New Castle News

Local News

October 15, 2012

Experts share joys and frustrations of historic home renovations

NEW CASTLE — Expect the unexpected, realize you will get dirty and understand everything takes longer, costs more and is harder than imagined.

This advice and other tidbits were offered this week to a full house at the Lawrence County Historical Society’s do-it-yourself historic home renovation program. Three property owners shared joys and frustrations uncovered as they restore the character to three neglected local homesteads.


For the past year and a half, Ed and Lorraine Petrus  worked on the former superintendent’s house at Oak Park Cemetery. It had been scheduled for demolition

“At first glance, it didn’t look all that bad,” said Ed Petrus who did or supervised most of the rehabilitation work himself. In doing so he has fallen through porch roofs, survived yellow jackets, rebuilt walls, replaced floors, built ladders to accomodate the roof pitch while restoring shingles and flashings, replaced or reglazed 39 of the building’s 43 windows and relocated the coven of raccoons that had taken up residence.

They expect it will be ready for their son, Brian, to move in before Christmas.

Petrus urges anyone considering such a project to be brave but recognize limitations.

“I’m not a master plumber or electrician, but I’ve never been afraid to take on a challenge,” he said, adding, “But realize there are things you can’t or don’t want to do. Don’t be afraid to admit when it’s time to hire someone.”

Since the three-story brick house had settled unevenly, he also learned tricks to shim, shave and notch uneven doors, floors and window sills to make them look level. He also spoke of the joys of discovering ancient knob and tube electrical wiring between walls, lead water pipes contorted to odd shapes under floors and renovation efforts of previous owners uncovered as walls came down and floors were pulled up.

“You will spend a lot of time undoing what others have done and most of what you will need to fix it is made of ‘unobtainium,’” he joked.

He also urges, “Be creative. Find what is unique to the house and capitalize on it.”

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