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how to renovate a historic home without destroying it

How to Renovate a Historic Home Without Destroying It

Posted on November 30, 2023

How to Renovate a Historic Home Without Destroying It 

Historic homes have a unique appeal that many modern houses lack. They offer a glimpse into the past, a connection to the history of a place, and a sense of character and craftsmanship. However, owning and renovating a historic home can also be challenging, especially if you want to preserve its original features while making it comfortable and functional for today’s living standards. Here are some tips to help you achieve a successful historic home renovation that respects the past and embraces the present.

Know the difference between an old home and a historic home.

Only some old homes are considered historic. According to the National Park Service, a historic home is “associated with significant events, activities, or developments in the past; that have historically significant persons; that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction; or that represent significant artistic values.” Historic homes may also be located in historic districts, which are areas that have been designated for their historical, architectural, or cultural significance.

Check the National Register of Historic Places

If your home is historic, you may need to follow specific guidelines and regulations when renovating it, depending on its level of designation and protection. For example, if your home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, you may be eligible for tax credits or grants for preservation projects. Still, you may also need approval from local or state authorities before making any changes. You may also need to adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, which are principles for preserving the historic character of a property while allowing for compatible alterations.

Research your home.

Before starting renovation work, learning as much as possible about your home’s history, architecture, and condition is essential. This will help you identify its original features, understand its significance, and plan appropriate interventions. You can start by looking for clues in your home, such as old photographs, documents, plaques, or markings. You can also consult public records, such as deeds, maps, census data, or building permits. isit local libraries, archives, historical societies, or preservation organizations for more information.

Find the right contractor.

Renovating a historic home requires specialized skills and knowledge that only some contractors have. You want to find someone who has experience working with old buildings, understands the challenges and opportunities they present, and respects their integrity and value. Request recommendations from other historic homeowners, preservation groups, or local authorities. You can also check online reviews, portfolios, and references. You should interview potential contractors and ask them about their historic preservation approach, familiarity with local codes and regulations, and previous projects.

 Don’t cut corners.

Renovating a historic home can be costly and time-consuming, but it’s worth doing it right. Cutting corners can compromise your work’s quality and durability, damage your home’s historic fabric, and reduce its value. Instead of opting for cheap or quick fixes, invest in high-quality materials and methods compatible with your home’s age and style. For example, instead of replacing original wood floors or windows with synthetic ones, try to repair them or find matching replacements from salvage yards or specialty suppliers. Instead of covering up old plaster walls with drywall or paint, try to restore them or use breathable materials that won’t trap moisture or cause deterioration.

Proper maintenance and prevention are essential.

One of the best ways to preserve your historic home is to keep it in good shape and prevent future problems. Regular maintenance and inspections can help you identify and address issues before they become severe or irreversible. For example, you should check your roof, gutters, foundation, plumbing, electrical system, HVAC system, and fireplaces for leaks, cracks, corrosion, pests, mold, or other signs of damage or wear. You should also clean your home regularly and use gentle products that won’t harm its surfaces or finishes.

Renovations are achievable. 

Renovating a historic home can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience that allows you to enjoy its beauty and charm while making it suitable for modern living. Following these tips and consulting with experts and authorities when needed can ensure that your renovation project respects your home’s history and enhances its value. To safeguard your historic home, contact a foundation repair company in your area if you have a firm foundation. 

Sources- 

https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/rehabilitation.htm

https://www.familyhandyman.com/article/what-to-consider-before-restoring-a-historic-home/

https://www.epa.gov/lead/renovation-repair-and-painting-program

https://www.ahs.com/home-matters/homebuyer-hub-resources-and-guides/the-homeowners-guide-to-historic-home-renovation/

https://kgarch.com/the-golden-rules-of-historic-home-renovation

https://www.1stdibs.com/blogs/the-study/renovating-a-historic-house/

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