Giving new life to historic homes
Preserving historic houses can be challenging, because a lot of older homes tend to have larger energy footprints than their newer counterparts and there's a common assumption that they can't be modernized or improved.
But several Lake Oswego groups set out to prove otherwise on Sunday by organizing the Your House Matters Expo at the Oswego Heritage House.
"We wanted to do something celebrating National Historic Preservation Month in Lake Oswego," said Rachel Verdick, a member of Lake Oswego's Historic Resources Advisory Board. "We came up with this expo as a resource for homeowners."
Members of the board, the Lake Oswego Heritage Council and the Lake Oswego Preservation Society teamed up to recruit a group of vendors and presenters for the event. Visitors got the chance to walk through a variety of display tables and stations focused on aspects of historic home preservation, although the advice applies to almost any home built during or before the 1970s.
Sustainability Advisory Board Chair Eliot Metzger and SAB members Bob Sack and Richard Canaday hosted a table detailing sustainable upgrade options, as well as eco-friendly ways to deconstruct old homes rather than demolishing them.
Older houses certainly can be renovated to add some of the new features that make modern houses more energy efficient, but the group emphasized that even relatively new homes can still benefit — Canaday said his house was built in the 1970s, and he was able to substantially improve its efficiency by adding insulation.
"Our house wasn't old, but it was still leaky," he says. "We're not talking about houses built in the 1940s; we're talking about modern."
Sack emphasized the importance of deconstruction. His own home was deconstructed and rebuilt using partially reclaimed material from the old structure, which he says saved about $6,000 in construction supplies. Still, he said, the group hopes the City can do more to urge residents to consider the option.
"There are some ways to make it a sweeter deal," he said, "but we're trying to look at City policies that encourage deconstruction."
The Lake Oswego Public Library also had a booth at the expo, where history librarian Carissa Barrett let visitors know about resources to help them uncover parts of their houses' histories — as well as the histories of their own families.
"They may want to see photos of what the house looked like in decades past," she said. "There's a lot to find out."
In addition to City offices and groups, the booths also featured vendors displaying historic preservation options. Tyler Johnson from Portland-based Indow Windows displayed interior window panels that can be installed using simple rubber seals to increase the insulation of existing windows.
At another booth, Alan Green discussed his window restoration business, which repairs windows in old historic houses with an emphasis on preserving as much of the original window as possible. He said he'd received a lot of interest from visitors, most of whom were excited to hear that restoring old windows is an option.
"I think they're worried they're just going to be told, 'Throw them out, put vinyl in,'" he said. "But you really have the best windows in older houses."
Tim and Lisa Epperly hosted a booth to tell guests about their locally produced Rodda paint, and Mike McIntyre from the Portland-based company GreenSavers urged guests to look at homes as a full system when considering renovations and preservation options.
Tim Mather from MCM Construction Inc. discussed ways to renovate existing homes. Not all old homes need to be preserved, he said, but the ones that have been well-maintained and are still in good condition should continue to be kept for their historic value.
"Identify and take care of the most important ones — that's the key," he said. "It can be a slow process, but it's a rewarding process."