The Conservancy’s Homeowner Committee organizes quarterly Homeowner Drop-Ins: free, informal opportunities for Wright homeowners to gather via Zoom and discuss common challenges and successes. The most recent drop-in was held in February, and focused on finding skilled contractors and tradespeople, a topic suggested by the owner of the Rayward House. The lively 90-minute session included owners of Prairie, American System-Built, and Usonian houses, and a wealth of information was gleaned. Below are some of the helpful hints that homeowners suggested.

Ask the Conservancy

The FLWBC’s staff, particularly Preservation Programs Manager John Waters, often has good ideas of where to start. Contact the office at [email protected] or 312.663.5500.

Do your research

Arming yourself with knowledge ultimately saves time, helps weed out skilled from unskilled laborers and improves final results.

Look at workers you hire for other tasks

While it is hard to find skilled workmen for smaller tasks, you can get creative by looking at people who you hire for non-house related work (such as yardwork). By noting special skills and affinities for the house, you can sometimes switch people to household-related tasks, including seasonal chores that need to be done carefully and regularly.

Know what your house needs

Certain trades may need more artisanal specialization than others. Perhaps your house needs restoration skills in a carpenter, but only a good quality plumber. These gradations, and knowing exactly the level of workmanship that is required for your home can help.

Check local historical societies and preservation organizations

Local historical societies or preservation organizations are good sources for discovering local artisans. Certain organizations have lists of skilled workers (however sometimes these lists are not vetted, so you still must do your own research).

Consult with an architect

A Wright homeowner reaching out to a preservation-based architect will almost certainly find someone willing and able to assist them. Architects don’t always just design, often their services are consultation and guidance, which can include sharing the names of contractors that they work with frequently or that they know to have the appropriate specialized skills that are needed. Some architects may share some guidance for free, others will want an hourly fee. In any case, it is money well spent.

Join us for future Homeowner Drop-Ins

The next one will take place on April 19, focused on heating systems. Future drop-ins are scheduled for July 12 and November 1, 2023. If you aren’t receiving invitations via email, or to suggest a topic for a future drop-in, please contact the office at [email protected].

Posted March 2, 2023