Tips for Remodeling a Historic Home

Roofing a historical home

Historical Home’s Slate Roof

To remodel a historic home, you have to be extremely dedicated to this project and be interested in the history behind the home and the time era it was built and maintained.  Research other homes of that era.  This will take research on the internet or by talking to historians.  It’s not like you can take a drive and look at homes built within the past 20 years.  If your house is historic, chances are there are other ones in the neighborhood that are very close to yours.  After all, the people that bought the other historic home have the same goal as you do………to preserve and restore.  That being said, talk to your neighbors and share ideas. 

Home Interior

 Get to know what makes the home unique in terms of architecture, materials used, and design of construction. Be realistic about the costs you will incur.  If it truly is historic, chances are that many of the crucial necessities to live in it may be damaged or not work at all.  Assess heating, plumbing and electrical first, since these are likely to be outdated and costly to replace.  Updating the electrical wiring and HVAC are 2 items that will certainly require attention to your budget.  You will need to install wiring that meets current building code.  Best to get a license electrician in Atlanta to perform this job.  To get to your wiring you will have to take down the walls to the studs or lath.  Be mindful of the walls you are taking down as you want to make them look as close to what they originally looked like. Do your best not to use drywall.  If you must, use wall board and consider adding a texture to it simulating the old surface.

One of the most unique characteristics of a historic home is its woodwork.  The moldings and staircases were beautiful pieces of art in the older homes.  This is truly the signature of a skilled carpenter.  Try to find a cost effective way to get the woodwork looking as close as possible to the original design.  It will be very costly to have a woodworker create an exact replica of the wood designs used during that time period so use current wood moldings in a way that are reflective of the ones used at that time. 

Home Exterior

When new homes are built, it’s planned by an architect and a builder at the same time.  That part hasn’t changed whether it is new or ones from 100 years ago.  When restoring your old home, everything should remain to scale the way it was originally built.

When looking to replace a slate roof, do some research on the expected longevity of the tile used on the roof?   Do regular maintenance.  Maintenance in this case would be close visual inspections.  Since you DO NOT want to climb on the roof, you may want to use a pair of binoculars to get that close up look.  If you see signs of deterioration or broken slates, get in touch with a roofer who specializes in slate roofs.  Get multiple quotes and inspections.  Shop around for a slate restorer.  Some will be cheaper than others.  Ask your neighbors how they restored theirs and who they used. 

Try to re-use the old wooden windows.  You will probably have to replace the glass (which is an easy fix and not extremely expensive) but will not be able to find a new frame built with the same style as the wooden one.  Use the wooden frame as long as possible.  Only you can be the judge on when to replace them with ones built with new material.  If you have a window with leaded glass, check to make sure all the mosaic pieces are solid and held in place.  If one piece of glass comes loose the rest of the pieces may also shift making the window irreplaceable.

New Jersey’s Historic Preservation Office, located within the Department of Environmental Protection, brings expertise in a variety of fields essential to preserving historic resources.  You can contact them for rules and guidelines to follow in your preservation.

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