Living in an older house can be a great experience. Older homes have more character and don’t look just like every other house in the neighborhood. At some point, though, you may think about making the rooms bigger, bringing in more light, or doing a bathroom or kitchen remodeling project. On the other hand, remodeling older homes brings up its own set of issues. Here are some things to consider before you begin:
Evaluate the house: Have experts examine the plumbing, electrical system, and structure. You will probably need to upgrade the electrical system at the very least, but you should understand what other changes you will need to make. A structural engineer can tell you how much the structure of the house has deteriorated and what changes you can make safely.
Consider the walls: Many walls in older homes are load bearing because builders couldn’t easily support larger spaces. If you can’t remove a wall, create an archway or leave a decorative column to keep the floors above from sagging.
Plan for the exterior: If you’re designing an addition, be sure that it harmonizes with the rest of the house. You don’t want something that sticks out like a sore thumb. Sometimes you can use modern materials, but make sure the architectural details remain consistent. Not only will this help to preserve the house’s character, it will ensure that it remains attractive to future older- house buyers.
Interior: Preserve as many of the original details – molding, hardware, carving, stenciling – as you can. The remodeled part of the house should echo these little touches. Focus on using similar materials, colors, and construction techniques. See how many parts of the original house you can keep. Repair vintage interior doors. Repair and refinish damaged floors. And reglaze that claw-footed tub!
Energy Efficiency: Most older houses aren’t very energy efficient, but a remodeling project gives you the opportunity to change that. See where you have insulation, if any, and plan to add more. Look into replacing windows and exterior doors with more energy efficient models.