"A house comes with responsibilities, and a historic house comes with more responsibilities. We are only caretakers of these houses, which were here before we owned them and which will be here after we are gone." Jane Powell, author
A classic bungalow is an aesthetic ensemble that marries exterior to interior, sometimes with considerable architectural flair, which is why after nearly a century we continue to covet them. Bungalows still have remarkable 'curb appeal', exuding a cozy, rustic charm that draws us up stone steps, onto welcoming verandahs and lures us inside through solid wood-and-glass doors. A host of striking features proclaim that this simple but 'exuberant' bungalow isn't just another suburban house, but a real home.
Bungalows beckon insistently with their mixture of attractive exterior details, which often include timbering, decorative braces, stone or brick piers, and high quality sash and casement windows (sometimes combined with leaded glass.) Bungalow designers skillfully varied these elements to effectively differentiate facades within a unified program. Conserving the original interplay of these details is an important goal for restoration - one that demands devilishly close attention.
A bungalow's wooden exterior typically requires ongoing maintenance. Even when it gets it, eventually it needs more comprehensive restoration. Weather abrades surfaces, paint fades, and at some point (especially in bungalows, like ours, that rest close to or right on the ground) moisture invades structure. All these forces are abetted by neglect.
Occupants also have impacts: a carelessly made hole in a wall to allow an unsightly cat door, an aluminum picture window in place of original casements, or out-of-scale sliding doors to the patio. All of these are inherited by the caring bungalow owner, who undertakes to address them during restoration.
The restorative urge is put it back to what it was, or at least to make it consistent with the original intent, so as to retain and express all the artful qualities its designers crammed into it. Getting that done satisfactorily takes a mix of curiosity and patience, and loads of highly skilled help. Sorting it out is a bit of minefield. Finding the right artisans is vital (your local heritage society should have a list). I find it helps to think of myself as the general contractor, the person responsible for devising the critical path to a good outcome, the one who learns enough about what's needed to oversee and guide the work at every stage.
In reality, restoration turns out to be a long road, fidelity to an original design an ongoing challenge. For the luckier ones, it may be mostly decorative: sanding, patching and repainting. But for many of us, especially those in wetter climates, it can involve major interventions in places where dampness has spawned decay. So it was back in the summer of 1998 at our Saanich bungalow, when we finally got around to tackling the exterior.
I had a sinking feeling because this signaled rot in an enclosed space. Located where it was, it could mean a much bigger problem, affecting gutters, fascia, perhaps even the huge barge boards framing the defining gables. This wasn’t good news!
Rot is always attributable to moisture (Dry rot). In this case, the concrete caps on the piers often get wet when it rains, allowing moisture to wick up along the wood grain in the posts, causing rot over time. Vern's solution was elegant: slip a square of asphalt shingle under each post, as a barrier to moisture wicking up the grain of the wood. He's using a five-tonne jack to inch the roof up just enough to slide the shingle under the posts.