Deciding What to Do

So in the course of our current project the question arose, how best to restore this space? Should the architectural elements be replaced or repaired? The pragmatic confronts the philosophical in this typical renovation dilemma. Should the homeowner take this matter to the carpenter ... the architect? ... the painter? The wise homeowner may want to consult with all three.

Not to stereotype any particular trade, but most carpenters will usually be inclined to take the more pragmatic approach of replacing damaged wood elements. The combined cost of new materials or units, and the labor costs of demolition and reinstallation are often less than the labor-intensive cost of paint removal. And who would argue that the prospect of new surfaces made of low-maintenance, state-of-the-art materials isn't appealing?

Conversely, architects will tend to take the more philosophical, preservationist approach. They see an inherent value in the existing, or original, elements. If and when replacement is the best option, they are keenly sensitive to, and protective of, the scale and proportion of the original design. Their concern is that when one compromises, even slightly, the dimensions of individual elements — such as when ordering replacements for columns or capitals — the original and delicate balance of proportion can all-too-easily be lost.

But good painters are flexible, and should accommodate the technical demands of either approach. A painter should be knowledgeable about repair and filling systems, such as two-part epoxies, as well as appropriate protective systems for replacement parts. A painter should coordinate with the contractor to facilitate cost comparisons between paint removal and replacement options.
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