Congratulations on buying or on deciding to buy a historic house. We’re certain you need all the help you can get with the rehabilitation and with deciding which direction the renovation should take! We’ve got 10 tips for rehabilitating a historic or old house to successfully transform it into a cozy home, where you and your loved ones can feel safe and happy.
Before we begin, let’s highlight the difference between restoring and rehabilitating. When you restore a building, you work to return it to its original shape and form. That includes using the same appliances that were used in the original home, the same paints, tapestry and so on and so forth. When you rehabilitate a building, you repair and improve it, so that it’s up to latest standards and ready to welcome its new owners. With that in mind, let’s check out some of the tips you need to know if you’re thinking of rehabilitating a historic house.
1) Know your house's history
Before you even step foot in the house, you should be up to date with the house’s history. How many renovations have been done? Any water damage? Any walls that have been taken down with or without permits? Once you know its history, you can better evaluate its needs. There are various way you could track the history of a house, from going down to the city hall or council yourself, to checking it online. Here are some online resources that could help you track your house’s history.
2) Permit issues
In some places any type of renovation requires a permit and in many areas there are special restrictions and requirements for work on historical or heritage houses. Do some research before you start work on the house and learn as much as you can about all the permits and inspections needed. The fines would most likely cost you more than the trouble and fees you need to get the permits themselves. Play by the rules, if you want your rehabilitation done right.
3) Embrace the house’s Idiosyncrasies
Old houses have a lot of quirks that don’t necessarily pose a threat or cause too much of an inconvenience. So, if you think you can live with a finicky switch, or a squeaky door, just do it! Save yourself the trouble and the money and embrace the house’s quirks. In most cases, they are charming and a reminder that you are living in a beautiful and old house.
4) Check for asbestos and other hazardous elements
Old houses can hide a lot of potentially hazardous elements and asbestos and radon are among the most dangerous ones. If you think there could be asbestos in your house, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Understand that asbestos is incredibly harmful and call asbestos removal specialists, who can get rid of the dangerous element safely, without any risks to your health.
5) Hire the right people
Hiring the right people can make or break your rehabilitation project. Always make sure you surround yourself with competent people, with professionals. Don’t skimp when it comes to contractors, because you will get exactly what you pay for. Our advice is to do your research well, and hire people who come highly recommended. People who know how to handle the rehabilitation of an old house. Also, if the house is located in a historic location, it would be wise to talk to a historian, to give you as many details as possible about houses in the area, and about the original elements and materials included in the house.
6) Pace yourself
In the beginning, you’ll want to do everything and you’ll want to do it now. That’s the enthusiasm that all new home owners feel, but don’t let it take the wheel, otherwise you’ll be prone to mistakes. Be kind to yourself and the house, and pace yourself. Prioritise, make lists, and have patience, because that’s the only way you can succeed.
7) Include technology
Historic and old houses can be harder to fit with the latest technologies, simply because they were build long before technology in homes was ever a thing. Some old houses still have a milk door! We recommend you assess the house and see what can be done and what can’t be done, technology-wise. Most likely, a sound system can be fitted within pretty much any home, same with alarms. It is also essential for safety that you have all wiring checked as extensive re-wiring to bring the electrical work up to current safety standards may be needed.
8) Start with the house’s skeleton
Masonry. Windows. Roof. A house’s structure is the most important element. And when it comes to rehabilitating an old house, it is vital to first fix the condition of the house’s structure before choosing the paints and rugs. Our tip for you is to start with the chimneys and fireplaces, then move on to the windows and roof. Get the house as watertight as possible, and only then you can move on to the fun stuff!
9) Inspect for water… and then inspect for water again
Residential water damage is feared by home owners and for good reason! Did you know that water damage can spell death for a home, especially an old, historic home? Has the house ever survived a flood? Are there any leaky faucets? Is the roof in good condition, and has it always been that way? Before you start anything in your historic house, make sure you inspect for water, and then maybe do a thorough double check. Hire a professional, if needed, because it will save you a lot of money and headache in the long run.
10) Estimate, estimate, estimate
Surely, you know the saying: estimate the amount of time and money you think you need for a project, and then double it. Most new home owners have a tendency to underestimate the time and money they need to rehabilitate their new house, especially if they’ve never had a previous experience with restoration and rehabilitation. Trust us, you’d rather be safe than sorry! With all that in mind, you should also throw in a little bit of fun, while you’re at it. There will be ups and downs, but if you work hard and have the right people around you, your rehabilitation project should be a success. Just enjoy the process and the final result!
Hope you enjoyed our tips for rehabilitating a historic house!
If you have tips of your own you would like to share, please contact us.