4 Steps to Maintain a Historic Home

Before you buy a historic home, make sure you do your research.  Do you know how old it is?  What style of architecture it’s in?  Or how to maintain the character you’ve come to love?  Whether you’re a seasoned DIYer or a novice, you’re in for (at least) a few surprises.  To help you prepare from an exterior standpoint, we’ll share 4 steps to historic home maintenance.

Step 1: Identify Historic Elements

Rather than drive yourself crazy trying to preserve absolutely everything, start by narrowing the list.  We recommend that you do some research on the history of your house.  Once you discover when it was built, you should be able to identify the style of architecture that was originally used.  Look through your home carefully, trying to find materials and features that define its historic character.  Depending on your experience, you may need help from local preservationists and/or building experts who can spot these elements easier. 

Over time, the original finishes on your pediments, brackets, and doorways may have faded.  Previous homeowners might have even replaced certain pieces with faux-vintage touches that don’t match the historic architecture.  But by uncovering what needs to be preserved (and what needs to be replaced), you’ll have a good place to start.

Step 2:  Plan for Routine Maintenance

As a historic homeowner, you’re now responsible for the care of these classic features.  By focusing on the projects that need the least amount of work and jumping right in, you can start to make a difference.  It may start small with removing chipped paint or reapplying caulk.  But these are tasks you’ll have to complete regularly if you want to maintain the historic elements.  We recommend planning your tasks in advance.  Be honest about what you can DIY and when you’ll need to bring in the professionals.  Mark future maintenance in your calendar now, so your hard work doesn’t go to waste!  Then you can move onto larger repairs.

Step 3:  Scope Serious Repairs

For features that have been exposed to the elements, such as exterior siding, roofing, and/or windows, you may need to budget for big repairs.  Especially if you still have the original wood siding or shingles.  Certain spots may need to be patched and carefully re-pieced to blend in naturally with the other historic finishes.  Unfortunately, you may not be able to complete these projects on your own.  In that case, it’s better to work with local professionals who have the expertise and the accreditation needed to work on historic properties.  At Schaefer Exteriors, our staff undergoes constant training to provide the best possible service.

That includes being certified as “Lead Safe” by the EPA.  Our lead abatement process plays an important role when working with historic homes. In fact, any home built before 1978 runs the risk of having lead paint.  Fortunately, we’re able to tackle this project, match original colors/finishes, and repair your home exterior as much as possible.

Step 4:  Replace Damaged or Deteriorating Materials

Of course, there will be those times when the original materials are beyond salvation.  Maybe you inherited the home in this condition, or disaster strikes while you’re in the middle of renovating.  Either way, you’re left with a choice.  You can try to find historically-accurate materials to replace what was damaged or go with a newer product in a similar finish.  Although replacing the original wood siding with the same variety and varnish may be your goal, is it in your budget?

Not only will this type of siding be more expensive to install, but that additional cost will carry on when it comes time to maintain and eventually replace it again. It’s simply not practical when you can now order vinyl or fiber cement siding that mimics the look of real wood.  Between the price, the durability, and the lack of maintenance, it’s hard to pass up this opportunity.  As long as it’s true to the original character of the house and installation doesn’t obscure or remove any other historical features, most preservationist will grant this exception. 

For more information on how we can help you maintain your historic home, contact Schaefer Exteriors!  

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