Michael Bovie’s work on display at the
2011 Lancaster Historic Home Show

Stained glass has been around for thousands of years.  Stained glass, as most of us think of it, has been around for hundreds of years.  Stained glass artist Michael Bovie has been around much less, but he is undoubtedly making his mark on this ancient art. 

One of the craftsmen working on the Schmucker Hall restoration project alongside Historic Restorations, Lancaster Stained Glass Designs was contracted to restore an eight foot fanlight and two sidelights at the entrance door in the main foyer.  About 130 years old, the stained glass was in sad shape with broken and missing lead castings and glass, and even more hidden damage Bovie found as he began taking the glass apart to begin his restoration.  

This is exactly the kind of challenge Bovie thrives on, “No two jobs are ever the same, so nothing is ever boring and in the end I get the satisfaction of bringing something back that was so badly damaged, restoring it to its original grandeur,” the craftsman says.

Bovie’s favorite project so far was a piece commissioned from Lancaster Stained Glass designs by Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland to pay homage to one of their alumni, a founding father of modern stained glass by the name of John LaFarge.  LaFarge invented opalescent glass – the milkier stained glass that uses streaks of color to add movement and texture to the piece.  Before creating the stained glass piece, Bovie researched LaFarge and his techniques in depth, including a trip to Boston where he utilized unprecedented access to information and LaFarge’s works at several churches to help him design the piece commissioned by Mount St. Mary’s.  

While typically not quite as extensive or involved, Bovie’s historical restoration work does usually involve research in resource books and online sources into the history of stained glass techniques, artists, and their styles.  Bovie enjoys bringing this deeper level of detail and craftsmanship into his work with historical restorations.

The oldest glass Bovie has worked on is right here in Lancaster County, stained glass from the early 1800’s on a church in Little Britain Township, though Lancaster Stained Glass Designs is commissioned for both new stained glass pieces and historical restoration pieces.  Bovie works primarily in the South Central PA region, but has travelled all over the Eastern Seaboards states making and remaking art history.

So exactly how does one end up making art history? Thirty years ago, a friend cajoled Michael Bovie into taking a short stained glass class at a local studio.  This class turned out to be life-changing for Bovie and within one year Lancaster Stained Glass Designs was born and has been growing ever since.  From his studio in Manheim Township, Bovie says stained glass is the ideal art for him because it utilizes both his “art head” during the design creation process and his “tech head” during the actual creation of the stained glass project.

More information about stained glass craftsman Michael Bovie and his company Lancaster Stained Glass Designs can be found at their website:  www.lancastersgd.com

3. Replacing Original Wood Windows.
      Technology and architectural styles have shaped the design of windows throughout history. The windows are one of the few parts of a building that serves as both an interior and exterior feature, and they usually make up 20-30% of the surface area of a historic building. It is for these reasons that windows are an important part of the character of a building, so removing or radically changing them has a drastic impact on the building’s character.
      Conduct an in-depth survey of the conditions of windows early in the process so that options to retain and preserve windows can be fully explored. Many make the mistake of replacing windows solely due to peeling paint, broken glass, stuck sash or high air infiltration. These are not indications that the window is beyond repair.
      In fact, weatherizing and repairing doors and windows is often the most practical and economic maintenance plan. Also, repair window frames and sash by patching, splicing, consolidating or otherwise reinforcing. Repair may include replacement in-kind of parts that are missing or deteriorated. Do not obscure historic trim with metal or other material, strip windows through inappropriate designs,change the number, location, size or glazing pattern of windows.
      Windows that are too deteriorated to repair should be replace in-kind using the same sash and pane configuration. If this is not technically or economically possible, then use a compatible substitute material. Use historical, pictorial and physical documentation to replace windows with an accurate restoration window.
      Protect and maintain existing windows with cleaning, rust removal, limited paint removal and protective coasting on a regular basis to prevent deterioration.

2. 10 Common Mistakes People Make While Working on their Historic Building.
        Structures are historic because the materials and craftsmanship reflected in their construction are tangible and irreplaceable evidence of our cultural heritage. Substitute materials subtract from the basic integrity, historically and architecturally, of buildings. Historic materials should be retained whenever possible. Since wood has always been present in abundance in America, there is a richness and diversity of wood sidings in America. Therefore the wood sidings become a recognizable part of the historic character of a building.
       Often, during a restoration project, the replacement of wood siding is deemed necessary because it has deteriorated beyond repair. The concern with using vinyl or other synthetic materials to replace the original materials is a loss or severe diminishing of the unique aspects of the building. Applying synthetic material to a historic building can damage or obscure historic material, and more importantly diminish the historic identity of the building.
     Though installation of artificial siding is thought to be reversible, often there is irreversible damage to the historic materials during the installation process. Furring strips are used to create a flat surface, “accessories” are needed to fit the siding around architectural features, and the existing wall fabric is damaged from the nailing necessary to apply the siding.
       In addition, aluminum and vinyl siding is often applied to buildings in need of maintenance and repair, thereby concealing problems which are an early warning sign of deterioration. Cosmetic treatment to hide difficulties such as peeling paint, stains or other indications of deterioration is not a sound preservation practice.  In addition, artificial siding makes it impossible to monitor the condition of the building because it is hidden from view.
     The questions of durability and relative costs of aluminum or vinyl siding compared to the maintenance cost of historic materials are complex. One consideration is repair cost. All siding materials are subject to damage and all can be repaired. However it is much easier to repair wood siding, and the repair, after painting , is generally imperceptible.
      Because aluminum and vinyl can be produced with an insulating backing, they are sometimes marketed as improving the thermal envelope. In reality, the thickness of any insulating backing would be too small to add to the energy efficiency of a historic building and should not be a consideration when choosing synthetic siding.
      Finally, artificial siding removes the unique details and distinctive qualities of your building and can reduce its value in the marketplace by making it look like every other house.
      Historic Building materials, when properly maintained, are generally durable and serviceable materials. Their existence of tens of thousands of historic buildings is proof that they are the good selection.     

10 Common Mistakes People Make While Working on their Historic Building.
        1. Repointing Bricks with Modern Mortar
                Masonry is one of the most durable historic building materials, however it is also very susceptible to damage as a result of improper maintenance or repair. Mortar is used to bond together masonry units. The interaction between mortar and brick or stone is complex and often misunderstood.  Historic mortar (lime based) was generally soft and readily allowed water or vapor to pass. Modern mortar (Portland cement) is very hard and slow to transmit water or vapor.
             Portland cement works well with modern brick or stone, but causes problems if used with older, hand-packed brick (which were fired at low temperatures and are fairly soft).
              Repointing historic masonry with Portland cement mortar can create a bond that is stronger than the historic material, resulting in a differing coefficient in expansion and porosity, causing damage. This pairing can cause rapid deterioration and failure in hundreds of years old masonry.
             When in doubt, use soft mortar.  

 You know that to preserve your home you must take responsibility for it’s care. Some of you are handy and willing to tackle this “homework”. Some of you are not as well versed in swinging a hammer and the such, in that case calling for reinforcements – a friend of a friend of a friend who repaired something in a house before. I am not knocking either approach, what my concern is have you done your due diligence to know what your house needs really are?
First Rule: DO NO HARM.

Your house is a money pit, you know it, I know it and there is no way to get around the fact. So what do you do, when you discover that your largest single investment requires you to constantly tend to it with your time and money.
A quote from my childhood, “a stitch in time saves nine” referees to mending your garments -while a small repair takes a few minutes, if you let it go the repairs will be much more extensive- cost increases. Now what do you do, do you look for the least expensive solution? A little paint, some caulk and a prayer?

Decline of McMansions

This weekend I read about the decline of McMansions – the average house size has begun to decline with the crash of the housing market. (The new home builders have really been hurt by the current housing market – they built and promoted the McMansion “lifestyle”).

I was reading about the housing trends and thinking about how this could help or benefit the preservation/restoration niche of the building industry when I started to read the comments section. I was glad to read about people making smaller spaces work when I read a comment from someone who had been sadly misinformed about older homes and energy efficiency. The comment is copied here:

Listed: MSN Real Estate’s daily blog – MSN Real Estate: “p.s. The modern McMansions actually use about the same amount of energy to heat and cool as our tiny premodern depression era house. Oh I can’t wait to update the horsehair board insulation and large *original* windows. We’ve learned our lesson about buying older unimproved houses, let me tell you….”

The preservation/restoration community has a lot of information about the truth of older building energy efficiency in print and on the Internet – but obviously we are missing a large number of older building owners.

The argument that a 900 sq. ft. house (referenced in her first post) uses less energy than a McMansion at 7,000 plus square feet doesn’t even make sense from a logic stand point and goes to show the marketing for the new building products is working.

A few facts (based on her comment):

  • Buildings built from 1950 through 1970 are the least energy efficient (actually the federal government has done studies on their older buildings and they consistently use less energy than their newer buildings).
  • Heat rises – it makes more sense to insulate the roof than the walls in an older home
  • Plaster is not insulation – it is a wall finish
  • It has been scientifically proven that well maintained wood windows with a storm window (either interior or exterior) are as energy efficient as replacement windows. The energy savings is $0.60 per year – the replacement windows will last at the most 30 years. Will the money saved balance with the amount the windows cost?

I was reading the July/August 2010 Preservation magazine which features the 2010 list of America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places. Some of the places featured on the list include natural landscape preservation.

One theme that stuck out to me was the fact that all of the buildings listed as endangered are being demolished by neglect. The two reasons all the buildings are endangered were neglect and deferred maintenance – something we see in all communities – proving once again that preservation is maintenance.

These buildings are from all across the country and include privately and publicly owned buildings. I was surprised that the majority of the buildings have suffered water damage leading to the reason for them to be slated for demolition. These are common problems in all historic buildings – preservation is inexpensive – what becomes expensive is when a historic element on a building needs to be rebuilt because of damage from the elements. After making sure the structure is sound, the next most important thing, is keeping the weather out of the building.

To read the article and learn more about the 11 endangered historic places visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website at http://http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/11-most-endangered/.

This list was taken from the Directory of Preservation Resources complied by the Historical Architectural Review Board in the Borough of Columbia, PA.

Encouraging regular maintenance (true preservation) rather than quick-fixes that will fail in a short amount of time this list highlights seven common “repairs” or “upgrades” that do more harm than good.

1. Repointing bricks using mortar with a high content of Portland cement. Instead use a flexible mortar with a high lime content.

2. Sandblasting, using high-pressure power washes, or harsh chemical cleaners to clean or remove paint. This will remove the hard outer shell exposing the soft brick. Always use the gentlest method possible to clean.

3. Applying vinyl or aluminum to wrap the building (walls, sills, soffits, and eaves). The installers regularly remove architectural details. In addition trapping moisture can accelerate structural decay.

4. Replacing original wood windows (unnecessarily). Repair rather than replace. Wood windows can be made energy efficient using weather stripping and storm windows.

5. Ignoring peeling exterior paint. A good paint job will provide a protective coating against insects and moisture.

6. Hiring contractors without the necessary skills or experience working on old buildings. Modern materials and construction techniques are not always compatible with older buildings. A contractor unfamiliar with traditional buildings and methods cab permanently damage the building.

7. Introducing “mix-and-match” period style detail. Respect the original period-style of your building. Fight the urge to make it appear newer, older, or fancier in style than it really is.