Restoring an Old House: Top Mistakes to Avoid

The restoration of older houses can be quite costly but also extremely rewarding if completed correctly. This needs to be done right with the first attempt and there are quite a few mistakes that can be avoided. The idea behind buying an older home is to preserve as much of its original design as possible, while creating a comfortable space that will be a pleasure to live and entertain in. Here is how to steer clear of making mistakes during its restoration.  

  1. Keep to the style and history of the home

Every homeowner should do some research into the history of their home, including you. Snippets of information can be gleaned from the real estate listing which should offer some information about when the home was built and who its original owners were. 

Thereafter, look up what materials were used during the era that the home was built and find out how to differentiate between the different styles, historical precedence, molding shapes and what they were called. 

  1. Don’t undertake to DIY 

It is tempting to DIY, especially after seeing some of the talented people on HGTV carrying out restoration work on homes, windows and doors, but most types of aesthetic restoration should be done by a professional as you may not be saving yourself any money if they are not done properly.

The stripping and removing of paint on older homes needs to be done carefully; older paints may contain lead and other harmful substances. Other tasks that are best handled by professionals, because of safety risks, are making wall openings, all electrical work and removing finishes. Because you might want to preserve some of the original bathroom fittings, again you will need a professional plumber to undertake the task of changing damaged pipes or faucets. Often the dimensions of the older pipes and bathroom fittings are different to newer ones, requiring them to be custom ordered. 

  1. Save whatever you can and don’t go for the “new look” 

Replacing old floors and window frames with new ones will result in an odd gleaming finish that will most probably look completely out of place. This also applies to column capitals, wood trims and ceiling light medallions. Many of the new decorative elements within homes are now made from far inferior materials than in the past and not only lack quality, but durability too. 

 The same often applies when original elements, especially woodwork and floors are refinished. They end up looking “wrong” and too polished for the rest of the home.  

Don’t listen to contractors who try to get you to replace all old pieces with new decorative pieces, be firm and hold onto them, even if they aren’t perfect. A very good solution is to only work on problem areas, like stopping decay, and try to retain the aged look that also gives these elements character. 

Other elements worth saving are light fixtures, handles and baseboards, but if some are worth saving and others not, they can be replaced in some parts of the home and not in others, as long as this is done in a subtle way and with much attention to details to get a result that is finished properly.

  1. Take advantage of technology

Home automation is essential today and can be installed into your older home since WiFi is wireless. A lot of the elements of automation can be cleverly concealed so that the home is functional in a modern way while still preserving its old-fashioned appeal. 

Light switches and dimmers can be replaced with switches that have a historic look and many companies have created beautiful ranges to choose from.

Kitchens and bathrooms can be renovated cleverly to preserve their old appeal, while also having all the comforts of their modern counterparts. Appliance manufacturers, cabinet makers and plumbing companies have fittings that match all the time periods in home building perfectly and are great for restorations.

  1. Do consider opening up floor spaces and making additions

Not everyone agrees with this, but in order for an older home to cater to the needs of the modern family, some walls may have to be removed to create open floor spaces. Some of these changes, like a bigger kitchen, also add value to the property. 

Any opening up of spaces needs to be done after much consideration to avoid taking away an extra bathroom or bedroom.  Changes like that may make the home difficult to sell in the future. 

If any additions are to be made to the home they also need to be done with care. The whole idea is to make them look like they are part of the original design by matching the finishes to the rest of the home. Additions should also never cover parts of the home’s façade, but should be incorporated to the side or back.  

  1. Take care with window restorations

Even though your new home needs some consideration as far as its energy efficiency is concerned, replacing the old window frames with vinyl windows may not be the best solution. If the old window frames definitely need replacing and can’t be restored to keep out the cold, then consider that new wooden ones may be expensive, but they will last the longest. Vinyl may be cheaper but it has a lifespan of between 10 and 20 years, while aluminum is strong but not suitable for humid climes.

  1. Don’t overdo the period pieces

Once you have completed you restoration, you don’t have to start filling it with pieces from the period that the home was built. Consider that over time people have filled their homes with various items, hand me downs from grandparents and parents, and then have added more modern pieces that they have bought over time. Consider that you want to be able to enjoy your home, so it should not end up looking like a museum. Create a comfortable space that will be timeless and will respect the character of your restoration.

Now getting to the staircase of an old house: Read our blog to get awesome and inspiring ideas to completely renovate your staircase, whatever your budget!

%d bloggers like this: