Buying a historic home is the dream of many people that love to feel like a part of history. These homes all have a story that needs to be preserved and honored. Not only that, but these homes have a charm and beauty rarely seen in modern homes. Buying one to restore can give you a unique chance to live in one of those homes after breathing new life into it.
This endeavor is not for the faint of heart, however. From conducting research and planning to finishing touches and ongoing maintenance, every phase of the process is complex. You’ll need to find specialized technicians qualified to do things like metal restoration and use the proper techniques required on things like the home’s facade. This article will cover the essentials you need to understand before getting into the renovation and restoration phase.
1. Research and planning
When a house is on the local historic register, the research and planning phase is the most important of the restoration process. You will be required to use specific techniques and avoid others to ensure the restoration brings out the home’s historic character.
The first part of the research stage is to find the original plans of the home, if possible, so you know what the layout was. You should also look for information about the materials and unique features the home was constructed with.
Another integral part of the research is finding out the local requirements for how you can and can’t do the restoration. Once you have that information, you will need to ask some of the local restoration experts if they can do this kind of work.
At this point, you can start the planning process and develop a roadmap for how the restoration will go. This stage will give you an idea of the timeline for the project as well as the strategy and scope of the work.
Restoring a historic home typically requires permits and approvals from local historic preservation authorities. Make sure to apply for these well ahead of the time you plan to start construction. The restoration work must meet certain standards and guidelines to preserve the home’s historical integrity and the permits will ensure that this requirement is met.
2. Address structural issues
One of the biggest concerns with old homes is structural integrity. It is common for there to be fissures in the foundation or rotten beams that support the structure and could fail if not restored. The priority at this stage is finding the most critical issues.
Take the time to do a thorough assessment from the foundation to the roof. Any potential problems must be addressed before cosmetic restoration since the house poses a danger when these are not fixed immediately.
When you hire a contractor, look for one with expertise in what to look for when assessing the structure’s integrity. They will know what order to do things in and how to get them done without causing further problems.
Expect to pay more than anticipated after assessing since many problems are not apparent with old houses. You may have to rework your budget for the rest of the restoration based on what you find.
3. Restoring original features
Many people are eager for this phase of the restoration process since it brings the house’s charm back to the forefront.
Restoring historical millwork, such as crown molding and baseboards, is one of the most important aspects of interior restoration. This may involve repairing or replacing damaged or missing elements and using historical photos or architectural drawings to ensure the new millwork matches the original design.
Usually, the first part of the process is restoring the floors. Most often, the floors are made of hardwood from the period and look worse for wear. With sanding and polishing, the floor can be brought back to life and look as if it was new, but with the details that show its vintage side.
The same goes for crown molding, but restoring it can be more of an effort. Usually, the wood starts to rot and must be replaced. It is difficult to match what is there with what must be replaced.
Once the interior has been restored, you can focus on how to furnish the home to make it livable again. You can find period pieces and restore the look and style of the home decorations. The other option is to blend modern with antique by decorating and furnishing with contemporary pieces.
Antique stores and online platforms can help you fill the home with period-appropriate furnishings that will complete the look and feel of the home as it originally was. This can be very expensive, and some old furniture will require much care.
Going with some modern touches can be done for less of a cost but at the expense of the style of the home. It’s a matter of taste.
5. Where to modernize
Although restoring an old house to its original look is commendable, it must accommodate a modern family’s needs. This means you must make some concessions for the modern conveniences required to live in today’s world. For instance, the electrical system must be completely rewired and connected to a modern electrical box.
The plumbing must also be upgraded with new PVC pipes and fixtures. The needs of people from a century or more ago were much different than what we need these days, and plumbing is a prime example of that.
You can replace the old bathtub with a modern one that retains some of the charms of the old one, such as claw feet and porcelain. However, you should also have a walk-in shower for convenience in addition to the old-time flavor of the other fixtures.
Restoring an old home could take years and a lot of frustration. However, your rewards once the work is done make up for it. The feeling of accomplishment and pride in keeping traditions alive is priceless.
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