Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ask the Contractor

Do you live in a vintage home and have a restoration question you would like to ask a contractor? If so, please send it to

Here's one question a reader recently submitted to Good Home Construction:

David B.: Hello, I write this morning because my Craftsman home in the West Adams Historic Preservation area of Los Angeles was severely water damaged after a plumbing incident. The house was built in 1907 and has much of the original woodwork, including baseboard and flooring. The water restoration team has told us we will lose our floors and baseboard, all original to the house and no longer available, according to them. Additionally, they need to tear out walls in order to dry the studs and beams. The original wall will have to be replaced with the cheaper drywall, according to the inspector. My question to you is perhaps you know some way original style flooring, baseboards and walls can be replaced. Please help. It will definitely be appreciated. Thank you, David B.

Chuck (Contractor): For the baseboards, most suppliers no longer carry older styles, but if you could find a local carpenter, perhaps they could custom mill a replica for you. When I get requests for this, I usually custom mill these because 99% of the time suppliers will not carry it. Or try Ganahl Lumber (in Southern California), they do offer custom milling services. For the flooring, same thing, most suppliers no longer carry the type of wood or sizes used back then. If you know what the width and type of wood it is (probably oak), you can search on the internet for any lumber supplier that still carries this in stock, as unfinished planks. Or, if you are lucky, you may find a salvage supplier that has a whole house's worth of these in their inventory, usually saved from demolition. For the walls, I'm assuming they were plaster with lathe? Sometimes I do use drywall too, and then match the texture as close as possible to the original texture on the plaster walls, so it looks almost like the original wall. Otherwise, if you want the plaster and lathe, you could try to locate a local plaster specialist who should know how to do this.

David B.: Thanks so much for your help. Simply knowing places that can custom mill lumber is a great step in the right direction. In addition, your advice on how to approach the repairs will at least provide me a foundation from which to begin the quest for restoration. All the walls were plaster and lathe and the floors are maple. We have a couple of people stopping by this weekend to look. Maybe we will find a contractor capable of doing the job while being sensitive to our needs and the unique character of the home. Thanks again. David B.

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