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There are a lot of different reasons people choose to live in older homes: they have loads of character, interesting architectural features, and other details that give the home a more solid and settled look and feel. The wood trim and floors have the rich patina of age and there’s a certain mystique to older homes that newer ones lack.

When it’s time to renovate an older kitchen, though, these homes present what can politely be called “interesting” challenges. But don’t let the not-so-charming side of remodeling an older house kitchen discourage you. With the right design-build team in place, you can take on those challenges  and create a smart-looking, functional workspace that is a source of beauty, efficiency, and comfort.

How to Remodel an Old House Kitchen

Begin with the kitchen’s layout. Does it work as is, or does it need major changes? In some older homes with galley kitchens, for example, major appliances are crowded together leaving minimal workspace. If that’s true for your kitchen, you’ll probably want a better flow: better work areas, more storage, and more space for friends and family to gather.

That can often mean removing walls to get the space you need. Since many older homes have multiple small rooms, you may want to expand the kitchen into another adjacent space. Sometimes a client decides an addition is the only way to make the new kitchen work.

If, on the other hand, your current layout works and you won’t be removing walls, you may save on things likes structural work, floor patching, extra plumbing, and electrical work. You can also get creative in finding extra square footage. Taking out the back staircase to the former maid’s quarters or opening up a back pantry can add a lot of a space to a room.

Hidden Challenges

Whenever we work on an older home, we go in knowing there’s a risk of finding hidden conditions that need to be fixed. Common finds on the Main Line include knob and tube wiring, old lead waste pipes, galvanized pipe water lines, and work done in the past by homeowners or unskilled workers taking shortcuts! Other special considerations include:

  • Out of level floors and ceilings caused by settlement.
  • Walls that aren’t plumb
  • Cracked and failing plaster
  • Inadequate insulation
  • Old leaky windows

Additional hurdles may include removing lead-based paint or asbestos wrapped around heat pipes and ducts, supporting or leveling  sagging floors, and upgrading outdated wiring and plumbing systems.

If your home is constructed with old brick or stucco, matching it can be difficult, so keep that in mind when considering adding on. While not impossible, older brick can be hard to find, and requires specialized knowledge on how to install it. Even old stucco has its challenges. It must be carefully applied if it’s to match closely. You’ll need pros with the right skills if you want to match the older finishes. For these reasons, you’ll want to work with a design build firm that specializes in older home restorations, renovations, and remodels.

One final consideration: the possibility of there being rot somewhere or even insect damage. Many older homes have suffered neglect over the years, so it’s no surprise some damaged wood may be discovered as walls are torn down, cabinets removed, and floors taken up. It should not be covered back up without being replaced!

It’s All in the Bones

As you’ve probably figured out, an old house kitchen remodel is as much about the bones of the house as it is about the beauty. Once the mechanical, electrical, and structural impacts have been figured out, the stuff you really care about can be confidently put in place like cabinets and fixtures and appliances!

One of the joys of working on an older home is the opportunity for using recycled and reclaimed materials. Wood can be removed from the attic or a closet to make a repair, old doors can be repurposed, and recycled heart pine can be used for flooring.

Are You Ready?

Despite the additional work that goes into remodeling an old house kitchen, we’ve found that  people who love their older homes are more than willing to accept the challenges. If you’re ready to remodel your older home’s kitchen, we’re here to help you take the steps necessary to make your ideas  come to life. Schedule a conversation with us today to learn more. We look forward to meeting with you!


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