Lower Old House Stress: Tips at the Old House and Barn Expo

Are you excited about spring but stressed about old house projects?

Whether you're a new owner of a historic house or long-time do-it-yourselfer, you can probably use some advice and encouragement from the N.H. Preservation Alliance's Old House and Barn Expo to help you see past the long to-do repair list and embrace the positive features of the old place.  

Take a deep breath and appreciate what you've got

Old houses were designed frequently with climate and good living in mind.  Does southern exposure make certain rooms extra cozy? Does the floor plan offer separation of space for privacy? Does a porch offer a wonderful extra room? Does an attic or ell offer storage space?  Can you close doors to heat less of the house? Remember old wood windows, moulding and doors are repairable.

Gather information and inspiration

Bring your questions to the Preservation Alliance's Old House and Barn Expo on March 24-25. Visit with experts and enjoy lectures and demonstrations. Gather information on how to get started, big projects or small.  Sign up for a session with an Old House Doctor. Ask a preservation contractors to perform a "walk-though" visit  to help you better understand the history and evolution of your building and determine priorities for your time and money.

Gain perspective on what you've done or need to do

Keep a journal of your progress. Documenting what you've done is good preservation practice. Record the building's condition, highlight features and keep track of treatments. Record paint colors and materials used. Reviewing the journal can offer a boost when you see all that you've accomplished. 

Recognize your interests and limits

Ask a neighbor for help or hire a handyman if storm window installation seems too onerous. Maybe you now have patience for a painting project that seemed impossible a decade ago? Phase work to align with time and budget considerations. 

Use new technology to help manage repair and restoration projects as well as everyday living

You can record measurements or test colors using your own photos and free or low-cost apps.  Programmable thermostats and home management systems with remote features can lower energy costs and stress.

Consider adopting a barn cat

The Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord-Merrimack County will be at the Old House and Barn Expo to inform attendees about barn cat adoption and care.  Preservation Alliance members who are barn cat owners report that their daily routine of barn cat care helps them keep track of barn maintenance issues. The cats also help control rodent population, and are just fun to have around too!

Laugh and keep perspective

Compare preservation and repair "war" stories at the Old House and Barn Expo and with friends over a beer.  Working on a barn project? Join the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks panel discussion at the Expo on March 25 to gain inspiration and gather helpful ideas. Watch a movie like The Money Pit or Mr. Blanding's Dream House, or visit a large historic site to make your challenges seem small.

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Get practical advice on painting, and any other project -- big or small -- at the Expo.

Get practical advice on painting, and any other project -- big or small -- at the Expo.

Summer Painting Tips


 It's time to dust off the paint brush! Commonly viewed as a dreaded laborious task, using these tips will result in a professional-looking, longer-lasting paint job, after which you can hang up your ladder and not need it again for many years!

Do an extensive assessment. Are there specific problem areas? What is causing the paint to peel within a year or two of painting—moisture problems, decayed wood, improper prep? Correct these issues before you correct the symptom (the peeling paint).

Preparation is the key to a durable paint job. Do a thorough prep job, including scraping (to remove all loose or flaking paint to the next sound layer), sanding (to feather the edges where there is paint buildup and to dull gloss finishes), and washing (to remove, dirt, dust and mildew). Closely follow all recommendations for handling lead paint.

Allow ample time for the surface to completely dry before painting.

Repair or replace any rotten or damaged wood. Back prime new wood. Re-nail loose clapboards with stainless steel ring-shank nails. Powerwashing and sandblasting are not recommended paint removal techniques. (They damage the wood’s surface.)

Apply a good quality oil-based primer to all bare wood within 48 hours of scraping. If applying a latex top coat over oil paint, apply a complete coat of oil primer to all surfaces. After priming, fill holes, caulk cracks, butt joints and recaulk around doors and windows where necessary. Do not caulk the undersides of the clapboards.

Latex or oil? Basically, it depends on the material being painted and the environmental conditions. Latex is desirable if a breathable surface is required. Oil is used when adhesion is an issue, moisture is not, or when covering a previous oil coat. Buy the best quality paint you can afford. High quality paints are more chalk resistant and have better color retention and durability. Never paint when temperatures are below 45˚ F. Latex should not be used below 50˚ F. It is best to paint in the shade. Direct sun causes rapid drying time often resulting in lap marks and leveling problems. Do not paint on foggy, damp or high humidity days.

Make sure the weather forecast is clear until the paint is completely dry. Only paint clean dry surfaces. The two top coats (preferably the same brand as the primer) should be applied immediately after the primer has dried. Keep your painted surfaces clean and mildew free to extend the life of your paint. A quality paint job can be expected to last 5 – 8 years or longer.

Be environmentally conscientious when disposing of excess paint and empty paint cans. Oil paints should be disposed of on hazardous waste days at your town’s sanitation facilities. Latex paint cans, once dried out, can be recycled.

Enjoy your beautiful paint job!

Note that as a homeowner doing your own painting, you are exempt from the requirements of the new Renovation, Repair and Painting Law. But, you should be very familiar with the best handling practices for lead paint.

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