Renovating or Restoring a Historic House

by Rachel Laurendeau on April 12, 2013

Historic homes are beautiful and full of character, but what do you do when they need to be renovated?

Generally speaking, a homeowner can make the changes they choose to their property. However, if you own a home in a historic neighborhood or one that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, before starting any project, you should check with your state and local preservation offices to find out if there are any laws or guidelines that you need to be aware of.

When renovating an older house, you have a few options:
• You can keep the shell of the home but completely gut it and create a modern interior; some people may frown upon this but it is your home and your decision.
• You can call on a company that specializes in historic renovations (restoration) and stay true to the original house. Your local historic commission or preservation society may be able to recommend experienced contractors or give you other suggestions and tips.
• You can remodel the house while honoring its history but still add modern touches in both looks and environmentally sustainable building practices.

Beyond the aesthetics, finishes and decorating, some of the most important home improvements to consider are:
• Making your home more energy efficient by adding more insulation.
• Upgrading the HVAC (heating ventilation air conditioning) system and making it as efficient as possible. You may even want to consider a geothermal system.
• Bringing the home wiring up to current code and standards. Not only is this an efficiency issue, in some cases it can be a safety concern. A licensed electrical contractor can help you with this.

Important tip: have a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses. When renovating or remodeling a historic home, expect the unexpected. There will undoubtedly be problems that get uncovered along the way that need to be addressed and you need to have extra money set aside for this.

If you are lucky enough to live in a historic property, take the time to celebrate its past while creating a home in which you want to spend your future.

Resources: National Park Service

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