Old houses can have a beautiful history and bring back memories of times long gone. The spirit and “feel” of those homes can be hard to recreate in modern buildings. But some people still try – buying and renovating an old house can be a challenge. Like a lot of challenges it can be rewarding and leave you feeling like you have achieved an important personal feat after you’re done.
Usually, if a house has some obvious problems that need to be fixed, chances are that there are plenty of not so obvious problems that you will find sooner or later. Any owner of an old house can tell you that.
These “unforeseen challenges” are probably what sets renovating apart from simply building a house from scratch. You don’t just build from a set plan, but you have to respect the history while making the space your own.
In the end, most people that have gone through renovation will tell you that there is nothing more rewarding.
You can certainly try to tackle the job yourself, but you should try to get expert advice – especially at the beginning. Getting a walk-through by a building inspector or a construction manager who will help you make a to-do list is an absolute must if you don’t have any prior experience.
Think about the finished product – are you restoring the old house to its former glory or are you creating something completely new? Most people opt for the middle way out.
Recreating period architectural embellishments in an old interior can be very expensive and difficult. Sometimes it’s better to find modern solutions and still be respectful to the historic soul of your home.
Either way, you’re going to need a to-do list. It’s best to separate it by the job that needs to be done. What materials will you need?
Of course the finishing touches are always the easiest- you will choose the best interior paint, heaters, artwork and curtains. It’s the construction part that’s a bit more tricky.
What kind of wood do you need? Plaster? What tools do you need to apply it? You have to see what your local hardware store has to offer in terms of safety gear, plastic covers, protective clothing, glasses, gloves – but also tools like the best jigsaw, hammers, brushes, power sanders, buckets – you name it.
Take a look at some helpful tool lists for renovation.
Troubles in paradise
If there’s one thing that usually needs updating inside of an old home it’s the electrical system. Our modern appliances are no match for cranky wiring from the 1950’s – trust us. If you hook up a fridge, all your electronic devices, a washer and dryer and your Alexa to an overloaded system, it’s probably going to blow.
Another big item on the “trouble” list is the roofing. You have to check if your roof is solid and if it has any leaks. The best place to look is around the drains, and around the chimney. This is a common culprit for those pesky leaks. Make sure you snoop around in the attic. And if you don’t have an attic make sure you inspect any crawl spaces above your ceiling for leaks.
While you’re inspecting, check for signs of rodent or termite infestation. This might seem gross but rat poop is the number one way to tell if there are enemies about. Hire experts to deal with pests like termites. It’s best to get a tent before you start any construction.
The original plumbing system can get old and fail you. Not just because of old pipes corroding and causing havoc – if there are any trees on your property, the roots have a tendency to grow into old pipes and block them. If your toilet gets clogged way too often, this might be the cause. Professional plumbers will know what to do. Some of them even use a camera for a modern plumbing system colonoscopy.
It’s a good idea to divide your work by what’s a) absolutely necessary, b) somewhat necessary, and c) purely for your vanity. It’s not that the c’s aren’t important – they really are! But they’re probably the things that can wait until later.
Make a priority list for your project. Start with fixing things that are causing more damage – like leaky roofs, windows that aren’t air tight and leaking expensive heat into the great outdoors. This is more important than replacing the rugs!
Here you can find some tips on how to cut costs on your renovation.
Take your time
Don’t rush yourself. Renovating an older house can be difficult because of unexpected disasters and sudden costs. But it doesn’t mean it’s not worth it – easy does it.
One way to save money is to see when certain materials are the cheapest, and buy them out of season. Ask for multiple estimates from contractors. Don’t be rude, but try to bargain a little.
In older houses you can also try to collect vintage materials to use in your remodel. It might take more time to land the perfect deal but it’s worth waiting. You’ll feel more like a hunter than a builder.
Here you can find some tips on how to save money.
Get ready for some fun!
There are tons of DIY solutions that while time consuming, when done right can have a much better outcome than the same old store-bought stuff. Stencils instead of wallpapers, much loved and tedious furniture restoration projects – these are what will make your house individualistic and truly your own. There are tons of home improvement shows these days – while not all of their solutions are sensible or a good idea, it’s great to sit back with some popcorn and see if you can get inspired. Or just learn from others’ mistakes.
If you aren’t a handy one, it’s not a problem. Everyone learns new things all the time. Start with looking up for some ideas on Pinterest or Instagram, and start building incredible decorations!
Renovation of an old home can be overwhelming and takes a lot of time and money.
Make a plan for your project and budget. Save money by making your priorities clear.
Don’t rush yourself and do it at your own pace. Most of all – create new memories. Every old house should have a photo book of renovations. Create a before and after album you can show to guests later!