There are few things more stressful than organizing and living through a home or building renovation. If you are restoring and repairing a historic building this stress is compounded by the potential expense, the fragility of the building, and the need to remain historically accurate. Choosing the right building restoration company for your historic building is crucial to ensure the preservation of the building’s historic character and integrity. Here are some steps to help you choose a restoration specialist:
Research Their Experience
Look for restoration contractors who have experience working with historic buildings and are knowledgeable about historic preservation techniques. Check their credentials, such as licenses, certifications, and professional affiliations. Many specialists have degrees in history, archeology, or some other similar field. Some learned on the job, working under other experienced and knowledgeable builders. Remember, the most important thing is to find out how experienced your contractor is in the kind of work you need to be done, how well they understand the time period, and how to achieve the authenticity you desire.
Ask About Their Preservation Philosophy
Ask the restoration contractor about their approach to historic preservation. Do they prioritize maintaining the building’s historic character and integrity? Do they use traditional building materials and techniques? Make sure their philosophy aligns with your goals for the building’s restoration and any requirements in your neighborhood or for your building. Make sure you ask if they can find subcontractors for specific work that you will need, such as a carpenter who can repair gingerbread or a tuckpointing company.
Check Their Portfolio
One excellent way to find out more about your potential restoration company’s experience and skill is by looking at their portfolio of past projects. This will give you an idea of their expertise and the quality of their work. Make sure they have experience working on buildings similar to yours, and that they understand the best methods of historical preservation and reproduction on buildings like yours. For example, working with antique bricks from a Civil War era building can require different techniques from reproducing and repairing intricate Victorian trim work.
Verify Their Knowledge of Your Neighborhood
If your house is in a designated historical neighborhood or is a designated landmark or historic building, you will likely face a variety of different permits and restrictions determining what work can be done. This is especially true for any work done on the outside of the property, as this can affect the values of neighboring properties. If your contractor already knows the restrictions, requirements, and permits needed in your neighborhood or area, it will be much easier to follow the guidelines and make sure that the needed permits and inspections are handled correctly.
Check Their References
Ask for references from past clients with similar projects or buildings and follow up with them. Ask about the quality of the work, the communication with the restoration specialist, and whether the project was completed on time and within budget. If possible, visit the property to inspect the work and see if it was done to the best current standards and in a way that respects the original building methods.
Get Multiple Bids
Get bids from multiple restoration specialists to compare prices and services. Be sure to compare apples to apples – make sure each bid includes the same scope of work. When you are comparing bids, make sure that you don’t fall into the temptation to simply go with the cheapest contractor or company. Quality companies will charge more, and if the quality of the restoration is important to you, it is likely that you will be happier paying more for excellent work. Consider the cost of the different bids in the context of the other things you have learned about the restoration contractor, such as their references, philosophy, experience, and relevant historical knowledge.
Check Their Insurance Coverage
Make sure the restoration contractor has liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. This will protect you in case someone is injured on your property, whether a worker or a bystander. If your contractor doesn’t have insurance, you may be liable. It will also protect your property in case the restoration company damages something or fails to perform the work correctly.
Ensure you are comfortable with the restoration company’s communication style and that they are responsive to your questions and concerns. If you are bothered by something while interviewing and getting bids, it is unlikely that you will enjoy working with the company for several weeks or months. It is even possible that the personality or communication conflict could bring the project to a halt, requiring you to find another company and costing you time and money.
Overall, choosing the right restoration specialist for your historic building requires careful research and due diligence. Take the time to find a specialist who has the expertise, experience, and philosophy that aligns with your goals for the building’s restoration. You are probably spending thousands of dollars on your restoration project and you will not regret taking the time and effort to invest in a contractor who understands the project and your needs and who can meet your expectations.