What we call internal gutter systems are also known as Yankee Gutters, built-in, or integral gutters. What ever you call them they can become an expense problem without careful monitoring and maintenance. These drainage systems have been used on houses from the 1700’s through the early 1900’s though they are most commonly found on buildings from the Victorian period.

Typically they are incorporated into the cornice along the roof line, on a porch, or bay window. The usual construction is a wood trough lined with metal. Because of the cornice covering the system they are not easily visible creating unseen problems.

Signs your system is not functioning properly include: peeling paint, moist wood, and damage to masonry. On bay windows leaking into the house can also occur. Unfortunately once these symptoms are presented there is often damage to the structural framing, walls, or ceiling not to mention the decorative mouldings of the cornice making repair (restoration – replacement to match original) an expensive proposition.

One way to minimize the cost is to make sure the gutter is regularly inspected and the the solder joints in the metal are properly maintained. Never use roofing tar to seal the joints this will trap the water into the wood causing the same problems you are trying to correct.

Some people roof over their internal gutter system and use external gutters for their water management – this is an option for saving money but it does change the original appearance of the building by covering the decorative cornice. This solution also does not address the damage to the structural systems. Often times someone will wrap the problem in vinyl or aluminum using the “I can’t see it, it’s not a problem” approach to maintenance (as seen by the picture above). This actually creates larger problems and sometimes results in losing the entire front porch.

May is preservation month the theme of this year is, “Old is the New Green!”. With most people looking for ways to minimize their impact on the environment in their corner of the world it is important to not do anything to a historic building that will damage the historic fabric of the structure.

Historic buildings are “green” because their materials are repairable, durable, and contain embodied energy (energy already expended in construction). Many of these attributes cannot be found in modern “green” solutions.

As part if the National Park Service Technical Preservation Services there is a series of interpretations of The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation (http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/tps/tax/ITS/itshome.htm). These are divided into compatible and incompatible treatments with explanations and pictures. If you are going before an historic review board – this is how they will evaluate the changes you want to make.

An interesting article in this section is #54 “Installing Green Roofs on Historic Buildings” – as long as the foliage is not visible from the street scape installing the green roof is acceptable. And somewhat encouraged to enhance the energy-efficiency and sustainability of the building. Interesting thoughts and ideas to join new construction with old buildings in a sensitive manner.

The April/May 2010 issue of Old-House Journal listed the top ten restoration mistakes. Following these tips can help to save time and money (in the long run). The entire article can be found at: http://www.oldhousejournal.com/top-10-restoration-mistakes/magazine/1673

  1. Cheap Paint (good paint is hard to find – we are trying linseed oil paint on our house available from http://www.solventfreepaint.com/)
  2. Poor Paint Prep (paint will not adhere to dirt or loose paint)
  3. Mixing Metals (unlike metals can react)
  4. Epoxy Overuse (I would also add using the wrong type of epoxy, such as, marine or automobile filler on wood)
  5. Waterproofing Exteriors (houses need to breathe and moisture trapped behind the coatings can cause the underlining materials to rot)
  6. Waterproofing Interiors (use holistic building approach when solving water infiltration – look at source of water and ways to direct away from the house)
  7. Removing Masonry Finishes (removing paint or formstone from a brick wall is often not recommended because of the likelihood of damaging the brick by removing the veneer)
  8. Removing Wood Finishes (take care that the paint prep does not damage the wood underneath)
  9. Using the Wrong Mortar (use soft lime-based mortar with older brick to stop the damage from the thaw-freeze cycle – a good source is http://www.limeworks.us/)
  10. Bad Design (use water-shedding designs for all exterior repairs)

The April 2010 edition of Qualified Remodeler featured a Sales and Marketing article by Dave Lupberger describing five behaviors you should expect from a professional contractor. In my opinion these are things every contractor should do because they value the relationships they build with their clients – unfortunately this is not always the case.

  • Professional contractors will be on time for every appointment (if not they should communicate the reason);
  • Phone calls will be promptly returned;
  • On the jobsite (your home) professional contractors will be respectful to you and your neighbors;
  • At the end of the day the jobsite will be cleaned and free of safety hazards; and
  • The process and status of your project will be communicated to you regularly.

On Thursday, April 22nd, any contractor working on a building with lead-based paint will have to be a lead-safe certified firm. The EPA is has written guidelines to help protect homeowners from lead dust and contractors have to complete a 8 hour training course. Helping to protect homeowners is important – the downside is the increased cost to each project (we will have to see what that is once we have set up a few projects with the new protective barriers).

For more information on lead and how to protect your family visit the EPA website: http://www.epa.gov/lead

Taken from the Historic Wood Windows tip sheet from the National Trust for Historic Preservation – maintenance is important for all areas of a building to help insure that it will continue to perform without costly repairs. Preservation is maintenance and it is a lot less expensive than replacement.

Four Wood Window Maintenance Tips:
1. Keep exterior surfaces painted (keeping the water out of the wood);
2. Repair glaze – reglaze entire window as needed;
3. Don’t paint the window shut – so that it can operate as intended; and
4. Don’t paint the sash cord.

For more information read “The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows” Preservation Brief Series #9 – www.cr.nps.gov/hps/tps/briefs/brief09.htm

Help Your Cause

American Express along with Take Part are promoting a contest in which people can vote (once a week) for the charity of their choice. The categories are:

  • Arts and Culture (in which the National Trust for Historic Preservation is included)
  • Community Development
  • Education
  • Environment and Wildlife
  • Health and Wellness

There a lot of worthy organizations trying to win the $200,000 – I am using my vote to help preserve our built history. I will not pressure you to vote the same way I am. You can vote at www.takepart.org.

While catching up on my newspaper reading the other evening I came across an article by Amy Hoak of Marketwatch, the title of her piece is “When It’s Best to Go With a Pro”, needless to say it caught my attention. Amy notes that our current economic “situation” has prompted more homeowners to DIY with varying degrees of success. Amy had four points to consider before starting a DIY, When safety is an issue, When water is involved, If the cost of materials or tools is high, last but not least, If the project is too big. We here at Historic Restorations have been offering hands-on classes for the past three years, knowing that the average person in the United States today, has not had a personal relationship with tools and little information about how a building is put together. Yet, when shows on television show a home “makeover” done in a week…it all seems so easy. Basic home maintenance knowledge should be required of everyone because it is the most cost effective way to literally keep the roof over your head. Building an ongoing relationship with a professional builder will help and encourage homeowners to take on the tasks that they can do themselves and knowing when to call in a professional with confidence that all projects on your home will help it to be the castle that it is intended to be.

The November/December 2009 issue of Preservation Magazine featured an article, Getting Ready for Winter: 15 Steps to Efficiency. These tips are taken from this article.

  • Insulate the attic (this is where the majority of your heat loss will occur – though the replacement window and door companies would have you believe it is on the walls of the house – heat rises.)
  • Zoned heating system (heat only the areas of the house you “live” in).
  • Bleed radiators and clean forced-air vents.
  • Have your furnace serviced.
  • Change your furnace filters once a month.
  • Install a programmable thermostat (turn the heat down at night when you are in bed and during the day when you are away).
  • Insulate duct work and hot water pipes in cool spaces. Install foam inserts behind electrical receptacles and light switches (they sale the inserts (with precut holes) for behind the covers at any hardware store).
  • Close fireplace dampers (when the fireplace is not in use – we have had a call from someone not sure why their house was filling with smoke).
  • Set ceiling fans to low and switch direction so the hot air is being forced downward from the ceiling.
  • Make sure bathroom fans have functioning dampers.
  • Keep your original windows maintained (caulk, fix glazing, replace broken panes, repair wooden parts, and install weather stripping).
  • Install storm windows.
  • Use lined curtains, working shutters, and insulated window shades.
  • Caulk holes at exterior penetrations (mail chutes, etc.) only use exterior-grade caulking for this job.

Columbia Market House

Work on the Columbia Market commenced on October 12, 2009 with a 120 day project schedule, since this is a “working” market with stand holders open for business on Thursdays and Fridays, work is to be done in 10 hour days, Monday through Wednesday with Saturday and Sunday optional work days. Historic Restorations is restoring the fourteen original windows. On site the entire windows are removed and the openings are secured with plywood, in the shop the old glass is gently removed, cleaned and labeled for re-installation at the end of the process. The wood mullions, rails and stiles are stripped of their old paint and sanded in preparation for a fresh coat of paint. Any rot or damaged wood is repaired or replaced, if necessary. After one coat of primer the windows are reunited with their original glass and any extra glass that may have been purchased to replace broken panes . Meanwhile, on site in Columbia, the exterior and interior window trim is being prepared to receive the refurbished windows, wood filler, sanding and missing pieces are used to create an exceptionable frame and architectural detail for form and function. Today Historic Restorations is about half way through our portion of this project, we are thrilled with the transformation and honored to be a part of this historic buildings story. If you ever get to this little river town, on a Thursday or Friday, stop by the Market, the oldest in the United States or have a virtual visit, www.columbiahistoricmarkethouse.com