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Top 10 Historic Home Renovation Tips

Written by: Catalogs.com Editorial Staff

May 4, 2011
Filed Under Home Improvement 

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One of the top ten historic home renovation tipsContributed by Tim Brugger, Catalogs.com Top 10 Guru

For those who appreciate old world craftsmanship, the filthy rich can have their box-shaped, architectural “wonders” that look eerily close to something George and the family Jetson would live in.


For the rest of us, there’s nothing like the charm of a classic home. Of course, renovating it presents more than a challenge or two; hence, the top ten historic home renovation ideas, at your service.


10. Get an inspection

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

Not the most exciting place to begin, but it is the best place. Determining the needs, before implementing the wants, will make for a much smoother renovation overall. This is particularly true for those on a relatively strict budget, as most of us are.

9. Check the records

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

If your home is on a historic registry somewhere, make sure to do your homework before initiating renovation bonsai. Most counties and states have very strict codes to adhere to when fixing up historic homes. So, make certain what you can, and can’t do, before starting the renovations.

8. Be careful of new materials

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

Historic homes will quite likely need a good refinishing of the wood; moldings, walls and perhaps floors. If so, focus on polyurethane varnish with a satin sheet. Remember, high gloss stains were not around when the home was built, and renovations should try and stay true to their school (of architecture).

7. Outside in

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

Begin with needed outside renovations first, before diving into the interior renovations. These may be found by completing the inspection (Top Ten item # 10), or may be needs visible to the naked eye. Either way, addressing potentially larger issues first that could impact interior renovations, such as electrical, plumbing or leaking issues, can save a lot of heartache later.

6. Wood replacement

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

If small areas of a wood floor need to be replaced, use some from existing closets and other rarely seen places. There’s a much better chance these will seamlessly match the aged wood. Let’s face it, try as they might, lumber yards can’t replicate the look and feel of 200-year old wood.

5. Go hunting

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

This Top 10 renovation idea is one the whole family will love; go on a treasure hunt in your own home. Attics, the areas above garages, little used basements and outbuildings can be a treasure trove of ancient treasures. Some of the stories historic homeowners share regarding what they’ve found in their old homes is astounding. And, if you can’t find room for that buried treasure in your renovation, there’s always Ebay or the Antique Roadshow.

4. Look to the floors

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

While possibly obvious, redoing the hardwood floors that nearly all historic homes have is an absolute must. If that means tearing up old carpet, do the deed; you’ll be glad you did. If you must, throw some area rugs in the appropriate places, but there’s simply no replicating that old world feel.

3. Restore, don’t replace

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

If possible, restore old windows as opposed to replacing them. There’s no faking old windows and, unknown to some, well sealed historic windows are every bit as energy efficient as many double-paned newer panes. Not to mention, restoring old windows is often less expensive than replacing them with expensive new ones.

2. Renovate, don’t remodel

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

Investigate the history of the home, and tailor your renovations as best you can to the original décor of the house. A historic home renovation is not a remodel, but rather an attempt to stay true to the feel and charm of the original. If your historic home was an 1890’s stagecoach stop for example (as ours was), renovations should include attention to the parlors and sitting areas, with items such as period pictures of people lounging in these old-time rooms. It’s also a fun exercise to learn the history of the home; assuming it’s not in Amityville of course.

1. Tread carefully

A list of the top ten historic home renovation tips

Know what you’ve got before taking the sledge hammer to the walls. There are horror stories of historic homeowners who began their renovations, clearing out “ugly” or “worn” areas to be replaced with finer appointments, only to learn later they just destroyed a nearly 400-year old molding that was brought over on the Mayflower.



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