Heritage Commission

Professional Education is available to YOU!

There are many choices for the true Do-It-Yourselfer.

It is up to you to arm yourself with credible up to date knowledge, and while books and advice from friends and neighbors can be helpful, a real education cannot be overlooked. 

Elginites need to comprehend and realize that the majority of our business comes not from the restoration of 100 year old deteriorated or missing parts, but from fixing the cheaply done and poorly completed projects of other carpenter contractors or inappropriate quick fixes the homeowners themselves did a couple of ago and are quickly showing failure and deterioration.

If your new carpentry does not hold up and look perfect from the immediate get-go for 5 years or more, something was poorly done. If your new paint job does not hold up and look perfect from the immediate get-go for 3 years or more it also was a poorly done job.

And you, of course, have paid perfectly good hard earned dollars for it.

If you are incapable of recognizing when you are getting a bad job, then it's as much your fault as the owner/operator who is taking advantage of your inexperience. 

If you are going to be a serious steward of your Historical home and you are planning on being in that home for 5 years or more, or you have some talent and the will to do all or some of the work yourself, then please consider some real life experience and education.

If you are going to spend the money anyway, then investing in your own education and developing your personal skills can be invaluable if you plan on protecting your home for the future. 

Elgin is on its way upward and onward, and you can be left sitting in the mud or get off your toots and get involved in your community.

See what's going on:

But is buying an old house right for you? We spoke with experts from around the country about the pros and cons of buying historic homes. Here's what they said: 

Old houses need love. "You buy one of these places with a sense of stewardship. It's not just a real estate deal," cautions David Duncan, owner of Needham Duncan Architecture in Madison, Conn. 

Old houses have an integrity that shouldn't be spoiled. "If you want to transform an old home into a new home, then buy a new home," adds Amy McFeeters-Krone, president of Building History, a preservation consultancy in Portland, Ore. 

Old houses can cost lots of money to fix. The wiring may be old and dangerous. The paint could be lead-based and toxic. The roof may leak. Before you buy, do yourself a favor and rent The Money Pit, the 1986 comedy starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. It'll give you a idea of what could go wrong. 

Of course, it could also go right, especially if owning an historic home has been a lifelong dream. Skilled help is available. If the mantelpiece of your old house was ripped out by an insensitive previous owner, lots of expert craftspeople can build an authentic-looking replica -- for a price, of course. You can find them on the Internet. 

You could get a tax break, too. In Oregon, for example, buyers of certain designated historic homes can have their property taxes frozen for 15 years if they submit and get approval of a preservation plan. 

But also be aware: With such government incentives, there are also sometimes strict rules on what you can do to the exterior of your home if you live in certain historic districts, down to things like the color of paint you're allowed to use. Old, rattly windows may be considered historic, so you can't replace them. 

Resale can be a problem. Keep in mind that not everyone will share your love of antiquity or your tolerance for the idiosyncrasies of an old house. 

The local economy matters. One reason some towns have loads of inexpensive old homes, especially in parts of the Northeast and Midwest, is that they're losing jobs and people, notes George Siekkinen, senior architect for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Make sure your charming old town isn't suffering from high unemployment, crime, and underfunded schools. 

State government can help. State historic preservation offices collect lots of information about older homes. The house you're interested in could be in their database even if it isn't on the state or national register. A list of state contacts is available through the National Register of Historic Places. 

Old homes require fresh eyes. Look past the dowdy wallpaper, advises Emily Ramsey, a project director of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Assn. And consider how to use existing space more effectively instead of indiscriminately slapping on a wing or another floor, says her boss, Executive Director Charles Shanabruch. 


Finally, when a property changes hands, the usual rule applies: let the buyer beware. In the case of historic or otherwise non-standard properties, this rule is even more important. So those contemplating such a purchase should be very careful to ensure that there are no hidden surprises, or they may have very large repair bills the cost of which could have perhaps been deducted (at least in part) from the purchase price.

For example, where works were in the past done without consent, the local authority may correctly issue an enforcement notice requiring a subsequent owner to carry out the necessary restoration. So when buying a property that has clearly been the subject of alterations or from which original features may have been removed, make sure that consent was obtained - and if it was not, find out what the planning authority wants to be done about it and, again, deduct the cost of those works from the price offered.

Failure by those responsible for the conveyancing to spot such problems may lead to them being sued for negligence. In short, the same problems apply to historic buildings as to others, but sometimes in a more acute manner.  

Be aware that not all Insurance is the same: 

Consider this recipe for sticker shock. Start with a historic house, which poses special challenges to rebuild in the event of a catastrophe. Throw in post-Hurricane Katrina construction costs that are up 25% and skittish insurers capping coverage amounts in coastal states, and the result is too many old-house owners who are underinsured for the next disaster, whether a fire, storm, or leaking upstairs toilet. 

With its high-quality materials, craftsmanship, and period details, even a modest historic home can cost about $880 per square foot to rebuild exactly as it was, or $1.3 million for a 1,500-square-foot house, says Jim Fiske, vice president of marketing for Chubb Personal Insurance. A standard homeowner's policy will only rebuild an old house using modern materials."Most insurers want to give you Pergo and drywall instead of hardwood and plaster," says Brian Phoebus, program director of National Trust Insurance Services, an independent insurance agency specializing in historic properties. In his view, only three national companies-AIG, Chubb, and Fireman's Fund-sell policies that meet the special needs of old-house owners. 

These high-end policies, which are sold only through insurance brokers and also apply to nonhistoric homes, have several advantages over standard homeowner's insurance. They guarantee to rebuild the house using original materials (or the best possible reproductions if originals can't be found) even if that cost exceeds the policy's limit. Chubb, for instance, recently paid $3.5 million to rebuild a historic home in New York even though the amount was three times more than what the house was insured for. Because many jurisdictions require that the entire house be brought up to code, even when only a portion of it needs rebuilding, there is also built-in protection to cover the cost of those upgrades as well. For losses exceeding $50,000, the policies waive the deductible. Best of all, if your old house can't be reproduced or you're simply unwilling to rebuild, the insurer will give you the cash value of the policy so that you can build or buy elsewhere. As with any homeowner's policy, it doesn't include flood insurance, which you can only purchase through the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program. 

Of course, this superior coverage doesn't come cheap; the premiums generally run 20% to 40% higher than a standard policy, but there are ways to keep costs down, for instance, by choosing the highest deductible you can afford-$5,000 or even $7,500. And you do get brownie points for any improvements that make the house safer, such as adding an alarm system or rewiring the home. Chubb, for instance, awards credits of up to 15% that apply toward the premium. As those systems age, the value of the credit drops so that eventually, you'll pay the premium's full cost. Sticker shock though that may be, some people rest easier knowing no more financial surprises lie in wait should disaster strike. 

Please contact Christen Sundquist the Historic Preservation Planner at city hall before making plans http://www.cityofelgin.org/index.aspx?NID=89


Looking to apply for City or State grants? Or interested in a more through history of your property? 

If you live in Elgin we suggest you inquire with the Elgin Area Historical Museum.

Another company that has had success in Cook County:

Benjamin Historic Certifications