- Maintain the quirks. Straighten that window? Not necessarily. Leave evidence behind showing the building’s changes and its age. It is possible to stabilize structural damage and still keep those elements that give the house a real Nantucket sense of place. Treasure the things that show how your house has aged over the generations.
- Keep historic interior features. The interior of your house can reveal a wealth of information about its past owners; owners have a responsibility to document and maintain this important part of Nantucket history. Defining elements of the interior can include transoms (that small band of windowpanes above doorways); paneled doors; door hardware; moldings around doorways and windows and imbedded in the plaster, such as chair-rail and picture moldings. Some unique Nantucket features such as old mirror boards (moldings or woodwork between windows) also tend to have remained in many old houses here. Perhaps one of the most common historic features that is often removed is a winder staircase. Winder staircases have served most historic houses on Nantucket for centuries and are beautifully constructed. For some, these staircases are hard to manage, and we suggest adding straight-run stairs in new additions, if necessary, and retaining the historic staircase.
- Keep your plaster walls! This often comes as a surprise to many homeowners, since plaster has been routinely torn out, even by well-meaning preservationists. In recent years, most preservation contractors know the benefits of retaining plaster walls and repairing them, and if necessary replacing sections that are in poor condition. Plaster is a remarkable material that is superior to modern drywall (ask any craftsman). On Nantucket, which has a lot of moisture, plaster is the material of choice since it can get wet, provides excellent soundproofing, and can be repaired. Architectural historians know that old plaster can reveal clues to the building’s evolution by showing the location of old walls and other elements. Plastering is definitely a craft, but the island is fortunate to have skilled contractors who can complete this traditional building technique.
- Take special care with your historic wood floors. Fortunately, most people want to retain the old floors in a historic house, but there is a right way and wrong way to care for them. All too often old flooring is over-sanded, reducing its overall life span and at the same time destroying its antique character. Old floors were hand-planed, and hand-sanding is the best way to retain their character. Simple cleaning and waxing can also do wonders and will retain the old patina.
- Do your homework and ask questions. Owning an old house can be challenging, because dozens of issues arise during your ownership. It is not always easy to find the correct material, method, or person to work on your home, and sometimes the answers are hard to find. We suggest researching online and asking questions. Beware of the contractor who says that preservation is not an option or always costs more. Get another opinion. Fortunately, Nantucket has craftsmen who work with historic fabric and understand that doing things the right way usually doesn’t increase costs.
This article was taken from: https://www.nantucketpreservation.org/resources/preserving-your-old-house/ten-steps-for-preserving-your-house