Restoration is the act of returning a building to an earlier or better condition. It is a laborious process that will differ with each home. Many homes have beautiful architectural features and functioning components that have suffered under bad layers and neglect. A quality paint finish is like an epidermis for your home. Your skin protects your body from outside pathogens. When the skin remains unbroken it is virtually impenetrable. The “skin” of your home, inside and out, will protect and last when it is an unbroken plane. No gaps, no cracks, no holes. A pretty color will look great but won’t last when it is thrown on like a Band-Aid.

The very best finishes actually are not in what you can see, but in what is hiding under the pretty color.  What makes that paint look so good is all of the proper preparation that came before it. When you think of automobile restoration, you can easily imagine the mechanics removing all of the parts of the vehicle, stripping all of the prior finishes down to bare metal, applying new finishes to all components, and then putting it all back together again. This restoration process is very similar to home restoration.  It’s not just sanding the item and putting another coat on it. The difference between restoration and renovation is that all the components are stripped down to the “bare” surface, so that the new finish to be laid down has the real potential to be near perfect.

Take for example, the millwork in your home. Millwork is defined as any trim in your home whose purpose would be to hide a rough edge. Millwork is also used to generally describe all features that are comprised of wood, not plaster or drywall. Millwork can include interior doors, wood windows, bookshelves, mantles, staircases, and cabinetry. In the case of many older homes in the Seattle area, the original finish on the millwork was just varnish. Then around World War II everyone began painting their wood trims, wanting brighter colors instead of the dark wood that was associated with the beginning of the century. Unfortunately, the excellent primers we have available today did not yet exist, so the first coats of paint were often lead-based alkyd enamels that never bonded with the original varnish. Then add five more decades of changing color tastes, and your millwork could have ten coats of poorly applied; alternating layers of latex and alkyd paints and in some cases not even enamel.

Depending on the mess, usually the best course of action is to remove all of the offending layers and return to the good surface.  It can be difficult to sort out what areas just need refreshing, and what places must be restored for real beauty and function. Sometimes the function of the item is the reason to restore it, and in some cases it is to create clean lines and order.

Great examples of restoring for function are those ubiquitous double-hung or casement wood-sash windows still in many homes.  They are architectural gems that give character and historical accuracy to the house.

  • A common misconception is that these single-pane windows are not energy efficient and should be replaced. The truth is that all windows (single or double-pane) have a low insulation value in comparison with the rest of your walls. We believe that these original windows are a beautiful integral component of your house.

All it takes is one bad coat of paint to seal your once-functioning windows so that they will not open properly, or even at all. Add many years and coats, and these windows can be literally glued shut. But they can be restored to excellent working condition. When only the correct thickness (layer) of paint is present, they will glide open and shut up tight. More importantly they will continue to operate for the next generation.

Another good example of restoration for esthetic reasons are the interior doors in your house. As with all of your millwork surfaces, you want a smooth look and feel. But decades of painting have likely left the hardware on your doors covered in paint. Hinges, knobs and faceplates, usually brass, lost under globs of paint. In the case of the hinges, paint layers will cause your doors not to fit in their frames correctly. Then the doors will not open and shut properly. This is not only annoying, but can cause significant damage over time.