Five fundamental things we learned from old houses

Florin Vlad, Founder Vlad Group

After you have completed one, two, even ten renovation and restoration projects, you might think you have acquired know-how and a substantial experience, and this is undeniable. Yet, it is equally true that each house has its own character and story. We believe that an old house is like an elder who tells you his story, a story you must listen to patiently and take note. We are convinced we have learned something new from each house we have worked on.

The first thing we have learned is that a work done well lasts for generations. Always, the first thing to take care about is to not cause any damage. A job done thoroughly today is the key to a house that will withstand the test of time. Just as important is to never allow anyone who does not understand and value this type of work to complete the job. The reason is simple: in 90% of the cases, they will ruin it, no matter how good they are professionally.

Then, the most important thing is to follow the natural order of the works you are doing and, of course, to know exactly what this order should be. In other words, for a coherent and durable project, you must complete each stage of the work at the right time. For example, you cannot start the consolidation a building before completing the piping and electrical system, just as you cannot do the finishing works before completing the consolidation of the building.

Another lesson learned could be easily summed-up as “there’s no bargaining with water”. For builders, water is our greatest ally and our biggest enemy and the cause of incredible damage if you don’t know its laws and take all necessary precautions. For instance, if you are working on a terrace and the waterproofing has not been correctly executed, there’s no room to negotiate with the raindrops once it starts to rain. Put simply, there’s no amount of money that will keep the rain from flooding the house. On the contrary, water follows its own rules and will always find any weak spots you have left in order to get inside the house and wreak it.

You never begin working on waterproofing without making sure you’ve followed all the instructions and completed the necessary quality tests to ensure water-tightness. When in doubt, splurge on the extra test. The biggest damages on old houses are usually caused by one of two things: unauthorized works that have affected the building’s resistance structure and rain infiltrations.

We have learned just how useful old materials can be. Many times, once an old building is renovated, we are left with a series of valuable and unique elements and pieces from the original construction, which we can reuse to achieve a beautiful aesthetic. For example, old bricks can be used as finishing materials, yet very few people would ever think of it.

If you love old houses and you do your job with passion, you’re most likely to want to “talk” to the old dame of a house: find out where it hurts, patiently clean its wounds and find the right treatment for its every ailment. This is, at any rate, the way in which we have learned to work. To clean and protect old wood, to restore an old coating or plastering of great finesse or to fix a mosaic that takes your breath away.