Tips From an Old-House Pro
"My goal is a happy medium between structure and aesthetics," says contractor David Wyncoop, a veteran renovator of antique houses. "You want to make the house more livable, but you don't want to lose the charm." Here, his ideas for saving time, trouble—and money.
1. Salvage where you can. "Old windows may not be worth saving, and you can find reasonably priced new ones that are much more energy efficient and still have narrow mullions. But I always try to find and reuse old doors on the inside. It's harder to reuse an exterior door, but it can be done; just make sure it's going to fit tight."
2. Let the factory do the work. "Order cedar or pine siding preprimed, if you can—and make sure it's backprimed too. It's worth the extra money, and that way you won't have to worry about rain damage while you take your time choosing paint colors. Cultured stone veneer is another time- and money-saver. It's lightweight and easy to work with. You can put it up with thinset."
3. Use details to trick the eye. "To disguise a new cement-block or poured concrete foundation, I'll put a step, or ‘brick ledge,' in it so that I can go back and add a stacked-stone face at ground level. And there's nothing like a nice long front porch to add the flavor of an old house. It also ‘sizes down' a high front. You can really see the effect when you look at Sean and Greg's house, which is sitting on a rise. That low second roofline is what makes the house look so inviting."