Category Archives: Restoration

Fortune Restoration's Work At Gurnee’s St. Paul The Apostle Church

Restoration Work At Gurnee’s St. Paul The Apostle Church

Did you know that Fortune Restoration is among the contractors with the Archdiocese of Chicago’s seal of approval for church jobs? In 1998, St. Paul the Apostle became Gurnee’s first Catholic Church. The 42,000-square-foot building was built for $5.5 million. This summer, Fortune Restoration worked under a tight deadline to restore the inside of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Gurnee. Our team has stepped aside to accommodate weekday funerals and has ensured parishioners can attend their weekend Masses starting August 15th. However, all restorations needed to be finished by Friday, September 9 in time for a wedding the next day.

Restoring St. Paul the Apostle Church in Gurnee, included installing new acoustic fabric, repairing water-damaged drywall, cleaning air-conditioning vents and painting the ceiling, walls and trim. The project kicked off with crews moving all of the pews to clear space for scaffolding and lifts. Each week, pews were returned to their proper areas to accommodate for Masses on Saturday and Sunday. Rev. Gregory Houck, the church’s pastor, said that he appreciates the care workers took while working on the restoration.

During an interview with the Daily Herald Houck described the changes that will be coming to the church. “All of the Infrastructure, when it’s all over, will be changed,” Houck said. “It will be substantially changed. The audio system will be completely different, the organ will be different the lighting different, however, when you come inside, the church will look the same.”

At Fortune Restoration, when we work on a church renovation it is unlike any other renovation. You have to treat it with respect and reverence. It is not a construction site, it is a house of worship, and our men treat it as such. The two most sacred places in a person’s life are their home and their place of worship. While we work, there is no music blaring, no lunch eaten, and no garbage is thrown out inside the church.

Read the full story from the Daily Herald here.

Restoring Hyde Park

Restoring Hyde Park

Hyde Park is a neighborhood and community on the southside of Chicago that is over 160 years old. It should not come as a surprise that some of the buildings are well over a century old and are in need of some major restorations and renovations. Fortune Restoration has been in the process of restoring Hyde park’s buildings to as close to their origins as possible, Our most recent project, the three-story six-unit condo building on the 5400 block of South Hyde Park Boulevard, built in 1907.

In an interview with the Hyde Park Herald, Tom Fortune, one of the co-founders of Fortune Restoration, states ” the building has not been touched in over 108 years and the porches are beginning to fall down”. The project to restore the porches began in the fall of 2015 and was finished in May of 2016. Our team refinished the cement floors, replaced the brick and steel beams, did the carpentry and installed a new drainage system for residents.

Our team at Fortune Restoration specializes in restoring old, significant historic structures and have worked hard on many residences throughout the Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods. Restorations are crucial due to wear and tear of Chicago’s humid summers and bitter winters, as well as old age.

Read the full story here: Hyde Park Herald

Signs Your Chimney Needs To Be Repaired

Fall is here! Is your home prepared? Now is the perfect time to complete your home restoration projects before the cold winter months. Many people make the mistake of thinking their chimney will never need repairs. The assume their chimney is a worry free part of their home. However, problems do arise and a chimney in need of a repair should be tended to as soon as possible. A damaged chimney is a serious fire hazard and very dangerous for you and your family. If your chimney is showing any of these signs, it is time to contact a brick repair Chicago company:

    1. Rust: There should never be rust in your firebox or damper. When rust is visible this is a sign of excess moisture in your chimney. If there is enough moisture in your chimney to cause visible signs of rusting, there may also be serious damage such as, cracked flue tiles.
    2. Leaks: A leaky chimney is a huge red flag! We have had no shortage of rain this summer, and if you’ve noticed dripping water around your chimney, it is very likely that your chimney has become damaged.
    3. Spalling bricks: If you begin to notice flaking, peeling or crumbling bricks on your chimney, it is a sign of serious damage. There are also instances where you may notice entire bricks of your chimney popping out of place. If this occurs you may need invest in structural chimney repairs with a brick repair Chicago company.
    4. Cracked chimney crown: The purpose of your chimney crown is to protect the bricks from water penetration and damage. If your chimney crown is showing cracks or damage, water will seep into the chimney. Your chimney crown is the first defense against water damage. It is vital that your chimney crown is in top shape for the winter and spring!
    5. Deteriorating or cracked mortar joints: When the mortar deteriorates, your masonry is exposed to more moisture which will accelerate the deterioration of the chimney as a whole. When temperatures drop, the added moisture can freeze the inside cracks in the masonry. When the moisture freezes and thaws in cracks larger cracks can develop. It is important that you contact a brick repair company in Chicago immediately to preserve your chimney from further damage.
    6. Shalling: If you begin to notice flakes of chimney tile accumulating in your fireplace, you need to have your chimney liner replaced as soon as possible. An un-fixed chimney liner can cause a dangerous house fire.

Brick Repair Chicago

If your home is showing any of the above signs, you are in need of chimney repairs. Our expert team at Fortune Restoration has the knowledge to help take care of everything from brick replacement to a complete chimney rebuild. Contact us today for your free estimate!

Importance Of Deck Restoration

Summer is here! How is your deck looking? Your deck will weather just like any part of your home and require restoration. It is important to understand the effects weather has on your deck and the how to prevent further damage from occurring.

How Weather Damages Your Deck
Melting snow and rain are quickly absorbed by the wood in your deck, resulting in softening and swelling of the wood. In contrast, the sun’s heat will cause the wood of your deck to dry, resulting in shrinkage and loss of natural oils. These cycles, when repeated, will cause your wood to warp, crack and split. Unprotected wood is subject to algae, mold, rot, and decay. You can also experience graying and degradation from UV rays. Your rotting deck will also attract a variety of insects. Over all, this will lead to a premature life for your wood and cost you expensive repairs.

Deck Protection
To protect exposed wood, a sealer must offer oils and resins to reduce the effects of warping, cupping, curling and shrinking. Other protection can include a fungicide, mildewcide, UV protection, complete penetration and transparent pigmentation to enhance and preserve the natural color of the wood.

How Fortune Restoration Can Help You
If time has taken a toll on your deck, it is time to take action and protect your deck from the effects of sunlight and moisture. Our team at Fortune Restoration pays close attention to detail to ensure a quality result for your deck. Call us today at (847) 647-2500.

Spring Home Restoration Checklist

There is nothing like spring in Chicago. With the weather finally starting to reach spring temperatures, it is time to prepare the exterior of your home so you can enjoy it. There is often times more work to preparing your home for spring than bringing out the patio furniture or planting flowers. Maybe your house had a rough winter or maybe you have not done a home restoration in years, whatever it may be Fortune Restoration is here to help. Spring is the perfect time to complete your exterior restoration projects before temperatures get too warm and more importantly, more time to enjoy the warm Chicago summer months. Learn how Fortune Restoration can help you prepare for Spring/Summer 2016.

    • Windows: Washing your windows is an instant boost to the curb appeal of your home. While washing your windows this spring if you notice cracked glass, contact us immediately. Fortune Restoration can replace your windows and make sure they are installed and sealed properly.
    • Paint: Is your paint peeling, cracking, or fading? It is recommended that you repaint the outside of your home every 5-7 years. Painting the exterior of your home is difficult and best left to the professionals.
    • Deck Restoration: Painted decks weather just like any part of your home, periodically they need to be restored or repainted. Carefully scraping and sanding off the old paint is required to accomplish an even surface. We pay close attention to details to go above and beyond your expectations.
    • Power Washing:  Pressure washing is the best way to remove dirt and grime from your brickwork, siding, and deck. Our professional contractors are experts in many power washing techniques that will restore surfaces without damage.
    • Shutters: Are your shutters damaged due to wear and tear? Shutters present a unique challenge when replacing or repairing and should be left to the experts. Here at Fortune Restoration, we will ensure that your new shutter matches your shutters currently in place, are installed properly, and won’t blow away with the wind.
    • Chemical Cleaning: Dirt and grime will build up on stone and masonry over time. The effects of chemical cleaning your masonry can be very dramatic. Hiring a qualified contractor to chemically clean your stone is necessary.
    • Wood Stripping: Is your woodwork or wood furniture due for an upgrade? Wood stripping project’s unique requirements and we have the expertise to provide you the assistance you need to make your wood furniture and home look brand new.  

Call Fortune Restoration today for an estimate for your spring restoration project (847) 647-2500.

On the Path to Preservation with Matthew Wolf

8.4FrerkPic (2)Matthew Wolf is a fifth generation successor to his family’s building materials business, Henry Frerk Sons. “Every generation has run the company since it began – my mother is a Frerk,” provides Wolf. “My Great Great Grandfather started the business as a general store in the early 1870’s.”

Great Great Grandpa Henry expanded to the company’s current location on Belmont, he began the transition to building materials. His sons amassed great wealth (and then lost almost everything during the Great Depression) with coal. Matt’s grandfather brought in the first concrete trucks, and his dad developed special concrete – the type that “general cement contractors can’t provide on their trucks.”

Wolf says it looks like “his thing” is going to be restoration. “Every generation put their own mark on the company. It’s very important to me to do the same. This is also such a good point about business – you can’t stay stagnant!”

Material Evolution

Matt first went to school for architecture and graduated with a business management degree. He became passionate about preservation during this time, learning about wood restoration, how to assess old buildings, testing masonry, painting, wall paper, etc. (He also says the Art Institute has some of the best classes available for people interested in learning more about preservation.) Since then Wolf has become an expert on restorative materials leading the company into a new era of education on the subject for their customers. One of his most passionate topics is the importance of lime mortar applications for restoration projects.

“Lime mortar has been used in America since the settlers. Portland cement (what we use today) was first developed in England in the 1870’s, but wasn’t widely used in the U.S. until the 1930’s, because it was very expensive to produce and there were few manufacturers around making it.”

Referring to actual documents at his office, Matt further illustrated his point. “For example, a rail car filled with lime, about 150 barrels worth, cost $52.50 in 1908. That same amount of cement cost $214.50 at the time – just about four times as much! Lime mortar was cheap, and you could get it anywhere. Contractors were hesitant to use cement in the beginning because it was so expensive, but when the price came down enough for contractors to use it laying brick, cement took the market over by the 1940’s.”

Cement v. Mortar

One of the biggest differences between cement and lime mortar is that cement gets very hard very fast, and lime mortar takes a very long time to set.

There are 7 different types of mortar differentiated by their hydraulic properties – the degree to which lime works with water to grow crystals and get hard. The more hydraulic mortar is, the harder and faster it gets hard.

Lime putty has zero hydraulic properties, “…it’s like sour cream”. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Portland cement; it’s made from the same rocks, but with different additives. In between the two are:

NHL – Natural Hydraulic Lime 2.0, 3.5 and 5.0 rated from weakest to strongest

Pozzolain Lime – Developed by the Romans

Natural Cement – Developed in New York and used to build the Erie Canal, lighthouses, and other structures.

Wolf says the Romans were really the first to develop lime. It was tried and true for centuries, “…but Portland cement did such a great job of advertising we forgot about lime mortar. Portland is for resurfacing and isn’t necessarily the way to go with restoration.”

Historic Commitments

Matt is committed to the belief if a building was built with lime mortar, it should be rebuilt with lime mortar. “With restoration, lime mortar breathes better – but you don’t want it to go through the brick. If you have an 1840’s lime joint and you repoint with cement mortar, it could be harder than the original mortar and brick. When mortar joints are stronger, age and the elements could damage the brick. This is because moisture gets trapped and breaks down if you use cement mortar.

Pre-1930 commercial buildings usually have this problem. You can test for the original mortar, but it’s very expensive; for residential structures, you can usually tell by looking at it. You can use lime mortar to repair later built houses too.”

Wolf is glad to see lime mortar is being widely recognized in preservations now and offers that, contractors, in general, are reluctant to use it because “they grew up with cement.” He appreciates that Fortune Restoration has been working closely with his company to learn the art of lime mortar. “I’m excited about working with them because their technical skills are so great. They are covering the walls with burlap, hand chiseling and performing other like tasks to m ‘proper historic masonry renovation’.”

Wrap Up

In an effort to defray the expense of maintaining historic building applications with integrity, Frerk is the first building supplier to make a “bulk silo” for lime mortar to help bring down the cost. “We often see more damage with bad re-pointing because the wrong stuff was used. It really should be a do-it-right-or-don’t-do-it-at-all undertaking.”

The company’s general philosophy for historic buildings is to find out what the problem is first and then determine the right way to fix it. “We go to the jobsites, work with the contractors and consult to find best answers. We also realized we needed to be better educated about lime mortar and bring it to the masons. I want to network with preservationists and do more things like that.”       Facebook       Twitter       LinkedIn       Request an Estimate


Historic Italian Victorian in Wilmette

AfterKate Thomas has a passion for older homes. She and her family lived in a home built in 1918 prior to moving into their historic Italian Victorian built in 1874 on Park Avenue in Wilmette, Illinois.

“The house was built by Mr. Klem and Mr. McDaniel,” prescribes Kate, “they were founding fathers of Wilmette, who were also good friends. Two of their children married, and they built the house for the kids as a wedding present. It was a big deal at the time; you can still find it in the Trib’s social register [archives]. The county records for the ownership of the house show it was held in the family for a good 100 years. Since then, numerous owners had it for two or three years until we moved in.”

Best Laid Plans

Thomas and her husband had budgeted for upkeep and updates but were challengimage5ed with far more than they had bargained for. A ceiling collapse, plumbing held together with duct tape and socks, stairs kept in place with carpet padding stuffed between the boards and a host of other camouflaged defects kept them busy for the next decade.

After 11 long years of “triage”, Kate was finally ready to paint. “When we bought the house, it was gray with white trim, but it wasn’t until we decided to paint that I really started looking at the trim and realized how much there was of it.”

For help in keeping to the period, Thomas purchased an out of print book on 19th Century Victorian homes online. “There were suggestions for colors that would have been used, so we were able to combine an accurate paint scheme that way.”

image4Color Coordinates

Finding the right combination of trim colors was essential, and further tested by an enclosed porch which had been added in the 1920’s. “So, I had 1874 windows and 1920 windows. The challenge was to keep integrity with two different periods and still have it look good.” She says this is one of the reasons why they chose to work with Fortune because they “understand architectural styles and how to get through 150 years of paint.”

Thomas thinks people don’t truly understand the amount of scraping, prepping and design knowledge that goes into a project like this. “That’s the stuff you don’t see on the surface, and we wouldn’t have had the same result without them.”

image2 (2)The Fortune team painted test swatches on all four sides of the house so Kate could see how the colors would look in various types of light and different vantage points. “We went through $64 of paint samples – that might have been some of the best money spent on the whole project.” (Kate also spent time walking the aisles of Loomcraft looking for fabrics with the same colors in them and used material samples to help narrow down the choices.) “We tested it together; Alejandro [from Fortune] would paint a patch of trim, and we’d talk it over. You really have to listen to the consultants who know more than you do about these things. You can’t wing it.”

Not wanting to be “someone’s learning curve”, Thomas confides she had watched a local Fortune project in the works while driving her daughter to camp each day before making initial contact with them. She thinks finding a reliable company to paint newer or less complicated homes should be fairly easy, but advocates, “It takes someone with serious experience to pull off a project of this nature. The staff was a pleasure to work with and we could not have been happier.”

Paying It Forward

When the Thomas family is ready for their next move, they want to pass the house on in better shape than they found it. “It’s one of the oldest houses in Wilmette, and it’s important to take the time, do the research and preserve it. Part of this is about neighbors, it means a lot to the history of the neighborhood.”

Equally important to Kate is that the next buyers will treasure the home and continue to save it from tear down. “Older homes don’t have that Brady Bunch layout, but just because a home is older doesn’t mean it’s disposable!”       Facebook       Twitter       LinkedIn       Request an Estimate


Victorian Architecture and the Painted Lady

Victorian style homes were first built in the early 1800’s. Architecturally speaking, the term “Victorian” is significant to numerous styles and materials which came out of the Victorian era when Queen Victoria ruled Britain. Generally constructed of wood, brick and/or stone, Victorian architecture is synonymous to elaborate detail.

Victorian Octagon in Barrington, Il

Victorian Octagon in Barrington, IL

The Victorian Profile

The most common traits of Victorian homes are: bay windows, wood or metal trim, textured walls, decorative brick work, scalloped shingles, steep rooflines with multiple gables facing different directions, wrap around porches with ornamental spindles, and round or octagonal towers with steep pointed roofs. Usually two stories, Victorians were also often built with third floors.

The most recognized designs of the Victorian period are Italianate, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Folk Victorian, Shingle, Stick, Empire, Romanesque, Eastlake, and Octagon. Of these, the most difficult style to find today is the Octagon [eight sided], first built in the mid 1800’s to improve “ventilation and light”.

Romanesque Victorian - Corner of Dearborn & Ontario, Downtown Chicago

Romanesque Victorian on the corner of Dearborn and Ontario in downtown Chicago.

People often think of Victorians as being large ornate wood sided homes, but Victorian architecture may also reflect pastoral and castle like influence. One of the most locally famous examples of this is a Romanesque style historic landmark in Chicago. Designed by local architect, Henry Ives Cobb, the 632 N. Dearborn building was constructed of stone in 1892 and originally occupied by the Chicago Historical Society. This gargantuan-sized Victorian housed numerous businesses through the years, most recently, nightclubs.

What Makes a Painted Lady?

Known for their multi-color painted grandeur [three colors or more], Painted Lady Victorians rose to prominence during the San Francisco Gold Rush of 1849. When the population ballooned from 800 to 25,000 in a year, Victorian styles expanded in mass meeting the demand for new housing.

Victorian lined street in San Francisco

Victorian lined street in San Franciso

San Francisco remains one of the most iconic areas where Victorian Painted Ladies reside in number to date. Surprisingly, these homes weren’t officially called “Painted Ladies” until coined as such by authors Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen in their 1978 book, Painted Ladies – San Francisco’s Resplendent Victorians.

In the 1880’s, Queen Anne Victorians came into high fashion. The often bright colors used on the numerous architectural details of Queen Annes, make them one of the most highly recognizable Painted Lady styles today.

Restored Victorian in Chicago's historial Kenwood district.

Restored Victorian in Chicago’s historial Kenwood district.

The Victorian building craze continued as late as the 1940’s in Midwest farming communities. Affordable at their onset, building these types of homes today would be unaffordable for the masses.

Find Your Victorian Groove

Beautiful as they are, Victorian homes are a headache for some. Odd floorplans, smaller rooms and tiny closet space compared to most twentieth century homes, will likely dictate the need for reconfiguration. Interior repairs, such as wiring and other like items, may also be needed.

Rule of Thumb When doing repairs and upkeep on historic and older homes, look for architects and contractors with experience tied directly to the time period the house was built – their cumulative knowledge base will prove invaluable to getting these types of jobs done correctly and accurately.

Outside of San Francisco, you can find Painted Ladies in cities like Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis and numerous other towns across the U.S. If you love these architectural styles and don’t mind the upkeep, you should be able to find the Victorian of your dreams in most any city.       Facebook       Twitter       LinkedIn       Request an Estimate


How to Choose Paint Color for Your Vintage Home

fortune restoration

Historic home built in 1885 — Evanston, Ill.

What’s the most daunting task about painting your vintage home? Color –what colors would fit best with the character of your home and your personal preferences. Easier said than done, right?

With so many paint colors available today, choosing which colors work best with each other is a challenge. Considering the exterior of your house is not an easy or equitable “do-over” (unlike that chartreuse color you thought would look so great in the upstairs bath), finding the perfect outside color combo can be more than overwhelming.

Take a Spin on the Color Wheel

When choosing exterior colors, it’s important to note that some color schemes can intensify the look of an older house while others can make that same home look dull on one side of the spectrum, or even outrageous, on the opposite end.

Monochromatic color schemes offer a sophisticated look. A light brown siding with dark brown trim and shutters will provide a sleek, uniform look. If you want something a bit more eye catching, consider a complementary scheme of colors that have a huge amount of color contrast like violet and yellow.

5.26 color-wheelYellow-orange or red-violet colors fall within a triadic color scheme. When you work with a triadic scheme, select colors that are equally distant on the color wheel. Just the opposite of a triadic scheme is an adjacent scheme, achieved by using color options that are next to each other on the color wheel. A good example of this would be violet, blue-violet and blue.

Helpful Rules of Thumb

For help in finding vintage color options, select which of the following categories suits you best:

Historical Appropriateness – Research is basic in this category to investigating the color palettes that were available and favored during the time your house was built. The further back in time you go, the fewer colors there are to choose from.

Historical Color Collections can give you a hand in your paint color selection. One solution to finding the original colors that most likely would have been used for your home is to do an online search for “historic color charts”. Exterior paint colors for very old homes usually mirrored the material colors of the day like brick, copper, bronze, and exposed timbers.

Refine your color options even further by searching for your home’s design style (i.e., Craftsman, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, etc.). Many home designs had their own unique range of color pallets.

fortune restoration painted lady

“Painted Lady” in the Chicago Suburbs

Another option for finding colors used during certain time periods may also be found in old print, such as colors used on postcards, sheet music, in advertising and other like items.

Historical Accuracy – In choosing this category you will strictly limit yourself to the original colors used on your home. This could prove more difficult to match, depending upon the age and/or uniqueness of your vintage home. Old color photos (if available) may help, as would talking to long time neighborhood residents – again, completely dependent upon the age of your home, and your neighbors.

Ultimately, using a scraper to peel back the layers of paint to find the original true color of your home is the best method. Make sure you do this test on all the aspects of your home, as multiple colors can be hidden between the various areas of the body and trim.

If you do decide to uncover the old paint, it will most likely be faded. Bring a scraped sample to a paint retailer or professional service provider with vintage home experience for help in matching today’s shades with yesterday’s colors.

Wrap Up

When you adore the history of your house but are not married to preserving its historical accuracy, work with your personal color preferences and build from there.

Exercise your tastes, keep the vibe of your neighborhood in mind and take care in choosing colors you can live with for years to come.

For additional tips read:   Facebook   Twitter   LinkedIn   Request an Estimate