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Featured Articles

Historical Homes

How to protect historical property.

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Historical landmarks throughout the country provide all citizens with a physical, present experience of our history. Through these landmarks you can not only observe but in many cases feel the original work and walk the spaces of the past. Historical homes help us remember important persons as we can view intimately how they lived; we get to see the most sacred of spaces, their internal sanctum, their home. Where did they read at night for inspiration, where did they write that novel, where did they meet the important guests and characters in their lives? All of these things we can glimpse through seeing history preserved in rock and mortar. Historical homes also allow us to visualize and experience architecture, culture, events and community history. They help tell the story of how our town and communities came to be and developed. This brief article will summarize how one protects a historical home. This will include how to register the home with the state and federal government. Also, we will look at incentives and resources aiding the owners in the task of preserving these properties. Additional links to state resources, historical homes for sale, historical home supplies and construction and spotlights of a few famous historical homes are also included. Even if you do not own a historical home, we welcome you to take a look into how these bits of our history are protected, preserved and continue to participate in and educate our communities.

Part I: Listing a Property as Historical

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (amended in 1992) provides guidelines for federal, state and local governments to work with non-profit organizations and the public to preserve our historical places. The preservation is handled through the National Park Service which administers the National Register for Historic Places. Historical places can be buildings, structures, sites and objects that speak for American history, architecture/engineering, and culture. This can be as varied as a historic home to an archaeological site. A few places that are considered to represent the nation on a whole may also be registered in the National Historic Landmarks program; however, this membership is harder to obtain (there are only 2,500 of these sites nationally). Our concentration will be on the large listing (79,000 sites and growing) of the National Register. 
So how does one determine if a site is historical? The National Register lists the following reasons for registering and protecting historical property:

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:
A. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
B. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
C. That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
D. That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

These four basic guidelines can encompass quite a bit of history. However, there are some limitations as well. Properties must be over 50 years old; to get a younger property registered an owner must prove "exceptional importance" such as might be recognized immediately for its reflection of an extraordinary political event or architectural innovation. Other limitations may include cemeteries, historical figures birthplaces and gravestones, religious structures, moved or reconstructed structures and commemorative structures. As with the 50 year rule there are exceptions for these limitations. In conclusion, if an individual or group feel a property meets the right criteria and should be registered they will need to nominate the property for review.

Any person or group may nominate properties for the National Register. Nominations, depending on the properties significance and location, are nominated through theState Historical Preservation Officer (SHPO), the Federal Preservation Officer (FPO)or the Tribal Preservation Officer (TPO). In most instances nominators will start with the SHPO for their state. The officer will then recommend the nominated property be reviewed by the state review board which consists of historians, architects, archaeologists and other professionals. The board then makes the recommendation to approve or disapprove the registration back to the SHPO. During the time the property is being reviewed, the public is notified the property may be registered. This may include the property owner, who may not have nominated the property themselves. If the owner at that time does not wish the property to be registered they can reject the proposal. The property will not appear on the national register, however, the nomination may be forwarded to the National Park Service only as a determination of eligibility in case a future owner would wish to have the property registered. Although the process varies from state to state, there is usually a minimum of 90 days to process. Once a recommendation is made to the National Park Service, the nominators will know the decision within 45 days. Once a property is registered the owner may expect some changes.

Owners of registered historical places may find both benefits and restrictions from state and federal programs. Surprisingly, on the federal level, once a home is registered owners may choose to change very little about their property:

Under Federal law, owners of private property listed in the National Register are free to maintain, manage, or dispose of their property as they choose provided that there is no Federal involvement. Owners have no obligation to open their properties to the public, to restore them or even to maintain them, if they choose not to do so.

However, state and local preservation laws may be more restrictive of what property owners may do once a the property is registered (the SHPO will have further details about the restrictions in your state). Some properties will obtain Federal historic preservation grant funding or investment tax credits for rehabilitation. Participation in these Federal programs may include more restrictions. As for changes to a structure or site, drastic alterations or physically moving a property when not absolutely necessary may effect the property's status. If, for example, the remodeling of the structure is enough to destroy and remove its historical significance, the property may be removed from the registry. Finally, a property may be affected by recommendation of the Advisory Council on Historical Preservation's recommendations at the federal level. However, inclusively, federal, state and local governments want to work with historical property owners to entice them to preserve our history. Property owners should contact the SHPO for more specific answers about local and federal benefits and restrictions.

Registering a home on the National Register for Historical Places is a relatively straight forward process. Contacting SHPO (or FPO or TPO) is the first step in reviewing what changes to expect and what forms need to be completed. With a little patience and research a home can be registered and protected as a part of our history. Now that it is registered, let us examine what resources are available for the renovation and upkeep of these places.

Part II: Resources for Historical Properties

The restoration of historical homes can be both overwhelming and expensive. Obtaining expert advise from contractors, architects, and historians (to name a few) can be invaluable to the homeowner. Research may be necessary to understand how the home looked, was furnished and functioned in the past. Also, it may be necessary to update older systems of plumbing, wiring, and replace lead-based paint (again, to name only a few). To begin the renovation process the home owner will first consider where the funding will come from, what projects need to be done, and finally, what the ultimate function of the historical home will be. There are many grants and sources of funds to help ease the impact of these improvement costs.

The funds available to owners of historical properties vary both nationally and locally. Nationally the most common is the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive which entitles those qualified a 20% tax break. However, to obtain the credit the property does have to be used commercially for at least 5 years; usually as a rental or an apartment, in some cases use as an office may be sufficient. Local grants, loans and state tax incentives are not always available. To find what locally based programs there are contact your local government agencies such as the Historic Development Commission, Department of Planning and Economic Development, Housing and Redevelopment, and State Historic Preservation Office. When they are available the funds may come with certain restrictions or requirements. For example, some funds are only available to non-profit organizations or a grant may be offered that requires owners to share property with the public through tours or other educational outreach programs. Finally, involving family and community in the restoration project can help tremendously. Receiving help from the community may again mean opening up your home to educational programs or tours. However, when owning a historical home, sharing the history is part of the fun! So you have some money in your pocket; now you must decide what you want to restore first.

There may be many renovations needed for your historical home ranging from wiring to lead-paint removal. So overwhelming are the renovations at times that there is the tendency to over renovate homes. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has this top ten of Do's and Don'ts:

  • Make every effort to use the building for its original purpose.
  • Do not destroy distinctive original features.
  • Recognize all buildings as products of their own time.
  • Recognize and respect changes that have taken place over time.
  • Treat sensitively distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craft work.
  • Repair rather than replace worn architectural features when possible. When replacement is necessary, new material should match the old in design, composition, and color.
  • Clean facades using the gentlest methods possible. Avoid sandblasting and other damaging methods.
  • Protect and preserve affected archeological resources.
  • Compatible contemporary alterations are acceptable if they do not destroy significant historical or architectural fabric. Build new additions so they can be removed without impairing the underlying structure.

Once you have clarified the tasks that need to be done, hiring a contractor, plumber, architect or electrician (to name a few) will be an important step in the renovation of your historical home. Make sure to take time to interview and speak with several professionals to find one with the most experience and knowledge about historical homes. Again, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has compiled good short summaries about choosing professionals. When making any renovations to the historic home it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the house. The functions of a historical home can be varried. For some home owners they simply want to renovate and enjoy the historical building as their home. When making improvements, owners will be more concerned about updating creature comforts and creating an esthetic environment for their family. On the other hand, some will choose to live in the historic home but also dedicate rooms or floors as public museums. When making renovations for these homes a balance should be kept between updating the living space that will be used while keeping museum spaces closer to the feel and accuracy of the time they represent. Brand new faucets upstairs in the family bath are great but a stainless steel countertop in a 19th century room may look a bit out of place. Finally, others will live in the historic house but also rent out rooms for guests and small conferences. Historic homes can make an ideal bed and breakfast. This may create additional renovation challenges such as access ability and practical updates for the comfort of guests (i.e. adding and updating a bathroom or two). However, owners will want to keep in mind the historic atmosphere of the home. Visitors are drawn to historical B&Bs because of the sense of walking into the past. Keeping antiques relevant to the time or using period correct wall treatments (i.e. wallpaper patterns) are just a few ways to help keep the historic feel of the home. If creating a bed and breakfast out of a historical home is the goal, then reading about the B&B business will be helpful. Whatever the function of the historical home, the project should remain fun and rewarding.

The restoration of a historic homes can be expensive and daunting. However, it is also very rewarding, a wonderful chance for connecting to the past and community (and can be a great home too!). Whether your historic building will be a home, museum, B&B or all the above, having a game plan before starting renovations is a great idea. Make sure the plan protects the hisotry of the home so that the character and craftsmenship of the home is not lost in the renovation. Enlisting professionals and the community will help. In the end it really can be very rewarding!

Conclusion

A lot can be said for the structures a society builds. When looking at buildings from the past one can get a sense of style, comfort and culture from previous generations. A family and/or a community may learn more about where they came from. To preserve historical homes, individuals or communities need to take the time to submit the home to the National Register for Historical Places. Once this is done the home may still be used for varying purposes from a living space to a museum. In some cases funding is available to help in the daunting task of renovation. In the end historical homes are a tough investment that with a bit of research can turn in to a rewarding home and much more.

Resources by State 
Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | District of Columbia Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

Alabama

State Historic Preservation Officer: Elizabeth Brown AL Historical Commission 468 South Perry Street Montgomery, Alabama 36130-0900 (334) 242-3184 Alabama Register Coordinator: Dorothy Walker - dwalker@preserveala.org National Register Coordinator: Christy Anderson - canderson@preserveala.org www.preserveala.org

Alaska

State Historic Preservation Officer: Judith E. Bittner - judyb@dnr.state.ak.us Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation 550 W 7th Avenue, Suite 1310 Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3565 (907) 269-8721 www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/oha/index.htm

Arizona

State Historic Preservation Officer: James W. Garrison - jgarrison@pr.state.az.us Office of Historic Preservation Arizona State Parks 1300 W. Washington Phoenix, Arizona 85007 (602) 542-4174 National Register Coordinator: Kathryn Leonard www.pr.state.az.us/partnerships/shpo/shpo.html

Arkansas

State Historic Preservation Officer: Cathie Matthews - cathiem@arkansasheritage.org Department of Arkansas Heritage 323 Center Street, Suite 1500 Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 (501) 324-9162 National Register Coordinator: Ralph Wilcox - ralph@arkansasheritage.org www.arkansaspreservation.org

California

State Historic Preservation Officer: Milford Wayne Donaldson - mwdonaldson@parks.ca.gov Office of Historic Preservation Department of Parks and Recreation P.O. Box 942896 Sacramento, California 94296-0001 (916) 653-9125 http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/

Colorado

tate Historic Preservation Officer: Georgianna Contiguglia Colorado History Museum 1300 Broadway Denver, Colorado 80203-2137 (303) 866-3395 Information: oahp@chs.state.co.us www.coloradohistory-oahp.org

Connecticut

State Historic Preservation Officer: John W. Shannahan Connecticut Historical Commission 59 South Prospect Street Hartford, Connecticut 06106 (860) 566-3005 Information: cthist@neca.com www.cultureandtourism.org (This website is being revised; check out the CT Trust for more information at www.cttrust.org)

Delaware

State Historic Preservation Officer: Timothy A. Slavin Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs 21 The Green, Suite B Dover, Delaware 19901 (302) 739-5313 www.state.de.us/shpo/default.shtml

District of Columbia

State Historic Preservation Officer: Lisa Burcham DC Office of Planning, Historic Pres. Division 801 North Capitol Street, N.E. 3rd Floor Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 442-8850 http://planning.dc.gov/

Florida

Actg. State Historic Preservation Officer: Frederick Gaske - fgaske@mail.dos.state.fl.us Division of Historical Resources R.A. Gray Building 500 S. Bronough Street Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250 (850) 245-6300 www.flheritage.com

Georgia

tate Historic Preservation Officer: Ray Luce - ray_luce@dnr.state.ga.us Department of Natural Resources 156 Trinity Avenue, SW Suite 101 Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3600 (404) 651-5061 http://hpd.dnr.state.ga.us/

Hawaii

State Historic Preservation Officer: Peter T. Young Department of Land and Natural Resources 601 Kamokila Boulevard Room 555 Kapolei, Hawaii 96707 808-587-0401 www.hawaii.gov/dlnr

Idaho

State Historic Preservation Officer: Steve Guerber - steve.guerber@ishs.idaho.gov State Historic Preservation Office 210 Main Street Boise, Idaho 83702-7264 (208) 334-3890 www.idahohistory.net

Illinois

State Historic Preservation Officer: William L. Wheeler - Ted_Lild@ilpa.state.il.us Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Preservation Services Division One Old State Capitol Plaza Springfield, Illinois 62701-1512 (217) 785-9045 www.state.il.us/HPA/

Indiana

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jon Charles Smith- jsmith@dnr.in.gov Department of Natural Resources 402 W. Washington Street, Rm W274 Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 (317) 232-4020 Information: dhpa@dnr.state.in.us www.state.in.us/dnr/historic/

Iowa

Actg. State Historic Preservation Officer: Anita Walker - anita.walker@dca.state.ia.us State Historical Society of Iowa 600 East Locust Street Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0290 (515) 281-8741 www.iowahistory.org

Kansas

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jennie Chinn - jchinn@kshs.org Kansas State Historical Society Cultural Resources Division 6425 Southwest 6th Avenue Topeka, Kansas 66615-1099 (785) 272-8681 Information: histsoc@acc.wuacc.edu www.kshs.org

Kentucky

State Historic Preservation Officer: David Morgan - davidl.morgan@ky.gov Kentucky Heritage Council 300 Washington Street Frankfort, Kentucky 40601 (502) 564-7005 www.state.ky.us/agencies/khc/khchome.htm

Louisiana

Division of Historic Preservation Office of Cultural Development P.O. Box 44247 Baton Rouge, LA 70804 (225) 342-8160 National Register Coordinator: Donna Fricker National Register Section (1st time inquiries): Patricia Duncan www.louisianahp.org

Maine

Director: Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. - Earle.Shettleworth@Maine.gov 55 Capitol Street, State House Station 65 Augusta, Maine 04333-0065 (207) 287-2132 / Fax (207) 287-2335 www.state.me.us/mhpc/

Maryland

State Historic Preservation Officer: J. Rodney Little - RLittle@mdp.state.md.us Division of Historical and Cultural Programs 100 Community Place Crownsville, Maryland 21032-2023 (410) 514-7600 or 1-800-756-0119 www.marylandhistoricaltrust.net

Massachusetts

Secretary of the Commonwealth Massachusetts Historical Commission 220 Morrissey Boulevard Boston, MA 02125-3314 (617) 727-8470 www.sec.state.ma.us/mhc/mhcidx.htm

Michigan

State Historic Preservation Officer: Brian D. Conway - conwaybd@michigan.gov State Historic Preservation Office P.O. Box 30740 702 West Kalamazoo St. Lansing, Michigan 48909-8240 (517) 373-1630 www.michigan.gov/hal/

Minnesota

Department Head and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer: Britta L. Bloomberg - britta.bloomberg@mnhs.org Historic Preservation, Field Services and Grants Department Minnesota Historical Society 345 W. Kellogg Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 (651) 296-5434 www.mnhs.org/shpo/

Mississippi

Mississippi Department of Archives and History 200 North Street Jackson, MS 39201 (601) 576-6850 Historic Preservation Division: msshpo@mdah.state.ms.us www.mdah.state.ms.us/index.html

Missouri

Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer: Mark Miles - mark.miles@dnr.mo.gov Department of Natural Resources P. O. Box 176 Jefferson City, MO 65102 (573) 751-7858 www.dnr.state.mo.us/shpo/index.html

Montana

State Historic Preservation Officer: Mark Baumler, Ph. D. - mbaumler@mt.gov The Montana Historical Society 225 N. Roberts P.O. Box 201201 Helena, MT 59620-120 (406) 444-7715 www.his.state.mt.us

Nebraska

State Historic Preservation Officer: Lawrence J. Sommer

Nebraska

State Historical Society 1500 R Street P.O. Box 82554 Lincoln, Nebraska 68501 (402) 471-4746 Information: nshs@nebraskahistory.org www.nebraskahistory.org/histpres/

Nevada

tate Historic Preservation Officer: Ronald M. James - rmjames@clan.lib.nv.us Department of Cultural Affairs 100 North Stewart Street Carson City, Nevada 89701-4285 (775) 684-3440 http://dmla.clan.lib.nv.us/docs/shpo/

New Hampshire

State Historic Preservation Officer: James M. McConaha - James.Mcconaha@dcr.nh.gov Division of Historical Resources P.O. Box 2043 Concord, New Hampshire 03302-2043 (603) 271-6435 www.nh.gov/nhdhr/

New Jersey

State Historic Preservation Officer NJ Department Parks & Forestry P.O. Box 304 Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0404 (609) 292-2885 www.state.nj.us/dep/hpo/

New Mexico

State Historic Preservation Officer: Katherine Slick - katherine.slick@state.nm.us Office of Cultural Affairs Villa Rivera Building, 3rd Floor 228 E. Palace Avenue Santa Fe, New Mexico 87503 (505) 827-6320 www.nmhistoricpreservation.org

New York

State Historic Preservation Officer Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Pres. Empire State Plaza Agency Building 1, 20th Floor Albany, New York 12238 (518) 474-0443 http://nysparks.state.ny.us/shpo/

North Carolina

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jeffrey J. Crow - jeff.crow@ncmail.net Department of Cultural Resources Division of Archives and History 4617 Mail Service Center Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-4617 (919) 733-7305 www.hpo.dcr.state.nc.us

North Dakota

State Historic Preservation Officer: Fern E. Swenson State Historical Society of North Dakota ND Heritage Center 612 East Boulevard Avenue Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0830 (701) 328-2666 www.state.nd.us/hist/

Ohio

State Historic Preservation Officer: Rachel Tooker - rtooker@ohiohistory.org Ohio Historic Preservation Office Ohio Historical Society 567 E. Hudson Street Columbus, Ohio 43211-1030 (614) 298-2000 www.ohiohistory.org/resource/histpres/

Oklahoma

State Historic Preservation Officer: Melvena Heisch - mheisch@ok-history.mus.ok.us Oklahoma Historical Society Wiley Post Historical Building 2100 N. Lincoln Boulevard Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105 (405) 521-2491 www.ok-history.mus.ok.us

Oregon

Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer: Roger Roper Heritage Programs Division Oregon Parks and Recreation Department 725 Summer Street, Suite C Salem, Oregon 97301 (503) 986-0677 http://www.oregonheritage.org

Pennsylvania

State Historic Preservation Officer: Barbara Franco Bureau for Historic Preservation Commonwealth Keystone Building, 2nd floor 400 North Street Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-0093 (717) 787-2891 www.phmc.state.pa.us

Rhode Island

State Historic Preservation Officer: Edward Sanderson - esanderson@preservation.ri.gov Hist. Preservation and Heritage Commission Old State House 150 Benefit Street Providence, Rhode Island 02903 (401) 222-2678 www.preservation.ri.gov

South Carolina

State Historic Preservation Officer: Mary W. Edmonds - edmonds@scdah.state.sc.us Department of Archives and History 8301 Parklane Road Columbia, South Carolina 29223-4905 (803) 896-6168 www.state.sc.us/scdah/histrcpl.htm

South Dakota

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jay D. Vogt - jay.vogt@.state.sd.us South Dakota State Historical Society 900 Governors Drive Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2217 (605) 773-3458 www.sdhistory.org

Tennessee

State Historic Preservation Officer: Herbert Harper - Herbert.Harper@state.tn.us Department of Environment and Conservation 2941 Lebanon Road Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0442 (615) 532-0109 www.tennessee.gov/environment/hist/

Texas

State Historic Preservation Officer: Lawerence Oaks - l.oaks@thc.state.tx.us Texas Historical Commission P.O. Box 12276 Capitol Station Austin, Texas 78711-2276 (512) 463-6100 www.thc.state.tx.us

Utah

State Historic Preservation Officer: Wilson G. Martin - wmartin@utah.gov Utah State Historical Society 300 Rio Grande Salt Lake City, Utah 84101 (801) 533-3500 http://history.utah.gov

Vermont

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jane Lendway - jane.lendway@state.vt.us Agency of Commerce & Community Dev. VT Division for Hist. Preservation National Life Bldg., Drawer 20 Montpelier, Vermont 05620-0501 (802) 828-3056 www.historicvermont.org

Virginia

State Historic Preservation Officer: Ann Andrus - ann.andrus@dhr.virginia.gov Department of Historic Resources 2801 Kensington Avenue Richmond, Virginia 23221 (804) 367-2323 www.dhr.virginia.gov

Washington

State Historic Preservation Officer: Allyson Brooks - Allyson.Brooks@dahp.wa.gov Office of Archeology & Historic Preservation 1063 S Capitol Way Suite 106 P.O. Box 48343 Olympia, Washington 98504-8343 360-585-3066 www.oahp.wa.gov

West Virginia

State Historic Preservation Officer: Susan Pierce - susan.pierce@wvculture.org Division of Culture and History 1900 Kanawha Boulevard E. Capitol Complex Charleston, West Virginia 25305 (304) 558-0220 www.wvculture.org/shpo/shpoindex.aspx

Wisconsin

State Historic Preservation Officer: Michael E Stevens Wisconsin State Historical Society 816 State Street Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1482 (608) 264-6500 www.wisconsinhistory.org

Wyoming

State Historic Preservation Officer: Sara Needles - sneedl@state.wy.us Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office Dept. of State Parks & Cultural Resources 2301 Central Avenue, 3rd floor Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002 (307) 777-7697 http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/

Fogging of insulated windows.

Our home inspector reported that three windows in our 9 year old house had fogging insulated panes, and he suggested that we contact the builder or manufacturer for warranty information.

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Q Our home inspector reported that three windows in our 9 year old house had fogging insulated panes, and he suggested that we contact the builder or manufacturer for warranty information. We contacted the manufacturer who sent a man out, but he said that only two of the windows were fogged. When we called the inspector, he said that insulated windows will fog only under certain conditions, and that we look at the windows at the same time of day that they were inspected. Is our inspector a bit foggy in the head?

A It has been my experience that insulated window panes, when the seal is broken, will fog only under certain conditions. The two pieces of glass in a double-pane window have an inert gas between them which is held in place by a seal. This thin space of gas is what allows the windows to slow down the transmission of heat or cold. When this seal is compromised, ordinary air is allowed to enter, and moisture may condense on the inside surfaces of the glass. These types of windows are most likely to fog on a winter morning a short time after the sun hits them. The outside of the window has been cold overnight, and the inside has been warm. When the sun hits the cold outer glass, moisture condenses and the foggy appearance occurs. A few hours later, as the temperatures stabilize, the fog may disappear altogether. In this case, the inspector was correct to suggest that the windows be inspected under the same conditions. In the case of your 9 year old house, your windows may still be under warranty. The earlier versions of insulated windows were somewhat prone to failure, but technology has steadily improved, and today’s windows are much more reliable. Warranties have gotten much better as well, so it you have foggy windows, check with the manufacturer to see if you can have them replaced under warranty.

Homecheck Autumn Harvest

Fall is traditionally associated with harvesting and stocking up for the winter ahead.

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Fall is traditionally associated with harvesting and stocking up for the winter ahead. However, many locations in the U.S., even those accustomed to getting heavy snow in the winter, may embrace the fall as a great time to extend their garden harvest and continue to play with their landscape. Gardeners may continue to plant a regular 'salad mix' and root vegetables through November. Fall is also a great time to plant bulbs and other plants for the following spring. Landscapers who think ahead may already have some great flower varieties showing off their colors in the fall. Finally, fall is a great time to take advantage of mild temperatures to prepare the plants and soil for the winter ahead. There are many projects for the fall garden to keep all green-thumbs happy!

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile." ~ William Cullen Bryant

Part I: The Garden

• There are many quick growing vegetables that enjoy the milder fall temperatures. There are also some longer growing vegetables that don't mind a little frost and may be planted early fall for a harvest in November/December. Some of those that can help keep your green thumb busy are: Arugula - Beets - Broccoli - Cabbage - Carrots - Cauliflower - Leeks - Mustard - Radish - Scallions - Spinach - Turnips - Winter Squash (click on each for more information)

• As you enjoy your fall vegetable garden, keep some of these tasks in mind to prep the soil for your spring planting.

  1. Remove dead plants. If you keep them there they may become a hiding place for pests. Instead, collect healthy remains and place them in a compost bin or discard completely. Also remove old stakes and twine, this will just get messy over the winter and become more of a headache to clear out come spring.
  2. You may till some dead leaves and compost into the soil to add nutrients over the winter. However, be careful not to have too much as you do not want to mat the surface. Tilling your soil in the fall can also expose any pest larvae to freeze in the winter. Finally, take a soil sample; fall is a great time to add lime or sulfur to adjust the soil pH for spring.
  3. If you have a mild enough winter, you may want to consider cover crops such as clover and rye grass (ask your local garden store for localized suggestions).
  4. Do not fertilize as this will wash away before your spring planting - save your money!
  5. Use time in the fall and winter to sketch out next years garden. Doing this early will help you decide if you should make any adjustments or amend soil in certain areas now.

Part II: The Landscape

• Looking for a little color around your house in fall? try some of these plants to add color to your home with their vibrant fall colors and blooms: American Cranberry Bush - Chrysanthemum - Burning Bush - Iris (re-blooming) - Kale - Pansies (click on each for more information) 

• Or perhaps you are considering your spring flowerbeds. These plants can be planted in the fall to make sure they are established for a spring awakening: Allium - Crocus - Daffodil - Hyacinth - Iris - Tulip (click on each for more information)

• Fall is also a great time to introduce new plants to your landscape. Many of your large plants such as trees and shrubs do best when planted in the spring or fall. Planting in the fall allows them milder temperatures to get established before the winter.

• Now is also a good time to relocate plants that may not be happy in their current location. Also, perennials such as Daylilies, Geraniums, Irises, Lambs Ears, and Peonies may be divided and spread in your landscape for a new bloom next year. Now is the time to clean up your landscape and prep your plants for the winter ahead.

  1. Water all your plants - it may be wet, but they will appreciate a good drink before the ground freezes.
  2. Cut away - cut back perennials and add to the compost bin. If you have any question about the health of the plant, discard the cuts instead. Also cut back any evergreens and shrubs; at this point you are mainly cutting out dead or diseased stems on the plant.
  3. Clear debris such as leaves and pine needles from the base of your plants. Crushed dried leaves can be used to make mulch or compost. Some gardeners may also use pine needles for mulch, however, pine needles can make a more acidic soil.
  4. Dig up the annuals - they have had their moment of glory, add them to your compost bin.
  5. Lawn care - continue to mow your lawn until it stops growing. Make sure to rake leaves to prevent molding and dead spots. You will also want to fertilize the lawn once in the early fall and again after it stops growing.

Setting Your Budget

Your next step is to create a project budget.

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You have evaluated the neighborhood and find that your improvement is consistent with general aesthetic and size parameters. You plan to remain in the house for some time. You find that a second mortgage payment will not strain your current monthly budget. You feel you can devote a certain amount of time towards planning the project. And finally, you are really sick of waiting in line to go to the bathroom in your own house!

Your next step is to create a project budget. Decide how long you plan on staying in your home. The length of time you intend to stay in a home will affect how much money you should invest in it. If you are going to stay in the home for more than ten years, you should spend as much as you are able to create the home of your dreams. Make a list of all your debts. You should include any debts you pay on a monthly basis, such as mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and any other items with a fixed monthly payment. This list should not include payments for groceries, utilities, telephone services, or other general expenses. Call this list your monthly expenses. Determine your total gross monthly income. Include all sources of income that you would list on a loan application.

You are ready to determine a project budget. Use the following steps for this process; I have plugged numbers into the formulas to demonstrate how each works.

STEP 1
Lenders use a simple Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio to determine if a homeowner can afford the additional debt of a remodeling project. DTI Enter Your Total Monthly Expenses $2,860.00 Add the Estimated Monthly Payment for the Project +$775.67 Total $3,635.67 Divide the Total by Your Gross Monthly Income $7,950.00 DTI = 45.7% Each lender will approve loans at a specific DTI percentage (most lenders will tell you what their set DTI ratio is, if you ask). In this example, let us assume that the lender accepts DTI ratios of 45 percent. You are right at the cusp of qualifying. Provided your credit rating is good and you have plenty of equity in your home you will most likely be approved for this loan.

STEP 2
The next step is to determine the maximum monthly payment you can afford for remodeling. Multiply your monthly gross income amount by the lender's maximum DTI allowance, and subtract your current total monthly expenses, excluding the estimated remodeling payment. Gross Monthly Income $7,950.00 Lender's DTI ratio x.45 Subtotal $3,577.50 Less Total Monthly Expenses -$2,860.00 Maximum Affordable Payment = $717.50 Use this figure to determine the maximum available to you to borrow. In this case we assume that the home improvement loan is a fifteen year note at seven percent. The maximum you can borrow is forty-seven thousand dollars for your project given this monthly payment. There are many different options you can explore with your lender during this process. These options can sometimes increase the amount you can borrow; it is best to discuss this thoroughly with lenders. We discuss financing in more detail in the next section.

STEP 3
The final consideration for your budget is if there is any available cash to supplement what you borrow for the project. These are funds not being set aside for future financial obligations such as retirement, college, or other major purchases (like a new car). They are not required for monthly or general expenses as well. In this example let us assume that you have three thousand dollars in excess funds available for the project. This brings your maximum project budget to fifty thousand dollars. The budget now becomes the overriding parameter that drives the project. Every decision from this point forward is made according to the limits set by the budget. The next thing to consider is the percentage of the budget necessary for contingencies. Contingencies are unexpected items that present themselves during the course of the project. The guideline is to set aside between five and twenty percent of your budget for contingencies. The actual percentage depends upon the complexity of the project. For instance, a new roof generally does not require other ancillary items be repaired or altered in order to install the roof. Therefore the minimum contingency of five percent is usually sufficient. On the other hand, a large addition to your home involves many more trades and materials that likely require the maximum contingency of twenty percent. As a rule if any portion of your existing walls, floors, or ceilings must be demolished or opened up in order to install the new materials you need a contingency towards the maximum. Although a professional architect and/or contractor have vast knowledge of the construction process he or she does not have X-ray vision. Often times there are situations that complicate construction contained within these areas that cannot possibly be known about until the area is opened. For our example we will assume you are putting on a small kitchen addition (referred to as a “bump-out”). Since you will have to open up an existing wall but the work area is concentrated to a small portion of the house a contingency of fifteen percent should suffice.

This means that the budget for actual construction that you present to the architect is forty-two thousand five hundred dollars. This is the parameter you want your design professional to use. You hold the seven thousand five hundred dollars in reserve to address any unforeseen expenses that occur once the project begins. You protect yourself from scrambling for extra funds in the middle of the upgrade; if you do not use all of the contingency, and there is no rule that says you have to, then you complete your project under budget (heretofore an unheard of occurrence in remodeling)!

Water Problems

Garage had suddenly developed a mildew problem which had never occurred in the 100 plus year life of the house.

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Recently I was asked to inspect a vacation home in North Carolina. The owners said that the garage had suddenly developed a mildew problem which had never occurred in the 100 plus year life of the house. What I found was that water was running under the walls of the garage and collecting in the storage closet area. Since the garage had been closed for about four months, the mildew problem was quite severe. The owners said that they had never had this problem before, so I started by asking them what, if anything, they had done to alter the lot drainage. It turns out that they had hired an architect to design a screened porch on the flat roof of the garage, and had hired a local contractor to build it. My first question was; did the original garage have gutters? They said that it had some kind of drain in the flat roof which drained the water off the back corner of the structure. The original garage did indeed have a scupper feeding into a downspout which drained the water downhill from the structure, but this was abandoned when the porch was built. It didn’t take me long to realize that all the water falling on the gabled roof of the new porch was draining along the sides of the garage and running under the old walls. They solved the problem by installing gutters along both sides of the garage with downspouts to channel the water away and downhill from the structure. Gutters can sometimes be difficult to keep clean, but they do a very good job of keeping water away from the house.

Reduce Your Heating Bills This Winter

Tips for reducing your bill.

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Imagine leaving a window open all winter long -- the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, fireplace or clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day. These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in -- costing you higher heating bills. Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts. But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home -- the folding attic stair, the whole house fan, the fireplace and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes. Attic Stairs When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood. Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood. Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door -- do you see any light coming through? These are gaps add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving a window open all year round. An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling. Whole House Fans Much like attic stairs above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only leaky ceiling shutter between the house and the outdoors. An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan cover. Installed from the attic side, the whole house fan cover is invisible. Cover the fan to reduce heating and air-conditioning loss, remove it when use of the fan is desired. If attic access is inconvenient, a ceiling shutter cover is another option for reducing heat loss through the ceiling shutter. Made from R-8, textured, thin, white flexible insulation, and installed from the house side over the ceiling shutter with Velcro, a whole house fan shutter cover is easily installed and removed. Fireplaces Sixty-five percent, or approximately 100 million homes in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home especially during the winter home-heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers. Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through an unlit fireplace, and the results are amazing. One recent research study showed that an open damper on an unlit fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent. This is truly a remarkable statistic! A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces. Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? It is simple - hot air rises. Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and when your heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking the heated air from your house! An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to install a fireplace draftstopper. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that is installed into the fireplace below the damper. As the pillow is inflated, it seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks and heat loss. Other benefits include the reduction of downdrafts, toxins, odors, pollutants, and noise. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after. Completely reusable and available in two sizes to fit any masonry or zero-clearance fireplace, the draftstopper can pay for itself in less than a month! Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house. Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open, or a cold breeze can blow the flapper open, allowing frigid air right to come right into the house. An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This low-cost, easily installed vent is mounted on the outside of your house, and reduces unwanted air infiltration, and keeps out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape. If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes. At Battic Door Energy Conservation Products, we have developed solutions to these and other energy-conservation related issues. For more information please visit our website www.batticdoor.com or send a self-addressed, stamped, envelope to P.O. Box 15, Mansfield, MA 02048.