Learn how to preserve your old house

It’s easy to fall in love with the elusive “character” of an older home. Less easy to love are the finicky wood windows, the tired porch and the timed-out plaster of your West Philly dream house. As an organization with a fetish for old buildings, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia is reaching out to owners with a series of free home improvement workshops this fall.

“In a city this big with this many neighborhoods full of this many old houses, the bulk of building preservation starts with homeowners,” says Preservation Alliance director Patrick Hauk. “Offering good technical assistance with how to approach projects — whether you’re planning to do it yourself or hire someone — we thought would be really valuable.”

The workshops and lectures, which are regularly offered in the spring and fall, cover everything from masonry and pointing to painting and color schemes. On the roster again this year is the popular energy efficiency course, a common concern for those who own older homes, especially with wood windows. According to Hauk, you should think twice before rushing to replace your house’s original windows with more modern designs.

“People think immediately about throwing away their wood windows when they think of saving energy. But not only are you adding to the stream heading to the landfill, you’re losing the character of your house,” says Hauk. “Old wood windows, if they’re properly maintained and have a good storm window on them, can come pretty close to matching what’s on the market today. Will it exceed it? No, but if you really look at the word ‘replacement windows,’ you’re going to have to replace them again.”

Hire smart

Even if you plan to hire a contractor to do the work on your house, it doesn’t hurt to attend a class and learn what you’re paying for. “People have a tendency when they bring in a professional to trust them,” says Hauk. “It’s really training people how to protect their investment and how to properly maintain their house.”

If you go

Preservation Alliance workshops are free, but an RSVP is required. For a list of upcoming sessions, visit www.preservationalliance.com.

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