Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Program offers tips to owners of historic homes

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In 2004, Chuck Sanders laughed when he first saw the Victorian house that is now his home in Brunswick.

Sanders and his wife, Beth, had traveled from their former home in Florida to Brunswick, where their realtor suggested looking at the crumbling Victorian duplex that was built in 1900.

It was his and his wife’s dream to own and restore a Victorian house together. The Victorian’s structure was solid, but every room and bathroom in the eight-bedroom house needed serious renovations, Sanders said.

‘‘It was horrible. Absolutely horrible,” Sanders told a small audience of homeowners Friday during the Brunswick Railroad Museum’s program, ‘‘Money Pit or Marvel: Dealing with historic homes in Brunswick.”

The program, part of Brunswick Main Street’s First Friday ‘‘Night on the Town,” presented owners of historic homes with information and support to guide them through major renovation projects.

Sanders passed around before and after pictures of the more than $30,000 of work that he and his wife had done on their own, from installing cabinets to ripping out drywall and floors.

The couple took it one piece at a time and peeled back layers of old quick fixes and shoddy repair work. They even found a student’s old term paper from Brunswick High School that plumbers had used for padding during repair work in 1932.

Four years later, the renovations are ongoing, Sanders said, but they have paid off.

‘‘These days people drive by and say, ‘hey, we like what you’re doing,’” he said.

Doug Rosner, president of DHR Construction — a Middletown-based contractor specializing in historic renovations and rehabilitation — said investigating and formulating a plan of attack before beginning renovations saves time and money.

Rosner advised homeowners to not skimp on costs for important materials, such as exterior paint colors, and to do the necessary preparations before undertaking work. ‘‘There’s no way around it,” he said.

Rosner warned homeowners to make sure that hired contractors are informed and well-versed in historic renovations. He noted that the removal of lead and asbestos requires certification by the state.

To help with the costs of historic home renovation projects, homeowners may apply for tax credits through the Maryland Historical Trust. Properties eligible for tax credits contribute to a local historic district, are listed on the National Register or are designated as a landmark. Finding out if your property is eligible is the first step in the application, said Janet Davis, a member of the Frederick County Division of Planning.

The second step is to outline and detail the planned renovations with photos. Owners of historic homes cannot receive tax credit for work already started or finished, Davis said, and should plan on waiting more than 30 days for Maryland Historical Trust to process an application.