Don’t Do This!

This Federal-style door surround looks okay at first glance, but a closer look shows that its moldings have been altered in a way that degrades its authenticity. When the vertical side boards were replaced (with clearly inferior wood), the two distinct moldings at the transom line were discarded and replaced with a poorly installed single molding that matches neither of the originals. A similar molding was added below the surviving original molding at the top to hide the joint between the new boards and the old work. This change eliminates a degree of refinement in the detail of the primary entrance, where maximum effort would have been expended to make a positive impression in the early nineteenth century.

Fortunately, the profiles and locations of the original moldings are documented in the coped clapboards that once met them. The moldings could be reproduced from this information and the vertical boards replaced with material of appropriate quality, restoring the door surround to its original appearance. This example of why the details matter in restoration is from Chapter 13 of Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners.

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