OLD HOUSE RESTORATION:
By Martin Schwartz
of Textured Home
Old homes don’t have to mean
old bathrooms. Once you’re decided to update your
bathroom and loose that horrible 70’s redo, you call
in a few contractors to hear ideas and get pricing. The
first thing most say is they must demolish everything -
go back to the wall and ceiling studs and put up sheet rock
“You’ll have more flexibility and it’s
easier to work this way,” they tell you.
Wrong. It is easier for the trades to work that way, but
it diminishes the quality feel of the room and possibly
the value of your home if that sheetrock renovation does
not fully resonate.
Of course, some wall and ceiling demolition is generally
required to reconfigure and install new fixtures, add recessed
lighting, or run new pipes and fittings. You
want to insure that what’s put in new won’t
leak later. And if you’re putting up floor-to-ceiling
tile, knocking down a nonstructural wall to open up the
room, or building bumped out framing, it’s no problem
pulling the plaster as needed.
However, there is just no need to immediately demo the plaster
and lathe walls in your bath, or any room in the house for
that matter, so that the plumber and electrician don’t
have to think or work a bit harder to re-channel lines.
If your plaster isn’t falling down and there’s
no substantial water damage – try to work with the
shell you have. Use sheetrock sparingly to close up any
electrical and plumbing holes and then plaster over it as
part of a good skim-coat finishing paint job.
Why all the concern? A plastered, finished wall has a very
different look, feel and
quality than painted sheet rock. For older homes, un-plastered,
sheet rocked walls frequently feel out of place and sometimes
‘cheap’. That’s even with applied moldings,
high-quality tile and built-in details put back on. In the
kitchen however, this is not that much of a concern. There
is generally enough cabinetry, appliances, stone or tile
- to cover much of the wall space. Your visual focus is
elsewhere – not on the sheetrock wall.
But even more important than aesthetics, is the issue of
PRIVACY. Often there is
reverberating noise in a sheetrock room because of the hollow
nature of the walls.
Therefore, water running and flushing are generally louder,
no matter how much soundproof insulation is put in behind
the walls. Your old plaster and lathe are gold, both for
soundproofing, structural support and general bath appearance.
These original walls should be preserved to the extent possible
as part of any
Note, plaster walls have absolutely no impact on the style
or design solution you chose, or the layout of new fixtures
added. Even if you decide to go totally modern -- your finishing
elements and fixtures come from an aesthetic choice, not
a structural one.
Baths, like kitchens today offer a world of opportunity
– from tumbled tile and double sinks, to fully built-in
cabinetry. Frameless showers and vanities that look like
furniture cabinets have also now become incorporated in
the bath. For old
house homeowners, the trick is to make the space feel clean
and updated, while maintaining the room’s integrity.
Integrating tasteful architectural elements, old or new,
can help give more character. Often we suggest built-ins
that mirror the moldings or panels on your
original doors and window casings.
This gives the bathroom an organic connection to the rest
of the house and offers always needed storage space! Integration
is key. Try to keep that original solid, multi-panel door
and casing. It’s as much a part of the home as the
front door. Regardless of the type of new fixtures or hardware
you choose, it is this connection to the rest of the house,
lost during most of the 50’s to 70’s re-do’s,
that defines the space.
Today’s faucet and hardware options also help re-connect
and are virtually unlimited in their design. Just a few
years ago, you use to have to buy expensive,
hard-to-install European imports to get that been-there-forever
look. No longer. Many domestic manufacturers have recognized
the demand for a ‘restoration style’ -- with
the devil in the details now for price vs. quality. Just
don’t let yourself get pushed around. Even if your
renovation is extensive with architectural plans that move
waste stacks, vents and water lines, a smart design will
maximize the existing plaster walls. Options may be available
for smaller waste lines to buy you
even more space. You don’t always need to create soffits.
Discuss all this fully with your contractor and plumber.
Yes… keeping plaster walls may mean someone has to
think it all through a bit more carefully and be more creative.
But that’s part of the fun and the challenge
A Montclair resident, Martin Schwartz is a principal of
TEXTURED HOME --
Restoration Builders & Modernization Contractors.
Their design/build work includes kitchens/ baths & additions,
as well as whole house restorations. They specialize in
sensitive renovations for the older home.
If you have questions about updating while still retaining
the character of your home, call him
at (973) 783-2580 –