Remedies: matching new to existing

With any art deco house renovation, there will be areas where original construction need to be replaced or new construction must merge with existing.

Some of the materials and fittings used in the construction of art deco houses are no longer readily available. While timber profiles can be run to match existing, the options for sourcing other materials and fittings are generally limited to sourcing second-hand materials or finding replicas.

Framing sizes

The dimensions of new framing timber differ to old framing. Original timbers are usually rough sawn and sizes may vary, although by the 1930s, framing timber was generally becoming more consistent in size.
Sometimes modern 90 x 45 mm framing with a cavity will pack out to the same thickness as the older 4 x 2” with sarking: for example, 90 mm + 25 mm cavity = 100 mm + 15 mm sarking. Small variations in thickness can be dealt with by plastering.
Other means of dealing with differences in timber size:

  • packing new framing to increase thickness
  • adjusting packing to give an even line
  • aligning a change with an internal wall location so the change in wall thickness is masked
  • removing the existing wall back to a junction for small areas, then install new framing
  • having new oversized framing run – this will incur a set-up cost at the supplier.

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Stucco cladding

A feature of art deco houses is the monolithic appearance of the stucco cladding. Unfortunately, the cladding and the general design are the principal causes of weathertightness issues in these houses.

As with modern plaster finishes, stucco relies on the continuity of the paint coating to maintain the weatherproofing. Any movement in the building caused for example by settlement of foundations or lateral forces from wind or earthquakes, is likely to result in cracking of the plaster and the paint finish. Fine hairline cracks are difficult to see but they will let water in.

If remedial or replacement work is required, direct-fixed stucco plaster is not an acceptable solution under E2/AS1 so an alternative solution will be required. (Stucco on cavity is covered under E2/AS1.)

Where a new extension is to be added, an option to maintain the monolithic appearance is to use a textured coating over fibre-cement sheet.

If a cement stucco cladding is retained, it must have a strong maintenance regime to keep the exterior fully weathertight.

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The low pitch of the roof of many art deco houses means that the roofing may be in poor condition and require replacement. If the roofing material was a corrugated steel roofing, it will not be able to be replaced with the same material if the roof pitch is less than 7° (see Remedies: roofing and cladding).

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Interior finishing

Standard interior timber moulding profiles such as skirtings and architraves that are now available are in metric, not imperial, which makes an exact profile match where they adjoin impossible.
Other options for matching interior finishes include:

  • removing all existing trim in the room and replacing it (use the removed material to make good or repair in other rooms)
  • having new profiles run to match the existing
  • sourcing second-hand material.

In some cases, damage may able to be repaired in situ by filling and painting, which means the natural timber appearance is lost but the profile is retained.