Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stupid Contractor Advice

Most contractors will not be sensitive to your desire to restore a Victorian treasure back to its original glory.

That said, here's some stupid idiotic contractor advice I received concerning restoration of the Laura Hawkins house.

Cover the exterior with aluminum siding.

Ya, ha, ha! Even someone as inexperienced as we were knew what a sacrilege this would be. Aluminum siding? Be real. This house is already suffering the indignity of being sheathed in cement-asbestos tiles installed during the late 1940’s. And you want us to cover the exterior with aluminum siding over this?

Said the contractor, “Locals like aluminum siding and you’ll be more able to sell the house with this installed.” No comment.

Replace all the windows with new brand-new, double-paned ones but first, staple 6 mil plastic over the window exteriors.

Now come on, Mr. Contractor. This house has survived well over 100 years with its windows exposed. It’s not going to matter one whit that we leave the windows alone for awhile longer. Is this one of your “make-work” schemes?

Also, we intend to painstakingly restore and refinish each window frame, particularly the curved glass one on the northwest corner of the house.

This curved window pane has remained intact despite the gradual decay of its frame.

We may replace certain panes, but this will be done judiciously. Any frame replacement will require a clone in its place.

Put on a new roof, but there's no need to remove the existing shingles of which there must be several layers.

There was something so wrong about this advice, I didn’t even want to consider the contractor who gave it. Does he really know what he’s doing? And isn’t it even illegal to leave more than 2 or 3 layers on when re-shingling a roof?

As we were to learn later, the house contained four layers of asphalt shingles. And, each layer was well beyond its intended life.

The current roof had obviously seen better days.

Get rid of the existing radiators and install infrared heaters.

And put these protruding infrareds where? On the wall for the viewing pleasure of our guests? Now really, what could be more fitting to heat the Laura Hawkins house than its handsome and original period radiators?

This curved steam radiator is so unique, and so precious.

This steam radiator sits in front of the living room window on the front of the house. Lovely transom above.

We intend to replace the converted coal-burning boiler in the basement with an efficient boiler. New World (new boiler) will meet Old World (steam radiators) with class.

I'd call this the "Jabba the Hut" of all boilers.

These contractors are idiots, aren’t they?

Our goal is to restore the house as much to its original glory as is possible. If we find areas where improvement can be made without compromising the integrity of the house, we’d definitely consider it.

I think Laura would be pleased, don’t you?

Laura Hawkins with Samuel Clemens in Hannibal, 1903. Photo courtesy of Hannibal Courier-Post archives.

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