If you are considering remodeling an old structure to live in or to sell, we have a few tips for remodeling old houses that could help save you time and money.
There’s an appeal to living in an old house. They have character and a style that is their own. Depending on the year that the house was built, it can offer a unique window into the past while blending with the modern day. But you need to know what you are getting into.
Owning an old house – either a historically old house or even one that is just more than a few decades old – can be costly. Whether you need to make repairs due to age, you need to modernize the structure for safety, or you just want to change things around, sooner or later you will need to put significant work into the house.
With that in mind, we have a few tips for remodeling old houses.
Start by Consulting with a Professional
Before you do anything, you should speak to a professional. You may have experience with construction and you may be fully qualified to do the work yourself, but an older house can present unique challenges. Older houses present countless issues that need to be checked, many of which require expertise that can only come from years of experience.
When you are ready to consult a contractor, make sure it is one that can do everything for you from the construction to the design. If you are considering work on an old house, contact Fleschner Construction now and arrange a consultation. You’ll be glad you did.
Check the History of the Place
It’s always a good idea to get the history of a house when you buy it, but with older houses – much older houses – there’s another reason to do your homework on it. Depending on where you live and how old the house is, there is a chance that it can qualify as a historical landmark.
There needs to be a specific reason to claim a house is historical, but it is worth checking. If you can claim it as a historical landmark, there are several benefits including significant tax breaks. It can be a double-edged sword though, as houses designated as historic in the National Register can be very difficult to make significant alterations to. The rules are different by state and city, but they can be challenging to work around.
If you are considering attempting to register your house as a historical landmark or your house is already a historical landmark, consult with an expert that has ties to the local government to see what steps need to be taken.
Start with the Foundation
While this is true of any structure, if you are considering a remodel of an older house checking the foundation should be your first step. This is something that was certainly considered during the purchase, but with aging buildings, it is always good to double check before beginning any work.
Partly this is just for maintenance – wear and tear are cumulative, but negative results can appear quickly. A crack that seemed minor a year ago can turn into a major issue almost without notice, and remodeling can exacerbate the issue. Plus, older buildings used older techniques that may have been perfectly sound at the time but weren’t necessarily meant for decades of use. Some regions, for instance, used a different mix for cement, which may have saved some money then but will cost you now.
Before you make any significant alterations to the house, make sure the structure is sound and won’t have any issues. Even if it doesn’t necessarily need any work immediately, it might save you money in the long run to work on it now.
Disaster-proof Your House
While older houses have plenty of character and charm, they also tend to be a little less structurally sound than most modern structures. There are exceptions, but typically a house built several decades ago will not be able to withstand a natural disaster like an earthquake or flood. They are also more susceptible to fire and heavy wind. That is partly down to the materials that were used, which were not as sophisticated as they are today, but it may also come down to the house’s design.
If you are considering a major remodel, have the construction experts look at your home and determine how it might fare in a disaster. If you are concerned about earthquakes and/or floods, it might make sense to add some additional support to the building. You should also pay special attention to the roof. An older house still in use will almost certainly have needed a new roof at some point over the decades, but the question is how long ago.
There are some things that can’t be overcome without more work than it is worth – you wouldn’t want to replace all the wood with a less flammable material, for instance – but you could at least add extra precautions like additional fire detectors. Older houses can be very sturdy, but most of them can probably use a little help. If you want to really ensure the stability of your home, you may need to retrofit the entire structure. It will help to keep the house viable for years to come, but you’ll need to decide if the cost is worth it.
Incorporate Universal Design
The older a house, the more difficult it is for people with mobility issues to get around. The builders of yesterday created some incredible structures, but they didn’t often plan for the unexpected and they tended to adopt a one-size-fits-all mentality when it came to building. If you are considering a significant remodel for an old house, you may want to take it one step further than you may have been thinking and incorporate elements of universal design.
Universal design is meant to allow for the evolution of a house. Widening doorways and adding new appliances – along with electrical outlets – can prepare the house for the future. Expanding the stairwells could also help to address some future problems, and if nothing else it should help make the property more appealing if you are planning on selling.
Update the Technology
If your older house hasn’t had a major renovation in years – or ever – your first step needs to be upgrading all the technology starting with the wiring. Safety standards have vastly improved over the decades along with our demand for power, and what used to be more than adequate to power the electronics of the past is now almost certainly a hazard – and that’s not counting what time has done to the older systems in terms of wear and tear.
A complete rewiring of a house is a major and costly project, but it is also a vital one for both safety and modern compatibility. While you are at it, you may also want to consider adding in upgrades for the future, including wiring for computers that allow you to network your house. It’s not as vital as the electrical wiring, but if you are considering it doing both upgrades at once will be significantly cheaper than doing them separately.
Sooner or later, you will also need to upgrade the house’s heating and cooling systems. Many older houses don’t have air conditioner units, so you’ll need to decide if that is important to you. If so, it may require a significant investment. The heater, however, is vital – especially in an older building which will already be drafty and offer less insulation than a modern one. Call in a specialist to look at your current HVAC system. Upgrading can be safer (depending on how old the current unit is), and it will save you money in the long run if you go with an energy efficient model. While you’re at it, put in a new digital thermostat as well, and replace any older windows with better insulated models.
Design with the Old and New
One of the main reasons to purchase an older home is for the style it offers, but that style shouldn’t cut into your comfort.
With an older house, you don’t want to go too modern in your design or it will clash with the best part of your home – the distinctive look. Instead, you’ll need to find a blend of the old and the new that works for your personal style. Consider hiring a professional designer that can present you with options tailored to your home, or better yet, hire a contractor that has a professional designer to call upon.
Old homes are charming and unique, but they will need help. Contact Fleschner Construction now and we can help with all aspects of your remodel!