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8 Tips for Restoring an Old Home

by The Linda Frierdich Group - Century 21 Advantage


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!




Common House Problems & How to Identify Them

by The Linda Frierdich Real Estate Group

What to Look Out for:
Home Issues and How to Identify Them When Home Searching


To be the best consumer you can be, it's not a bad idea to get familiar with identifying the issues that can arise from the product in which you are wanting to purchase.  A home inspector will be able to identify any major and minor issues in a home, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with familiarizing yourself to the potential problems that can exist in a home and how to identify them when preparing for searching for a home.  If nothing else, that gained knowledge will surely make the Buyer feel more confident about the Home Search in general.  Not all issues in a home are easy to see.  Here are some tips regarding things to look out for when searching for a home.

These tips can even help those who currently own a home identify potential problems that could possibly be evident in their own home.


Potential Structural Problems

Stand Away from the House:

Sometimes, very big structural problems will only be apparent from a distance away from the house.  When leveling a picture on the wall by "eyeing it up," do you stand close to the wall, or do you back up a few feet?  Sometimes it's hard to see when things aren't aligned right when we are up close to them.

Also, take anything with a straight edge, and hold it up to the roofline, foundation line, whatever you can, from across the street, to see if there is any noticeable sagging.  This can be caused by a number of problems with the home.  

Stand at a Corner and Look Down the Length of the House

If you've ever required very straight lumber for a project, chances are you've stood in the aisle at a home improvement store, going through every 1x2 by laying one end on the ground and holding the other up to your one open eye.  From that angle, the bowing or impurities are a lot more evident.  This is true of a house, as well.  By looking down the length of the house, it becomes easier to spot any bowing in or out that may be happening with the foundation or frame of the home. 

Walk around the Home to Look for Any Cracks

Look for exterior wall cracks, and even take note of those that have signs of being repaired but have opened again.  Especially take note of cracks that come from the corners of windows and doors, as well as those that leave the opposite side of the crack looking lopsided.

Look for any gaps that make it look like aspects of the home are moving apart from one another.  For instance, where a deck meets the home, or lines that exist where walls meet.

Feel Around with Your Feet When Walking through the House

When walking around the interior of the home, feel around with your feet to see if you notice any sloping, bumps, or divets in the flooring.  

Poor Drainage or Grading

Water in the home is something that all homeowners are afraid of, and understandably so- water in the home can lead to cracking in the foundation.  Many water problems in a home are caused by poor drainage or grading.  Although poor drainage isn't always easily detected, there are a few signs you can look out for.  If a yard has puddles of standing water, it probably has poor drainage.  Overflowing gutters, water stains in the basement of the home, and evidence that mulch or landscaping ground cover gets moved around when it rains are all signs that the home could have a problem with proper drainage.  

It's important that the grading around a home slopes away from the home's foundation, so that water run-off makes its way away from the foundation.  However, there are some inexpensive projects that can ease the water around the foundation, such as installing gutter extensions that lead water further from the home to a place where the grading will lead the water away from the home.


Pest/Insect Problems

Look for Bugs

This may seem obvious, but it is nonetheless important.  Remember, bugs are really good at hiding!  Check places like the kitchen and bathroom for live bugs, and check places like the basement and window ledges for dead bugs.

Keep an eye out for droppings and nests

Researching the best ways to identify pest droppings may sound disgusting, but it's a great way to identify pest problems within the house.  Once you can identify the animal that the droppings came from, you can get a better idea of how to deal with the infestation.  Along with the droppings research, be sure to look into identifying roach eggs and evidence of bed bugs, so that you may be on the lookout for that as well.

Animals like rats and mice like to build nests where in the areas they have infested.  Be sure to check behind appliances and in cabinets for scraps of paper or similar materials that can be used to make a nest.

Use Your Nose!

It's a bit gross, but some pests emit distinct odors where they have infested.  For instance, rats smell like ammonia, and mice have a distinct urine smell.  If you smell this in a home you are interested in buying, it might be a good idea to do a little extra looking around for other signs of an infestation.

Signs of Termites

A termite problem is potentially fatal to a home's structural solidity, given that they dine on wood.  Keep an eye out for termite damage, which includes visible holes in wood, sagging floors, and wood that sounds hollow when tapped.  Termite wings that have been shed from the bugs, and fecal pellets that are tan and resemble sawdust may be signs of an infestation, as well.


Amateur Repairs

Patches of Paint in the Home

There is nothing to be alarmed about when a home on the market has fresh paint.  A fresh coat of paint can do a lot to spruce up a home when preparing it for the market; in fact, it even can cut back on odors in the home!  However, there is something to be alarmed about if you notice that there is only one spot on a wall with fresh paint.  The owner could have simply been patching a hole, but there is also a chance that the fresh paint is hiding a problem behind it.  While this is a very open-ended potential problem, it is still worth checking into.  

DIY Home Repairs

While it is true that many home owners are perfectly capable of properly completing some repairs on their homes, it is also true that many are not.  Sometimes there is an overlap of do-it-yourself home repairs and those two types of home owners.  The issues caused by those DIY repairs are often seen on "flipped" homes, because sometimes the "flippers" are not necessarily qualified to do all the repairs that the home needs.  The most common of these problems are related to plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work.  These issues would typically be found in a house inspection, but the evidence of these projects is nonetheless important to look out for.  It is always important, when looking at a home you are interested in, to check for signs of leaky faucets and pipes, as these things can cause big problems but are easily identified.

Stains on Walls and Ceilings

Sometimes a stain on a wall or ceiling can be from an issue with the home that has since been fixed.  However, it is important to find out what caused the stains, because they could be evidence of an ongoing issue.  These stains could be caused from a plumbing issue or a leak in the roof.  No matter what, if you see a stain in the home, it is very important to inquire about it and try to find what caused it.  

Evidence of Electrical Problems

Electrical issues should always raise a red flag for a potential home Buyer.   It is important that older homes, especially, have updated fuse boxes and electrical panels.  Sometimes it can be hard to identify potential issues for those buyers who aren't experienced with electricity, so here are some simple things you can do to check for signs of electrical problems.  You should always turn on and off every light switch, check for any signs of flickering when the switch is moved, and check outlets for darkening caused by a plug getting too hot from pulling too much current.  It is also important to remember that a home inspector will more easily be able to identify any issues with wiring or electricity, so there is no need to be too worried about your own investigative skills.


In Summation...

The problems indicated in this article are identified most accurately by a home inspector.  Never jump to conclusions about any evidence of issues in a home that you are interested in buying, because some problems are expected.  For instance, it is rare for older homes to not display some time of cracking due to years of settling.  A home inspector, however, will be able to identify what cracks are less important and which ones should be worrisome.  

The information here is intended to give you a general idea of what issues are most common and how to identify them, because sometimes it can help you choose which home is the right one for you.  It all depends on what you are looking for, but this should help at a surface level in your Home Search.  

This article should also portray why it is so important to hire a good buyers agent to help you in your Home Search.  Buyers Agents have seen many of these issues, and they will always be on the lookout for any potential problems in the home.  They want to help you find the best home for you, and they are knowledgable about the common issues that arise in homes.  



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The Linda Frierdich Real Estate Group
Century 21 Advantage
103 S Main St
Columbia IL 62236
IL: 618.281.7621

138 Concord Plaza Dr
Saint Louis MO 63128
MO: 314.649.0221
Fax: 618.281.4311

Linda Frierdich is the area's premier real estate professional, offering services in St Louis, Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Crestwood, Ballwin, Arnold, Fenton, Oakville, Columbia, Waterloo, Millstadt, Valmeyer, Dupo, Belleville, O'Fallon, Mascoutah, Fairview Heights, Smithton, Ruma, Hecker, New Athens, Edwardsville, Collinsville, Caseyville, Shiloh, Swansea, Monroe County, Madison County, St Clair County, and Randolph County.  Her team focuses on resale homes, new construction, first time home buyers, condos, farms, land sales, subdivisions, lot sales, single family, multi-family, commercial, foreclosures, bank owned property, military relocation, and building. This site offers options to search real estate in Columbia Illinois and other areas. We offer buyer and sellers services second to none!

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