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Buying an old house often means you’re now the proud owner of a fixer-upper! But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Restoring an older home is a good investment that maintains its value over time, while adding character and a sense of history to the neighborhood.

Although there’s’ a wealth of opportunity and joy in bringing an old house back to life, it’s no small undertaking. Planning and detailing the scope of every design feature in clear, specific terms is the key to a successful restoration. Consider the following four points:

  • Floors. Many older homes have beautiful, weathered hardwood floors. Retain a bit of history by simply giving them a light sanding and staining, with sealing if needed.
  • Windows. It can be difficult to precisely duplicate an older home’s original windows. But it can be done (albeit at an increased cost), and there are a variety of windows with varying degrees of authenticity available for most style homes. One important point to keep in mind is that restoring old windows does not address their inefficiency. We typically recommend replacement, especially if you want to get rid of dated, unattractive storm windows that were installed after the house was built.
  • Lighting. Lighting sets the mood, so if you want to keep the charm of the past while enjoying modern convenience, antique fixtures that can be wired are a good option.
  • Salvage. Along with larger pieces like fireplace mantles and old doors, we’re talking about even the tiniest of details: metal switch plates, old brass hinges, shutter dogs, and glass doorknobs. Repurposing them adds charm and accuracy to an older home.

History lives on in an older house and you can create a testament to the past with a quality restoration. Striking a balance of keeping the past alive while adding modern conveniences is the blueprint for breathing life into a beautiful older home.

Where to Start When Restoring an Old House

Though there are exceptions, most of our clients with older homes want to keep the look and charm of the architecture, but aren’t necessarily looking to restore the house to historic conditions. There is considerably more financial investment when you do a full historic restoration as opposed to an upgrade, as well as creating limits to what you can achieve in terms of form and function.

No matter which route you decide to go, special care must be taken when dealing with old structures and the materials used to build them. We’ve worked on enough old homes to know that the satisfaction people feel when all is said and done is well worth the time, effort, and money that go into them.

With any home restoration project, the best place to start is with your budget. That means deciding how much you can comfortably spend, knowing there may be things you want or need to add as the project evolves. After that, make a list of priorities. First list the things you absolutely need in order of importance. Finish with the things you want, but can do without if the budget is not enough.

What Comes First?

There are your needs and then there are your home’s needs. Your home’s needs are not always immediately evident.  A good design/build company can help you identify them. Here are a few examples.

  • We sometimes find broken pipes or hidden water damage inside walls that cannot be seen until the walls are opened.
  • The electrical, plumbing, and heating systems must be in good condition or otherwise be repaired to meet modern code, safety, and efficiency standards.
  • Are the roof and foundation in good condition? If either of these items are inadequate they should be addressed at the planning stage.
  • Is there evidence of insect damage? Even minor damage should be inspected for active infestation and structural integrity
  • Are there water problems in the basement? These can often be solved fairly inexpensively.

Once you’ve determined what the house absolutely needs, it’s time to prioritize your needs and wants. Most old house restorations include new kitchens and bathrooms. You may also want to add a new bedroom or new windows and doors. Determine what you can’t live without, then continue with the list in order of importance,  finishing with the things you can comfortably cut if the budget is not enough.

Why Design Build is Best for Restoring an Old House

To get started on your project, we suggest talking to a company like ours to learn how the design build process works. In short, design build is a method that involves planning and restoring your old home from concept to completion by a coordinated team. This streamlined method allows for improved communication, which results in  a design that is likely to both meet your budget and avoid frustrations typical of doing things with separate, independent groups.

We are passionate about restoring older houses to their former glory! To envision your own old house restoration, take a look at some of the historic homes we’ve done over the years.

Learn More

Home restoration is all about the details! We’ve been transforming Main Line area homes for nearly 30 years and have honed our process into a tried and true way that delivers exceptional quality, personality, and style. To learn more about our old house restoration process, schedule a conversation with us today. We look forward to meeting with you!


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