CHI board member Laura Pasacreta offers some advice for people wanting to renovate their old homes in this January 19, 2012 Calgary Herald article
Making a distinct impression
MARIA CANTON, FOR HOME RENOS
January 19, 2012
Owners of heritage or character homes usually arrive at a “happy medium” when restoring or renovating their older dwellings, says Blair Foisy, owner and president of Trademark Renovations.
“Most of the people who own distinctive homes do so because they want to maintain the character of an older home, but it’s hard to do a true restoration because not only is it very costly, it’s not always functional for today’s lifestyles,” says Foisy, whose company specializes in custom and historical renovations.
“It’s much more costly to renovate an older home than something post-1960s.”
With older homes’ galvanized pipes, knob-and-tube wiring, lath and plaster and often little or no insulation, renovations can be extensive and costs can quickly climb.
Generally, restoring a home means “accurately” revealing, recovering or representing the state of a historic place, or of an individual component, as it appeared at a particular period in its history, while protecting its heritage value.
It is considered “renovating” when you choose to remove historical materials, like floorboards, fireplaces or trim, and replace them with new materials, even if those materials are made to mimic the older era.
It is also considered renovating if you elect to change, for example, a small butler’s pantry into an oversized, open-concept kitchen.
The first step Foisy and his team take when tackling a restoration or renovation of an older home is to conduct a hazardous materials test in order to identify if there is asbestos, lead paint or vermiculite in the house, among other materials.
“This gives us an idea of what remediation costs will be and how extensive the work will be,” said Foisy, who says historical renovations make up about 30 per cent of his business, particularly in the areas of Elbow Park and Mount Royal.
After that, it is really a matter of meeting with the homeowner to determine what exactly they want to accomplish with the work.
When it comes to having work done, the first step the owner of a heritage or character home should undertake is research, says Laura Pasacreta, who works as a heritage conservation specialist with the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society and as a professional heritage consultant for Donald Luxton and Associates.
“We encourage the homeowners to identify the heritage value of their building,” she says.
“You have to know what you’re working with before you can get started,” says Pasacreta.
In order to do that, she suggests using the local history room at the library, as well as contacting the City’s heritage planning department.
Then, you should identify the character-defining elements of your house — for example, a Craftsman house must have a full porch the width of the house.
After that, you should have a thermal energy audit done.
“Every heritage homeowner should do a thermal energy audit, as a starting point, once you know that you can move forward with increasing energy efficiency in your restoration,” explains Pasacreta.
“We promote any type of restoration with the focus on the exterior that can be seen from the street — there’s no way you can preserve absolutely everything and we recognize that.”
Pasacreta encourages people to maintain the integrity of the “public” spaces in their older homes.
A public space, for example, can be the living room, dining room or entryway.
In those spaces you should make an effort to keep original fireplaces, flooring and trim.
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