You’re completely in love with the historic pull and quirkiness. Exciting renovation schemes battle one another inside your humming brain even as you survey obvious wear and decay. It would be amazing to put your stamp of individuality on this old place and bring it new life — if the project isn’t more involved and problematic than you anticipate.
One thing every old home renovation has in common is its inherent potential for uncovering the unexpected. How high is your tolerance for surprise? Sure, it would be great if this home came with a chummy ghost to nanny your kids and give you suggestions on what to cook for dinner. But what if previous owners had a pervasive affinity for thick, garish lead paint and alarmingly casual electric wiring attitudes?
Don’t worry! We’ve compiled several time-honored rules that, when followed during old home renovation projects, significantly increase your likelihood of ultimate safety and success.
Be proactive from the get-go and carefully examine areas of concern. Are the windows drafty? How even are the foundation and interior flooring? Does current placement of major appliances sound off any criss-cross wiring alarms?
Check the structure for possibility of asbestos, radon and lead. Many traditional forms of insulation center around the toxic material asbestos, which can be costly and hazardous to remove. Radon, a radioactive gas, commonly enters a home through worn foundation cracks. And if either the interior or exterior of your home was painted before 1978, chances are high the paint utilized is lead-based.
Perhaps the most pervasive common pitfall in an old home renovation is the presence of mold. Whether a habitually poor drainage system is to blame or a singular plumbing event that was never adequately fixed and cleaned, once mold enters a home it systematically destroys structural materials and significantly compromises the health of inhabitants.
Luckily, mold is relatively easy to spot by casual observation. Look for telltale stains on walls or furniture. Check if stains are fuzzy. Those are active mold spores. Other common places to look for mold growth are the inside of shower curtains, exterior ceiling corners and window pane perimeters.
Factor a 10-20% allowance in your bottom-line budget for unexpected hazard removal. Alleviate any potentially dangerous issue you discover completely and with finality. Short-cut solutions tend to cost more in the long run and often have unbidden health consequence. You owe it to yourself and your family to choose safety over everything else. If you are stretching yourself for this part of the renovation, consider a home improvement loan.
Many eccentric old house elements are not, in and of themselves, hazardous. So, you’ll want to consider embracing unusual details and either renovate around or cleverly showcase them! For example, you can tile an uneven floor using a diagonal pattern that camouflages irregular lines. Install energy-efficient outer cases to frosted or stained-glass windows that protect both their original charm and viability.
Consulting with your local building inspector during the planning stage of renovation will save yourself a lot of time and aggravation. They are up-to-speed on current safety rules and regulations, and can often help you honor your home’s classic architectural design.
Consequently, contractors and architects with experience in historical restoration are your best bet for overseeing main structural projects such as electric, plumbing and HVAC. Your local land use office will have surveyed record of past renovations. Check whether or not they received approval upon completion. If anything was left outstanding, you can incorporate the structural issue into your new design.
Whenever possible, choose sustainable systems and materials. If the roof needs replacing, look into solar panels or green roof options for historic buildings. To take it one step further, invest in a water collecting method that protects your home from mold and recycles rainwater for interior use.
Re-use wood, metal, tiles and glass. Save interior hardware and light fixtures. If you cannot use them in your final design, donate them.
Whether your renovation project ends up large- or small-scale, attention to these cardinal rules should keep things flowing smoothly with minimal surprise-factor. You never know, that nanny chef ghost option may still be a possibility!