Magazine

Ask Historic New England | June 2017

I love the look of dark sashes on old houses. Can I paint the sashes on my Greek Revival house black or dark green? —Catey M., Keene, NH The use of color on window sashes is something that changes depending on the style and age of the house. On Georgian-style homes from the 1700s, window […]

By Yankee Magazine

May 30 2017

Expert Home Advice
I love the look of dark sashes on old houses. Can I paint the sashes on my Greek Revival house black or dark green? —Catey M., Keene, NH
The use of color on window sashes is something that changes depending on the style and age of the house. On Georgian-style homes from the 1700s, window sashes were sometimes the only parts of the house that were painted. (They had to be painted to ensure that the glazing putty, which secures the glass in its frame, would not dry out and fail.) By the early 1800s, windows were being fitted with exterior shutters (then called blinds), which took the place of the folding or sliding interior shutters of the Georgian period. Shutters typically were painted green—sometimes quite a bright green that weathered to a darker green. Back then, long before the use of storm windows, shutters were opened and closed daily for shade, ventilation, and protection from storms. When closed, the shutters covered the window sash completely, and in time they came to be seen as an integral part of the window, as screens are today. Once that happened, the window sashes were painted to match the shutters. The practice of using colors—dark green, dark red, dark brown, or black—on shutters and sashes extended from about the 1820s through the 1880s. Window sashes painted a dark color, especially a dark green, provide a handsome accent to houses in the Greek Revival, Italianate, mansard, shingle, and Queen Anne styles. So, yes, you can paint your sashes dark green! Sally Zimmerman, Senior Preservation Services Manager
My 1820s brick house needs to be repointed. What should I look for when hiring a mason? —Amy T., Brookline, MA
Before the late 19th century, masonry construction historically utilized soft, lime-based mortars. These were softer than the surrounding brick and generally degraded over time, acting as a sacrificial material. Contractors unfamiliar with historic masonry might repoint with a modern mortar, such as Portland cement. This often leads to the spalling (crumbling) of the brick face because the cement is much harder than both the original lime mortar and the historic brick. The inflexibility of the cement doesn’t allow for the proper expansion of historic masonry when the brick gets wet or during the freeze-thaw cycle. A mason familiar with repointing historic masonry should propose removing degraded mortar from joints by hand with chisels rather than masonry grinders. Generally, mortar is removed to a depth of two and a half times the width of the joint (approximately 1/2 to 1 inch deep) before the brick is repointed. Your mason should then propose repointing the bricks with a soft lime mortar. There are a number of potential mortar mix ratios that achieve an appropriate strength. Generally, a lime mortar should have no less than 2 parts hydrated lime to 1 part Portland cement to 5–7 parts sand. When mixing and applying the new mortar, your mason should try to match the color, texture, and tooling of the historic mortar as accurately as possible. Dylan Peacock, Preservation Services Manager
I recently painted my clapboard house. The paint is holding up well, but I’ve been frustrated by the fact that the house looks dirty because of mildew. Is there a good way to remove mildew? —Linda C., Providence, RI
One way of removing organic growth from siding is with a bleach mixture. We recommend using one to two quarts of bleach in a pail of warm water. Using a nylon- or natural-bristle brush and protective eyewear and gloves, wash a manageable area, wait 10 minutes, and wash again. Rinse with a garden hose and allow 24 hours to dry. There are also several commercially available products that will give you the same results, such as M-1 House Wash and Simple Green. These products should be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The presence of mildew or other biological growth in one concentrated area may indicate excessive moisture in that location. Check to make sure that nearby gutters are clean and functioning properly to draw water away from the home. Gillian Lang, Preservation Services ManagerGot a question about an old house you need answered? Submit your questions to Historic New England at: Editor@YankeePub.com. Historic New England is the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the nation. Historic New England shares the region’s history through vast collections, publications, programs, museum properties, archives, and stories that document more than 400 years of life in New England. For more information visit: HistoricNewEngland.org. Historic New England Homes