American Homeowners Association Membership  
American Homeowners Association



Tips for Renovating Historic Homes

Beauty is in the eyes of the homeowner. When it comes to historic homes, a "basic fixer-upper" to one homeowner is a true "work of art" to another. One might be more interested in a fresh coat of paint, while the other considers authentically restoring the entire home to its former glory. Whether it's quick modernization or a major historic renovation, each approach demands planning and consideration to make sure the historic importance and market value of the home are protected.

Quick Renovation Tips
If you're bored with your historic home's appearance, and don't want to stick to the original color scheme or materials, there are some basic ground rules to follow. Your major concern is to avoid using materials or methods that, when removed, might damage the original walls, floors or other features. The main rule is if you can't reverse whatever your changing, then don't change it in the first place. Why? Consider the bottom line at resale. The reason to leave the original historic materials intact is economic-your home will almost surely have a higher resale value with those interior finishes intact. Here are the ground rules:

Don't slap on acoustical ceiling tiles, drywall or paneling with nails, mastic or other methods that might damage paneling or plaster.

Don't paint over surfaces that aren't already painted, especially hardwood. The same goes for brick, tile, metal, glass and concrete surfaces-treat them with respect.

Research your home and get to know what makes it unique in terms of architecture, materials, and design. You'll enjoy your home more and know how to preserve its value.

Major Historical Renovations

A hands-on restoration is a unique challenge that requires real dedication and care. It's not for everyone. Before you take the plunge, consider the demands on your time, money and sanity. And make sure you take advantage of ways to reduce stress.

Protect Your Investment. First of all, be sure you're adequately insured for the higher replacement costs of an historical home. Check with your home insurance company about special programs for authentic or unusual homes, and update your insurance as your renovation goes along.

Budge for Major Systems First. Assess heating, plumbing and electrical first, since these are likely to be outdated and costly to replace. They also make the home comfortable or totally inhabitable, depending on their working condition.

Bite Off Smaller Chunks. Plan to move room by room, instead of tearing up the whole house, to make your job more manageable. It's better to enjoy the satisfaction of completing one room, than to postpone your gratification and prolong the entire process.

Explore Special Historic Renovation Programs. Is your house in a special historic district? Guidelines might control your renovation plan or you might have to get approval from a historic planning board. On the other hand, the advantage of historic designation is there might be financial assistance available from local, state or national organizations. Also, find out if you qualify for a federal HUD Rehab loan (203k) that provides up to 97 percent of the cost to make the home habitable as part of the mortgage.

Copyright © 2001, AHA, the American Homeowners Association, Stamford, Connecticut, USA All Rights Reserved.