Saturday, September 1, 2007

Kicking back

My red and white blood cell counts are down this week. I knew I wasn't feeling great. :P My ambitious plans to unpack one or two boxes have been put on hold until I get some energy back.

I really need to find my camera so I can take some pictures of the house.

I pretty much have myself talked into fixing up the original wood windows. After reading many many many housing blogs I suspect that vinyl replacement windows are akin to 70s leisure suits.

Our local government has put together a "Plan Book" that suggests styles for folks fixing up their old houses. My neighborhood is made up almost totally of foursquares. There is much fear around here that the plan book is a tentative step into declaring our community historic and installing a review board. The next neighborhood over was declared Historic a few years ago and the review board horor stories are legendary. Proir to its historic designation, that neighborhood was a run down area where folks with little money could afford to purchase houses. Most of hte houses there are old Victorian places. A few years back people with more means started buying the houses and restoring them. Somewhere along the line the district was designated historic and the folks who moved to the neighborhood first - a very sore point among those residents - suddenly found htemselves having to get permission to do outside repairs with many of those repairs getting turned down because of inauthenticity.

If a house in that area had a non-historic repair or replacement done prior to the historic designation, then a similar repair or replacement is fine. The problem is when a tin roof needs replacing and the owners can only afford shingles the review board will tend to not approve the replacement. We had a very big case of just that in the past year. There is some quaking in fear and gnashing of teeth in my neighborhood because if I do decide to use leisure suit windows I want to be able to.

What bothers me the most about a historic designation here is the fear that our lovely community will disappear because people will no longer be able to afford living here. This is by no means a poor community but the reality is that historic houses require a certain affluence. Not everyone has the desire or the skill set to do the work themselves. Friends have been suggesting that I replace my windows as soon as possible before a review board gets set in place here.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I counted my windows today. The house has 41 windows, and that doesn't include the windows enclosing the front porch. Murphy says that if I have that many windows and the house is older the one thing the house will need is windows.

It's an interesting dillemma. I've been doing a lot of reading on the net, everything from house blogs to to real estate sites and home improvement sites. When I bought this house I was looking for a place to recover and nest and to make my own. I hadn't thought about renovations or preservation or historical accuracy or anything beyond moving in, taking care of the few things that needed fixing, and painting the walls pretty colors. I bought the house from a small local company that buys wrecked houses, renovates them, and then sells them (ideally) in a ready to move in state.

One would think that replacing windows would be fairly straight forward. I've seen some vinyl windows I like and that I can afford but now I'm wondering if perhaps I should try to restore the original windows that are still in the house. The sills are rotting in about three of my windows so I'm feeling a little pressure to do something.

A small part of the affinity I feel for this house is the fact that it's been abused. The previous owners lived hard lives and the signs can be found throughout the house. It's obvious that the windows have been broken multiple times, all of the original interior doors have been replaced, and I can see where the renovators replaced moldings and placed new pieces of wood in an attempt to match the old. I'm sure I'm over identifying with the house, at least in terms of my own current battle with cancer and the signs I can see in my own body from my treatments.

So, take the modern, easy way and use modern replacements? Or start what will probably be a never ending process of restoration? And how far does one take these things? I already have modern heating and air conditioning, a new modern kitchen that I like, and modern bathrooms. I have no desire to change those. My mother, who was a Depression Era baby, used to always laugh about how they couldn't wait to replace old furniture and household items with newer more modern things. In the 70s she couldn't wait to cover our beat up hard wood floors with wall to wall carpet. In the past few years she went back to her hard wood floors, but loved her updated vinyl windows. Her house was a 1959 square tract house so the windows looked good in it, but I wonder if 40 years from now someone will buy the house and want to go back to the old less efficient windows.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New chapters

So many changes this year - a move to Va, my mother's passing away after battling breast cancer and other chronic illnesses for a number of years, and my own diagnosis with breast cancer three weeks after my mother's passage.

Then reason for this blog is the house I just bought. It's a 1920s four square in Roanoke, Va. Why would I take on an old house right in the middle of chemo? Because I wanted something to focus on besides being sick and it's really exciting to finally have my own place after 30 some years of renting. The house has "nice bones" but a spectacularly terrible cosmetic rehab. Fortunately the house is completely liveable and and renovations I need to do are cosmetic in nature.

Ok, except for the windows. There are a lot of them and they need replacing. Soon. I'm in the middle of weighing the pros and cons of replacement with modern windows vs restoring the old wood ones.