TIPS 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.

If you discover other resources or tips that are not covered here, please e-mail me at robertjkeil@yahoo.com and I will post them. Updates & additions to this guide will be made periodically. I hope you find it useful.



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.


Windows

In 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:

Wood Windows Warehouse (510) 652-1662
http://www.woodwindowswarehouse.com

Arellano's Wood Windows (415) 282-8362
http://www.arellanoswoodwindows.com

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


Wood Siding

A good local resource for replacing your exterior wood siding, including garage door surfaces:

Grooved Plywood Siding (415) 892-7754

http://www.groovedplywoodsiding.com/



Garage Doors

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
http://www.garagemasterinc.com

If 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 adjacent siding:



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 (415) 892-7754

http://www.groovedplywoodsiding.com/


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 here:




These 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 the
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.


Stairs, Terrazzo

Most Westlake homes came with dark grey or pink terrazzo stairs. If yours are damaged, hazy, or leaking, try Happygrout in San Francisco (415) 806-2746
.


Landscaping

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 Garden Center.



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.


Hardwood Floors

The 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.


Interior Walls

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:

http://www.weiserlock.com/Default.aspx?area=productseries&series=welcomehome&product_id=100083

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 key lock:

http://consumer.schlage.com/products/ProductDetail.asp?styleID=51&functionID=29&finishID=8

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:

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50378900


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 certainly original.



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 vintage inventory:

http://www.thisoldtile.com/


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 called B&W.

Waterworks carries a full line of tile called "Echo" which is very similar to the original Doelger-specified tiles and in similar colors:


http://www.waterworks.com/Waterworks/Products/Products.nsf/Family/7DDA299E545BC6798525718E005AF64A?OpenDocument

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

Most 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.



With 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:
http://urbanore.ypguides.net/

Ohmega Salvage
(510) 841-7283 in Berkeley is more expensive and has less inventory, but is still worth noting:
http://www.ohmegasalvage.com/

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:

http://www.sinkfactory.com/


Kitchens

Kitchen 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 a lifetime.



After 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.

A resource for buying or restoring these classic stoves is Apple Stoves in Oakland: (510) 420-8096
applestoves.com

The kitchens of Westlake homes varied quite a bit after 1960, so at this time I can only cover the years prior to this.

For more general information on renovating a Westlake (or other midcentury-era) house, also visit this excellent website:
retrorenovation.com

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