If you are planning on improving the exterior of your historic property in 2011, be sure to secure the necessary City permits before you start work. More substantial changes to the property will require approval by the Historic and Design Review Commission, if you are in Blanco’s Downtown Historic District. Tip: most homes are not in this district.
Here are some tips to make the administrative approval process go smoothly:
• Avoid removing historic materials or altering the unique features and spaces that characterize a property;
• Whenever possible, deteriorated windows, doors, siding and other features should be repaired rather than replaced. When the severity of deterioration requires replacement, the new should match the old in design, color, texture, and other visual qualities.
While ordinary repair and maintenance are encouraged, seemingly minor alterations to a historic house, like enclosing a porch or changing windows, can have a dramatic effect on the visual character of a historic house and therefore are of concern. The following is a list of common changes that can have a significant impact on a historic house:
• The construction of a new structure
• The alteration or restoration of exterior features of a historic house
• Addition to a structure
• The removal or demolition, in whole or in part, of a historic house
• Applying a new exterior siding material
• Adding a new window, door or dormer
• Creating a driveway or a parking area
• Building a deck, fence or garage
• Enclosing a porch
Will following historic design guidelines be more expensive?
In most cases, no; following the design guidelines will not cost more. They help direct where money is spent improving a property, not how much is invested. For example, the guidelines ask that a new building be placed in line with others on the block. This generally should not affect the cost of constructing the building foundation. The list about is not all inclusive but is indicative of the types of changes to which future design guidelines apply.
How to hire a remodeling contractor with the right knowledge?
Homeowners face many important questions when hiring and working with a local contractor, including: What services do they offer and is commonly provided? What is the best way to find good prospects? What should I look for when I interview the contractor? How do I make sure that the services are done right? Do I need a contract?
First, decide on all product/service options. Compile a list of work and quality requirements. Have at least 2 qualified remodeling contractors complete detailed bids on the work.
Next, you remodeling contractors should carry adequate liability insurance for work related damages.
Not every remodeling contractor has the same ability. Experience, skills, and sense of acceptable quality vary considerably. To get the results that you expect, it is essential that you put appropriate effort behind finding a qualified remodeling contractor matched to the specific requirements of your job – not simply someone who puts you at ease or wins your confidence. Before starting, make sure that you completely understand the work you want the qualified remodeling contractor to perform and the job quality you expect. Then, begin the selection process outlined below:
• Collect referrals from reputable material suppliers or local building authority
• Check Better Business Bureau for complaints
• Develop a detailed description of work, timing and quality expectations (project specification)
• Interview topic: what will be done to assure quality?
• Interview topic: payment, warranty and contract terms
• Interview topic: how are change orders handled?
• Verify references, insurance coverage for final candidates
• Responsibility for protecting structure, furnishings and work in progress from weather and construction related damage
Rudy Nino is a member of the Historic Preservation Commission and a local builder/remodeler.