Restoring a Historic House: 8 Tips and Tricks for a Dream Home

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in May 2016. It has been updated with new information. Welcome back to Period Dramas, where we delve into the enchanting world of historic homes. Today, we're discussing...

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in May 2016. It has been updated with new information.

Welcome back to Period Dramas, where we delve into the enchanting world of historic homes. Today, we're discussing the art of restoring a historic house. While it may seem like a daunting endeavor, with the right knowledge and approach, you can turn a nightmare into your dream home. So, let's explore eight essential tips and tricks to guide you on this remarkable journey.

Living in an Old House is a Commitment

If you appreciate the charm of old houses and can embrace their idiosyncrasies, then restoring a historic house is for you. However, it's essential to understand that living in an older home may mean sacrificing some modern comforts. Radiant floors and perfectly controlled room temperatures might not be readily available. But the allure of the old wavy glass windows and spirit-filled floors should make it worth your while. So, put on that extra sweater and bask in the beauty of your historic abode.

Water Damage is the Enemy

Water damage is a serious concern when it comes to historic homes. It can lead to long-term issues like dry rot and attract unwanted bugs. Keep a keen eye out for signs of water damage, especially around the ceilings, floors, and windows. The sill plate, which supports the entire structure, is particularly vulnerable. It's crucial to address any water-related issues promptly and efficiently to preserve the integrity of your historic house.

A view of the Captain Overton house before renovations. A view of the Captain Overton house before renovations.

Assemble a Team to Help You

Restoring a historic house requires a team of experts who understand the intricacies of preservation. Collaborate with a local historian, contractor, or architect with experience in historic home restoration. They can offer invaluable guidance and ensure the restoration process aligns with your vision. It's crucial to find professionals who share your passion for preserving the beauty and history of your old home.

On a Budget? Start Small

If you're working with limited funds, consider starting with a smaller historic house. While all old houses require updates and renovations, restoring a smaller property can be more manageable. Emphasize quality materials and fewer renovations, prioritizing the preservation of original features. It's better to live in a perfectly restored, smaller colonial home than a dilapidated mansion with subpar finishes.

Be Smart About Your Investment

Even if you don't plan to sell your restored historic home, it's wise to consider resale value when budgeting your renovation. Research fully renovated houses in your area to gauge their selling prices. This information will help you make informed decisions about how to allocate your budget. For example, consider which fireplaces to restore carefully. Restoring fireplaces and chimneys can be costly, so choose wisely based on your restoration goals and your budget constraints.

Start with the Roof, Windows, and Masonry

While it's tempting to dive into aesthetics right away, prioritize practical renovations first. Attend to critical areas like the roof, windows, and masonry to ensure the house is watertight and structurally sound. Understanding the materials used in your region is essential, as some areas may have weaker mortar, necessitating additional attention. Take the time to inspect and repair any necessary repointing in the fireplace and chimney to maintain their integrity.

Technology is Your Friend

Updating the heating, cooling, and electrical systems of a historic house can be expensive. However, advancements in technology have made it possible to integrate modern systems without compromising the historical fabric of the property. Consider implementing split systems that distribute the mechanical components discreetly, preserving the original features. Technology can be your ally in maintaining the charm of your restored home.

Embrace the Non-Threatening Quirks

Uneven floors and unique architectural quirks are often part of the charm of a historic house. Rather than trying to rectify every imperfection, embrace them as intrinsic features of your home's character. Design with creativity and adaptability, accommodating the eccentricities of your historic abode. Transform challenges into opportunities and preserve the integrity of a few exceptional rooms rather than compromising the entire renovation.

Restoring a historic house can be a labor of love and a rewarding experience. By following these tips and tricks, you can navigate the complexities of the process and create a dream home that embraces its rich history. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your team, and embark on this remarkable journey of restoration. Your historic home awaits its transformation into a living testament to the past.