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- When Remodeling Uncovers Hidden Treasures
When Remodeling Uncovers Hidden Treasures
Deconstruction is a method for proceeding with caution. Instead of demolition—a process that involves the destruction and wholesale dumping of materials as waste—deconstruction suggests the disassembling of building components for protection or reuse. This may be practiced in a number of ways, including removal, storage, salvage, or documentation and protection.
A savvy approach to rehabilitation includes research to establish important dates, styles, and influences on a building. Most buildings have been altered to some degree over their lifespan. A bit of sleuthing will assist in determining the age and appropriate period of significance of any discovery. An eighteenth-century home may have brick nogging between the walls; a late Federal period home may have a fireplace with a cast-iron fireplace hidden behind a new wall; even farmhouses may have wide moldings and detail work that was covered up years ago. Knowing that some details were common to your style of home will help keep you on your toes as you begin the deconstruction. Ultimately, some alterations may be significant, while others lack historic or architectural merit. It doesn't mean the components won't be valuable for others, however, so keep an eye on those items that can be salvaged for reuse.
Identify and Evaluate
Once you make a discovery, the first step is to understand what you have uncovered. Research and identification will determine the value and appropriateness of a feature given your home's original period. Architectural treatments, including room sequence, spatial arrangements, and design ornament, are elements that make up a building’s historic character. Specialty wood treatments and signature craftsmanship that were specific to early building practices are simply not replicated today. Stop, identify, and assess.
An evaluation of your discovery should include the condition of the surviving component. You should document whether it is intact, whether the materials are sound and stable, and whether enough of the original element is left to repair or replicate it. If this is a feature that provides architectural interest or corresponds to a significant period, it may be folded into remodeling plans. You might find a fireplace surround, ghost marks from hardware that once existed, or even an entire cornice intact, any of which could complement and add character to a renovation or remodeling project.
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