What to Consider When Undertaking a Historic Renovation

At Prince & Sons, we are currently renovating two homes that were constructed in the early 1900’s. One is located in downtown Durham and the other is in north Durham. Throughout this process we have encountered unexpected obstacles that could not have been avoided. These experiences made us think about a few common pitfalls that homeowners and contractors encounter during these types of renovations. Read on to learn more about what to expect and consider when undertaking a historic renovation.

Mistakes to Avoid During a Historic Home Renovation

  1.     Attempting to DIY your renovation – With all of the popular home renovation shows, it’s easy to motivate yourself into attempting a renovation project on your own. The trouble comes once that second Saturday morning cup of coffee wears off and that wall you just started ripping out has every utility from the past 100 years running through it. Historic homes almost always have scenarios such as this, which is why projects in historic homes of any size should be left to the professionals. Working with an experienced local general contractor is vital for a successfully executed historic renovation.
  2.     Vinyl windows – When undertaking a historic renovation you should try to preserve as much of the original detail of the home as possible, which can get expensive. One of these costly investments includes time-appropriate windows. While wooden windows are more expensive than vinyl windows and require more upkeep, they help to maintain the look of a historic home. Using wooden windows will allow homeowners to keep the original detail that made the home so attractive in the first place.
  3.     Avoid removing walls, if you can. – When planning a new design some homeowners become worried about major changes in the floorplan because of what is hidden within the walls.It is always wise to try to use the existing walls for that reason, but when you consider how historic homes were originally used and constructed, it isn’t always feasible to keep those existing floor plans. Most homes that were built more than 100 years ago won’t have a modern kitchen, but will instead have a retrofitted kitchen with a chopped up design and elements that were added as they came into existence. Experienced general contractors can help you to keep the charm of a historic property while still reworking the floorplan to work for you and your family.
  4.     Building with inferior materials – Many older homes feature unique woodwork and architectural details that are expensive or impossible to reproduce. A common mistake that homeowners make is attempting to restore or replace these features with replicas that lack the durability and quality of the original piece. These details can stand out when placed alongside original elements of your historic home. It’s always best to shop, and dig deep, at local salvage yards as they will have pieces that are relevant to the time period, even if it means spending a little more money.
  5.   Know the history of your home – There are many historic homes in the Durham area that have fascinating pasts that are ripe for being unearthed. If your home is in a historic district or is deemed a historic property, studying the lineage of past owners could answer many of the questions you may have about the architectural influences of your home. Speaking with neighbors and historic organizations could unveil history that would be influential in the design of your home renovation. The best piece of advice we can give anyone who is restoring a historic home is to take your time and do your homework.

Partner With Prince & Sons for Your Next Historic Home Renovation

At Prince & Sons we’ve had the privilege of working on several old homes in Durham and the surrounding Triangle area. If you’re interested in learning how to turn your old and tired home into a historic masterpiece, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today at 919-383-0888, or via email through our online contact form.

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