Where to Begin When Restoring a Historic Home
Updated: Oct 7
Historic homes are architectural feats that are a beautiful way to get a glimpse into the past. Keeping historic homes in unblemished conditions is essential to society, as historic homes encompass the aesthetic and culture of a specific place and time.
Old homes typically have old-style roofing, which shows popular styles and designs of the past and what was essential to previous owners. Walking into a historic home is like walking into the past in some ways, letting people see how earlier people lived.
Even the best-built homes become worn or damaged over time, and historic houses are more precarious to fix. As builders make and fix things changes and as technology evolves, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep homes authentically historic. With the help of the right company experienced and concerned in the industry, however, it is possible to preserve a historic home's beauty, functionality and complexity.
Historic Architecture Styles on the East Coast
Just like with the rest of society, architectural styles evolve with people's wants and needs. Architects and builders learn from past architecture and improve upon previous designs based on what needs the buildings have not met.
Throughout time, there have been many stylistic and practical attributes at the forefront of architectural trends, changing depending on various factors, including location, weather and financial means.
Architecture has gone through many phases based on society on the East Coast throughout time, each with unique attributes, making historic homes in these areas historic and meaningful. Here are some of the prominent architectural styles throughout the history of the East Coast that still exists today:
Prevalent between the 1630s and mid-1700s, settlers from England brought the Post-Medieval English, or First Period, architectural style into the United States. Representative of some of the earlier settlement colonies, this type of architecture mainly resides in the coastal regions of Massachusetts and Connecticut and along major waterways like the Hudson River.
Characteristic features of Post-Medieval English architecture include a two-story home with steeply pitched roofs, central or paired chimneys, a second-floor wall overhang and small casement, asymmetrical window openings. Many of these attributes worked to protect homeowners from the winters along the East Coast. For example, the steep roofs helped remove heavy snowfall from lying on the roof and the central chimneys acted to heat the houses during the winter.
Born amidst the reigns of King George I and King George IV, the Georgian architectural style became popularized between 1714 and 1830. English colonists brought this style to the United States, specifically to the New England states, where it was the dominant style until around 1780. Built mainly along the eastern seaboard, homes of this style remain in seacoast communities.
Notable features of the Georgian style are an asymmetrical five-bay façade, center chimneys, wood-frame with shingle or clapboard walls, paneled front doors and decorative moldings. The use of symmetry and gentility in this architectural style represents upper-classes that adopted the elevated tastes of European concepts.
Evolved from Georgian, the Federal-style led the architecture scene from 1780 until around 1820. Many consider Federal, also called Adam style, to refine Georgian homes with more contemporary European trends. Prosperous families built these homes in various eastern towns, ranging from New England to southern Virginia.
Federal homes' critical characteristics include rectangular, two-story construction, a side gable, symmetrical windows, raised foundations and decorative doors and entryways. This ornate and decorative style represents the growth of urban wealth within the rising nation
In the late eighteenth and early 19th-century, Greek Revival homes focused their inspiration on Greece and Roman architectural designs. The regions of the United States with the fastest growth rates during this time house most Greek Revival architecture. Examples include industrializing cities in Connecticut and Pennsylvania and domestic farmland in the New England states.
Homes of this style often displayed columns with Roman details, low-pitched gable or hipped roofs, symmetrical facades with an entryway off to one side, gable-front orientation and colonnaded porches prominently shaped to resemble Greek architecture. Depending on the wealth status of the homeowner, Greek Revival homes would adopt closer resemblances to classic Greek temples through one or two-story full-height columns, pillars across the building's facade and full-width columns along with porches.
Italianate was an architectural movement popularized in the United States from 1840-1885 after it originated in Europe. Inspired by Romanticism and the Italian Renaissance, the ideal Italianate home showed its connection with spontaneous and abundant landscaping to the natural world. This style was popular because people of various wealth statuses and various land types and sizes could have this type of home. People built Italianate houses along the northeastern seaboard, not expanding greatly into the South.
Between two and three stories, Italianate homes were often asymmetrical. They had low-pitched hipped roofs with overhangs, bay windows, smooth exterior finishes, centered or full-width porches and paired doorways. This style existed both in industrialized and advancing cities and the style of farmhouses. Italianate architecture, however, declined during the financial panic of 1873 and virtually disappeared in the following economic depression.
French Second Empire
The architecture of the French Second Empire, or simply the Second Empire, movement mimicked French architecture in the late nineteenth century. Popularized following the Civil War, houses of this style were more commonly found in the Northeast and Midwest regions, not appearing much in southern states.
Common features of French Second Empire homes are mansard roofs with lower slopes and colored shingles of slate tiles, decorative eave brackets, full porches, tall chimneys and stone bases. More elaborate features of this type of home include rectangular towers centered on the facade and cast iron decorations at the roof ridges and building.
Popularized uniquely in the United States from 1880 until the beginning of the twentieth century, Shingle Style architecture avoided the ornate and decorative detailing of earlier styles. Instead, Shingle homes focused on their complex shaping and irregular outlines and tied the aesthetic with wooden shingles. Shingle homes were recognized for their high style and distinctive aesthetic. Because of this, most of these houses exist in wealthier parts of the United States in seaside cities, such as in the Hamptons, Cape Cod, Long Island and coastal Maine.
Features of this style include two- or three-story houses with wooden shingles for wall cladding and roofing, asymmetrical facades, irregular rooflines, extensive porches, adorned large windows and rounded turrets and towers. Designed mainly for aesthetics, mass housing projects and vernacular housing plans did not adopt this style, making it appear as an upper-class and expansive home design.
Colonial Revival architecture is the most well-known architectural style in the United States. Beginning in the 1880s and popularized into the mid-twentieth century, this style combines attributes from many previous styles and offers a lot of variation in design. Colonial Revival homes can be found widely throughout the country.
Many Colonial Revival style homes feature gable, hipped or gambrel roofs, exaggerated details and embellished banisters and entryways, brick or shingle siding and facade symmetry with a centered door.
Importance of Roof Restoration
Maintaining, restoring and preserving a historic home is challenging in many ways and focuses a lot on detail and authenticity. Not only is the material of homes necessary stylistically, but it is also an essential factor in keeping the home sturdy, habitable and safe.
One of the most critical features of any home is the roof because it not only tops off the rest of the design but it also protects everything you worked so hard on underneath it. Fixing or replacing a damaged roof is a vital part of the restoration process, as faulty roofs allow for more extensive damage to occur to other parts of the home. For example, if there are leaks in the roof, this leaves the home's interior susceptible to water damage and mold.
When restoring the roof of a historic home, contact the professionals at Cedar Roof Coatings for information on how to begin the restoration process. We will perform a full inspection and make any necessary repairs including replacing any compromised shingles. This does not mean that the authenticity and history of your house go away with the roof, however, because modern materials offer many replicable styles, textures, and designs that can keep the roof looking genuine.
Timeline of Cedar Shingles
Throughout history, builders have experimented with many materials to find what shelters and protects a home best while still being aesthetically pleasing. The oldest type of natural roofing in the United States is wood shingles. Traditionally made from pine, oak and cedar, cedar is commonly used today.
Wood shingled roofs thrived in the Colonial and Victorian eras in the United States because of the abundance of wood in developmental locations. During the eighteenth century, homeowners attempted to protect their wood shingles from the weather by coating them on oils.
Early in the nineteenth century, technological advancements in metal roofing caused builders to stray away from wood shingles for a time because of the concern of fires in urban areas. However, before the turn of the century, Shingle Style architecture surfaced, reviving wood shingle roofs and making it the primary source of roofing by the beginning of the twentieth century.
Currently, people see cedar roofing to have many benefits because of its natural durability and allure. Also, cedar roofing is the only roofing material where regular maintenance can prolong its longevity. While wood roofing degrades over time, there are ways to prevent this degradation. At Cedar Roof Coatings, we perform roof inspections, wash treatments and preservation programs to extend the lifespan and beauty of your wood roofing.
Understanding Your Historical Home
Before you can begin restoring a historic home, you need to acknowledge the difference between restoration and repairing. Restoration means returning a home to its appearance during its original time period. To do so, you must understand the history of the home, such as who lived there and any significant events that may have occurred there.
After you understand the history and significance of a home and its time period, you can then evaluate the style of your home and the key features of its architecture. Knowing its original style allows you to keep the home authentic and make realistic restorations that accentuate the house's history.
Also, depending on how historic your home is and if it is a designated historic building, you should contact your State Historic Preservation Office (SPHO) to make sure your plans for restoration fall within the guidelines set by your state. For example, this would be especially important if you wanted to renovate a 100-year-old house.
Restore Historical Homes With a Professional
It may seem simple for you to do these restorations and repairs yourself, but doing it yourself leaves you susceptible to maltreatment and roof damage. Many jobs require particular expertise outside of the average construction knowledge. Because of the skill levels required for specific restoration jobs, it is important to have historic restoration contractors perform any evaluations or restorations on your home, especially for historic homes.
Hiring the qualified experts at Cedar Roof Coatings to work on your roof ensures that we will address any potential issues and provide the best treatment plans for your roof.
You want to keep the natural and historic allure of your home without making too many adjustments and alterations, and our professionals can help. Even if your wood roof is already showing signs of deterioration, it may be salvageable and restorable at reasonable costs with the right treatments.
Contact Cedar Roof Coatings for a Free Estimate
As a leading cedar roof preservation, restoration and repair company, we inspect each roof individually to determine what type of care it requires for you to get the best and most prolonged use out of it. Our mission is to help you maintain and beautify your current roof affordably.
To best achieve this, we offer various services, such as free, no-obligation roof estimates, inspections, cedar roof repairs, roof preservation and seven different color options. Cedar Roof Coatings can extend the life expectancy of your cedar roof by helping to ensure that roof maintenance, which proves to be more economical than total roof replacement.
Similarly, there are many economic positives to wood roofing aside from the character it gives a house. Wood roofing offers some energy benefits, such as attic insulation and air circulation. To avoid problems with mold, rot, and insects, it is necessary to maintain and repair your roof as required to keep you and your family safe under the roof of your home.
For a free estimate today, contact Cedar Roof Coatings on our website to tell us about your roof and schedule any maintenance you may need!