4 Things to Consider Before Remodeling a Historic Home

historic home remodel

Historic homes are known for their rich history and charming character. They may have unique design elements and interesting details that are irreplaceable, like long, winding staircases with hand-crafted handrails and big, dreamy porches with high ceilings and wide floorboards. However, this character often comes with hidden challenges, especially when you’re remodeling a home that may be more than 100 years old. If you’re thinking about a historic home remodel, here are four things to consider before you start.

1. Check your city’s historic home requirements.

Depending on where you live, your city or county may have extensive rules and regulations about remodeling historic homes. Start your research here first.

Find out how your property is classified, and what changes you will be able to make to the home. Depending on your home’s age, location, and history, it may be designated as a “landmark,” or it may just be in a historic district. Either way, this is critical in planning your home renovation. The property designation and city requirements will help shape the boundaries for your renovation.

Once you have hired  a team of professionals with historic home renovation experience, find out if they’ve had experience working with the city or county where you’re located. They’ll need to navigate the city’s design review process, and if they’ve worked there before, it will make it easier to navigate your project within the city’s rules.

Check your city’s historic building rules here:

2. Check Your Home for Any Structural Issues

Structural issues are common in historic homes  and can be very costly to fix.The foundation may have corrosion, moisture damage, or an uneven slab. To find out if your home has structural issues, look for cracks in the foundation. If you see stair-step cracks or vertical cracks, you may have a structural problem. Consult a Structural Engineer if needed.

historic home remodel

3. Check Your Home’s Plumbing and Electrical Systems

In historic homes, the electrical wiring and plumbing may need major upgrades. Find out the age of the plumbing system, and find out what materials were used for the pipes. Different kinds of pipes last longer than others. Brass and copper pipes usually last 50 years or more, whereas steel pipes may only last for 20 years. Depending on the kind of pipes your home has, you may need to upgrade so that a pipe doesn’t break and cause major damage. Also, make sure you check for roots in your plumbing system. Root damage can wreak major havoc if undetected.

Similarly to the plumbing, the electrical system also has a limited lifespan. Most historic homes have wiring that’s unsafe due to the wire’s insulation. The insulation is only estimated to last 70 years, whereas modern wiring should last at least 100 years.

4. Estimate Asbestos Removal for a Historic Home Remodel

Another problem area in remodeling a historic home is managing the asbestos removal. Almost all homes built or renovated in the 1940s through the late 1970s have some amount of asbestos in the insulation, or in other building materials, according to This Old House.

The costs associated with asbestos abatement vary greatly, depending on the home’s size, and difficulty to remove the asbestos. Either way, this is an important issue and cost to understand early in the process.  

Now that you know a few of the potential issues with a historic homeremodel, let us know if you’d like to learn more about how Factor Design Build can bring your historic home back to life.