Friday, March 9, 2007

Somerville houses: Joseph Q. Twombly House

Circa 1850's Greek Revival/Italianate Style

Joseph Q. Twombly home 1859-1915, built for John Dugan

    Before (1994)
  • Asbestos siding,
  • Original trim boards removed to put up asbestos siding
  • Rotted Porch (built early 1900s to replace what was most likely a bracketed entry)
  • Inappropriate wrought metal used on porch
    After (1997)
  • New clapboard siding specially milled to duplicate original style
  • Seven sided trim boards (duplicated from original boards found under siding and being used as support to nail asbestos siding
  • New porch, typifies more of an Italianate style (see notes)
  • Restored double doors originally hid by storm doors
  • Wood gutters installed

  • Granville manufacturing for clapboard
  • Viking storm windows
  • Contractor: Noble House
  • Paint: Benjamin Moore Trim: HC87 Eggshell finish Body: HC84 Eggshell finish (low-lustre), Doors: California Paint AC-143
  • Saturday, March 3, 2007

    Somerville houses: Robinson's Round House

    Architect: Enoch Robinson

    Year built: 1856

    Location: 36 Atherton Street

    The Enoch Robinson Round House in Somerville is quite possibly one of the most unique houses in all of Somerville. Sadly, the restoration attempts that were undertaken in the 1970's were never completed. According to Historic Massachusetts, as of August 1999 the HMPD negotiations with the owner regarding renovations, in 1997, haven't been successful. The owner doesn't want to lose any control of the property, yet hasn't made any progress with renovations herself. The HMPD tried to convene a meeting with Board of Aldermen and owner, but the Board of Aldermen doesn't want to get involved. Unfortunately, it is still slowly getting destroyed by the elements since there hasn't been any proper care on the house recently.

    Thursday, March 1, 2007

    Top Reasons for Saving your Old Windows

    Top Reasons for Saving your Old Windows

    SOHO Helps You Care For Your Old House

    The popularity of replacement windows is more a function of clever marketing than substantial benefit to the homeowner. Here is some food for thought as to why your old windows are worth saving.

    Window replacement is not a way to save a lot of money on heating or cooling costs. Research shows that old windows can be made virtually as energy efficient as new ones for less money. The "R-Value" (resistance to conductivity) of an original wood window, plus a good aluminum storm is the same as a double insulated replacement window. A 1998 Vermont state study funded by the National Park Service analyzed eight ways of upgrading windows, from adding metal weather stripping and storm windows to putting in vinyl replacements. All achieved similar energy savings, but sticking with old windows proved to be as much as seven times cheaper. Consumer Reports sites only a modest drop in heating and cooling costs using top of the line windows, far from offsetting the thousands of dollars spent on new windows.

    Why old windows?

    • Old wooden windows are a character defining feature of an old house. Original or old windows can: Be energy efficient
    • Last for generations and longer than replacement windows
    • Be functional and easily repaired
    • Offer craftsmanship and details not found in replacement windows
    • Add warmth and beauty to a room
    • Help you date the age and style of your home

    Very few things go truly wrong with old windows. By and large their assembly is very simple, just two counterweighted sashes running in a slot. Old windows are easier to fix than replacement windows, largely composed of springs and plastic parts.

    Items to remember:

    • Wood is the easiest building material to renew or repair. Epoxy such as Abatron's wood replacement product can be used to eliminate any rot.
    • Broken panes can be quickly and easily replaced.
    • Old windows be easily fine-tuned and balanced to operate properly and smoothly. Proper sash "spot" cord, 825 lb. test, (or chains) will help insure longevity. A properly tuned window will operate well and last for generations.

    Most replacement windows:

    • Parts aren't standard. If you don't know your manufacturer (or if they are out of business), resolving any problems can be painstaking.
    • Double insulated glass is subject to seal failure, which causes fogging. It must then be replaced at a cost that can easily exceed $100.
    • Spring-loaded suspension systems will eventually lose tension, and then windows won't operate properly.
    • Tilting in windows puts a strain on a replacement window mechanism, making them vulnerable to breakage.

    Old windows have withstood the test of time and properly maintained will outlast a replacement window. Most of Somerville's homes were built prior to 1945 and used older wood that was resistant to rot. New wood windows don't have that advantage. Plastic, vinyl clad windows are at an even greater disadvantage. An old wood window would have to be severely damaged before it needs to be replaced.
    The original old windows were made to fit the style of your Somerville old house, making it visually appealing. Replacement windows, with vinyl white cladding detract from your home's style. This unattractive appearance continues on the inside, usually accompanied by glue used to hold the framing, contrasting sharply with your room's woodwork.

    Window Resource List (Partial)

    Window repair (articles, books and do it yourself):
    The Old House Journal Guide to Restoration, 1992, NY: Penguin Books
    The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows,
    Working Windows, A Guide to the Repair and Restoration of Wood Windows, Meany, Terence, 1998, New York: The Lyons Press
    Repairing Old and Historic Windows, New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1992, 208 pp., John Wiley & Sons, NJ, 800-225-5945
    Sash Window Clinic, Old House Journal, pages 107-110, October 2000

    Window Styles
    A Field Guide to American Houses, Virginia and Lee McAlester.. NY: Knopf, 1984

    Lead Paint
    Appropriate Methods of Reducing Lead-Paint Hazards in Historic Housing
    Non-legal deleading

    Window Parts
    Authentic sash rope/spot cord, 825 lb. test, not clothesline rope (Anything else is inferior) Available at Boston Building Materials Co-Op (BBMC), 100 Terrace St., Roxbury (617) 442-2262
    75lb. chain, (sash chain kit) used in place of rope/spot cord (BBMC) (617) 442-2262
    Spring bronze weather stripping, Lynn Lumber, 781-592-0400, BBMC (617) 442-2262
    Abatron wood restoration system,, 800-445-1754 Available at Johnson Paint, Newbury St., Boston

    Traditional Wood Windows (grooved for rope or chain)
    Like the genuine look of old windows? Here are two local sources to get wood window sashes with individual glass panes (true-divided lights) and grooves for a traditional rope/chain and weight system.
    Boston Building Materials Co-op (BBMC) (617) 442-2262, Ask for Don (window specialist)
    Dorchester Door and Window, 41 Hallet St. 617-282-6900, indicate weight and pulley not track system

    Viking (custom colors, low-profile), 860-225-6478 (call for dealers)
    Allied Window (hidden storm windows), 800-445-5411,
    Harvey Tru-Channel
    Innerglass Window Systems, 860-651-3951

    Window Repair, David Liberty, (617) 782-9410
    Sash restoration and repair, Steve Gentile (781) 762-5616

    Glass Repair and Glazing and Screen Repair
    City Paint and Supply Company, 1149 Cambridge St. Cambridge (617)-547-0050
    Tags Hardware, Porter Square, (617) 868-7711, Screen repair, glass cutting but not glazing

    Restoration glass
    Bendheim 800-221-7379

    Storm Window Showroom and Installers
    Anderson Installations, Weymouth, 781-335-6600
    Bostonia, 781-444-0340

    Credits/Sources: David Liberty,, Consumer reports, November 1993, Old House Journal, National Park Service