Rebuilding historic Louisa County could be costly

LOUISA, VA (WWBT) - Louisa County has taken a number of hits from Mother Nature- between Thursday's tornadoes, and August's earthquake and hurricane. All the damage caused by these natural disasters could be a real hit to residents' wallets. Especially, since many homes are historic.

They're the pictures from Louisa County that are hard to forget: historic homes shaken and damaged. Chimneys crumpled to the ground.

There are roughly 200 historic homes in Louisa County. Conservatively, experts say at least 60% of them were damaged in the earthquake.

"I think we all feel the loss of that and the struggles as they look at the costs and how they'll fund that for the repair work," said Elaine Taylor, with the Louisa County Historic Preservation Society.

Leslie Jordanger lives in a home from the 1800s. One of her chimneys cracked, the other fell.

"Just repairing the one fireplace that we've got damaged is going to be about $5,300 and then this fireplace is going to be twice as much," said Jordanger.

It's so costly, because Jordanger is repairing the damage using materials similar to those used when the house was built. Experts say, that's her best choice. Using new construction materials could actually damage her home even more.

"Over time, those two materials are going to fight against each other and actually deteriorate the brick," said Taylor.

The problem is, most of these bricks were made on site back when these houses were built. They were built with softer materials and lyme based mortar. When it rained, these materials released the moisture.

New construction materials are harder and more sturdy. But if the moisture gets in the materials, through the old bricks or mortar, it will get trapped. The new materials will keep that moisture in, causing damage, and disintegrating the chimney.

"I never even thought about the chimneys until after the earthquake," said Jordanger. "Now, it's a major concern so we've learned a lot."

Brick foundations can have similar problems.

Inside the home, experts warn to be cautious using new materials while fixing plaster cracks.

"If you lock the moisture into the wall, you end up with a kind of mold problem," said Taylor.

The cost to fix these problems using historically accurate materials is high, but not doing so, experts say, could cost you more in the end.

"You really are best, even if it's not for historic preservation," said Taylor. "If you have an old house it's best to stick with historic materials. They just breathed. They had a wonderful way of being able to adjust to the climate changes here."

Of course, many of these homeowners were without earthquake insurance- and unable to afford these improvements. The Louisa County Historical Society is hosting several classes about how to fix historic properties, and how to correct some of the problems yourself.

The Sargeant Museum of Louisa County History is open Monday-Friday from 10-4 and Saturdays from 10-1. Should you need to reach them by phone, the number is 540.967.5975.

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