Old is New Again

 Locally-grown & milled hemlock sheathing

Locally-grown & milled hemlock sheathing

There is a common misperception that historic restoration work, or indeed any residential construction, that differs from cookie-cutter suburban sprawl must be more expensive. This is not necessarily the case, and at Edwards and Quarrie we work very hard to be cost-competitive. Even though our materials and techniques may in some cases differ from the norm, these very differences also create opportunities for efficiency. A prime example is sheathing. We sheath our projects using locally-grown and milled hemlock which is available for a fraction of the cost of the sheet goods typically used for sheathing. So, even though it takes a bit longer to install, the total cost in the end is about the same as if we had used plywood. Using local hemlock, by the way, employs local labour and at the same time avoids the toxic glues used in plywood, to say nothing of hemlock's superior rot-resistance and proven longevity. A preference for using local labour as opposed to highly-manufactured foreign-made products is a hallmark of our work. Modern windows are a great example here: rather than buying expensive and overly-engineered plastic windows, we build our own the old-fashioned way - using pine, putty and glass. And in doing so we simply have shifted the expense from materials to labour but not added to the total cost of the project. Another case involves roof framing. Most generic residential construction uses manufactured roof trusses that have been designed by an engineer and are custom-sized for the project at hand. Rather than pay a premium for the truss salesman's salary and the engineer's stamp, we most often buy local spruce lumber and hand-frame roofs the traditional way. Perhaps a little slower, but the cost of the wood is a fraction of that of the trusses. In addition, trusses often render attic spaces completely useless and don't easily lend themselves to modification, should the size or pitch of the roof need to be altered to adjust to the idiosyncrasies of an existing house, for instance. Salvaged doors provide still another example of how unorthodox methods are not necessarily costlier. A modern "entrance system" (I guess "door" doesn't sound impressive enough!), can often cost $5000 or more. A beautiful old front door, often in Douglas Fir or even oak, can be had for under $100, and often much less than that. Even allowing for refinishing, weatherstripping, jambs and a new sill, you'd still come out far ahead on this one by going with a salvaged door.