This section is from the book "Your Home And Its Decoration", by The Sherwin-Williams Company. See also: Nell Hill's Feather Your Nest: It's All in the Details.
THE problems confronting the owner who wishes to remodel his old house vary with the style of the house and the extent of the work contemplated. Hence, only such conditions will be discussed as are likely to appear in average cases.
Where the area covered by the house is to be increased, it is very important to see that the new foundations are perfectly bonded with the old, and that the footings have, at least, as good material on which to start as the original foundations. This will make it unlikely that any settlement will occur, and will thus prevent the cracking of plaster at the joining point.
If new chimneys are to be included, see that the bases of these are sufficiently broad to insure against settlement. Chimneys built of brick, lined with terra-cotta flue linings, are less heavy than those of all brick, and are also safer from fire. These are unhesitatingly recommended. All chimneys which are not outside, or exposed, should be plastered smoothly on the outside, and no woodwork should be placed closer than one inch to the chimney. Too much care cannot be given to foundation and chimney work, whether it be in a house being remodeled or for a new structure.
If partitions are to be moved or taken out it must be determined whether or not they are "bearing" partitions, and provision made accordingly. In every respect the services of an architect are as essential for a remodeling job as for a new one, and this question of tampering with partitions is one where his judgment must be consulted and followed.
After the necessary changes in size and shape of rooms are made, the new door and window openings cut, and the old ones, where not desired, are closed up, it will be the proper time to have the electric-light wiring installed. Provision should be made for numerous base-board and floor attachments for table lamps. A diffused light from wall brackets and table lamps is in many rooms most agreeable and artistic. It is well to provide switches for all ceiling fixtures, and don't fail to have the lights on the entrance porch, as well as other verandas, controlled by switches just inside the door leading to them.
It is a desirable plan to have a light at the side of the front door which will cast its rays on the face of the visitor seeking admission. Many little conveniences may be provided for, without adding materially to the cost, if thought of, while the rough work is in progress.
The gas piping will also be done at the same time as the wiring. If not already there, it should be run to the kitchen for use in the range, and to the chamber fireplaces, where a little heat is sometimes agreeable in fall and spring before the general heating system of the house is started for the winter, or after it is allowed to die out in the spring.
Plate CII. "After".
The heating apparatus of the remodeled house will also be installed during the progress of the rough work.
Hot-water circulation, steam, or hot-air may be used. For quality of heat, and the uniformity of it the hot-water system is undoubtedly the best. Steam under low pressure is next in desirability, and lastly, though cheapest, is the hot-air furnace. If expense does not have to be considered, indirect radiation in connection with the hot-water and steam system is most desirable, as by that means the radiators, which under the most favorable conditions are not objects of beauty, may be entirely out of sight.
Plumbing work for the new bathrooms, pantries, etc., should all be put in place while the rough work is in progress, that is, the hot and cold-water piping, the soil pipes, and the pipes for back venting all traps to fixtures. This work, as well as the electric wiring and gas piping, will be installed in accordance with the local ordinances governing same', and will, of course, be passed upon by the official inspector before being covered up. Haste in this matter often results in loss of time and entails much expense.
The electric-bell system of the house will also be provided for before any plaster is put on.
After the several branches of work above enumerated have been installed and approved, the plastering may proceed. It should have been previously decided which rooms are to have walls finished in rough or sand finish for tinting, and which will have hard, smooth walls for papering. Some may have sand-finished ceilings and smooth walls, or vice versa. It is well to take the trouble to insist upon the mortar being made sufficiently long in advance to insure the thorough slacking of the lime, and avoid subsequent "popping," and also see that the wooden lath (if they are used) have been soaked until saturated with water, and when applied to the studding they should be spaced three-eighths inch apart. If lath are put on dry they will swell when the wet mortar is applied to such an extent that the keys are pinched off, and the plaster will fall.
In some rooms it may be that only a part of the old plaster has been removed. The joining of the old and new will be a difficult line to hide, but with extreme care it can be done. It would be well, however, where this occurs, to cover the entire walls and ceilings with "blank stock" before painting or papering. This will prevent the small cracks, present in all old plaster, from being noticeable. On the "blank stock" the regular glue or varnish "sizing" will be applied just as it would be to the plaster walls.
If the exterior walls of the house (supposing it to be of frame) are covered with clapboarding, rustic siding, or tongue and groove siding, and a change is desired, shingles may be applied directly over the siding. In this case care must be taken to increase the thickness of the door and window casings by adding a back band and molding, and to carefully flash with tin, painted both sides, around all such openings. If the walls of the o1d house were covered with shingles originally, which are not in good condition, they will have to be removed before re-shingling or re-covering with any other form of siding.
The floors of a remodeled house must receive special attention, and the condition in which they are finally left has much to do with the general effect of the entire remodeling work. Assuming that the original floors have been in use for many years, and that they were laid with pine, there will be places where the excess of wear has worn them very thin. If it was laid originally over a rough floor, it would be best to remove the top floor entirely and replace with new material in hard wood if possible. If the original floor was laid directly on the joists let it remain and lay the new floor on top of it, being careful to level up the worn places so that the new floor has solid bearing everywhere. This will raise the level of the floor seven-eighths of an inch, which will necessitate raising the baseboards and door trim (where the old remains), as well as shortening the doors themselves to that extent. After the first cost a quarter-sawed oak floor is probably the most satisfactory. If properly finished, it is easily cared for, and retains its original beauty for a great number of years, in fact, it seems to acquire a new beauty of richness in tone as the years advance.
Plate CIII. The Old House.
Plate CIV. The Remodeled House.
Plate CV. The Louis XVI. Drawing-room.
The accompanying photographs of the remodeled house, taken before the improvements were made and afterwards, serve to show what can be done with rather unpromising material.
Plate CVI. The Dining-room in Washington Irving's Old Home.
The elimination of the prominent gables, the addition of the wide galleries to the end of the house, and the placing of a hipped roof over the whole, has given the house new and infinitely more pleasing lines. The upper and lower porches or galleries, with their unbroken horizontal lines together with the long lines of the eaves, serve to decrease the apparent disproportionate height of the house. The terracing of the grounds in front has also assisted toward this same end by giving additional horizontal lines.
This example is especially interesting in illustrating, as it does, how in the original house everything was seemingly done to add to the apparent height of the structure. The emphasizing of the perpendicular lines of the corner boards, the high gables, and the columns of the porch all tended to that end, while the finished effect of the remodeled house is that of a rather low and spreading building, inviting and homelike.
The interiors here illustrated are from a New York house of historic interest, as it was long owned and occupied by Washington Irving. It has now passed into the hands of some well-known and artistic women, one of whom excels in the art of decoration. Under her clever supervision but slight changes have been made in the actual architectural detail of these rooms, but they have been fitted and furnished after the style of the Louis XVI. period and may be regarded as unusually successful types of such furnishing. The pictured views of the long drawing-room and dining-room convey some idea of the harmony of the architectural detail and furnishing, though they do not show the exquisite, low-toned color combinations which characterize these rooms.
Plate CVII. The Fine Tapestries Which are Hung in the Panels of the Wall Introduce Agreeable Color Notes.
In the dining-room (of which two views are given) soft, pearly gray is the prevailing tone of walls, woodwork, and furniture. The fine tapestries which are hung in the panel of the walls introduce agreeable color notes. The dull old rose shown in these is repeated again in the stripes of the chair seats and the rug upon the floor. In this house one feels that no good point has been lost. It has been tenderly and reverently handled in its re-decoration.
In undertaking the remodeling of a house, the exterior and interior should be carefully studied, and the changes made be only such as will harmonize with the untouched portion of the house which must remain.
There are a number of architects who devote themselves exclusively to remodeling. In such cases, it is usual for the architect to design the interior alterations and decorations as well.
PLATE I. Stencil Decoration Gives Individuality to the Room See Specifications, Chapter XXI (The Importance Of Working Specifications).