8 Tips for Restoring an Old Home

 

 

It’s hard to argue that old homes seem to be loaded with a unique character, and each one is different.  Older homes have a charm about them that is almost impossible to mimic with a newer home.  The draw to restore old homes comes from these principles, and they are well-founded.  Even those who prefer newer homes to live in can’t seem to resist the “Before and After” looks of an old home restoration.  That being said, the task of restoring an old home isn’t for everyone.  However, if it is something to which you would like to commit (after much careful and realistic consideration), these tips may prove themselves helpful.

 

 

Remember: Restore, not Replace

 

An older home is given its character by its unique features.  The high ceilings, the crown molding of the cabinetry, the old brass door handles, the windows that stretch almost to the floor.  Your goal is to update the necessities but maintain the integrity of the old home.  Rather than replace those old windows with newer, more energy-efficient ones, consider resealing the panes or installing efficient storm windows to the exterior of the window frame.  Rather than buying new, more tightly-fitting and tidy wood flooring, consider sanding and refinishing the original wood floors.  The goal of restoring an old home should be to honor the home’s structure and character, while modernizing it through decorating, appliances, and energy efficiency.  Additionally, original doors and windows mean a lot to an old home’s value. 

 

Don’t Give in to Fads

 

Open floor plans are wonderful.  It’s no wonder that they came into the scene with a wave of popularity and have maintained that status for a long time.  When buying an old home, it can be tempting to knock down walls to give that old home an open floor plan… However, despite their seemingly never-ending reign at the moment, their time, too, will pass.  Open floor plans didn’t exist in most older homes, and, therefore, they don’t really do a whole lot to maintain the integrity of the old home. A great alternative to completely changing the floor plan is widening doorways between rooms.  Here, you can utilize almost all of your home’s original framing while giving the flow of the home a lot more flexibility. 

 

Save the Flooring!

 

If at all possible, save the original hardwood flooring that you found under the carpet in the living room.  Yes, it’s old, discolored, and possibly damaged, but it can turn out beautifully.  Regardless of whether or not you plan on hiring a professional to restore the floors for you, you should still have one come for a consultation.  Old carpet backing often contained asbestos, and you want to be sure that you don’t have any on your floors before you begin sanding. 

 

Clean the Tile

 

Before you go all-out on tearing out that old tile, give it a really, really good scrubbing.  It can be easy to look at old tile and think:  A. WOW- Outdated, and B. GROSS- Very dirty.  However, with the right cleaning supplies,  you can get that old tile to shine again, and after looking at the refreshed tile for a week or so, you may be struck with an amazing idea for a beautiful restored room!

 

Keep the Cabinets

 

It can be tempting for those buying an older home to want to rip down the old cabinets in the kitchen and replace them with tidy, clean, and fresh newly-made substitutes.  However, the melamine and MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) cabinets that are readily available are not made to last in the long-term.  Your cabinets, however rough they may look now, were made to last for many years. Strip them, sand them, and refinish them.  The work put in will pay off exponentially. 

 

Keep Counters Authentic

 

If you plan on updating the counters in your kitchen or bathroom, stick to a material that was available in the period your home was built.  A Formica kitchen top will not have been in a home that was built in 1902.  By using materials that were available in the time your home was built, even if the material wasn’t originally used in the home, you are keeping the time frame cohesive throughout the home. 

 

Refinish Sinks and Tubs

 

Just like with everything mentioned on this list, these things lend an awful lot to the character of your old home.  There are many ways that you can modernize a bathroom while maintaining an original restored sink and tub. A new coat on porcelain might cost a few hundred dollars, but it will cost less than gutting your entire bathroom and having a new bath/shower installed.

 

Don’t Bite off More Than You Can Chew

 

The thought of restoring an old home can be enticing to many individuals, but before you jump in to that task, be sure to do your research and due diligence.  A home with a good solid structure and that requires mostly cosmetic updates, though still very time-consuming and difficult, is worth restoring much more than a home with foundation or pest issues.  Before signing the paperwork, it’s a good idea to consult some professionals to discuss what exactly would need to happen for the changes you are wanting to make.  From there, you can better assess whether or not that particular home is right for you.


Overall, the main thing that a Buyer should be concerned with when considering whether or not to Buy an old home is honesty to one's self.  A buyer needs to be aware enough to realize that a project rarely gets completed without hiccups, and that there is a lot of work and time invested when re-doing an old home.  If it is something that you decide you are capable of, just remember to have fun while doing it!