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Historic Home Renovation: 3 Things to Know Before You Start

Historic Home Renovation: 3 Things to Know Before You Start

Living in a historic home is a unique experience. Let’s face it, not many people dreamt of living in a box made of glass, steel, and concrete. While modern architecture is not all that bad, it’s hard to argue that we haven’t regressed regarding visuals.

Historic homes are valued for their authenticity, and law often prohibits introducing too many changes.

Then again, some people don’t buy historic homes by choice. They inherit this home or spend the majority of their life living there. In other words, moving is not an option, although it’s hard to renovate. Others see living in a historic home as a matter of prestige.

Pros and cons

You should know several pros and cons of renovating a historical home.


While the advantages of renovating a home, like improving energy efficiency, protecting property, and boosting the quality of life, there are a few unique advantages to improving a historical home.

  • You get to preserve a piece of history. If you were bothered by the elements of the home, there’s always an option of selling the place and moving somewhere else. However, by renovating and investing yourself in the home’s upkeep, you’re actively working on preserving the local history and culture.
  • Chances are that the very reason you live there is a personal attachment. Few people buy historic homes, and even those who do, do it for a good reason. They’ve either always wanted to live in a similar place (for an obvious reason). Very few people do it on a whim since historic homes are usually not inexpensive. In other words, it’s either an inheritance, a birthright, or a choice.
  • Many people love the fact that historic homes are unique. Let’s be completely honest and say that modern architecture is … bland. Sure, it has amazing properties, but how can you compare glass and steel frames to all the marvels of architecture from other centuries? What the home lacks in inherent design, it can more than makeup through renovation.
  • Apart from this, there’s always a sense of personal accomplishment when you finally renovate a historic home and preserve something relevant for future generations.
  • Sometimes, if there’s a fire or a disaster, this is the only way to bring the property back to its former glory.

Owning a historic home is a huge reward; renovating it will amplify its positive sides.


The fact that you had to look up tips on renovating a historic home implies that this is not a standard procedure. There are many hidden problems, considerations, and hindrances here to consider.

  • When renovating a historic home, there are many limitations to what you can and can’t do. This makes the project incredibly difficult to navigate. The biggest challenge lies in modern amenities since you can’t replace old wooden-frame windows with PVC ones (even if they have a wood texture).
  • Because there are more things to watch out for, the cost of renovating a historic home will be somewhat higher. Remember to look for specialized materials and craftsmen, which won’t come cheap. It will also be harder for them to fit you into their schedule since they may already be booked.
  • More often than not, you’ll have to look for a special license. This means being at the mercy of an inspector and appraiser and waiting for a prolonged period for this to happen. You can’t even be in charge of the renovation schedule.
  • Then, there’s a higher risk that a historic home will have a hidden structural issue somewhere. Historic homes are older than regular real estate, and because renovating them is so hard, who knows when they were last renovated?

These troubles aside, at one point, a renovation becomes necessary. You can sell under value or proceed with the renovation at that point.

Check what has to be preserved

In the previous section, we’ve mentioned that you’ll have restrictions regarding which parts you can replace and which must stay in place. For instance:

  • Instead of outright replacing windows, you may have to go for storm windows.
  • All the major architectural features like decorative woodwork, stained glass, and ornate molding will probably have to be preserved.
  • Even in scenarios where you do choose to replace some elements, you’ll have to use historically-appropriate materials for the job.
  • When painting, you need to look for original or original-looking finishes. This involves elements like wallpapers, paint colors, etc.
  • Remember that this is not just restricted to the structure itself. Instead, it should apply to historic landscaping, as well.

All of this won’t be easy to execute. You’ll have to spend more time/effort planning, adhering to regulations, and finding the balance between modernization and preservation. While this may seem like too much work, the only alternative is to give up.

Can you do it on your own?

Generally speaking, renovation projects on historic homes should not be DIY. The law is there to protect this historic property from damage, not to protect it from unintentional damage caused by lack of skill or negligence. In other words, if you botch the DIY project, you’ll still have to pay the fine. This will make any idea of saving money on this project completely pointless.

Just think about what we’ve discussed earlier – many regular craftsmen lack the qualifications to handle historic home reviews. They’ll even outright refuse these projects, potentially directing you to someone else.

So, if a team of renovators with more experience in these matters doesn’t believe they can do this job right, you shouldn’t be overconfident about these matters either. It’s important to be realistic and know your limitations regarding these matters.

Wrap up

In the end, the renovation of historic homes is not impossible. Sure, it’s sometimes expensive and impractical, but it’s the only way. Preserving these historically significant homes is a matter of huge significance and requires a lot of planning and effort. The key thing is that you know what you’re up against and what you stand to gain. This should provide you with motivation and an outline of a plan. Then, carry on handling these issues step by step.