R&A Magazine - FALL 2022 - 19

ASK THE EXPERTS
Our new (to us) home was built in the late 1800's and while we've owned
properties in the past, this is our first time in an historic property. Any
advice as we plan our first round of renovations?
Lancaster was founded in 1729. As such, there's no shortage of properties with significant age in
this area, both commercial and residential. So, as a building material supplier we field inquiries of
this type frequently and help homeowners select qualified contractors and source suitable products
for their renovation projects.
When planning updates to an historic home, the team at GR Mitchell always recommends laying the
proper groundwork. Here's a couple basic things to keep in mind:
EXPERIENCE MATTERS
Particularly if you're hoping to preserve the historic charm (or quirks, depending on the home),
selecting a contractor that has experience working on older properties is important. From the basics
of working with lath and plaster walls to a deeper understanding of how to properly reproduce original
carpentry, having the proper background is vital to keeping your project moving smoothly and
minimizing the number of surprises you may run into.
Dependent upon the scope of your project, it may even be worth consulting with a designer that's
participated in replicating historic aesthetics, too. And in Lancaster that could mean as far back as
post-revolution classic design to colonial revival and even industrial. Blending modern-day conveniences
with period-appropriate styles takes a trained eye.
BE PREPARED FOR YOUR COMMUNITY'S INVOLVEMENT
Planning a refresh to the fa├žade of your home? Then you'll need to know if your home sits within
a designated historic district. Take Lancaster city, for example; The Historical Architectural Review
Board (HARB) requires applications leading to board approval for exterior alterations. This could
mean paint color, removal of original decorative items, porch repair or addition, new front door,
updated windows, etc.
Throughout our involvement in historic restoration projects, we've developed a good understanding
of materials/brands/models that are more widely accepted/are a better turnkey solution. A good
supplier can work in conjunction with your contractor to recommend products that will not only
match your home's design (AKA please the historic society), but that are also durable.
The types of projects requiring review vary per registered historic district, so it's best to proactively
determine if this applies to your new address and reach out directly to the appropriate board.
BE PREPARED FOR A HIGHER PRICE TAG
Historic often means custom. While that's not always that case, the carpentry of days passed
was beautiful, unique and certainly wasn't mass-produced (well, until we hit the age of Sears " kit
homes " ). Ornamental finials. Radius trim. Fluted layers of casework, baseboard, and ornate chair
rail. You could say " they don't make them like they used to " but architectural mills, like GR Mitchell's,
have the ability to match and reproduce/repair any wood elements of your home.
You'll want to plan for extra cost beyond aesthetics, though. When remodeling you should have a
contingency plan or back-up funds padding your budget, but this can be particularly true in an older
home. You may unexpectedly find hidden water damage or discover that your systems haven't been
well maintained/appropriately updated over time. These can be major expenses that you unfortunately
need to be prepared to find.
Still not sure where to start? Call a building material specialist at GR Mitchell, 717-464-2999, or visit
GRMitchell.com for information.
Tom Keller
President
GR Mitchell
ask the experts
http://www.GRMitchell.com

R&A Magazine - FALL 2022

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