Stephen McNair of Mc Nair Historic Preservation joined the Practical Preservation podcast to share with us his experiences and the services his firm provides.  Listen to learn: 

  • Potential issues with historic tax credits
  • Trends in adaptive reuse
  • Economic incentives for commerical use preservation projects
  • The biggest obstacles and challenges for planning historic projects

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Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement WindowsWood windows are an integral part of the innate energy efficiency of historical buildings. If we have learned anything from history it is that sometimes with all our modern advancements we do ourselves more harm than good.

Advancements in technology do not always produce better results, and construction technology isn’t exempt from that. Built in a time of readily available building materials and energy sources, modern building designs typically make poor use of both. Historical buildings were built when neither was in abundant supply and 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, to locations of balconies, to numbers and placement of windows, to physical placement of buildings on lots was carefully considered to maximize heating, lighting, and ventilation in traditional construction.

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The results are astounding and studies have shown that properly restored and maintained 18th & 19th Century buildings can be just as energy efficient as new construction, and in many cases even more energy efficient. (Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have also shown that buildings built in the 1950’s through the 1970’s were the biggest energy consumers of all.)

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The historical wood windows in your building contribute to that energy efficiency and, contrary to urban legend, 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

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have not been maintained or restored, are decaying, and have no complementary energy retrofits such as weather-stripping and storm windows.

If you would like to read these studies, you can access them in the resources section of our website.

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 when you consider this embodied energy – an existing energy investment that will never be able to be recaptured once you destroy the product it’s embodied in.

If the greenest building is the one already built, then the greenest window is the one already there. 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 reduces the use of additional energy when making replacement windows.

Which means that when you take all energy, energy expended on heating and cooling costs as well as the embodied energy, into consideration for defining the energy efficiency of windows – historical wood windows are far more energy efficient than replacement windows
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Increasing energy efficiency in historic buildings is always a hot topic. Here are our Top Six Tips for improving the energy efficiency in historic buildings:

 

Number 1

Have a Maintenance Appraisal Performed to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

When not properly maintained, there are many ways energy efficiency in historic buildings suffers – one of which are 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 leakage without damaging the historic aspects of your home.

 

Number 2

Schedule an Energy Audit to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This could really be tie 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 evaluate current energy efficiency in your historic building and identify any deficiencies in both the envelope of your home and/or the mechanical systems.

 

Number 3

Implement a Maintenance Plan to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

After you have these two critical reports in your hand, set to work implementing them.  Hire a qualified contractor to eliminate any air infiltration, repair windows, and perform the other maintenance affecting your home’s energy efficiency.  Hire a qualified energy contractor to replace any mechanical systems they’ve found to be detrimental to your home’s energy efficiency.  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.  Maintenance is one of the most critical aspects of improving the energy efficiency of historic buildings.

 

Number 4

Change Your Habits to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This can be the toughest one to do, but if we truly want to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings then our habits have to change.  Some of these changes can be easy – install timers or motion detectors on lights, attach self-closing mechanisms on doors that might otherwise hag open, install fans and raise the thermostat temperature, use CFLs in your lights, unplug “vampire” devices that use electricity in standby mode or whenever they are plugged into an outlet (most chargers, DVD players, etc.).

 

Number 5

Install Insulation to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

Installing insulation in strategic places can be a cost-effective solution to energy loss – but make sure you are not installing the insulation in ineffective places and ways.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there of the best ways to insulate your house, and some of them can even permanently damage your home.  Have the historic contractor and energy consultant you hire work together to devise an insulation plan specifically tailored to increase the energy efficiency of your historic building that won’t compromise its architectural integrity.

 

Number 6

Use Shading Devices to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

There are several ways you can make use of shading devices in ways that are historically compatible to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings.  Many historical homes made use of exterior awnings and if there is evidence your home may have originally had awnings you can consider installing them again.  Some homes may still have their awnings on them – if yours does, maintain it well for maximum benefit.  Trees, bushes, and other foliage are another good way to shade your home during the summer to increase energy efficiency if you have the space.  As is hanging drapes and curtains on any windows receiving direct sunlight  and keeping them closed during the sunlight hours.

 

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The Technical Preservation Service at the National Park Service offers Preservation Brief #3: Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings that provides an in-depth look at this topic.  You can read the brief online at: nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm

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Painting a historical home is about more than just going to the big box home improvement store and browsing the array of color choices available, picking a few you like, trying each of them out in test spots, and then making a final decision.

While seemingly harmless, painting a historical home carries with it a surprisingly significant risk of damaging your home.

The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief #10: Exterior Paint Problems on Historic Woodwork notes:

“Because paint removal is a difficult and painstaking process, a number of costly, regrettable experiences have occurred – and continue to occur – for both the historic building and the building owner.  Historic buildings have been set on fire with blow torches; wood irreversibly scarred by sandblasting or by harsh mechanical devices such as rotary sanders and rotary wire strippers; and layers of historic paint inadvertently and unnecessarily removed.  In addition, property owners, using techniques that substitute speed for safety, have been injured by toxic lead vapors or dust from the paint they were trying to remove or by misuse of the paint removers themselves.”

There are several factors to consider when choosing an appropriate paint for your historical home:

Quality Paint for Historic Buildings

The temptation to save money by using cheap paint can be alluring.  Many contractors, and even homeowners, mistakenly think that paint choices need only match historical but this is not so and the old adage “you get what you pay for” is particularly true for your paint.  Investing in quality paint will save you money in the long run.

Paint Preparation for Historic Buildings

The key to successful paint application is in knowing what preparation is required for the different types of paint that may already be on your building – they each have their own preparation requirements.  If you are not sure of what type of paint is on your building, you can consult a qualified contractor to obtain a paint analysis to provide you with both the chemical and color makeup of your existing paint.

Lead Paint Handling on Historic Buildings

The health risks of lead exposure are well known – brain and nervous system damage, hearing and vision loss, impaired development of children… But did you know that lead in dust (such as the dust created while sanding and prepping surfaces for new paint) is the most common way people are exposed to lead?  To avoid these risks, choose a contractor who is “Renovation, Repair, and Painting” certified by the EPA for lead paint handling.

 

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A few questions for evaluating the paint on your historical home and to ask before beginning any painting project:

Does my paint exhibit any peeling, cracking, chalking (powdering), crazing (small, interconnected cracks), mold or mildew, staining, blistering, or wrinkling?

Does my building have an existing paint application that is inappropriate for its historical fabric?

Do I know what type of paint is currently on my building and what preparation is required before painting over that type of paint?

If I am using a contractor, are they “Renovation, Repair, and Painting” certified by the EPA for lead paint handling?

Does that contractor understand which methods, tools, materials, and chemicals are appropriate for paint removal on my historical building?

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Resources for Painting Historic Buildings

 

A number of years ago, we had the very fortunate luck to be given the opportunity to completely restore the Denn House in southern New Jersey.  Below is the story of how that restoration happened, excerpted from Lois Groshong’s book, “2001 Restoration of a Southern New Jersey Colonial”.

Be sure to check out the pictures at the end of the article that we took just this month of how the Denn House looks today, and the pictures of other Patterned Brick houses in Salem County, New Jersey.

 

INTRODUCTION

Built as a private home in 1725, (the John Maddox Denn house is) two stories with the front entrance facing Alloway Creek.

English Quakers founded in the town, known as Salem, in 1675 as their “New Paradise in the Providence of West Jersey” has much history.  The Dutch, under Captain Mey, explored the area, as wella s the English in the 1630’s, experimenting with growing tobacco.  Swedes and Finns began arriving in 1638, landing in the New World of what is now Wilmington, Delaware.  For twelve years, Salem was a military post of Sweden.

A Chandler form the parish of St. Sepulche in London, John Maddox and his family arrived in Salem aboard the ship “Surry” in 1578 and purchased one half of William Hancock’s allotment of ground.  The grandson, John Maddow Denn, born in 1693, built the home that we see today, a charming remembrance to England in the days of Cromwell and Charles the Second.  Surrounded by towering Spirea Plants, well-kept lawns, and beautiful shrubbery, the old John Maddox Denn house is without a doubt one of the show places of Fenwick’s old Colony.  It sits along the south bank of the Monmouth River on the road, which leads from Hancock’s Bridge.  Like its neighbors on the same road, the Denn property heard the thunder of Major John Graves Simcoe’s Rangers the morning of March 21, 1778.  William Hancock was a Loyalist to the King, yet the English Calvary had wounded him and massacred the Colonials who had sought shelter in the Hancock House.  The Denn house was put to use as a field hospital.  This house is registered in the library of Congress as a National Historic Site

 

Denn House Before Photos:
historic restoration colonial architecture historic architecture historic building restorations Denn House Historic Denn House Restoration of Denn House

 

Restoring the Windows

White Oak Denn HouseA load of White Oak was purchased from an antique wood dealer.  Raw material taken from an old building that had been demolished, 3’x8′ beams that ranged in length from three to sixteen feet.

January 13, 2001, Chuck and Lois take a Saturday trip to remove existing windows.  Halfway through the process the wind picks up and snow flurries begin.  “Press On” was the decision; all windows were disposed and openings boarded up before nightfall.

To begin the process of transformation the wood is run on the planer, making all the sides straight and smooth.  Sections are measured, cut and set aside.  Cracks and imperfections are filled “Bondo” and sanded smooth to the touch.  Next the ends are mortised or tendoned, depending on if it is a vertical or horizontal section of the window frame.  Side jambs are tendoned to fit the head and sill mortise.  The pieces are sized and glued together.  Historic Restorations also uses steel clamps to insure that the fit is square and tight as it can be.  Clamps are kept on for 24 hours; there will be no movement that can be detected in any unit.  After the window frames are all together, an oil base primer is applied to all surfaces to seal the wood; this is also an effective method to prepare for the finish coat to be applied on site.

Sash size varies because the window openings are all different.  There are five twelve-over-eight windows on the first floor, three eight-over-eight and three twelve-over-eight windows on the second floor.  Old glass is purchased for the “new” old windows.  Each pane is measured, cut, and glazed to fit each section of sash.  The effect is complete; newly made window frames and sash complement the 276-year-old house.

 

Working on the Walls and Ceilings

The walls are covered with paint, layers of wallpaper and plaster.  The ceilings are covered by plasterboard, resembling a seven and one-half foot modern flat ceiling.  Upon removing the added-on coverings, the walls revealed the original brick, badly deteriorated from years of settling and time had weakened portions of the interior structure.  A 12″x15″ Chestnut Summer Beam spans the length of each room, with the joist system for the second floor 5″x4.5″, at right angles.  Originally these exposed rafters were white washed; the lye used in the white wash prevented infection of insects as well as supplying a finished look for the wood.

Our next project was to strengthen the walls in the two rooms on the first floor.  Old brick was carefully taken out and relayed in an interlocked pattern, three deep, modeled from existing brickwork.  This was similar to putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together.  Concrete lintels have been installed above the doors and window.  Wire mesh is nailed to exposed brick to prepare for a new layer of fresh plaster.

Woodwork in Denn House antique pine in Denn House

Main Room Stairway

In the artisan woodworking shop of Historic Restorations a staircase made from Poplar for risers and antique Pine as treads is made ready.  The staircase that had been taken out was not original.  That stairway had narrow treads and curved away from the room.  The handrail system was square posts and a Bullnose on the bottom tread.  Chuck has determined that originally the stairs were a straight run between the fireplace and a door that opened into the room from the hallway.  Paneling made in the Historic Restorations shop from Poplar was stained and included in the delivery.  Jonathan has found evidence of paneling as being part of the earliest home decor.  Custom paneling will be used in the more formal first floor room.  A Colonial handrail is purchased to be taken apart and fit into the stair and rail system.

Main Room Stairway
ick Work and History
Historic RestorationsDenn House Restoration and Preservation

 

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The John Maddox Denn House is a splendid examples of the English homes of the Cromwell Period.  The east wall is covered with a diamond diaper of only three diamonds wide, but covering twenty-three courses from point-to-point.  The largest such figure of any known American or English house.  The date of 1725 begins several courses below the eaves level.  The 4-course brickwork in this wall is the first time that numerals of different sizes were used in a date.

The history of the unusual brick work found on the walls of some of Salem County’s old homes begins as far into the past as Boos Manor, Rouen, France with a small brick dove cote or pigeon house.  Built early in the fifteenth century, these dovecotes were decorated with the diaper or diamond designs seen today on Salem County houses.  Flemish-Norman artisans introduced the design into England in the fifteenth century.  Ornamental brickwork, on the overall pattern of the house and diaper design are two examples from France.  The English method of brick making yielded to the Flemish influence, so much that the Flemish ideas virtually replaced the English.

The John Maddox Denn HouseEnglish bond was very irregular and uneven.  The English style had become popular and persisted until the introduction of Flemish bond around the second half of the fifteenth century.  English bond there (across the pond) were alternate courses of headers and stretchers with the second brick of the heading course used as a closer.  Flemish bond had a stretcher and header in the same course.  IN this method, the artisans used vitrified or blue header brick.  This used with the red stretcher brick gives the checkerboard effect still seen in Salem today.  The diaper design was strictly ornamental.  Colors used to make the diapers were grays, yellows, purples, and blues.  Vitrified brick, originated by the Flemish, was made by applying continued heat until the color changed.  “These patterns, diamonds, diapers, etc., were produced by over-burnt header bricks vitrified for the purpose.”  Vitrified, dictionary definition: “changed into glass or a substance like glass, give or having a glassy or glazed surface.”  It had been thought that glass was mixed with the brick, this is erroneous.

The English preferred the soft gray diaper pattern because it is soothing to the eye.  Today in England many houses show the gray patterns, some approaching a vermillion shade.  Naturally being close to France the invasion of the Flemish builders sex hundred years ago left is mark.  What transpired to bring this artistry another three thousand miles and to locate in one county of one province, a Quaker settlement where ornamentation and display were frowned upon?  Bricklayers immigrating into America sought to continue their art in the New World, these artisans settled in Salem county from about 1720-1764.  Nowhere in all of America do we find the profusion and intricacy flowering to the heights of artistic genius as in Salem County, New Jersey.

 

Bringing the Fireplaces Back to Life

The Denn House was designed with a central chimney.  A popular style in the late 16th Century Europe, it supports the ventilation system for the four fireplaces in the original house.  The two fireplaces on the first floor sit back-to-back directly below the two fireplaces on the second floor.

Over the years the fireboxes on the first floor have been decreased in size.  One fireplace on the second floor was hidden behind a wall.  A gem uncovered when Jonathan demolished the bathroom that had been added in the early 20th Century.  This fireplace has an arched opening with a “keystone” center top.  Chuck loved the look of this discovery so much he wanted to duplicate it in one of the first floor fireplaces.

First floor first, both fireboxes are taken apart exposing the original dimensions for reconstruction.  A windfall is discovered down the road, a brick building being taken down provide hundreds of old brick.  The labor to pick through to find unbroken whole bricks, bring the brick back to the Denn House and clean them before the brick can be put back into service is a small price to pay for the quality and authentic appearance of the found brick.

Both fireplaces are taken apart creating an open look from either room.  The chimney is rebuilt a portion of the length up to reinforce the structural strength.  Hearths are remade; this is for adding stability as well as aesthetic purpose.

Bricks are placed on the hearth and and back in a Herringbone pattern.  The decision to do this was arrived at by searching local homes to observe the style of the tradesman when this area was first settled.  The Herringbone pattern is seen repeatedly in sidewalks, courtyards, and driveways, a definite eastern seaboard occurrence.

Herringbone pattern

 

 

 

The Denn House as it stands today:historic architecture
   historic building historic building Denn House historic building restoration historic building preservation Denn House the historic building historic restoration historic restoration

 

 

The Denn House 2013:

historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture John Maddox Denn House John Maddox Denn House Restoration 

 

Other Patterned Brick Houses in Salem County, New Jersey

John Maddox Denn House Preservation Maddox Denn House Maddox Denn House historic property Denn House Denn House Restored historic building contractor historic building contractor

 

Patterned Brick Quaker Meeting House

historic building contractor historic building contractor historic building contractor building restorations building preservation preservation of Denn House preservation building preservation historic building preservation

Tax Incentives for Preserving Historic Properties

The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program encourages private sector investment in the rehabilitation and re-use of historic buildings. It creates jobs and is one of the nation’s most successful and cost-effective community revitalization programs. It has leveraged over $62 billion in private investment to preserve 38,000 historic properties since 1976. The National Park Service and the Internal Revenue Service administer the program in partnership with State Historic Preservation Offices.

Group of people on a tour of Baltimore tax incentives projects.

20% Tax Credit

A 20% income tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing buildings that are determined by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, to be “certified historic structures.” The State Historic Preservation Offices and the National Park Service review the rehabilitation work to ensure that it complies with the Secretary’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The Internal Revenue Service defines qualified rehabilitation expenses on which the credit may be taken. Owner-occupied residential properties do not qualify for the federal rehabilitation tax credit. Learn more about this credit before you apply.

Each year, Technical Preservation Services approves approximately 1000 projects, leveraging nearly $4 billion annually in private investment in the rehabilitation of historic buildings across the country.

10% Tax Credit

The 10% tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of non-historic buildings placed in service before 1936. The building must be rehabilitated for non-residential use. In order to qualify for the tax credit, the rehabilitation must meet three criteria: at least 50% of the existing external walls must remain in place as external walls, at least 75% of the existing external walls must remain in place as either external or internal walls, and at least 75% of the internal structural framework must remain in place. There is no formal review process for rehabilitations of non-historic buildings. Learn more about this credit in Historic Preservation Tax Incentives.

Tax Benefits for Historic Preservation Easements

A historic preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement, typically in the form of a deed, that permanently protects an historic property. Through the easement, a property owner places restrictions on the development of or changes to the historic property, then transfers these restrictions to a preservation or conservation organization. A historic property owner who donates an easement may be eligible for tax benefits, such as a Federal income tax deduction. Easement rules are complex, so property owners interested in the potential tax benefits of an easement donation should consult with their accountant or tax attorney. Learn more about easements in Easements to Protect Historic Properties: A Useful Historic Preservation Tool with Potential Tax Benefits.

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Tell us your thoughts…

Have you been involved in a project that used the federal rehabilitation tax credit?

What questions do you have about the federal income tax credit for historic properties?

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Rhonda Sincavage (Associate Director for Intergovernmental Affairs at the National Trust for Historic Preservation) talks about what historic preservationists do, and what they look like (we’re not the little old, blue-haired women most people think of, she points out).  And most importantly, how historic preservation encourages economic growth, incubates independent and small business growth, promotes green building practices and sustainable construction, and builds a sense of community.

httpv://youtu.be/zwSPIRceSi0

We exhibited at the 2009 Old House Fair sponsored by The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia this weekend – this is the last of our home shows for the spring season. It is always affirming to meet so many people dedicated to caring for their older buildings.

As promised some energy conservation tips from the Traditional Building Show are below – check back every week for more knowledge gathered from the seminars.

1. Do an energy audit – contact your electrical company for information.
2. Change your light bulbs to either CFL or LED bulbs.
3. Install a Programmable Thermostat.
4. Unplug electronics when not in use – 40% of electricity is used when electronics are not in use.
5. Retrofit toilets and faucets to save water.
6. Use lighting controls – dimmers and usage.
7. Use ceiling fans to help circulate air both in the warm months and the colder months.
8. Upgrade appliances to the most efficient possible.

On Wednesday, October 28, Jonathan and Danielle attended a energy conservation workshop offered by LIVE Green and Pure Energy. We learned things that can be done within an older building (they used a city row house as the example) to help conserve energy. The importance of insulation and energy efficient appliances to significantly reduce heating and electric bills. We appreciated the physics lesson explaining why replacement windows are not the answer to save energy (beyond the historic value).

LIVE Green is a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable city living their website is www.livelancaster.org for more information on their purpose, events, and workshops. Pure Energy is a Lancaster-based energy auditing company their website is www.pureenergyaudits.com for information on their services, training, and energy conservation tools.

We are working on building our preservation store on our website. Besides the Speedheater Paint Removal System we are adding John Leeke’s Practical Restoration Reports. These reports are able to be used by homeowners, contractors, and architects to provide an industry standard within restoration to work to. The reports we are going to carry are: Save Your Wood Windows, Wood-Epoxy Repairs, Wood Gutters, Exterior Wood Columns, Mouldings, Exterior Woodwork Details, and Managing Maintenance. A sample of Save Your Wood Windows
http://historichomeworks.com/hhw/reports/WoodWindowsSampleScr.PDF is available at the link above.

If you know of a preservation product or tool that you cannot live without let us know we are always looking for additional products to added to our website to help people restore/preserve their buildings with sensitivity.

Have a great holiday weekend!