Chances are that if you are reading this article you either own or have a strong interest in old houses. What is it about old houses that fascinate us so much? Is it the sense of history (if these walls could talk)? Is it the romance of living in an environment that was designed and built in another time (a sanctuary from the daily grind of modern life)? Possibly it is the idea of working with good old-fashioned solid materials (who can pass up the beauty of clear fir)?
Keeping or reusing old items in your home has several advantages: It’s green, it adds value to your real estate investment by maintaining the original character and integrity of the home, and you, as the occupant, get to enjoy what drew you to an old home in the first place.
Maintaining or replacing the architectural antiques in your home can be “green” in many ways. First and most often foremost, it keeps material out of the landfill. While that’s a good start, the green advantages go well beyond there. For example, removing lead paint from old hardware and woodwork can have a green outcome if proper removal and disposal methods are used. By reusing materials that have already gone through the manufacturing process, we are reducing our demand for new pieces to be made. While many new products may function in a green manner, their advantages come with a cost, in the processes by which they are made and the resources they use (raw materials, transportation, packaging, etc.).
Old or original pieces in an old house add to its value. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Well cared for original architectural pieces are almost always a plus. From my limited experience in buying and selling old houses (and from hearing the numerous stories told by others), I have found that even just one well maintained or restored original architectural feature can sell an entire house. Houses with greater historic integrity and character have a tendency to sell quicker and for higher prices than those with poor modern makeovers.
A quick exercise for owners of old homes: Have a seat in your living room (or dining room or kitchen) and look around. Look at the walls, doors, the hardware, and windows. Feel the house as a whole. How many families or generations has this house raised? What have these walls witnessed within their confines? Who has come and gone through these doors (and how many times)? What will this house be when you are gone? What will your part be in keeping the spirit of your house alive? In the end, when you consider renovation or restoration, what you are trying to create is a home.
Bret Hodgert is the owner/operator of Old Portland Hardware and Architectural located at 1667 SE TACOMA ST. PORTLAND, OREGON 97202. He can be reached at 503.234.7380. He has been involved in the old house industry for nearly two decades.