A recent blog post at Green Preservationist, got me thinking once again about preservation language, and also raised the question of how to promote the repair of our older homes rather than following the well-entrenched rip out and replace model.

How do we best encourage homeowners to think repair first before climbing aboard the remodel treadmill?

Windows are the most obvious example of a house part that can, in most instances, be repaired. This is especially true of older wood-framed windows, likely made from old-growth fir. They can be re-glazed, weatherstripped and the surrounds can be caulked. Preserving these original details, preserves the original character of the home and the original designer’s intent, and let’s face it, when we’re talking about houses constructed 50-100 years ago, we know that the architects and designers had intentions that do not take well to the use of vinyl or many other modern materials.

Likewise with interior details. I recently attended an open house for a fantastic Mid-Century Modern house that retained most of its original materials, including fantastic windows with built-in pull-down screens and bathrooms that had never been altered. I was aghast at the realtor who repeatedly suggested ideas like ripping out the baths, the kitchen, and replacing the windows. All of those details that were being extolled as needing replacement, were in fact, in great condition.

We desperately need to re-think how we approach homes, and look at them with a repair first mindset. If we continue to replace first, we will diminish our architectural heritage, but more importantly, the consumptive replacement mindset will not lead us to a sustainable future.