Old House Renovation Newbies: Read Here First

By: JoVon Sotak , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Home Improvement Tips

This post is delayed.

And this post is delayed because my home renovations are delayed because my loan is delayed. As many of you know, I’m in the process of buying a home built in 1905 that belonged to my grandmother but I’m currently living there.  It’s been in my family for over 60 years, but there was a small chain of title issue with regard to a bit o’ the property that’s caused huge delays.

I’m a planner. I consider myself prepared. I think a whole lot. So I didn’t go into this whole “old house” thing with my heat gun blazing.  But I had plans to achieve some major renovations over the summer, including putting a new roof and gutters on the house. But that couldn’t get done until the bathroom roof (separate roof line) was tore off, the walls built up, and the house’s roof line extended. But that couldn’t get done until I’d taken care of the electrical for the bathroom, which included adding a few more breakers to the box. But at that point, because I’d planned to drywall, I was told it made sense to replace the wiring so I could have up-to-code GFI outlets. I wasn’t going to paint until I could drywall, of course, and I wasn’t going to replace the floors until the walls were done. On top of all of that, I was advised not to fence my new property until I cleared up an easement issue with the county that affects where I put that fence. In short, I’ve done absolutely nothing to the house this summer. And now the summer is over.

But the loan isn’t closed. And although I trust my family, it just doesn’t seem prudent to do those types of costly renovations on a home I don’t own. So, my trusty dog and I who have been living fenceless (neither of us is happy about that) and in a house with absolutely disgusting carpet waiting for this loan to close have decided to move into a rental in preparation for these winter renovations. Though a lot of folks can live in a home rennovation-in-progress, I know I can’t especially when I work from home. When the paint cans were inside my house during the month of May, that drove me crazy. The floors tore up and furniture crammed and stacked?  No way.

In the meantime, I decided to take a biggg step back and explore the notion of scope when it comes to old home renovations. I’m new at this. It’s easy to get carried away by thinking that it all needs to be done, especially when the house and I have history. In light of this, I’ve been cruising OldHouseWeb.com and other renovation sites to try and get a handle on scope and how to determine (especially from a resource perspective) how to proceed and plan. Here is a list of articles and resources that I’ve found helpful (and really have my head in a spin):

  • I figured I better read about six common renovations that ruin the historic value of my home before I do something that ruins my home (like the roof I was planning).
  • Inspection checklist: Very helpful when trying to discuss your new old home with other people who are trying to help. Much better to have a list to reference than to constantly repeat, “You know, I’m not sure about that.”
  • The OHW forums are full of great advice: “Also we usually strongly suggest that you live in the house for a bit to get a feel for it and what it needs - rushing in to finish things before December - well - that’s a lot of work between now and then and will likely cause you to make decisions you’ll later regret.”  Umm, spoke right to me.
  • How about an article on being prepared when remodeling old houses?  This one made me feel better because my house doesn’t have some of those problems!
  • Am I ready for these renovations? Umm, maybe not?
  • Perhaps I shouldn’t remodel this house at all?  Definitely lots to think about.

Feel free to suggest more in the comments, and I’ll add them to the post so that new OHN have a good list to work from.

Read the second article in this series: Old House Newbies: Renovation Assessment & Preparedness