6 Common Home Renovations That Can Ruin the Historic Value of Your Home

Karen Lawson

Renovating your old home can be challenging when maintaining historical and architectural accuracy conflicts with adding modern conveniences. Depending on your renovation plans, you'll find that planning ahead (and having plenty of patience) is helpful. Here are six examples of renovation projects that can compromise your home's historic status and authenticity.

Best Renovation Projects Reconcile Old and New

Hiring a contractor specializing in historic home renovations can be essential when renovating an old home to historically accurate standards. You'll work closely with your contractor over a long period of time in order to satisfy a variety of local building code requirements and historic preservation concerns. Tread carefully when addressing the following six trouble spots in order to enhance and preserve your old home:

  1. Windows: Trumping your home's architectural and historic integrity with modern conveniences can cause trouble, unless you are careful. Although home energy efficiency is a top priority, ask your contractor about improving energy efficiency without compromising your home's appearance. The Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation notes that rebuilding damaged wooden window sashes and using original glass has been successful in meeting building code requirements while improving energy efficiency and maintaining historic integrity.
  2. Roofing: Historic preservation may require specific roofing materials and colors; it's important to verify specific requirements. Contemporary fire resistant roofing materials closely resemble traditional materials including wood, tile, and slate. Using contemporary roofing materials facilitates passing building inspections, but roofing materials must also conform to historic preservation requirements affecting your old home.
  3. Exterior paint and appointments: Historic preservation criteria may require the use of specific paint colors; research such requirements for finding appropriate paint and stains. Restrictions on paint color are most likely to occur in designated areas of historical importance and in cases where homeowners receive grant funding for performing historically accurate home renovations. Don't forget the details; there may also be special requirements for mail receptacles, lighting, trim, and hardware.
  4. Decks, Patios, and Porches: Adding or renovating these features requires sound knowledge of your home's historical period and architecture. Work with your contractor to meet your needs and expectations while maintaining architectural integrity.
  5. Pools and water features: Although water elements add to your enjoyment of your home, determining and planning for restrictions around installing or renovating water features for historic homes can help with avoiding delays and problems with historic designations and applicable zoning restrictions. Coordinating your plans with your contractor, code enforcement entities, and historic preservation agencies can help identify solutions for adding appropriate water features to your home.
  6. Landscaping: Combining design styles can complement your home, but owning a home of historical significance may require strict adherence to maintaining your home's historic integrity. Adding a Zen garden to the grounds of a traditional colonial home is unlikely to work for your local historical preservation committee. Researching plants, landscape materials and garden design elements compatible with preserving old home ambiance not only highlights your home's historic status, but may also enhance home value.

Preserving History While Meeting Current Building Codes: Coordinate and Communicate

Working with contractors specializing in historic home renovations is essential for saving time and achieving your desired results; these contractors can often mesh current building code requirements with the unique needs of a historically authentic home renovation. You can also reconcile the comfort of modern conveniences with historic authenticity by shopping for products and services geared toward meeting the needs of old home preservation projects.

Preserving historic authenticity while renovating an old home can be a painstaking labor of love. Coordinating with contractors, suppliers, building code compliance, and meeting requirements for historically accurate home improvements are significant aspects of completing best quality renovation projects. Planning for contingencies, delays, and cost overruns helps with avoiding potential problems and setbacks during your home renovation process.


Ariene Miles • Undertaking a historic preservation is no ordinatry home improvement project • May 30, 2009 • http://wwwdailyherald.comhttp://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=296869

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