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When Remodeling Uncovers Hidden Treasures
Document and Protect
Document the presence of any architectural find by photographing the element as you discovered it. This will be an important record for you and future renovators, as you decide whether to replicate components and which treatments to use.
The worksite should also be supervised to avoid unintentional damage to the newly discovered feature. Protect and preserve significant ornaments and finishes during the assessment period, with notations for workers written directly on the plans and posted at the worksite.
The discovery of unforeseen features is often a bonus for the renovator. Light fixtures, plaster, columns, stenciling, and other decorative elements give a glimpse of the atmosphere and the historic character of the building. They act as a physical link to social history. However, retaining features may not be conceivable in every instance. Unexpected discoveries may slow the project, test the budget, or hamper renovation plans. Take time to determine if the feature has a place in your remodeling scheme. After complete review and documentation of the find, it is possible to respond in one of several ways.
Retain for Gain
You might be lucky enough to discover an ornament or feature intact, like an entire fireplace surround or enough of the plaster cornice to enable a restoration. Think of it as a gift, smile at your good fortune, and work it into your remodeling plans.
Maybe you simply cannot manage a sudden preservation project, but you need to move ahead. It is not unwise or unheard of to simply document the artifact, carefully cover it, and move on, leaving it for discovery by another generation of renovators.. After all, you found the treasure because someone else covered it up.
If you haven't the space or the inclination to store removed components on site, consider selling them to a reputable dealer in architectural salvage or a neighbor who may be restoring a period home. Even if you think it has little value, somebody in your community may want it. Remember to document your piece when you provide it to a salvage dealer—period pieces are desirable and command a high price, which has resulted in some unscrupulous vendors dealing in stolen building parts. Protect yourself and your buyers by documenting your treasure. A responsible dealer will want to provide the new owner with the provenance of your architectural feature.
The surprises of rehabilitation offer opportunities for historic interior interpretation and encourage the reuse of building parts. In addition , the reuse of these materials will offer the benefit of diverting tons of building material from your local landfill.
For assistance in repairing architectural features, consider Preservation Briefs, a series of booklets published by the National Park Service that can be ordered from the U.S. Government Bookstore. Information about the benefits of deconstruction may be obtained from the Deconstruction Institute.
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