Workshop to focus on home fix-it woes

NEIGHBORS

March 13, 2000|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OH, THE JOYS of owning a home. You move in, get everything sorted out, decorate here and there with daffodils.

And then it starts: A fuzzy mold evolves in the cellar; drool materializes in the double-glazed windows; cracks present themselves in the walls; paint, in just the faintest of breezes, starts flying off.

Welcome home.

Bill Sherman of the Historic Annapolis Foundation will try to set some of this right with a "Homeowner's Workshop" from 1: 30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Brice House, 42 East St. Reservations are required (call 410-267-7619); the fee is $7.

As director of conservation, Sherman is responsible for the maintenance and conservation of 11 historic buildings. He insists that his program will not be limited to old structures; household horrors from new homes will be welcome, too.

"I'll give a little bit of a lecture, and then we'll open it up to discussion of general maintenance problems," he said. "It'll be about the nuts and bolts side of homeowning, rather than a history of old buildings."

Sherman has a ground-up background for this sort of thing. He was a stonemason in Loudoun and Fauquier counties in Virginia, earned a degree in historic preservation and signed on with the foundation one year ago this week. His wife, Claudette, recently joined the Maryland Historical Trust as a preservation officer and capital grants administrator.

His old buildings, many of 18th-century vintage, suffer from problems shared by newer structures. Water, not uncommon in the ground in these parts, works its way into brick foundations, turns mortar into dust and encourages termite infestation.

He listed other problems: Window frames rotting, paint peeling and, perhaps most significant, old roofs needing replacement. Is it right to draw comfort from the fact that one's dwelling shares woes with some of Annapolis' most treasured buildings?

Projects on a greater scale than simple maintenance are increasing in Annapolis. Russ Morgan, chief of the city's Bureau of Inspection and Permits, said his department supervised 451 permits last year for residential additions and alterations, compared with 412 in 1998. "It's steady up," he said of this category of permits.

Permits were issued for 56 new single-family dwellings last year, 38 in 1998. There are typically more alterations than constructions, though, because Annapolis offers little space for construction (and then there's the matter of water, sewer, schools and overloaded roadways).

Some suggestions from someone who has made an encyclopedia's worth of mistakes in two rehab projects:

Do a master plan with a design professional -- and try to stick with it.

Get a contractor with a solid reputation (more easily said than done these days because of the demand for the good ones); make sure the two of you are simpatico.

If the contractor doesn't do it, get multiple estimates for electrical, plumbing and other work.

Plan to spend more money than initial estimates suggest.

Avoid doing projects piecemeal: The cost of labor and materials will go up, not down, and a house partly done and full of drywall dust can test a marriage.

Furthermore

While we're on the subject: The Germantown-Homewood Civic Association will present "If These Walls Could Talk: How to Discover the History of Your House" from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 29 at Trinity United Methodist Church at Locust and West streets.

Architectural historian Sherri Marsh will guide workshop participants through the use of courthouse records, census data, assessments and such to get a fix on the history of the ownership of their property.

The workshop is free, but registration is required. Call Elizabeth Hughes, 410-216-7024, for particulars.

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