Falmouth Historical Commission is considering allowing alternative building materials within historic districts.
“We have identified a few new materials we’re considering,” commission chairman Edward J. Haddad said.
He specifically cited Boral and Lifespan products as items the commission might consider allowing, as well as high density urethane signs. An example of an HDU sign is the one hanging in front of Cupcake Charlie’s on Main Street.
“For non-historical houses where flexibility can come in, we need to look at alternatives,” Mr. Haddad said.
Commission member Christopher B. Warner said one area where applicants deviate from traditional materials is with their decks. People often request Trex or Azek decking products, as composite and PVC products are low maintenance compared to traditional wooden decks.
“A characteristic of wood is it degrades with ultraviolet and moisture. Our environment is a maritime environment, so it’s very challenging to have wood products that are durable,” Mr. Warner said. “That’s why this Lifespan is encouraging, but a lot of people want to go with the Azek, and that’s just PVC, but a lot of people are pleased with its durability in our environment.”
Mr. Haddad said there is some flexibility with the decking itself, but not the trim or railing, which are likely to be visible from the street. This idea was tested during the meeting’s first public hearing, involving a request to renovate a deck at 8 Eric Clauson Lane, replacing it with Trex decking.
“The deck is quite old and peeling. They’d like to update it,” said Jean Bowden of Capizzi Home Improvement. “It’ll look a lot better than what is there and a lot safer, too.”
Ms. Bowden confirmed the deck would use a composite wood material, but was unsure of the materials beyond that. The commission seemed willing to allow composite material for the deck itself, but did not want to approve the project without knowing what material would be used for the trim or railing system. They spoke out strongly against the railing, specifically saying they would not allow a PVC railing to be installed.
“It looks like they need to have a more articulated plan that sets out what each element is, taking into consideration that PVC won’t be approved,” vice chairman Nicole Goldman said.
Mr. Haddad added that both the design and proposed colors, brown and white, were appropriate. The commission’s issue was purely the question regarding materials.
“We have approved composites. It’s not something to abandon. We need to know what the composites are,” Mr. Warner said.
The commission voted to continue the hearing until its January 2 meeting.
“They may just say the heck with it and go with wood,” Ms. Bowden said.