Restoring that Old House? The Details Make the Difference

Shannon Lee

Gas Lighting - Beyond the City

In 1816, gas lighting lit up Baltimore, Maryland. These vivid white lights soon found their way to homes in cities all across America, and even some isolated farms took advantage of the new light source by creating their own piping and fixtures. Today, gas lighting gives an authentic touch to historic homes.

Cedar Vinyl Siding and Cedar Shake Vinyl Siding

Want the traditional look without the traditional upkeep? Cedar vinyl siding might be the answer. Designed using historically accurate dimensions and colors, cedar vinyl siding can add a touch of aged charm to your home while offering the benefits of modern construction techniques.


Restoring that Old House? The Details Make the Difference

Are you ready to restore that old house? The devil is in the details. To create a more authentic home, research the time period during which your house was built and plan the details accordingly. Start with the following points:

  • Exterior Colors. If you can track down old photographs or a written history of your home, choosing a historically accurate paint color will be easy. If you aren't that lucky, you can't go wrong with colors that mimic building materials, such as slate, clay, or wood.
  • Windows. Many old homes have windows that simply cannot be duplicated. Preserve the character of your windows by using caulk to seal up those drafty openings, and consider using shrink-plastic in the winter to save on electricity bills.
  • Floors and Walls. Many historic homes have beautiful hardwood floors that are weathered with age. Let the history speak through the wood by simply giving it a good scrubbing and then sealing it as appropriate. The same goes for old walls--don't destroy that plaster to run electric wires, and don't tear down the wood to put in tougher insulation. Preserve as much of the original interior as you can.
  • Lighting. Choosing lighting for your historic home can be tricky. It is important to keep the charm of the past, even as you enjoy the comforts of modern lighting. Antique fixtures that accept electricity are good options. Dual-fuel fixtures, popular in the early 1900s for their ability to run on either gas or electricity, are good period choices for early 20th century homes.
  • The Tiniest Details. Don't throw away that broken metal switchplate or those creaky hinges! The tiniest details can add life and accuracy to old houses. If it is original to the house, do your best to repair it. If you can't repair it, search for an original match as a replacement.
  • Antique Furnishings. The furniture you choose can make or break that historic feel. Study the furniture styles that were unique to the period during which your house was built, and then hit antique stores to find that perfect desk or clawfoot tub that matches your restoration.

History Lives on in Historic Houses
With meticulous research and careful planning, you can create a masterpiece of historical value out of that run-down old house. A good balance of keeping the past alive while enjoying all the modern conveniences is the key to breathing new life into that beautiful old home.


Gordon Bock • Putting Period Colors in Their Place • • http://www.oldhousejournal.comhttp://www.oldhousejournal.com/putting_period_colors_in_their_place/magazine/1394,
Cameron Huddleston • Restoring Historic Homes: A Primer • May 12, 2006 • http://www.kiplinger.comhttp://www.kiplinger.com/features/archives/2006/05/historichome.html,
How to Choose Lighting for Period Homes • • http://www.oldhousejournal.comhttp://www.oldhousejournal.com/how_to_choose_lighting_for_period_homes/magazine/1578,
Bill Kibbel • Gas Lighting - Beyond the City • • http://www.oldhouseweb.com/blog/gas-lighting-beyond-the-city/,
Cedar Vinyl Siding and Cedar Shake Vinyl Siding • • http://www.vinylsidingzone.comhttp://www.vinylsidingzone.com/cedarvinylsiding.html

About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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