From turn-of-the-century painted ladies to mid-Victorian era farmhouses, old homes have a certain charm that captures the imagination. But along with their unique charm, older houses often bring a unique set of challenges. Restoring old homes can be difficult, but for those willing to put forth the effort, the rewards are worthwhile. These tips for restoring an old house will help you get started.

Prioritize

When you first step into an old home, there might be only a few major projects to tackle or a hundred little ones. Either way, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why it’s good to sit down and make a list of all the major projects you need to complete in the house and rank them by priority. Always start with the practical projects first, specifically things that are necessary to preserve the integrity of the house. Look at the roof, foundation, masonry, and windows throughout the house before turning toward more aesthetic-based projects.

Research

Every home has its own history, and understanding that history will help you both appreciate your home and make informed choices while renovating it. For instance, knowing the type of material used in the era and geographic area of your house may alert you to potential weaknesses in parts of the house. Knowing the methods for building certain aspects of the house will also help you interact with historic pieces without damaging them and restore them properly.

Preserve

In the past, building materials for homes were sturdier than they are today, so although we may enter a home with the mindset of replacing outdated things, we are often better off preserving much of the old architecture. For instance, plaster is much sturdier and less prone to water damage than drywall, so you should preserve it when possible.

Some historic aspects of the home will need a little more work to preserve because of the choices ensuing homeowners made. They may have covered wood flooring with carpeting or original woodwork with paint. Removing the newer aspects while preserving the older takes a lot of effort and care, but it’s worth it.

Replace

But as much as our goal for restoring old houses is to maintain their historic flourishes, it is important to know when to replace features that may be dangerous. For instance, having your paints and plumbing inspected for lead is necessary for maintaining safe air and water quality in the house. You may need to hire a professional or do careful research into safe methods of removing old paint and plumbing in your house.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.