May is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Preservation Month. In conjunction with this month dedicated to protecting historic places, Sansin Corporation — a wood protection company focused on eco-friendly, “water-borne” interior and exterior stains — offers tips that do-it-yourselfers should keep in mind when undertaking historic home renovations.
“There is nothing more environmentally friendly and ‘green’ than a home that is already built,” says Sansin Vice President Sjoerd Bos. “Wood is often a showcase of a historic home and something that many renovators want to protect naturally. But they aren’t willing to sacrifice quality and longevity. Sansin has been a trusted partner for these kinds of historic renovations for a quarter of a century.”
Bos says Dr. Frank Robinson of Alberta, Canada, is a case-in-point. Dr. Robinson is refurbishing a 108-year old log homesteader’s house near St. Michael, Alberta, which will serve as a vacation retreat. “I wanted wood protection that would be climate-appropriate and would last so I wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time on maintenance,” says Dr. Robinson, an administrator at Alberta University in Canada. “Sansin’s low- VOC stains are not the only way I have ‘gone green.’ I also salvaged old windows, clear fir flooring, and staircase treads from other abandoned homes to use in our cabin. It’s a way to keep the historic significance of the property, while also reducing, reusing and recycling.”
Sansin offers these five tips for historic home renovators, such as Dr. Robinson, who want to improve on a historic home without damaging the originality and significance of the property.
1. Research. Determine whether the home is a designated historic structure by checking with the state preservation office. If the home is in a historic district there could be restrictions on the changes that can be made to the exterior. Also, easements and tax abatement programs could be available. By getting to know what makes the home unique in terms of design, architecture and materials, choices can be made that maintain the character of the home.
2. Stain, don’t paint. Staining – particularly with a low-VOC product – treats historic wood surfaces with respect. The rule of thumb is that if a surface isn’t already painted, it shouldn’t be.
3. Know your wood species. Maple and pine can be very difficult to apply finishes to, while it is easier to apply stain to hardwoods such as oak. Also, darker stains are more difficult to work with than lighter ones. Those planning to use a dark stain should consider practicing on a scrap piece of wood before diving into the project.
4. Select the right product. A low-VOC stain such as Sansin’s Purity 0-VOC Stain is easy to apply and does not contain any dangerous toxins. It results in a beautiful finish that is long-lasting and easy to maintain. Also, request samples and practice on scrap wood before applying to ensure the color is what you want.
5. Prepare the surface, apply the stain. Repair any defects with acrylic-based wood filler. Sand the surface, working with the grain. Then clean the surface with a vacuum and a damp cloth, making sure it is clean and dry before applying the coats of stain and topcoat per the manufacturer’s direction.
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