Minneapolis neighborhood hires expert to teach residents how to preserve their homes.
(left to right) Volunteer Paula Horan of Minneapolis, moved a window as a group of homeowners learned practical home restoration skills in a hands-on workshop in the old Highland neighborhood of near north Minneapolis on 6/23/12.
Clarence Meyer's back yard looks like a contractor's convention.
Windows from his house spread across half a dozen sawhorses. Some folks are working carefully to clean ancient putty from newly liberated panes of glass. Others are prepping window frames by brushing a linseed-alcohol mix into the bed for the glass.
By the time they're finished, Meyer will have half a dozen reconditioned double-hung windows installed in his 112-year-old house on Emerson Avenue N.
But more significantly, the dozen participants will come away from their three days of labor with both new knowledge of how to take a window apart and put it back in better order, plus the confidence to tackle the job.
This workshop is the first in a series of four by the Old Highland Neighborhood Association, which wants homeowners in its 30-square-block area of north Minneapolis to have the restoration know-how to keep on top of its Victorian-era homes. It's funded by a state Legacy Fund grant.
Many who bought the homes lack the money to hire contractors to renovate old windows, replace trim, prep and repaint gingerbread woodwork or repair old floors. Some just need guidance.
"It's overwhelming when you look at everything, I can't look at it like that. I have to take it one step at a time," said Duane Ittner, who owns a highly ornamented Eastlake-style Victorian that he and his brother inherited from their parents.
Tricks of the trade
Ittner's home will serve as the hands-on site for two workshops where other homeowners will learn how to repair the rotting gingerbread of a home and to prepare old wood so that the paint lasts. But that's not all; participants agree to pay it forward by teaching other neighbors what they've learned.
Caleb Lauritsen knows he'll be using what he's learned. He and his partner own two homes in Old Highland, something he calls "a blessing and a curse." They hired area contractor Greg Rosenow to renovate all the windows in one of them, but they'll tackle a dozen more in a 1912 bungalow with what they've learned.
The workshop's guru is Bob Yapp, a teacher who spends seven months a year traveling to spread his knowledge of old home restoration techniques. He arrived in a truck packed with toolboxes, sawhorses, plywood, extra glass and with a head crammed with tips.
For example, workshop students now know that windshield washer fluid is great for taking that old putty off the edges of panes. Even Rosenow picked up a few pointers, like pushing glazing points into a frame with a bent putty knife makes it less likely that the glass will break.
Older is better
Rosenow has lived in the neighborhood since it was rediscovered in the 1970s by a group of young professionals who prized it for the vintage homes erected by people with businesses on nearby Washington, Broadway and Plymouth avenues. "The folks here are learning a true restoration technique," Rosenow said. Even if they end up hiring someone to do their windows, they'll know if the contractor is doing it right.
Yapp urges people not to buy the hype of modern window marketing, telling them that properly reconditioned and weatherized, the old growth timber in their windows will last far longer. "I'm passing on knowledge that a hundred of us have accumulated over the years," he said.
Tammy Lindberg got the idea for the workshops after hearing Yapp speak at a state historic preservation conference. She's on the city's Historic Preservation Commission, and also active in the nonprofit group Preserve Minneapolis, which cosponsored the workshops.
Jean Mangan, who hired Rosenow to rehab and weatherize her windows, said she likes the results. "There's no air going through them at all. It's amazing," she said.
But that's not the only test of a successful window rehab. "Bob promises us we'll be able to raise and lower the window with one finger," Lauritsen said.