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(MCT)—Julie Tung, a history major turned software executive, wanted a historic house to restore. Ed Schwartz, her boyfriend (now husband), wanted a house he could make energy-efficient. And it had to be near Glen Rock, New Jersey, where his son lives.

They found the answer in a 240-year-old Ridgewood, New Jersey, house in such woeful shape that it was at risk of being torn down. In 2006, the couple paid $843,000 for the house, which was built by members of the Westervelt family, early Dutch settlers who also left historic houses in New Jersey’s Tenafly, Hillsdale and Woodcliff Lake.

Five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the couple has a house that mixes old and new to make it sustainable. The chandeliers are antique, but their bulbs are energy-efficient LED or compact fluorescent. There are solar panels on the roof and the original pine on the floors.

The main lesson Schwartz took from the experience: “No matter how bad a shape it’s in, with the right people, it’s fixable,” he said. “Take it step by step; don’t be overwhelmed.”

The oldest part of the five-bedroom house is stone, which was favored by the Dutch settlers of the 1700s. In the 1800s, it was expanded and renovated in a Victorian style. Tung and Schwartz added 1,300 square feet, including a kitchen, family room and master bedroom, staying true to the Victorian flavor.

The couple faced the usual nightmares and unpleasant surprises of old-house renovation. Walls were coated in layers of wallpaper, the floors in vinyl and asbestos tile. The wiring turned out to be obsolete knob-and-tube, chimneys were unusable and part of the foundation was missing— eaving a section of the house in a precarious state.

Where to begin?

“The worst, first,” Schwartz said. “It was supposed to be a one- or two-year project.” As with most renovations, it stretched out much longer.

One of the first steps was to get rid of environmental problems like asbestos, lead pipes, a buried oil tank and basement mold.

“The first thing you do, before energy efficiency, is remove contaminants,” Schwartz said. “The last thing you want to do is to seal in those contaminants.”

©2011 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services.