Intro: Rehabilitation vs. Remodeling

The Old House Web

Editor's Note: The good news is that standards for rehabilitation exist. The bad news is that they are embedded in volumes of dense government publications.

We've taken material from the National Park Service's Web site and turned it into what we hope is a user-friendly guide to rehabilitation do's and don'ts. The NPS guidelines are based on the Department of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings.

Who establishes these standards, anyway?

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Don't: sandblast historic brick

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Do: clean old masonry gently

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior is responsible for establishing standards for all programs under his/her authority and for advising federal agencies on the preservation of historic properties listed in, or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The standards exist in both on paper and in numerous government Web sites.

Judging from Old House Web's Bulletin Boards alone, however, much confusion controversy surround the concepts of rehabilitation, renovation, restoration and repair.

Some disputes are easy to resolve -- changes that substantially alter the appearance of a house -- adding a sun room to an 1800s federal style house, for example -- clearly fall outside the realm of restoration. Damaging historic brickwork in a misguided attempt to clean, as pictured above, obviously does not meet anyone's standards for rehabilitation.

Other examples are less clear cut. For example, is it rehabilitating or remodeling if you update your 1920s electrical system to so that you can use the coffee maker AND the toaster at the same time? What about an ell added to a 1700s farmhouse 75 years after it was built? Would you remove the addition, or restore it along with the main house?

On to Part 1.

Note: The full version of the Department of Interior's Guidelines for Rehabilitation is available in The Old House Web's story archives, for those of you who want more detail.

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