Older homes exude character, and a careful restoration or renovation ensures that the home, now sound and updated, still retains its charm. A restoration can remain true to the original structure without sacrificing the modern amenities that suit today’s lifestyles. A careful selection of materials, whether they’re new and improved or reclaimed, distinguishes a well-done reworking of an historic home. The Hunt spoke with Gary Munch, President of Boss Enterprises, which specializes in both restorations and new construction, to get a glimpse of the process.
Q: How does restoring a historic home or building differ from renovating it?
A: Historic restoration of a home or building is done to preserve its architectural heritage and retain its original essence. Renovations are more generic in that they don’t require adherence to the look and intent of the original structure. Renovations should, however, complement the style and tone of the rest of the home.
Q: What makes a builder particularly good at historic restoration?
A: Builders who are good at restoration have a passion for preserving the historical beauty and flavor of architectural styles through the ages. These are builders who respect the generations of builders before us and appreciate the history behind period architecture. In addition, builders who strive to be expert at historic restoration pay meticulous attention to detail, are faithful to the period architecture, demonstrate superior craftsmanship, follow rigorous standards, are avid researchers, and are knowledgeable about time-tested materials and methods.
Q: Does restoration mean choosing to use old materials and methods in order to preserve the original architecture?
A: No. It means choosing appropriate materials and methods. Since we strive for authenticity and preservation, we always try to keep or bring back as much of the old as we can. That means using salvaged and reclaimed materials wherever possible. And where it makes sense, we introduce newer materials and methods. For example, there are new technologies that let us restore and preserve various parts of a home, like epoxies that can be used for restoring rotted window sashes and door frames.
Q: Is it possible to introduce modern conveniences in an authentic historic restoration?
A: Yes. When speaking of restorations, we are usually referring to the architecture of a structure, not the amenities and conveniences you’ll find inside. Restorations do integrate modern conveniences, from residential kitchen design (which reflects the look of the era) to commercial lighting design and acoustics.
Q: Is restoring a home or building necessarily expensive?
A: Historic renovation is expensive to do if you want to do it well and maintain authenticity. It requires skilled artisans and is labor intensive. Material selection may require more research and may take more time, because you’re looking at a wider range of materials that give you the specific look you want but perform better. For example, we have plasters today that we use for ornate work that look just as beautiful, last longer, and weigh less than plasters used centuries ago.
Q: What is most likely the first step a builder will take in restoring a home?
A: Inspection is step number one. We need to know if there are any issues related to the structure, wiring or plumbing. One thing we always want to avoid are surprises in the construction process.
Q: Once those issues are identified, what is the way forward?
A: From there, we conduct in-depth research on every detail of the restoration, inside and out. Many homes that are more than a century old will have changed over time, due to additions and renovations completed over their lifespans. We have to identify what period we’re replicating, what parts of the structure need to be gutted because they are inappropriate or crumbling, and which pieces can remain in place and be preserved. Every decision we make during the planning and building process depends upon thorough research. The outcome is as much a reflection of the skill of the designer and the artistry of the craftsmen as it is a result of putting the knowledge gained during the research process to wise use.