FOR RESTORING & RENOVATING YOUR WESTLAKE HOUSE
Compiled by Rob Keil
A number of Westlake homeowners have had
questions about how to properly restore and/or renovate their homes to
be as original as possible, or at least period-appropriate to the 1950s
and 1960s when the homes were built. In an effort to respond to such requests
and encourage the preservation of these historically significant houses,
I have prepared the following online restoration and renovation guide.
It is broken down into sections, and in some cases includes photos and
links to companies that will be of use to Westlake homeowners.
Please realize that I'm not a contractor or home repair expert, and I'm
certainly not an expert on safety. So basically, if you use this information,
you're on your own. The author assumes no responsibilty or liability the
information contained herein. Please use qualified individuals for any
home repair you undertake, and get any required permits from the city
of Daly City.
you discover other resources or tips that are not covered here, please
e-mail me at email@example.com and I will post them. Updates &
additions to this guide will be made periodically. I hope you find it
Original Exterior Paint Colors
There is no 100% foolproof way to determine this as far as I know. The
most reliable guess is to assume that the original paint was never sandblasted
off of your house in subsequent repaintings and, therefore, lies beneath
the newer layers.
First, take all precautions regarding working with lead-based paint. Then
pick a small inconspicuous area and scrape off layers of old paint with
a knife until you get to the gray stucco. The last color you see (the
deepest and oldest layer of paint) before
reaching the stucco
was most likely the original. Usually, Westlake homes were painted
with at least two colors, one for wood surfaces and one for stucco, so
repeat this process with one of your wood surfaces.
Scrape off a bit of each of these two paint flakes, take them to your
local paint dealer and have them custom-mix the matching color. Nowadays
this sort of color matching can easily and inexpensively be done with
fine accuracy. If you
are unable to remove the last paint layer, bring home chips of similar
hues from your local paint store and find the closest match by holding
them up to your house, then return to your paint store with the closest-matching
chip in hand.
the interest of saving energy, windows are the most-often replaced exterior
element of these houses. Unfortunately, replacing them with the currently
popular vinyl-framed type destroys the architectural integrity of the
appearance. Westlake houses built prior to 1960 had wood-framed windows
custom built by Henry Doelger's company:
Fortunately, you can get the insulation and energy-efficiency
benefits of double-pane windows by simply by ordering double-pane windows
with wood frames instead of vinyl. Or you can order single-pane wood frames
with insulating glass. If neither of these options suits you, you might
consider replacing windows that are visible from the street with wood
frames, while replacing backyard-facing windows with vinyl as a compromise.
Here are some local companies who make wood framed windows:
Windows Warehouse (510) 652-1662
Wood Windows (415) 282-8362
If your house was built after 1960, it probably came with aluminum-framed
windows. This company replaces single-pane glass with insulating glass
without removing the existing frames:
Blomberg Window Systems (916) 428-8060
A good local resource for replacing your exterior wood siding, including
garage door surfaces:
Grooved Plywood Siding
Most Westlake houses were originally equipped with one-piece wooden garage
doors. These were mounted on spring-loaded hinges and were not the sectional
type that are currently popular. I have used Garage Masters in the Sunset
District and gotten very good, fast service. They are one of only a few
local companies that carry replacement parts for one-piece doors:
Garage Masters (415) 759-8094
your house was built prior to 1958, the pattern of the wood surface of
the door was probably identical to the pattern of the millwork used elsewhere
on the exterior of the house. See examples here of garage doors that match
For a replacement door, call City Overhead Doors at (650)756-4226. If
they don't have a design that matches your existing wood siding, you can
nail siding to a flat door.
This company mentioned above in the siding section carries a range of
siding which may provide a good match:
Grooved Plywood Siding
If your house was built after 1958, most likely the design of your garage
door was a smooth one-piece with a geometric pattern of wood trim applied
over it. It is impossible to determine the exact design used on your post-1958
original garage door if it has been removed, although the design elements
used on window shutters sometimes provide a clue. If this doesn't help,
you may want to pick a pattern from some of the Westlake designs shown
are simple enough for a handy amateur to create with some wood trim, a
miter-box saw, and an air-powered nailer.
You can buy and rent all you need at:
Home Depot Pro in Colma: 650-757-9360.
Entry and Interior Doors
Original Westlake doors were custom-made on site by Henry Doelger's company.
They were plain and flat and generally hollow-core
wood. Some had simple recessed panels. None of them looked like
elaborate stained-glass trim-covered things you see in most stores today.
Just ask any building supply store for a plain flat door. Have them measure
and intall it for you unless you are an absolute expert, as hanging a
door is extremely precise and difficult work. If you have an existing
door you hate, another cheaper and faster solution that I have had success
with is to take the doorknob out, get some birch or luan veneer (about
1/16") and adhere it over the existing door face using a strong wood
adhesive (like Liquid Nails). Then cut out the doorknob and other hardware
holes and re-install the hardware. Note that some Westlake houses built
in the late 1950s and thereafter used metal doorframes.
Most Westlake homes came with dark
grey or pink terrazzo stairs. If yours are damaged, hazy, or leaking,
in San Francisco (415) 806-2746.
Westlake homes originally included a front lawn and one tree in the front
yard. Replacing a lawn is relatively inexpensive and quick through using
sod. Just ask your garden center what kind of sod is best for Westlake's
cool, foggy weather. This might also be a good time to consider getting
automatic sprinklers installed so you never have to water again.
There were originally two types of trees planted in the front yards.
If your house was built before 1954, most likely it had a sycamore. If
your house was built in or after 1954 (with the exception of Westlake
Estates in 1961-1962), your house had a palm tree (right) which I believe
is called a "Cordyline Australis" or the common name "New
Zealand Cabbage Palm." It has for many years been affectionately
referred to as a "Doelger Palm." Try Sloat
Another outdoor maintenance tip: If you need to clean your driveway, sidewalks,
or backyard patio, the easiest way is to rent a high-power pressure washer
at Home Depot Pro in Colma: (650) 757-9360.
vast majority of Westlake homes have their original hardwood floors intact.
These are made of red oak, which can be found at
most wood flooring supply
outlets. The red oak is not just a veneer but a thick plank, so there
is usually enough depth for at least 2 refinishes before having to replace
the wood entirely. Different lengths, widths,and patterns (including plank
and parquet) were originally used. Any capable hardwood floor service
should be able to handle repairs and refinishing.
Westlake homes wall surfaces were made of standard 1/2" thick Sheetrock
made by US Gypsum. Since this type of material costs almost nothing, you
may want to consider spending just a few extra dollars for more soundproof
3/4" thick or moisture-resistant "green board" versions
of Sheetrock to replace any areas needing repair. It's easy to get Sheetrock
almost anywhere including Home Depot in Westlake and Colma. Some Westlake
homes living rooms included beveled redwood as a wall material (usually
pre-1958), or un-grooved luan paneling (usually 1958 and therafter). Rafael
lumber in San Rafael
(415) 453-3043 is your best bet for all kinds
of wood products, and they will even custom-mill pieces for you upon request.
Interior Wood Trim
The best local place to find replacement trim that's fairly close to original
is Rafael Lumber in San Rafael. (415) 453-3043.
Hardware and Accessories
Original doorknobs were gold-colored (and made of brass I believe) in
most cases, and simple in design. Weiser Lock currently makes a line called
Troy that I have not personally used, but it looks extremely similar:
A good midcentury-style alternative from
Schlage is called Bell. It is available
in satin chrome and is my personal favorite, although not completely original.
It is widely avaiable and you can get it with no lock, button lock, or
I do not have definitive information on original ceiling light fixtures
at this time. But if you are looking for something 1950s appropriate,
IKEA in Emeryville and Palo Alto carry a model called Fado which is inexpensive
and usually in stock:
Bathroom & Kitchen Tile
For original tile colors, the best research method is to look at other
houses in your neighborhood during Sunday open houses. The original tile
colors were generally pastels, and will be highlighted with an aluminum
strip across the wall at approximately eye level (assuming your house
was built before 1960). Very often there is a secondary accent tile color
used as well. If it has the aluminum strip as shown here, it's almost
For the ultimate in
historical accuracy, This Old Tile has a service where you can mail them
a piece of your existing original tile and, for a small fee, they'll find
a match for you that's identical (or very close) from their extensive
A good place to get similar (but not necessarily
identical) replacement tile locally is:
Latch Tile in San Francisco (415) 671-3753. Ask for a line they carry
a full line of tile called "Echo" which is very similar to the
original Doelger-specified tiles and in similar colors:
To bring existing tiles, tubs, and or grout back to almost-new
condition without replacing them, try Mr.
Bathtub 1-800-672-2848. I have used their service and been very pleased
with the results.
If your problems are with grout only, try Happygrout
in San Francisco (415) 806-2746 or Grout Doctor (415) 552-3667.
Bathtubs, Toilets, and Bathroom Sinks
1950s Westlake houses used bathroom fixtures made by Amercian Standard.
They were usually the same color as either the main tile or the accent
tile color (a second colored tile often next to the aluminum strip in
the wall) and are fairly easy to find at salvage places. An original toilet,
sink, and bathtub are shown here. While some
Westlake houses came with wall-mounted sinks, many
others were built into tiled countertops. Notice
that the correct bathtubs will have "scalloping" or "ribbing"
around the perimeter of the exterior (below right). These are surprisingly
easy to find in a wide range of colors. At
this time I don't know enough about the 1960s homes
to provide reliable information on their fixtures.
any vintage water-using fixtures, it's a good idea to have a plumber look
at the piece (or photos of it) before buying.
Urban Ore (510) 841-7283 in Berkeley is a terrific
source of original Westlake fixtures- a huge inventory and great prices:
Ohmega Salvage (510)
Berkeley is more expensive and has less inventory, but is still worth
If you are looking to have repair or restoration work done rather than
replacement, you might try The Sink Factory in Berkeley (510) 540-8193.
They specialize in pre-1940 fixtures, but should be able to restore most
things if you have time and money:
countertops: These were made of tile, not laminate as is often assumed.
See tile section above for resources.
Kitchen cabinets: These were often made by Crosley or General Electric,
almost always made of metal prior to 1958, and usually off-white in color.
These metal cabinets can be restored by an auto body person or company
who can spray paint them after priming the surface. With rust removed
(and using a good primer) you should get excellent results that will last
1957, most Westlake kitchens included cabintes made of wood or plywood,
with chrome handles on the doors. Some came painted while others were
stained or varnished. Most cabinet shops would find it pretty simple to
reproduce or repair these kinds of cabinets.
Stoves: Up until about 1956, gas Wedgewood stoves were standard equipment
in Westlake homes (see photo). These are pretty easy to find locally in
good working condition on Craigslist.
O'Keefe & Merritt also made very similar models if you cannot find
the Wedgewood. After about 1956, stainless steel wall ovens and cooktops
(usually by General Electric or Tappan) were standard.
resource for buying or restoring these classic stoves is Apple Stoves
in Oakland: (510) 420-8096
kitchens of Westlake homes varied quite a bit after 1960, so at this time
I can only cover the years prior to this.
more general information on renovating a Westlake (or other midcentury-era)
house, also visit this excellent website:
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