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As craftsmen, listeners and partners, we're always making comparisons. Which material works best for this installation? Which features accelerate our client’s initial vision? What haven’t we considered? Where have I seen an example that shows what I’m trying to explain?

For me personally, comparing the options and looking for innovation is a quest that redirects with each new challenge. Our News is a warehouse of this steady research, and my thoughts along the way.

-George Metzler

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Our Most Recent News

+ For Right’s Sake

+ Too Far Gone?

+ Below the Surface

+ A Hidden Gem

+ Tile The Kitchen He Says

+ Meeting Chelsea Nauta

+ Century Cabinet Factory Tour

For Right’s Sake

Well meaning people with great intentions can ruin a home’s aesthetic appeal. This 1853 mill worker’s home in Newtown Square witnessed the civil war, the great depression, the heroics of the greatest generation, and sadly, some really misguided efforts to “historically restore” it in recent decades. While a large walk-in fireplace would have been built into a colonial-era kitchen, it would not have been tacked onto to the exterior of a “parlor” in the 1850’s as the previous owner had done. One does not have to be a connoisseur of historic preservation to see that something is just wrong in these before photos.

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Our client recognized early on, with the assistance of Richard Buchanan of Archer & Buchanan Architecture, that their home needed to find its original voice. Thoroughly understanding how people from yesteryear lived and used their homes, they began the process of re-imagining it. So, off came the chimney that had been tacked on the outside, a window was added, and a new chimney rebuilt into their existing home to better radiate its warmth –  just as it would have done almost two hundred years ago. The results are stunning….

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Of course between the “Before” and the pretty “After” photos, found in our portfolio, there are a few intermediate steps…

It begins with the masons removing the stucco from the home.

Stucco Removal

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Down comes the “tacked on” chimney from a 1970′s renovation project and the owner and architect select a pointing style for the stone from a test section prepared by the mason.

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With the stucco removed, the carpenters can begin repairing the problems it previously concealed.  In this photo Gary is installing a new frame for a window that was not sized properly.
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Here’s when the 1970′s chimney was completely demolished.  A channel of stone was gouged out from the 1st floor of the home through the peak of the 3rd floor gable.  Notice the new chimney firebox under construction and the red chimney flue rising.

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The opening has been made in the wall to accomodate a window to the right of the fireplace inside and you can also see the reclaimed Herringbone brick pattern in the hearth.  Meanwhile the finishing touches are added to the chimney outside.

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View the finished project here.


Too Far Gone?

At what point do you just give up? A two-hundred-year-old structure had been in the family for many years, standing vacant for 12 years prior to our involvement.  Assessing the initial condition, we all committed to forge ahead – uniting classic processes and materials with new ones to make the homeowners’ vision for the property come alive. Here’s the process or check out the finished job in our portfolio section. Click Here

My first time up the grassy driveway to see the stone home took place on a sunny late summer day.

My first time up the grassy driveway to see the stone home took place on a sunny late summer day.

For the last 70 years this was the "back" of the house.      If you look closely at the stone work you can see evidence of an attached shed. addition

For the last 70 years this was the “back” of the house. If you look closely at the stone work, you can see evidence of an attached shed addition.

The orientation of the house may have be rotated to face the center of growing agricultural activities on the farm.  In this photo you can see the barn, of which only the stone foundation remained when we began our project.

The orientation of the house may have been rotated to face the center of growing agricultural activities on the farm. In this photo you can see the barn, of which only the stone foundation remained when we began our project.

This stonework is a remnant for the barn that was torn down in the 1940's.  Our masonry team would use these stones to build the addition and repair portions of the existing house.

This stonework is a remnant of the barn that was torn down in the 1940′s. Our masonry team would use these stones to build the addition and repair portions of the existing house.

This is real "Green Construction."  Our masonry team from Vintage Stone gather stones from the old barn foundation, remove what mortar was attached and reshape the stones for re-use in the new chimney and foundation.

This is real “Green Construction.” Our masonry team from Vintage Stone gathers stones from the old barn foundation, removes mortar still attached and reshapes the stones for re-use in the new chimney and foundation.

One of the first steps is the preserve the integrity of the stucture.  Here the masons are setting up scaffolding to point stone while they build the block foundation for the addition in the background.

One of the first steps was to preserve the integrity of the structure. Here the masons are setting up scaffolding to point stone, while they build the block foundation for the addition in the background.

This photo was taken a little over a century into the life of the home.   The1805 stone farmhouse was extensively renovated, with a Victorian era theme.  Mark Myers, the architect who lead the 2011 renovation, believes that this was the time that the orientation of the house was reoriented by 180 degrees.

This photo was taken a little over a century into the life of the home. The 1805 stone farmhouse was extensively renovated, with a Victorian era theme. Mark Myers, the architect who lead the 2011 renovation, believes this was when the orientation of the house was rotated 180 degrees.

In 1805, when this home was constructed, the builder would have dug out the basement and began by laying a stone foundation directly on the sub-soil.  One of the reasons that this house was in very good structural condition is that the stone foundation was laid almost directly onto the shale rock.   Almost no settlement had occured in 200+ years.  This also gave us additional confidence that we could protect the existing house as we dug out a much deeper new basement for the addition.

In 1805, when this home was constructed, the builder would have dug out the basement and begun by laying a stone foundation directly on the sub-soil. One of the reasons this house was in very good structural condition was because the stone foundation was laid almost directly onto the shale rock. Almost no settlement had occurred in 200+ years. This also gave us additional confidence that we could protect the existing house as we dug out a much deeper new basement for the addition.

Laying out the footers.  The part of every project where the homeowner asks. "Is this big enough?  The foundation looks tiny."

Laying out the footers. The part of every project where the homeowner asks. “Is this big enough? The foundation looks tiny.”

The foundation walls are close to completion.  Next up....carpenters.

The foundation walls are close to completion. Next up….carpenters.

Happy client and happy carpenter.  Everybody is happy today!

Happy client and happy carpenter. Everybody is happy today!

Cutting the flue pipe the chimney demands precision in a dusty environment

Cutting the flue pipe for the chimney demands precision in a dusty environment

A keen eye will notice that the plans are unwrinkled and new, the first stacks of lumber have been delivered, and framing is about to begin.  Smiles all around...this time it will be a piece of cake!

A keen eye will notice that the plans are unwrinkled and new, the first stacks of lumber have been delivered, and framing is about to begin. Smiles all around…this time it will be a piece of cake!

The masons are repointing the stone and rebuilding the chimney while the carpenters are setting the rafters for the addition.

The masons are repointing the stone and rebuilding the chimney, while the carpenters are setting the rafters for the addition.

A solid foundation isn't something that is just buried into the ground.   Here Andrew installs a strong new frame that the mason will mortar into the stones.  This will be what the new wood window will be installed into without ever having to come in contact with the masonry wall.

A solid foundation isn’t something that is just buried into the ground. Here Andrew installs a strong new frame that the mason will mortar into the stones. The new wood window will be installed into this, never coming in contact with the masonry wall.

It helps to have a sense of humor when you are working on an old house.  Critters and surprises lie in wait behind every old board.  In this case gravity was not Andrew's friend.

It helps to have a sense of humor when you are working on an old house. Critters and surprises lie in wait behind every old board. In this case gravity was not Andrew’s friend.

Our homeowner, a landscaper, found these stones which our masons used to create a beautiful new front porch.  Based on old photographs the architect believe that there was evidence for a stone porch much earlier in the life of the home.

Our homeowner, a landscaper, found these stones which our masons used to create a beautiful new front porch. Based on old photographs, the architect believes there was evidence of a stone porch much earlier in the life of the home.

Installing Fibercement siding and PVC based exterior trim.

Installing Fibercement siding and PVC based exterior trim.

To preserve 18th century look, all plumbing was located in the new addition and heating and air conditioning was supplied from the attic and the basement.  This kept us from having to create unsightly chases and comprises.  The big challenge was to connect all for levels of the existing home with aesthetically pleasing and comfortable stairs.  Please check out the finished stairs under the Finished projects section.

To preserve 18th century look, all plumbing was located in the new addition and heating and air conditioning was supplied from the attic and the basement. This kept us from having to create unsightly chases and comprises. The big challenge was to connect all four levels of the existing home with aesthetically pleasing and comfortable stairs. Please check out the finished stairs and see how the rest of the home turned out in our portfolio section. Click Here

 

 


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