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Restoring a Hulley house - advice needed

Larry K
10 months ago

We bought a Hulley house built in 1925. It’s a Craftsman style house that is typical to
Pittsburgh, where Mr. Hulley built around 700 of these type of houses. They’re two story houses, some with dormers and some without dormers.

While our home looks pretty good from the outside, we have our challenges ahead of us. I want to remove the vinyl siding and replace the wooden shakes under it. Vinyl siding covers damage and so I want to find out how bad it is under there. I believe the vinyl was installed thirteen years ago but nobody around the house seems to remember how bad the shake was when the vinyl was put up.

I need a new roof, and so, what order of operations? I think remove the vinyl first, see what I’ve got, then work top down, replace the roof and then replace the shake.

All five of the windows on my first floor are painted shut, and in bad shape, so I have been talking to a local mill about having more windows made. It is important that the sight lines and sizes of the windows do not change as we love the light in the house.

We need to get the brick cleaned, as it has a hundred years of soot attached to it.

I’m a little daunted by how much has to be done, but I want to improve the house and so welcome any advice.

Here are a couple of pictures of the house. I’ll post window pictures later.

Comments (171)

  • Trailrunner D
    7 months ago

    Wood ! They never do the aluminum correctly and then the orange fungus starts... ask me how I know! In AL those upstairs 9 ft of windows at the back in the attic conversion had to be redone due to the hidden water. And yes to excellent caulk. It solves so many problems. Our wood windows outside here in VA were in perfect condition under the siding... not one inch of rot. The old wood is definitely better no matter what is said... the grain is tighter I guess.


    i would prime and paint. We’ve had amazing luck with that on our 1890 home in AL and now here.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    I am with you. Wood all the way.

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  • Larry K
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    So, seeing how my previous owner was so negligent in all matters related to house maintenance, my guess is that she had the rotten cedar siding covered over with vinyl. I have a grainy before picture and the siding looks very ratty. This person also had the carpenter put shingles over the rotten wood of the roof of the small back porch. So, I don’t expect any good news when the vinyl comes off, I expect bad news. But, I believe in facing problems, so so be it.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    My architect is working up six visualizations of siding and shingle so I will post them here. I know some people expect natural, unstained siding shingles but we don’t like like that look and feel the wood needs the protection that staining can give it. My contractor feels I might get 10-15 years before having to re-stain the house, depending on sun exposure.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    Pre-stained shingles should hopefully give us fewer problems than staining raw shingles on site right before installation. The factory should be able to more accurately control moisture conditions during staining so as to avoid cupping. That’s my hope and the manufacturer’s claim.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    I think we decided on the Sycamore siding shingles, the Owen Corning Quarry Gray roof shingles, and the zinc gutters. We found a house in the neighborhood which our Sycamore sample matches closely, even if the gloss is different. Renderings are tricky and light makes a big difference in the perception of color. This rendering is done at 10am, when the house gets a lot of sun, the color looks a lot different in the shade.

    Green is our favorite color, because of nature.

  • ptreckel
    7 months ago

    Fabulous choices. They compliment your brick very well and will look great!

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    Thanks ptreckel! We hope it will come out nice, and we struggled with the colors and how they would look with the brick. The first step is to get the brick cleaned. It has not been cleaned in a hundred years. We could find some places that had been covered up by a railing so as to get a good idea of how the brick will look once cleaned.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    So, Trailrunner, many buildings in Paris have zinc roofs. My wife is French and loves Paris so our zinc gutters will be a homage to Paris, haha. A zinc roof would be a really pricey proposition but it would last forever. Here is an article about the uses of zinc:

    https://matmatch.com/blog/zinc-cladding-roofing-architectural-applications/

  • ptreckel
    7 months ago

    They will look very cool on your house!

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    I was excited to find this beautiful new house fitted out with Maibec shingles:

    https://www.houzz.com/hznb/projects/new-dutch-gambrel-in-menlo-park-pj-vj~10598

    which are not the same color as what I’m getting but close. It’s nice to hear that the shingles still look great after twelve years.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    At the moment, I am looking for someone to install my sash replacements. The manufacturer claims 2-3 hours per window. One quote I received was 2-4 days per window opening!

    I know what needs to be done and the challenges involved. The moldings have to be hammered off, and the middle stops taken out and replaced. The windows do not have to be re-weighted because the manufacturer provides a stainless steel balance, so that will save time.

    The challenges are how far out of square are the current window frames and how much they would have to be shimmed or trimmed. I don’t care about the top sashes moving, so they can be fixed, but they need to be tight against the weather.

    Can anybody give me advice? Am I looking for a finish carpenter?

  • Circus Peanut
    5 months ago

    Hi Larry,

    Excellent work so far!


    You might find a good local pro to install your sash over at John Leeke's Historic Homeworks forum, which is a professional hangout for folks who restore/repair wood sash windows, among other things. Not sure Houzz will allow me to link directly, but here:

    http://historichomeworks.com/forum/index.php

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    Thanks Circus Peanut. That looks like a great resource. I know I’ll get beaten up pretty badly over there for replacing my sashes and not restoring the current windows but I might post.

    My wife and I go through the following conversation all the time.

    My wife: Our house is not historic.
    Me: It’s the only 100 year old house I own.
    Her: We should have slapped in what everybody else slaps in.
    Me: I’m not willing to do that.
    Repeat.

    In my search for a window installer, I found a guy who had installed 650 windows with Spacia glass in a commercial project in Detroit! He told me that Spacia was a great product and that he was glad to see it being used in residential settings. This raised my spirits.

  • Circus Peanut
    5 months ago

    Hi Larry,

    Oh no, not at all, they are pretty understanding folks. And you're replacing the sashes, not just smashing in vinyl one-piece units as so many folks do. They appreciate homeowners who love the historic details of old houses, and I actually think they'd be keenly interested in all of your experiences as a homeowner using the vacuum glazed Spacia sashes -- anything new-fangled that isn't just cheap plastics and will save the original window trim-work, etc, is important to restorers. Tell John Leeke that his neighbor in Portland ME sent you. :)


    I have rehabbed the historic wooden windows in two old houses now, and that forum is a wonderful (and patient!) resource for homeowners learning to do it themselves; I'd almost say this is something you can learn to do yourself, depending on your degree of dexterity and how out of plumb your window jambs are. (I'm a middle-aged woman who taught herself how to do it, and by sheer coincidence wound up marrying a man who restores old houses professionally.)


    If you need to invest in new metal weatherstripping, I can warmly recommend Accurate Machine Made Weatherstripping here in Maine, they use the same old machines that were developed a century ago to produce them -- in my experience they've got the best online prices (cheaper than Killian's) and will happily ship to homeowners:

    http://accuratemachinemade.com/


    Also check out Terry Meany's book "Working Windows: A Guide To The Repair And Restoration Of Wood Windows" and John Leeke's book "Save America's Windows", they are both invaluable and just fun to read, you can learn so much about how sash windows function in your old house as an entire built system, even if you're having someone else do the actual installation.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    Thanks Circus Peanut. I’ll say hello over there and let them know about my Spacia project. I’m excited about it even if I’m having trouble getting others excited about it.

  • Gargamel
    5 months ago

    I am enjoying following along. Thanks for the updates!

  • PRO
    PenPen
    5 months ago
    last modified: 4 months ago

    I have lived in such a house back when I was a kid. I really liked that place, it was amazing! They are not really big houses, with a pretty ... tiny backyard, however they are really great, they make you feel ... very familiar with them right from the first time you step in there. I actually miss that place, however I had to move out of there as my parents divorced, and I had to go with my mother. She was looking for Miami houses to buy back then, as it was one of her dreams, to live in Miami, right next to the ocean.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    Ha, that’s nice of you to say, PenPen. Was it in Pittsburgh? There are hundreds of Hulleys here. I think he built about 700 houses. What was your childhood home like?

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    4 months ago

    Trailrunner D, I’m thinking of you.

    Thanks for all of your advice and encouragement on this thread. I don’t know when the work will be done, as we still haven’t received the white cedar shingles. It looks like I found a window installer, who can fit my window install around his other work, so that’s good.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    And the demolition has begun! Woohoo!

    I am so excited to see the vinyl siding being ripped off of the house. The 100 year old cedar shingles are being ripped off too, and a permeable wrap and cedar backer mesh will be put on before installing new white cedar siding shingles.

    Some corners have rot, and some shingles are split or cupped. The sheathing looks good and is thick board, a good sign.

    I think we’re doing the right thing by going back to the sheathing but I am sure some would disagree.

  • Circus Peanut
    last month

    Yay! This summer, we are on the fourth and final side of re-shingling our own old house with local cedar shakes, and it's a glorious feeling to almost be done. Enjoy the beautiful transformation! I'm betting you'll appreciate the return of all the sharp trim profiles after being covered up with the metal for so long.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    Awesome, I’m happen to hear that someone else is replacing their cedar shingles. Did you go with a natural look or a stain?

    Yes, I think the sharp lines of the house will make it really pop. The guys working on it said it will look great when finished.

    I have the utmost respect for roofers. It’s a hard job, and these guys are good at what they do.

  • Circus Peanut
    last month

    Our shingles had reached 110 years old and would simply not hold another coat of paint, many were rotting out. We debated stain vs paint but went with paint, a rosemary green that works well with the shingle style of the house.

    Are you getting a new roof at the same time?

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    We went with a double dipped stain, also in green.

    Our cedar shingles are coming up on 100 years old and are painted with nasty old brown paint.

    Yes, we’re getting a new roof, in gray, and 6” half round zinc gutters that should look really sharp and carry a lot of water away from the house.

    We have a French drain in the basement and two sump pumps. We get a lot of rain.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    So, we’re wondering about what pattern to use in the new cedar shingles. Most Hulley houses had a ribbon pattern with a 2” and then a 6” reveal to look like stone. We don’t really like that pattern and are thinking of an even pattern instead.

    We are wondering if we should put a design the windows, like this but maybe an angular Fleur de Lis, removing the bottom part and shortening the side petals. Thoughts? Does anybody have any good ideas for shingle patterns or subtle accent patterns?

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    So, we’re wondering about patterns in the new cedar shingles. Most Hulley houses had a ribbon pattern with a 2” and then a 6” reveal to look like stone. We don’t really like that pattern and are thinking of even.

    We are wondering if we should put a design the windows, like this but maybe an angular Fleur de Lis.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    My wife and I are now split over the issue of a house tattoo. I think no and she thinks yes. Oh, boy.

    Hulleys were modest houses with few decorative elements.

    Perhaps changing the shingle pattern from ribbon to even will be enough to show we redid the shingles and that the house is not just a well maintained example of itself from 1925.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    It’s a no on the house tattoo.

    We’ve decided to go with the manufacturer’s recommendation of a 5” cedar shingle exposure for durability.

    We’re back to the sheathing, and the wood is solid, so that’s good news.

  • ptreckel
    last month

    There will be other ways to add a bit of “style” to your wonderful home, Larry K. Just because it was a modest home when it was built doesn’t mean that those who owned it didn’t add their own character and personality to it over time. Just as you will do. I love that you and your wife are restoring this home!

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks ptreckel! Your kind words are much appreciated.

    Yes, people adapt their homes to their needs and add character and personality over time. I recommend How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand, a book that shows how buildings change over the years.

    Here are a few pics. Like I said, we’re back to the sheathing, and getting ready for the next phase. It has been a good thing to take it back to this level to see what we’ve got.

    I think the roof shingles come off soon. The sad little rear porch is being replaced with something nicer. The roof of it was all rotten out.

    All the storm windows will come off except for the one on the front of the house at the dormer level. My wife wants to keep it.

    We’re going with white trim against the green cedar shingles to make the place pop, and the gray of the zinc gutters should be a nice touch.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    A few days ago, I got my windows from Heirloom Windows. They are uncanny at how closely they look like the originals. It all comes down to the thickness of the glass. 1/4” double paned Spacia makes it all possible.

    Here are a few pictures. If the window shows a thin strip of wood, that is what is used to look like the glazing on the exterior of the old windows. One three over one window does show the thin muntins and the depth of the interior of the window that makes it look like the old windows. I need to photograph the other side of my five over ones.

    I don’t think anybody is making a window that as closely resembles the historic windows as Heirloom.

    After I get the outside work on the house completed, I’ll try to get the finish carpenter to start working room by room to get these windows installed, in between his other jobs.

  • Gargamel
    last month

    Beautiful looking windows!

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    My roofer is proud of his metal work, as he should be. This is a picture of a drip edge that is formed out of leaded copper.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    last month

    One more thing on the windows, they’re built with mortise and tenon joints. I’ve built furniture and worked on the weekends in professional cabinetmaker’s shop, and I’ve cut mortise and tenon joints. Mortise and tenon joints are the right way to build window frames.

    I saw a lot of stapled together windows from the major window manufacturers.

  • ericjclark
    22 days ago

    Can you share some more close up pictures of the windows?

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    22 days ago

    Hello Eric,

    Will do. I looked at all of the major window manufacturers and I did not find a single one that was building windows like Heirloom. It all comes down to the thickness of the glass. No residential window company is importing Spacia glass, although I have heard that it has been used in commercial projects.

    Anyway, if Spacia glass and Accoya wood is good enough for Churchill’s mansion, it is good enough for me.

    https://www.gowercroft.co.uk/case-studies/templeton-house/

  • ericjclark
    20 days ago

    Thanks Larry, I chatted with Bill over a year ago after he did a few projects with Spacia and he suggested it for mine. I am curious to see the fit and finish of your final product and hear you opinion. Are you using his jamb liners or installing the new sash directly into the original jamb?

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    20 days ago

    Hello Eric,

    I meant to photograph the windows today but we had so much rain and overcast skies that the light was not good in my house. Keep after me, though. Feel free to remind me.

    I am going with the new sashes in the original jambs. I don’t think the liners provide much in the way of insulation. Of course, the condition of the jambs is key and I’m hoping we don’t face too many problems during installation. We’ll see.

    I had Bill paint the windows. It was certainly easier to have him spray them than to have us paint nineteen windows! It does mean that we’ll have to do touch ups as the windows have to be handled after they’re painted.

    We got some cool nickel window lifts and latches from the house of antique fixtures, or some such place. I’m excited to see it all come together!

    My wife and I are not happy to live in a house with five first floor windows nailed and painted shut.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    20 days ago

    Today, we’re battling the remnants of Ida. We’re doing pretty well considering we only have house wrap against the sheathing and the tar underlayment membrane on the roof, and no gutters. Thank goodness for the two sump pumps in the basement.

    We have a couple of small leaks which we are containing with buckets.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    17 days ago

    While you’re waiting for me to get my act together and photograph the windows, you can check out Bill’s latest window projects, here:

    https://m.facebook.com/HeirloomWindows#=

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    16 days ago

    Eric,

    Here are some pictures of my windows. I’ll have to touch up the paint but having Heirloom spray paint 19 windows is easier than me having to paint 19 windows by hand.

    https://imgur.com/a/rMAGoDE

  • ericjclark
    6 days ago

    Thanks Larry. Is the exterior Boral (TruExterior) or Accoya?

  • cat_ky
    6 days ago

    Very nice looking windows. Hope you can get them installed soon.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    6 days ago

    I’ll have to ask Bill. I’m not sure.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    6 days ago

    Current status. The roof is almost finished. Next, the zinc gutters and then the cedar shingles for the siding. I am excited.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    6 days ago

    cat_ky I spoke to the finish carpenter last week. He’s going to try to find some time to look at the actual windows this week.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    5 days ago

    Now, that, that’s a gutter! We had a huge rainstorm and that one gutter, taking all the water for the front of the house, did not overflow.

  • Larry K
    Original Author
    5 days ago

    And those are some downspouts!