by Jamie Schultz


Bring New Life to Old Homes

by Jamie Schultz

One man sees plenty of wear and another sees plenty of potential. After sitting untouched for nearly a decade, a 1930’s home in the Chicago suburbs undergoes a revitalizing remodel. 

Its original owners, a husband and wife in their 70s, loved the Batavia home but found themselves unable to care for it. Neighbor and contractor Mike Spillane of Spillane & Sons Building and Remodeling, was approached by the family while renovating another old home in the neighborhood, and asked if he’d like to take it on as a project. Spillane agreed and the renovation began.  

“I wanted to make it a showpiece,” Spillane says. 

And that he did. Check out the process Spillane and his crew underwent to keep the home’s authentic charm, while adding in new building materials. 

Achieving an authentic look with modern technology

The original home was sided in light blue wood shingles, making them close to 90 years old. “These types of shingles can dry out and lose original shape over time,” Spillane says, “which caused some wood rot and minor interior water damage.” 

Spillane decided to reside the home with James Hardie® siding and trim and replace the original tar paper moisture barrier with new James Hardie moisture barrier.  He and his team started by removing the old shake siding, shingle by shingle, nail by nail, then installed the HardieWrap® weather barrier, which helps to prevent water damage, mildew and energy loss. 

He chose HardiePlank® lap siding and straight edge HardieShingle® siding in Deep Ocean with HardieTrim® boards in Arctic White. Spillane chose the Select Cedarmill© texture, an ideal choice for historic homes because it has a natural cedar look that mimics wood. 

“I wanted an authentic look with modern benefits,” Spillane says. The rich blue color added character and nodded to the original color, and the product’s ColorPlus Technology is engineered to help resist damaging UV rays, which means the color will last longer and look brighter than field applied paint. It’s also made of durable fiber cement, which resists damage from weather, fire and pests. 

Updating for the modern family

Even though it was a gut renovation, Spillane wanted to keep the layout of the home original and add a larger master bedroom with a half bath.  He built an addition above the home’s sun room. It was made to replicate the other side of the home—same windows, shingles and structural shape. 

“That’s the mark of a good addition, it doesn’t look like it was added,” Spillane says. “It looks like it’s always been there.” 


The crew also rebuilt the garage in the same style as the original one-car garage. “In the 1930’s not many people had two cars, but nowadays it’s nice to have the space,” Spillane says. The garage was rebuilt larger and clad in HardiePlank lap siding and HardieShingle siding in Deep Ocean with HardieTrim in Arctic White, to match the home. 

Keeping original history while adding safety

The entryway of the home, rich with Art Deco details and a true focal point, was kept original. All of the wood remained the same and was cleaned up and painted. The stairs were replaced for structural safety, but were rebuilt to resemble the original walkup. Spillane also kept the spelled out address, Five Fourteen, above the front door.

The windows were updated to fend off water and save on energy bills, but while replacing, Spillane made sure each window kept its original shape. The quarter round windows in the home’s gables were especially important since they added such interest. 

Preserving the character

Once inside the home, you’re sure to notice all the modern amenities but you’ll also spot original elements, too. All of the doors and hardware inside the home is original. The home’s front door can now be found in the master bathroom, and the unique, original orange door in the basement resides where it always has. 

“Even though the home has been updated, it still has its history,” Spillane says.  

Remembering the community

After each home is complete, Spillane adds the final detail of an American flag, which he buys from a local shop. He and his team reinvigorate homes in the neighborhood and hundreds of community members stopped to take a peek at the completed remodel during the Batavia House Walk. It took a few months of hard work to breathe new life into a home with so much history and Spillane likes to think the original owners would be proud of the way it turned out. 

Spillane prides himself on bringing new life to old homes. Updating with modern technology while remaining considerate of the home’s history. Next up, he and his crew will begin converting a historic, four-room school house built in 1906 into a multi-family residence. We can’t wait to see the final product.