CCH: Many Cape and Island homes are hundreds of years old. When someone buys an older home and plans to remodel the kitchen and bathrooms, what pitfalls should they expect in terms of construction?
DB: I talk to homeowners and their general contractors all the time and some of the most memorable stories I hear involve hair-raising encounters with aging infrastructures; shaky foundations and walls having to be jacked up and straightened out, rusty old pipes and poor wiring, low ceilings, ‘rabbit warren’ layouts, and floors that dip and creak and are poorly patched. (One contractor told me he tried to match the effect with the new flooring!)
Open up an old wall and you may find rotten framing—or an odd bird’s nest. There may be termite damage in a supporting beam, water damage from poor grading, or a leaky roof, and doorways and hallways too narrow for your new range or tub, all of which must be dealt with before you get to the fun stuff.
But I hear about pleasant surprises, too: wide-plank heart pine hiding under carpet and linoleum, hand-hewn oak beams just waiting to be exposed, double-hung windows with wavy glass, and other evidence of the kind of craftsmanship that’s hard to come by these days.
CCH: Why is it important for homeowners to work with professional kitchen designers/builders, etc.? How would you recommend a homeowner find the right professional?
DB: A seasoned pro can help identify and restore the original bones of a house, before who knows how many repairs and additions altered them. It’s also important to have help with building permits and any historical commission requirements. Beyond the basics, a good designer and general contractor will help make new building elements, whether it’s a built-in bookcase or a from-scratch kitchen, feel as if it has always been there. This can be especially important if you are adding on.
Don’t be shy about knocking on neighbors’ doors and asking for leads. Some of our readers also swear by the referrals they get at the local lumberyard. Or try an online referral service like Angie’s List.
CCH: How can Cape Cod Home’s readers use your publication for help when they are remodeling their kitchen or bath? Do you have online services, etc.?
DB: Every month in This Old House you’ll find inspiring before-and-after stories, from baths and kitchens to whole house renovations, along with close looks at beautiful gardens, outdoor rooms, and more.
Look for excerpts from our much-loved television show, along with pro tips from experts like Tom Silva, and detailed step-by-step instructions on how to keep your house in tiptop shape, no matter what its age.
Don’t overlook our annual sweepstakes—use your smartphone to enter to win building products and other items that can be useful during a renovation.
At thisoldhouse.com, you’ll find not only all the great content from back issues but also a huge inventory of illustrated how-tos and videos—I’m constantly amazed by what I find. The website is also a good place to keep abreast of our annual Reader Remodel contest, as we put thousands of our readers’ entries online (prizes this year included a truck and cash: maybe you’ll want to enter!). By the way, subscribers get free access to all this information on their tablets.