believe those numbers on your TAX FORMS is your “REAL” money, why not protect, preserve, and keep it for you and your family?
How may we Help You Live a Life that is less taxing…?

Tran

Announcer: Thank you for tuning into the Practical Preservation podcast. Please take a moment to visit our website practicalpreservationservices.com for additional information and tips to help you restore your historical home. If you’ve not yet done so, please subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher, and Sound Cloud, and also like us on Facebook.

Announcer: Welcome to the Practical Preservation podcast hosted by Danielle Keperling. Keperling Preservation Services is a family-owned business based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania dedicated to the preservation of our built architectural history for today’s use as well as future generations. Our weekly podcast provides you with expert advice specific to the unique needs of renovating a historic home, educating by sharing our from-the-trenches preservation knowledge and our guests’ expertise, balancing modern needs while maintaining the historical significance, character, and beauty of your period home.

Danielle: Thank you for joining us on the Practical Preservation podcast. Today, we have John Walters speaking with us about some tax tools that you can use to help preserve buildings. John is an Enrolled Agent, Certified Tax Coach, best-selling author, instructor, and speaker at the firm LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC. located in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is known on LinkedIn as Florida’s leading proactive state and financial change agent for your diverse needs and individual lifestyle.

Danielle: “At LeWalt Consulting Groupe, LLC., our passion is creating tax alpha that helps you as the entrepreneur and business owner live the ultimate tax-free lifestyle you desire using the complexities written into the Internal Revenue Service tax code to your favor. After all, we believe those numbers on your tax form is your real money. Why not protect, preserve and keep it for you and your family? How may we help you live a life that is less taxing?”

Danielle: So John, thank you for joining us and sharing your knowledge about the tax code and how that can be used to help us preserve buildings.

John: Well, thank you Danielle. I enjoy talking to people about taxes even though, I’m sure for most, it seems like a boring subject, but it’s one of the most things you’re going to pay all of your life and you might as be able to control it to your best ability.

Danielle: And understand it the best you can. I know I don’t feel I understand everything as much as I probably should. But yeah, I think the protections that people don’t understand that are written into tax code are really interesting because they can help you finance a project, they can help you make sure the building is preserved. Those things, I don’t think people necessarily think that those are tax code things, but they are. So thank you for sharing that knowledge with us.

John: Sure, no problem.

Danielle: I know one of the things that most people don’t either understand or are aware of is the tax conservation easement. If you could talk to us a little bit about that and help us understand. I understand a little bit from a preservation standpoint that the easement means that the outside can’t be changed because it’s protected, but I don’t understand what the tax ramifications of that is.

John: Okay. In the Internal Revenue Code, there’s a section called 170(h) and it talks about land conservation strategies, especially for federal and state taxes. What a land conservation strategy is designed to do is it’s designed to meet basically the tax payer’s – in this case, your client or whoever you’re working for – financial goals and take into heart their charitable desires.

John: In essence, it’s to preserve their properties and realize their most favorable economic outcomes, and actually, you get some tax savings out of it too. You become part of what we call the ready to conserve your assets for individuals and enjoy the related tax savings possible and the income opportunity in the property’s amenities.

John: In essence, what you want to do is let’s say you have a piece of property, but you don’t want it to be built on or you want to preserve it for generations to come and things like that. There are provisions in the tax code under the land conservation easement strategies is to actually give that land away. In essence, you’re giving it away for the purposes of being able to develop it or use it for some other commercial purpose to the government and you have official documents that tell you that you can do that. In turn, there are charitable deductions that you can take for that conservation.

John: With that, your land is preserved. Basically, you still retain rights to it, but you just can’t use it for other purposes, intended purposes.

Danielle: So it almost restricts you? Yeah, it restricts what you do with it. Okay.

John: Exactly. You have basically a deed of restriction, but that land can be used for whatever thing that you set it up for.

John: For instance, let’s say that you have land and you want to preserve it for hunting and you don’t want anybody to build anything on it. You could have a land conservation easement for that property; it could still be used for hunting and you can use for that purpose. You can even build a structure on there like a lodge or something like that and people could use it for hunting, but they wouldn’t be able to use for some other commercial development.

Danielle: [crosstalk 00:06:17] Yeah.

John: Yeah. In turn, when you take that conservation easement, the government’s giving you a tax deduction and it can be up to 50% of your adjusted gross income. Let’s say for every dollar this property is valued at, you go get it appraised and stuff, sometimes you can get to four to five times the benefit. In essence, what you’re telling is, well, if I built it commercially, this is what it would be valued at. But if I-

Danielle: So if you develop the property, that’s why they use as your [crosstalk 00:07:00]

John: Right.

Danielle: Okay, that makes sense.

John: So if I was going to put a housing development on it, it would be worth X. But if I say, “I don’t want to allow that on there,” they’re going to take that value of the housing development, it’s appraised out, subtract what the land is worth right now, and you get the difference in the tax credits.

Danielle: Okay. Okay, and then is that an actual credit onto … I’m trying to think about what I’m familiar with preservation easements. You usually then donate that to a nonprofit, is that correct? Or is the conservation a little bit different?

John: Yeah, it’s actually donated to the government, per se, because it’s under tax code. Now, there’s the charitable contributions fall under the federal tax code, but you can also get state tax credits too, depending on what state you’re in and the property.

Danielle: Yeah, I know. Yeah, the preservation tax credits are very dependent on which state you’re in, how robust they are.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly.

Danielle: Yeah. So this benefits the person that’s doing the easement by reducing their taxable income. Is that pretty much what the goal is?

John: Right. You can reduce your actual tax that you would owe by between 30 and 50% of your adjusted gross income.

Danielle: Okay.

John: Now, let’s say it exceeds 50% of your gross income in that particular year, those charitable credits can be carried over for many years into the future until you can use them up.

Danielle: Okay.

John: Yeah, so typically, if you don’t have a whole lot of income in that particular year, it will just carry over until you can use those up.

Danielle: Use it up, so there’s not a time limit. I was thinking there’s a difference – and now this is telling you what I don’t understand about taxes. There’s a difference between a credit and a deduction, is that correct? So the credit is like just straight money to you, it’s not based on any kind of scale, correct? Is that what-

John: Well, yeah. There are credits that are basically a one-to-one dollar reduction in your taxes. Now, in the credit world-

Danielle: Okay, so [crosstalk 00:09:27] a percentage. Yeah.

John: Exactly. In the credit world though, you have two types of credits. You have what we call non-refundable, meaning that it can reduce your income, your taxes to zero. Then after that, if you still have more credit, you can’t use it anymore. You won’t get additional money back. But if they’re refundable, that means that you could have zero income tax that you owe, and still get a refund back from the government. Now-

Danielle: Oh, okay. Makes sense. Yeah.

John: And with the deductions, they are a percentage, depending on what your marginal tax bracket is. So in essence, a deduction, if you’re in the 25% tax bracket, then you’re going to get 25% or 25 cents back on the dollar for every dollar you deduct.

Danielle: Okay, okay. I know I see, in this area, a lot of conservation easements for farmland.

John: Exactly.

Danielle: Where the families want to preserve their farms from development but they still want to be able to use them and farm them. The easement doesn’t stop you from being able to use it from how you’ve been using it; it’s how you write the easement. Is that correct?

John: Right. So for an example like that, in farming and ranching, Ted Turner, which we all know from the broadcasting world and everything else, he has huge tracks of land in Wyoming and Montana that he has easements on. He still allows – there’s wild buffalo that run on there. He has cattle that graze and everything so it can still be used for ranching, but no one can actually develop it into a housing development or any commercial purpose.

Danielle: Okay, okay. Very, very interesting. Thank you. So then when you go to do the charitable deduction, then they figure out what the amount would be if they developed and then they give you … Is it the difference? Is that pretty much what your credit is?

John: Yeah. So for instance, let’s say it would be valued, appraised, at a million dollars if it was fully developed, but right now in your hands, ownership, it was worth really only $100,000, per se, in undeveloped land and everything else. So in fact, you could probably get a deduction for the $900,000 difference there.

Danielle: Because you’re not using it to develop it completely. It is a benefit then to the community too. That does make sense to me as to why it would be a tax credit also because you’re agreeing to leave it the way it was. It’s not [crosstalk 00:12:20].

John: Right, yeah.

Danielle: Yeah. So what are the risks to somebody who wants to use an easement or a land conservation easement to preserve their property? What would the risks be to that?

John: Well, a couple risks, not necessarily to the owner of the land. There are people that actually don’t own the land but want to invest in the ownership of that property with the original owner to get these tax credits.

Danielle: Oh, right.

John: So some of the risk there would be basically you may not get the asset protection as a limited partner instead of the ownership of it. Operating reserves set aside at a closing. There may be monies that are needed in excess of that property for the conveyance of it and the deed. Could be additional capital calls if other risks – or not risks but unknowns are known about the property. Maybe there was so encumbrances on the property that you didn’t know about and stuff, so money would have to become available to take those encumbrances away so that deed could be unrestricted.

John: Sometimes there’s a taxation risk basically due to audits because sometimes these things are not put together correctly. Lately, there’s been a little bit of talks in the IRS about making this what they call a listed transactions, where they still allow it, but you would have to list it there of what the transaction was and basically have your, per se, ducks in a row if you wanted to-

Danielle: [crosstalk 00:14:19] yeah.

John: Yeah. Of course, as always, anything in the code is subject to abuse.

Danielle: Right.

John: You may be working with unscrupulous people, a.k.a. crooks, that want to take your money basically and don’t do it properly so the whole deal falls apart.

Danielle: Yeah. That and I know that when we talk to home owners about it, people are nervous about restricting their deeds. I don’t know if you have that knowledge if it … Does it lower the value of the property or is it usually somebody who would be interested in conservation, is that something that would be appealing to them?

John: Oh, it would be very appealing to someone because most of us do have a charitable gift to us or want to do something, either that, preserve it for nature or actually for our legacy and stuff like that. But even if you end up selling the property or whatever, that easement and everything else can convey to the next group of people in ownership.

Danielle: Yeah, it attaches to the deed. Yep. Then they then have to … As far as I know, that is the only preservation tool that actually restricts what you can do because even being on the National Register, that building can still be torn down if you take the appropriate steps and get approval. You know what I mean?

John: Right.

Danielle: So that doesn’t protect it as much as the easement does. I know of a project here in Lancaster that they were going to develop. It was where Thaddeus Stevens had his offices in Lancaster. They were going to tear it down and then the nonprofit that held the easement came forward and said, “No, you can’t. We have an easement on this property.” And they actually ended up, it’s really a cool building to look at now because they incorporated the modern construction around this building. It’s marrying that old with the new, but they had to keep the original building there because they did hold the easement.

Danielle: That’s the only preservation tool that I know guarantees that the building will not change and have to stay the way it has been. So very, very [crosstalk 00:16:51].

John: Yeah, exactly because you are actually accepting a deed of restriction that permanently prohibits some sort of commercial exploitation and rights to the real estate property and stuff. You’re absolutely right. That’s pretty much the most ironclad vehicle there to be able to preserve something.

Danielle: Right, okay. And then I know you had given me some notes. I have that you would talk about the energy efficient property credits.

John: Sure, sure.

Danielle: Those are being extended, which is kind of exciting for people who are wanting to maybe put some green energy to use in their homes.

John: Yeah. The wind and solar credits have actually been extended to 2024 because our government sees the value of doing that and making us less reliant, basically, on fuels like oil and gas and things like that. The interesting thing is for these types of credits, you can qualify up to 30% of the eligible cost, which in fact, I just did one for a client this tax season.

John: They invested in a solar roof. They spent $52,000 on the roof. They ended up getting a $17,000 tax credit back, so it kind of wiped out all of their tax that they owed. Yeah and they’ll actually get to carry some over into the subsequent years because they used up all the taxes that they had this particular year.

John: So yeah, the beauty about theirs is … They were so excited because they started getting checks from the power company. In fact-

Danielle: Oh, that is exciting.

John: Yeah! They got a $400 check back from Duke Energy, which is the provider in the area. They were so elated because now the power company owes them money.

Danielle: Yeah. I know that when we started talking, you and I had started talking about doing this podcast topic, we had just been talking about the Tesla roof material. Those are individual solar cells. They picked all things that would be traditional materials and you can’t tell the difference. I’ll be curious to see how those are embraced, once they do their full roll-out, by the preservation community because those solar panels, the types of [crosstalk 00:19:42] they chose-

John: Oh, the new shingles?

Danielle: Yeah, but they chose slate and tile, those are not inexpensive roofing materials anyway. So if somebody’s going to do that, I’ll be curious to see how it’s embraced by the preservation community because there’s definitely that intersection of green and then traditional-looking materials at least.

John: Right.

Danielle: I think that’s pretty exciting.

John: Yeah. A lot of those things are coming out from the world of the Tesla vehicles and all of that to Elon Musk and producing new types of materials.

John: Yeah, that was the thing is people, they liked the idea of the solar, but they didn’t want to have these what they would consider ugly panels on their roof. So now-

Danielle: [crosstalk 00:20:29], yeah, yeah.

John: Yeah. It’s probably going to be in your world, open up a lot more opportunity and people to want to do that because yeah, now they can more look like the original property that we’re trying to preserve and everything, and get the efficiency out of it of modern energy systems.

Danielle: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s something exciting to definitely keep an eye on.

Danielle: The other thing and something that I think that people know about but it’s kind of like they don’t know a lot about it is the rehabilitation credits. I know the federal government has theirs, and then the State of Pennsylvania has some. There’s not a lot of money in the state. The tax credits here are very new for rehabilitation. I think they’re only a couple of years-old. I know that the federal tax credits have been around for a while and they’ve actually shown good economic development benefits, but if you could talk a little bit about the Rehabilitation Credits in the tax code.

John: Yeah, there’s rehabilitation credits.

Danielle: That’s a tough word.

John: Yeah, I know. That’s under Internal Revenue Code Section 47. There are actually two of them. One, it’s a 10% of the qualified rehabilitation expenditures, or whatever you spend, with respect to the qualified rehabilitated building. Other than a certified – it doesn’t have to be a certified historic structure in this case, okay?

Danielle: Right.

John: You can still get 10% of that. Now, in the second case, you can get 20% of the qualified rehabilitation expenditure, or cost, if it is a certified historic structure. So there, you can benefit even more.

John: Basically, the federal government is telling us, “Look, we understand you want to keep these buildings. They’re great buildings or whatever like that. They just need some tender love and care. We’re going to help you lower the cost to go ahead and rehab these buildings, especially if you’re going to keep them in order, use them for an economic purpose.”

John: So what we’re kind of looking at too is, okay, what’s in it for the government? Well, obviously if you’re going to be able to use that building, rehab it, for its use or just bring it back up to code so you can keep using it, well, they’re going to get more tax money, right?

Danielle: Right, right.

John: Because you’re going to remain in business and use that building. Well, the states, obviously, are still going to benefit because they’re going to get additional property taxes and they’ll probably reassess it on the rehabbed cost of it because, oh, it’s gone up in value because you rehabilitated it. There’s two benefits there.

John: Now, obviously the states benefits aren’t as rich as the federal government because, as we know, our government’s got plenty of money to throw around. Right?

Danielle: Right. Maryland has a really good rehabilitation credit system though. Theirs is, I think if you combined the federal and Maryland’s, you can get up to 50%.

John: Yeah.

Danielle: Yeah, so some of the states have a really good system.

John: I think it’s great. And so basically, it’s something to take into benefit there if you have a building that would meet those criteria. There again, you might get a little bit if it’s not a historic building, but still, it might be in your benefit to do it.

John: Now, like everything that we do in the tax code, there’s good and bad things. Well, the good thing is, yes, you could get some assistance there for doing it. The bad thing is you might have to jump over some hurdles, some paperwork, this and that, and everything else. But I found that once you do it, it’s well worth it.

Danielle: Yeah, I agree. It is a process to get through that because at first, you have to be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office, and then you go. They actually, once they have everything that they need, then they forward it onto the National Park Service for review. But typically, it is a lot of paperwork, but most people can get through it. It’s just having to stay on top of it.

Danielle: I do know one thing that is, and the tax benefits, one thing that’s kind of frustrating to homeowners that this is mostly or it is just for income-producing properties. So you’ve either gotta be a business or a bed and breakfast or rental unit, something like that.

John: Right.

Danielle: One other thing that I learned that’s very interesting is the tax credits on your passive income. Well, most people don’t have a lot of passive income. So I sat through a presentation. I’m like, “Oh, that makes so much sense.” Banks are willing to pay, buy the tax credits from you, because they have passive income and they can use them. The credits are transferrable. I didn’t know that.

John: Yeah, yeah.

Danielle: When I heard that, I was like, “Oh my goodness. I never would have thought to shop my tax credits to anybody,” but there are people who do it.

John: That’s an interesting point that you bring up. You know, a lot of people say, “Well, if I can’t use them, I lose them.” No, they actually have benefit and people are willing to use them. The other thing too is you’ve heard of those called carbon tax credits for pollution and everything else?

Danielle: Yeah, yeah.

John: Well, let’s say you have a business and you get X amount of tax credits, but your business is pretty efficient, non-polluting, and everything else. You get these credits but you don’t use them all the way or whatever like that. Well, there’s certain other businesses that are more polluting and they need more credits than they actually get from whatever they’re producing, so they’ll buy those credits from you and that helps them out too. There is a market for that.

Danielle: Yes, I would have never even thought that until I was sitting in that presentation. I’m like, “That makes so much sense.” Because most people, even if they’re high-income people, don’t have a lot of passive income, but banks do. I thought that was a really, really interesting thing that I learned.

John: Yeah. And the thing most people don’t understand is you have to match up the types of income and losses to be able to take them. For what you’re just saying there, if you have passive income, you have to have passive losses to match up against them. You can’t take income that you earned from your job and actually offset passive income or investment income in there. That’s a key.

John: What we try to do there is if we do have a client that does have lots of passive losses, we try to find some passive incomes. We call it a PIG PAL strategy. Passive activity losses matched up with passive income generations.

Danielle: Oh, okay. Very cool. Yeah, you understand how to maximize these strategies. I thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and our listeners. Could you tell me, unless, did you have anything else you wanted to share or anything that we didn’t care that you wanted to?

John: Well, I think that’s pretty good.

Danielle: Oh, okay. Very good.

John: There’s so much embedded in there.

Danielle: There is.

John: Yeah.

Danielle: And I’ll definitely, the tax codes or sections that you referenced, on the website resource section, I will definitely put those there so people can go and read them.

John: Okay.

Danielle: And your information will definitely be on the website too, but how can our audience get a hold of you if they have specific questions or they want to use your expertise to help preserve their buildings?

John: Well, they can actually call my office if they want. My phone number directly is 727-388-9024. If, by chance, somebody doesn’t answer the phone, leave a message and we get back to you in a short amount of time.

John: You can also go to my website it’s www.lewaltconsultinggroup.com and leave a message there or we have lots of information on the website that you can contact us or find out some other information about the different tax codes. I think you’ll probably put our website on your-

Danielle: I will, yeah, I’ll definitely make sure that gets put on the website too. We’ll have links, and I’ll have the additional information, and anything else that we think that would be good resources for all of our listeners.

Danielle: Thank you so much for joining us today.

John: Okay, well, yeah. It was a pleasure talking here and one last thing.

Danielle: Oh, sure.

John: With the broadness of the tax code, people think, “Oh, it’s just in general,” or whatever. There’s really something for everybody in there, we just have to sometimes dig deep for you. If you employ certain people, there’s tax credits for employing certain groups of people.

Danielle: Right, yeah. We had just learned that we could get a Made in America tax credit because we manufacture. I never even thought about what we do as manufacturing, but it is! There’s always something in there that you might not even think would apply to you.

John: Yeah, so every situation, individual situation, is different. Don’t think that there’s nothing in there for you. There may be, depending on what you want to do. Hey, it’s worth a phone call or a short email conversation. We can see what we can do for you.

Danielle: Okay, very good. Thank you so much again.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the Practical Preservation podcast. The resources discussed during this episode are on our website at practicalpreservationservices.com/podcast.

Announcer: If you received value from this episode and know someone else that would get value from it as well, please share it with them. Join us next week for another episode of the Practical Preservation podcast.

Announcer: For more information on restoring your historic home, visit us at practicalpreservationservices.com

 

“We regret much of what we’ve built; we regret much of what we’ve torn down. But we’ve never regretted preserving anything.” -Daniel Sack

Original windows serve a dual purpose of providing ventilation and light while being an important part of the buildings architectural design. These windows are constantly under attack from the marketing forces of the replacement window companies.

Window Restoration

Window Restoration in Society Hill neighborhood in Philadelphia

 

Here’s a horrifying experience recently shared with us:

I was one of those stupid people who put new vinyl windows in my old 1883 farmhouse. I had already spent a winter fixing the old, broken, and cracked windows since no one had lived in my house for seven years. I did show significant saving (on) heating oil the first year since I had storm windows as well.

Fast forward ten years and I am already seeing the gas between the windows escaping. Some of the locks have stopped being cooperative as well. And the warranty? Well, the company no longer makes windows.

And ever since installing the windows, I have had peeling paint on my siding. I didn’t know about siding vents – the kind you stick up under the clapboards – until earlier this year.

This is one decision I wish I could make again – I’d never get rid of my old wooden windows!

Sadly, we hear these kinds of stories all the time (so much in fact we make traditional windows to replace modern replacement windows).

Traditional Wood Windows with Insulated Glass at the Petersen House in Washington, DC

Traditional Wood Windows with Insulated Glass at the Petersen

House in Washington, DC

However, we also know that your wood windows are the prime targets for replacement window companies.

The information homeowners are taught to believe, is that original wood windows are substandard and the only viable solution is to replace them with their very own superior product. Chances are you’ll probably even get a guarantee too!

The original windows are part of your home and integral to the historic fabric of it. Windows are one of the most significant architectural elements, and they serve as both an interior and exterior feature.

Windows that are not properly maintained can become more than an eye soar. The functionality of their original design begins to falter, chilly winter air seeps in and humidity becomes the deciding factor if the window will open this time or remain jammed shut for perpetuity.

Window Lead Magnet Ad

You can be assured that the trusted replacement window sales representative will make sure you are well educated on the seemingly endless array of benefits that can be attained by purchasing their product.

The sales pitch will include such ‘facts’ as your existing single-pane wood windows cannot perform as well as replacement windows!

This incomplete information continues to be perpetuated by the replacement window industry with the goal of you buying their window. Homeowners accepting this information are often being provided data comprised to affirm the idea that original and historic wood windows are inferior to their replacement counterparts.

Single-pane wood windows in disrepair and poorly maintained, cannot perform as well as intact replacement windows or any window in optimum condition.

Wood windows that are not adequately maintained, neglected and in poor condition are often used to base conclusive assessments of the efficiency of replacement windows verses original windows.

It should not be surprising that replacement windows fair better in this scenario.

These comparison studies and their findings are used to influence homeowners, but they do not tell the entire story. In fact, a properly maintained single-pane wood window, weatherized, in conjunction with a storm window (interior or exterior) is equal to a replacement window in energy usage according to numerous engineering studies.

A replacement window may save a few dollars in heating and cooling cost, but to recoup the cost in the investment of a whole home window replacement, it will take you fifty or more years at less than a $1.00 a year in heating and cooling savings according to the University of Vermont study.

Yes, replacement windows do offer double panes (sometimes triple), low U-Values and Low-E glass. The really cheap ones offer a low price point too.
It doesn’t make them better.

Restored windows Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA

Restored windows Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA

Another ‘fact’ that will be citied during the sales presentation is that replacement windows are “maintenance free”.

Maintenance free may imply a solution to a home’s rundown windows, but the solution is not found in mass produced and disposable windows.

Maintenance free means it cannot be maintained or repaired, with the average life span under twenty years, those very same replacement windows will find themselves in a land fill along with their nemesis, the original windows, they replaced. Every material and every part of a window wears, breaks down and needs some type of repair to continue proper functioning.

Fact is, that a replacement window cannot be repaired and cannot continue to work at the same level it was when installed. It is not comprised of the same individual components as traditional windows, it’s a single unit design and constructed as such to make it impossible to disassemble and repair.

When a replacement window fails, its maintenance free selling point becomes the reason you need another replacement window. It also becomes another opportunity for a replacement window company to sell you the latest and greatest ‘maintenance free’ window. The notion that replacing supposedly substandard wood windows with modern replacement worry-free windows, is certainly a misnomer. As in the case study above, homeowners are often disillusioned when the integrity of ten or twenty-year-old replacement windows deteriorate to level where they inevitably need to be replaced – again and again – welcome to the replacement cycle.

Original windows can be repaired and preserved because they predate the era of planned obsolescence. An era when buildings had to work with the environment to keep its inhabitants warm in the winter and cool in the summer. An era in which fixing things was preferred to replacement. An era before the skilled tradesman become product installers with an assembly line mentality of the building trades. The individual components of these windows can each be repaired, maintained or replaced in sections as need be. They were built for longevity, not for replacement.

Window Lead Magnet Ad
They can be preserved and their historical significance doesn’t need to be sacrificed for energy efficiency or functionality.

When an original wood window fails, it can be repaired and repaired again and it isn’t as daunting of a task as you just might think. Replacement window companies cannot make a profit if homeowners routinely maintain their historic windows. The replacement window industries’ goal is to sell as many windows as possible. Our goal is to help you understand there are options that preserve the integrity of your historic building and to arm you with information and facts.

Maintenance measures can be taken to keep historic windows energy efficient, properly functioning and able to last another 100 years:
 Painting
 Caulking
 Weather stripping
 Re-glazing
 And more…

Replacement windows will however permanently alter your homes interior and exterior appearance. Losing the detail and elegance found in the workmanship of true divided lights, wavy single pane windows, rails, muntins, profiles, depths and sills will be lost and replaced with flat and shadowless details, meant to replicate what was once there. Understanding the materials and traditional joinery used to build your original windows are superior to any replacement window is an important factor in deciding whether to restore or replace.

Challenging conventional knowledge on what it takes to maintain historic windows isn’t as daunting as it may seem. However, it requires shifting the paradigm of thought – understanding that maintaining your original windows can be a simple task and the reason to replace your windows is not to save energy costs or have zero-maintenance. 

Watch the video below to learn more options for your original wood windows.