Restored antique fixtures and hardware can add an elegant touch of class to any home. With brass, beautiful hardwoods and materials that just don’t exist anymore, installing restored antique hardware can add an element of wonder at past days long gone and era long forgotten.
There’s just one problem: nothing fits. With the many changes in basic materials, woodworking designs and products older hardware and fixtures just weren’t meant to fit today’s standard of building.
Doors have really changed in the last 50 years. Locks have gotten smaller, hinges have round edged versus square, and doors have swollen in thickness. This renders most antique hardware obsolete.
Adding antique locks, handles and hinges can be a real challenge. Many kits exist to retrofit older locksets and accompanying hardware. These decorative shims add extensions to interior parts and seal the sometimes ½” gap that results from using antique hardware. In many cases, creativity has saved the day. Removing or adding parts to antique hardware can work, but cleverness is the key since a mistake can put a stop to the entire project rendering a new door useless and expensive antique hardware trash.
Lighting fixtures can easily be retrofitted to use in existing dwellings but only if a complete rewiring is possible. Antique lighting fixtures use inferior wiring, sometimes wrapped with dangerous elements such as asbestos and creosote. In some cases wiring can be salvaged, but only if you’re willing to chance your house burning down from faulty wiring.
Sometimes older fixtures need older outlet boxes to attach to a wall correctly. Try to reuse old outlet boxes when attaching hanging light fixtures. Older outlet boxes are made from metal and should be grounded properly before using.
Plumbing fixtures can be easily salvaged and reused in many different applications ranging from sinks, tubs, plumbing and faucets. Clean of all debris inside of pipes and fixtures before hooking them up to the water supply. A low pressure air stream from a compressor and hose can help remove stubborn debris from interiors of pipes; just be careful not to get the pressure to high and crack delicate plumbing.
Remove scaling rust and old plumbers tape or putty with a small wire brush. Carefully remove sediment and rust with light abrasives and chemicals. Wash away chemicals quickly to prevent damage to old metal fixtures and hardware. Soaking over-tightened fixtures in a solution of oxygenated bleach for a few hours to loosen up hard to turn handles and valves. Use rubber covers on tools to prevent scratches on sensitive plumbing parts.