Restoring Wood Elements in Old Houses

restoring gingerbread wood on porch
Staff start priming newly milled ornamental brackets and spandrels on the porch of Gina Bellous’ 1895 Queen Anne home. Nonetheless to come back is the railing, with authentic balusters restored by the proprietor. Picture: Gina Bellous

As Nate Skiles examined the decorative damaged pediment on a Philadelphia row home final renovated round 1900, rotted wooden got here away in his hand. The three-dimensional finial on the heart was caked with layers of paint, but it surely wasn’t onerous to see that it too was in tough form. Your complete pediment had been uncovered to full solar for not less than a century, and water from a close-by gutter poured over it every time it rained. The whole lot had been moist for ages. Though Skiles makes a speciality of restoring historic shutters because the proprietor of Predominant Line Shutters, he agreed to tackle the pediment and different ornamental parts on the façade, figuring out it could entail hours of labor to retain as a lot authentic materials as potential.

In a Los Angeles neighborhood 3,000 miles away, the entrance porch and higher porch gallery on Gina Bellous’ 1895 Queen Anne had been in dire situation. Bellous employed expert carpenters to rebuild the failing porch however reserved a laborious venture for herself: the restore and reconditioning of 41 authentic balusters that remained.

Whereas Skiles introduced a tradesman’s abilities and experience to the pediment venture, Bellous restored her balusters with a DIY sensibility. Each restorers used two-part epoxies to make repairs to ornamental parts which can be main fashion markers for every home. In each instances, progress was sluggish and required each experimentation and endurance to deliver these historic wooden treasures again to life.

Repairing the Pediment

The broken-pedimented entry on a Nineteenth-century brick row home doubtless dates to an early-Twentieth-century fashion replace. Surprisingly, a lot of the authentic wooden within the pediment was intact, even the raked and flat sections that kind the triangle. To revive the meeting, Skiles eliminated it from the entrance of the home and labored on the key parts independently.

He started by permitting the pediment to dry out for weeks, helped alongside by injections of acetone by means of tiny pilot holes drilled into the wooden. With the pediment eliminated, Skiles made some repairs to the brick that was behind it. The door lacked a lintel (the unique metal one had been eliminated within the ca. 1900 transform), so he added a brand new one formed from a chunk of 150-year-old wooden. The brand new lintel not solely helps the rows of brick over the door, but in addition gives a big fastening floor for the frieze and prime finish of the pediment.

As soon as the wooden in the principle a part of the pediment was suitably dry, Skiles firmed up areas of sentimental wooden by dripping in liquid epoxy consolidant, utilizing an Abatron product referred to as LiquidWood. Dripped or injected into the wooden, the consolidant strengthens and repairs wooden because it cures. To use, he drilled 1/8″ holes in a number of places, then squeezed within the viscous resin. When the wooden may maintain no extra liquid and after the epoxy had cured, he started making use of WoodEpox, a counterpart to LiquidWood, which is kneaded collectively in equal elements to kind a pliable filler that feels just a little like Play-Doh. Skiles utilized the paste filler liberally, by hand, then formed formed-up areas after it hardened, utilizing a wide range of strategies. Some had been invented alongside the way in which, like utilizing brads (small nails) as miniature rebar to carry epoxy filler on the undersides of projecting parts.

After sculpting crammed areas till the profiles roughly matched the strains of the unique pediment, Skiles eliminated extra materials with a pull noticed. Then he slowly introduced again the precise profiles utilizing hand instruments. He began with rasps and chisels, then went to curved recordsdata. and eventually to profile sanding pads, which have a moulded form. Working slowly and steadily allowed him to reach on the appropriate profile with out having eliminated an excessive amount of materials. 

To get into tight areas, Skiles typically routed a profile onto a block of wooden and used it as a sanding block. One other of his strategies is to double-fold sandpaper over the top of a three-inch plastic putty knife, to get into tight corners with out carving a groove into the wooden.

The finial was rebuilt individually. After it had dried out, it got here aside in three items. Cracked and crazed in locations, the complete piece was firmed up with liquid epoxy, then absolutely lined with epoxy paste filler. Skiles used epoxy filler to overfill end-grain harm, then regularly formed the three-dimensional finial with curved recordsdata and profile sanding pads. He used softer foam pads and dense rubber radius backers on cove particulars.

He reattached the again piece of the finial to the entrance with wooden glue, clamps, and some hidden screws. The small cap piece on prime of the finial was actually set in place with extra epoxy—the cherry on prime.

Step By Step Pediment Restore

Skiles eliminated the pediment and encompass from a Nineteenth-century brick row home, then labored on every component—frieze, pediment correct, finial, and pilasters—individually. The pediment and finial wanted probably the most labor.

repairing a rotted pediment
Step by Step: Repairing the pediment

1. The early-Twentieth-century pediment on a brick row home was pulling away from the façade. The wooden round fasteners had rotted away. 

2. After intensive reinforcement with liquid epoxy, craftsman Nate Skiles fashioned, sculpted, and lower and sanded lacking and broken areas utilizing epoxy filler. 

3. Skiles crammed in areas of lacking wooden, then lower, chiseled, rasped, and sanded away extra materials
to reach on the appropriate moulding profiles.

4. Profile sanding pads enabled Skiles to finely sand contoured shapes, as on this fluted pilaster
beneath the pediment. 

5. The finished pediment in place, after priming.

Rebuilding the Finial

The finial was probably the most difficult a part of the pediment to restore. Though it seemed stable from the road, the paint-caked finial was in such tough form that it delaminated because it dried out.

repairing a finial

1. The finial in the end got here aside in three items, requiring Nate Skiles to make use of ingenuity to restore it.

2. To carry it collectively whereas he labored, Skiles made a jig to cradle the curved entrance, then glued, clamped, and
added screws from the flat again aspect.

3. The finial again to its authentic form. After an preliminary priming, any remaining small crevices had been crammed in with customary wooden filler.

4. The pediment, its frieze, and the finial again in place on the home, prepared for paint.

5. A closeup of the finial after its final end coat. Skiles hooked up copper caps to the raked prime of the pediment and sealed them wherever they met the brick floor.

The 1800s brick row home stays elegant; the Colonial Revival door encompass was added within the Twentieth century.

Restoring Historic Wooden Balusters

Home-owner Gina Bellous was suggested to throw away the remaining balusters on her Queen Anne porch and have new ones milled. They seemed like trash to others; Bellous knew they had been hand-turned 125 years in the past from old-growth lumber and had been a part of the historical past of the home. 

Some had been in good condition, however others had been break up, had dry-rotted ends, or had been lacking chunks of wooden. Stripping the various layers of failing paint required two purposes of chemical stripper. As she labored, she was horrified to find some balusters had been badly repaired with sizzling glue. “Glue is just not one thing you utilize to put wooden collectively, particularly on a railing.”

The following step was to strengthen the wooden internally. She positioned six to eight balusters in a 5-gallon bucket to carry them upright whereas she utilized liquid epoxy to strengthen the wooden internally. To maintain the consolidant more-or-less in place, she used strips of three″ vast painter’s tape to kind a barrier across the ends.

After the primary software of liquid epoxy soaked in, she found that some balusters had been leaking. Dabbing bits of epoxy filler on openings alongside the perimeters helped maintain the consolidant in place. It took two or three pours earlier than the wooden stopped absorbing consolidant.

With the wooden already feeling a lot heavier, Bellous combined up batches of WoodEpox, an epoxy paste filler that’s combined collectively in equal elements to kind a pliable compound. To assist the fabric bond in areas of newly uncovered wooden, she brushed on just a little of the liquid epoxy, in addition to some denatured alcohol, earlier than filling in areas of lacking wooden. She pressed the compound firmly in place, overfilling barely, and saved including compound till no extra would match. To assist kind the sq. form on the ends of the balusters, she utilized flat slips of wooden on the corners to create the 90-degree angle. Moreover, she overfilled the underside ends, giving her additional materials in order that the baluster may very well be planed and sanded all the way down to the proper peak.

The ultimate step earlier than priming and portray was to sand every baluster in order that the ends had been sq. and of the identical peak, and turned areas had been clean and in proportion to the remainder of the set. Like Skiles, she used a wide range of sanding instruments and strategies, relying on whether or not the floor was flat or curved.

A complete of 41 porch balusters had been amongst few surviving parts on the entrance porch of the 1895 Queen Anne. Though proprietor Gina Bellous contracted an knowledgeable woodturner to mill different lacking parts, she tackled baluster restoration herself.

1. & 2. The final inch or so on the backside of this baluster was dry rotted. After restore with two varieties of epoxy, it’s sq. and sound.

3. No have to drill holes right here: crevices within the baluster ends rapidly soaked up resinous epoxy. Bellous taped across the ends (painter’s tape was extra profitable) to maintain the consolidant in place.

4. Bellous used small strips of wooden to return every baluster finish more-or-less to its sq. form whereas the epoxy was nonetheless comfortable. Reaching the proper form and proportions required intensive tooling and sanding.

5. The white spots on repaired balusters present the place wooden was lacking and changed with epoxy filler.

Making New Gingerbread

Left: The brick flooring and ceiling of the aspect porch had been broken past restore, as was the gallery above. Many of the posts and balusters had been price saving. Proper: The absolutely restored aspect porch with railings supported by authentic balusters. The home-owner had the porch ceiling painted the standard, gentle “haint” blue.

Gina Bellous was capable of save and restore the prevailing porch balusters, however these from the higher gallery had been gone for not less than 30 years. (In an image Gina discovered of the home, taken within the Eighties, the railing had been changed by a sequence of oddly formed, poorly spaced balusters, additionally gone lacking.) Bellous discovered a customized woodturner, Abaroot Woodturning, and had them mill new balusters for the higher porch. Primarily based on the one survivor, in addition they hand-cut brackets, which maintain newly milled spandrels in place.

Left: Scott Root of Abaroot Woodturning used salvaged wooden to re-create the highest of a submit for the 1895 home, then hand-cut brackets. Spandrels got here from Classic Woodworks. Proper: One of many restored posts, with new brackets and the spandrel in place, on the completed porch.

Utilizing Epoxies to Restore Wooden

Epoxies are a category of artificial, thermosetting polymers utilized in adhesives, consolidants, plastics, fillers, molding compounds, and coatings. Epoxies have many various formulations and makes use of, together with completely different working and curing occasions. They’re fashioned by mixing two separate parts—usually from two separate containers marked A and B—instantly earlier than use.

Epoxies used to rehabilitate wooden are made up of resin and hardener. After being combined at a one-to-one ratio, a chemical response modifications the resin right into a gel after which a stable, permitting the fabric to be formed and fashioned. As soon as cured, it’s as stable because the wooden it changed. 

Guidelines for wooden restore: 
1. Scrape, don’t scar  2. Restore with epoxy (by no means autobody filler)  3. Obtain “paintlessness” 
4. Prime and sand 100 occasions  5. Then paint and  sand some extra. 6. Obtain lovely end
—Nate Skiles of Predominant Line Shutters


That is an epoxy resin in viscous, liquid kind that may be dripped, poured, injected, or brushed onto broken wooden. Porous wooden readily absorbs it like a sponge. As a result of it’s a liquid, consolidant can penetrate to the edge of sound wooden, returning a broken space to a big proportion of its former energy because it cures

Paste Filler

A mix of resins and components that collectively make a gap-filling paste, these are formulated to stick properly to consolidated wooden (consolidants and paste fillers normally are engineered to work collectively) and could be formed earlier than absolutely cured. Crammed areas could be lower, planed, chiseled, and sanded similar to wooden.

Instruments for Detailing Wooden

Garrett Wade’s 8″ half spherical rasp, sanding blocks from Rockler and Blue Bear Soy Gel paint/urethane stripper

Grasp a Rasp  

The 8″ half-round rasp rapidly removes wooden or filler and may deal with duties like rough-shaping epoxy repairs or beveling corners. Fabricated from machine-cut metal, the rasp has a flippantly varnished 4″ beech deal with:$11.50. Bundle with flat and spherical rasps: $28.60. Garrett Wade, (800) 221-2942,

Sanding Blocks 

These double-ended contour sanding blocks are perfect for sanding concave and convex shapes on moulding, edging, fluting, and extra with out distorting or diminishing the crispness of the profile. In six sizes, they’re fabricated from versatile rubber that’s straightforward on the fingers; $14.99. Rockler, (800) 279-4441,

 Paint & Urethane Stripper

By now a basic product, Blue Bear Soy Gel paint and urethane stripper makes quick work of eradicating closely caked-on paints and different cussed coatings from wooden, masonry, metallic, and so forth. Created from American-grown soybeans, it’s unhazardous and biodegradable. Quart dimension: $22.99. Franmar, (800) 538-5069,

Lee Valley’s Japanese flush-cut noticed and West System Epoxy Resin

Flush-Minimize Noticed  

The Japanese flush-cut noticed has a versatile blade that may be pressed flush to trim extra materials with out damaging surrounding areas. The 4″ blade cuts on the pull stroke and is a mere .01″ thick. It’s $22.60. Lee Valley Instruments, (800) 871-8158,

Get Further Time with an Epoxy Resin That Hardens Slowly 

Pair up 105 Epoxy Resin with 206 Gradual Hardener for tasks that want extra time. Blended at 5 elements resin to 1 half hardener, the epoxy has a 20- to 25-minute pot life and cures to a powerful, moisture-resistant stable. As proven: $194.54. West System, (866) 937-8797,


porch elements/millwork

Abaroot Woodturning
Customized wooden turning

Adams Architectural Millwork
Customized columns, millwork

Porch decking & ceiling from practical composites

American Porch
Parts in wooden or polyurethane

Mobile PVC for millwork

Bear Creek Lumber
Douglas fir, pine, spruce & mahogany; customized milling

Ornamental and structural columns in wooden, fiberglass, Polystone

Coppa Woodworking
Display doorways & porch panels

Coyle Lumber & Millwork
Posts & balusters turned to order

Full Circa
Exterior/inside historic restoration

Mad River Woodworks
Victorian-era balustrades, columns, porch millwork

McCoy Milwork
Douglas fir porch rails, flooring & ceilings

Predominant Line Shutters
Traditionally correct shutter, millwork & {hardware} restoration

Outdated Capitol Customized Millwork
Genuine interval home windows, doorways, shutters & millwork

Porch brackets, caps, finials, and so forth. in stable wooden

Classic Woodworks
Porch elements wooden & artificial 

Architectural columns & parts



American Constructing Restoration Merchandise
Cleaners, washes, polishes, enhancers for wooden and so forth.

Blue Bear Soy Gel paint strippers & extra

Molded sanding pads, shaping instruments & extra

Scherer Bros. Lumber Co.
Customized mouldings & knives

Tremont Nail
Metal lower & hot-dip galvanized nails

Classic Woodworks
Victorian-era porch elements & trim

West System
Marine epoxies for wooden restoration

Wooden filler for patching

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Welcome, you are reading the article Restoring Wood Elements in Old Houses published date 2022-08-28. Thank you for visiting Corarchitecture

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