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VOL. 38 | NO. 9 | Friday, February 28, 2014

Old House Fair offers renovation tips, advice

By Joe Morris

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There also will be hands-on activities for youngsters the Old House Fair, scheduled for Saturday.

-- Submitted | Gary Layda; Metro Historic Zoning Commission

Renovating an older home is a daunting task, no matter how well-versed the owner is in the fine arts of sanding and caulking.

What’s worse is finishing a complicated job and then discovering that, due to municipal codes or a historic overlay, it’s not up to snuff.

Enter the third annual Old House Fair, wherein the Metro Historic Zoning Commission works to pair eager homeowners with businesses who specialize in fixing up aging (and even new) properties. The free event offers up plenty of ideas for restoration and enhancement, and also features a scavenger hunt through the Hillsboro-West End neighborhood.

“A lot of the things we ask people to do in order to conform to overlay or code requirements can be difficult, and this lets us put them together with the right people for those jobs,” says Robin Zeigler, historic zoning administrator for the Metro Historic Zoning Commission.

“Last year we had several exhibitors who told us afterward that everyone they’d talked to was a good lead for work, but that they also gave a lot of people exactly the information they needed to move ahead on their own.”

The event’s exhibitors cover architecture ranging from Antebellum up through Victorian, Bungalow, Tudor and Mid-Century Modern, according to the commission, and that kind of range makes the event a good place for Sloane Southard, owner of The Standard Sash, to spend the day.

“We’re a window-renovation company, and the bulk of our work is on 60-plus-year-old homes where the windows have been painted shut, have broken panes, broken ropes and the like,” Southard says. “We come in and completely restore them, and get them as close to the original condition as possible.”

He adds that he can do as much, or as little, as the homeowner wants done, so events like this allow him to show people that restoration doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but can be done incrementally.

“We’re usually not telling people what they can’t do as far as zoning goes, but are letting them know that when it comes to windows, there are options besides pulling them out and replacing them,” he says. “It’s kind of nice that Metro gives us this opportunity not just to network, but to also show people how they can preserve all this history that’s here in Nashville.”

The fair also is a good fit for E3 Innovate, which provides a variety of environmental services, including spray-foam insulation, weatherizing, energy audits, certification and more to homes and businesses throughout Middle Tennessee.

“We’re always trying to connect with homeowners who want to refurbish, rehabilitate or repurpose our existing housing stock,” says Erik Daugherty, founder and owner. “We can talk to people and help them test out, and think through, all the challenges their current home has, and then help them invest in their historic home.”

Lots of people get into an older home and whip up such a long to-do list that they fall into a kind of inertia, he explains. The fair can help them get moving again.

“They have walls that don’t have insulation, or windows that are single-clad,” Daugherty says. “They can’t figure out what to do first or how to prioritize. This way, we can catch them before they invest their money in something that’s going to be really expensive, or isn’t going to work for their historic neighborhood.”

Keeping houses in good repair, as well as within code, is the key goal for Metro as well, Zeigler notes.

“Education is important, and not just in the areas with overlays,” she says. “People need to know what they are getting into. Having repairs be not approved is bad, but doing them wrong and never knowing it is bad, and unsafe.”

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