Keep an old house in top shape

  • To maintain your old home, make a list of projects that need to be done and prioritize them into manageable tasks that you can complete. Courtesy of the N.H. Preservation Alliance

  • Make a list of projects that your house needs to have done, broken down into manageable tasks. —N.H. Preservation Alliance

For the Concord Monitor
Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Whether you’re a new owner of a historic house or long-time do-it-yourselfer, you can probably use some advice and encouragement to help you plan and execute routine spring maintenance work and, perhaps, a longer repair list. Here are suggestions gathered from homeowners around the region by the nonprofit membership organization N.H. Preservation Alliance:

Embrace the positive features of the old place: First, take a deep breath and appreciate what you’ve got. Old houses were designed frequently with climate and good living in mind. Does southern exposure make certain rooms extra sunny? Does the floor plan offer separation of space for privacy? Does a porch offer a wonderful extra room? Does an attic or ell offer storage space? Remember old wood windows, molding and doors are repairable. Research on the history of your house can also help you understand its architectural style and evolution over time.

Conduct exterior inspection and work to prioritize projects and avoid common pitfalls: Here are ideas for critical things you should consider to avoid water infiltration and moisture problems that can lead to major deterioration and expense.

Clean out gutters, check functionality of downspouts and water discharge areas

Evaluate grade around house and improve drainage if needed, add downspout extensions

Check outdoor faucets for leaks

Raise or store storm windows; make repairs now if necessary

Start dehumidifier in your basement if relative humidity is elevated (target R.H. 50 to 60 percent)

Check for adequate ventilation in attic

Inspect roof for damage and leaks

Check windows, repair any cracked glass and re-glaze and paint where needed

Trim all trees and vegetation around house so there is ideally at least 2 to 3 feet clearance.

Inspect clapboards, replace cracked or severely damaged, spot scrape, sand and paint where needed (if clapboard replacement is required, use quality quartersawn replacements)

Gently wash dirt and mold growth off wood siding and trim, mild soap and TSP substitute works well on wood surfaces, power washing is not recommended because of potential for water infiltration and damage to wood

Closely inspect exterior of house, basement and attic for insect infestation, treat where necessary for carpenter ants, termites and powderpost beetles with non-toxic (to humans and animals) Boracare

Gain perspective on what you’ve done and need to do: Create and utilize an annual inspection log. Keep a journal of your progress. Record the building’s condition, highlight features and keep track of treatments. Reviewing the journal can offer a boost when you see all that you’ve accomplished.

Recognize your interests and limits: Ask a neighbor for help or hire one of our region’s skilled craftspeople if you need help. Maybe you now have patience for a painting project that seemed impossible a decade ago? Phase work to align with time and budget considerations.

Laugh, keep perspective and congratulate yourself as a preservation “hero”: Compare preservation and repair “war” stories with friends over a beer. Watch a movie like The Money Pit or Mr. Blanding’s Dream House, or visit a large historic site to make your challenges seem small. And thank you! Your stewardship of a historic or older house helps keeps our communities special places where people want to live, work and play.

Find information and inspiration on this and other historic preservation topics from the N.H. Preservation Alliance at nhpreservation.org or 224-2281.

(Beverly Thomas is the program director at the N.H. Preservation Alliance. She can be reached at 224-2281 or bt@nhpreservation.org.)