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Fast Facts About Renovating a Historic Home

09 September 2015

Although it’s no longer a new release, The Notebook is still a crowd pleaser.  One of the most endearing parts of the story line is when the main character Noah shows his future wife the interior of a rundown house that he promises to buy and restore some day.  Because the movie is more love story than HGTV, only a few minutes are devoted to showing the fixing up of the home.  However, anyone that’s actually undertaken such a substantial remodeling project on a historic home knows all too well what goes into preserving it.

window installation

Here’s What You Need To Know About Major Elements of a Historic Home: 

Insulation: Prior to the use of today’s insulation materials, it was not uncommon to find newspaper, horse hair and corn cobs used to insulate a home.  This is no laughing matter because the use of these materials makes a home much less energy efficient than it should be.  But before you start allocating money towards new insulation, it’s an intelligent move to get a home energy audit, complete with a blower door test.  A blower door uses a powerful fan that is mounted to an exterior door.  The fan pulls air outside of your home, allowing outside air pressure to flow through any unsealed cracks & openings.  This allows the technician to identify any areas that are lacking in insulation and in turn, appropriate solutions.  Installing your own insulation in a historic home is highly discouraged because you may be introducing it to areas that previously did not have it, and if the vapor barrier is disregarded, the insulation can become moist, rendering it ineffective.

cellulose Insulation

Plaster: The walls of most historic homes are a wood lath base with a few coats of plaster covering it.  This process needed to be done by a skilled laborer and the procedure is tedious.  Extra care must be taken to ensure the plaster was sleek & level.  Replacing the plaster with drywall can comprise a historic home’s integrity and even resale value.  If you’ve got areas that need attention, seek out a professional who can assist with repair of the plaster.


Flooring: Tour any historic home and you’ll be greeted with an abundance of hardwood floors.  One of the biggest cardinal sins of historic home renovation is covering them with carpeting or even worse, removing them completely.  When properly cared for, their lifespan is longer than yours.  They will need to be refinished or repaired from time-to-time.  Know that any contractor that suggests ripping them out is likely inexperienced and you should seek out a second opinion.  A helpful hint is to be sure to do any floor refinishing before you install any new appliances.

Learn More About Shopping For Appliances:

Plumbing & Electrical: Sigh…this is an area where sticking with the originals are highly discouraged (except for the claw foot soaking tub…keep that indefinitely!)  The plumbing & electrical in an old home rarely adhere to modern day building codes.  Most likely, the main panel, light fixtures and outlets should be updated.  This will prevent potential fire hazards.  It’s also a really smart idea to swap out galvanized pipes with copper or PEX ones.  Galvanized pipes are used minimally in modern-day plumbing projects because they corrode and promote blockages that inhibit the flow of water.

clawfoot tub

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