By Andy Meredith
It’s no secret that Candis and I love old houses. In fact, I’ve talked about it before when I wrote a blog post about my conversion to old home love a couple of years ago. Not that there’s anything wrong with new construction houses, but sometimes those new houses feel like they’re just a bunch of assembled pieces.
When you meet with a builder, you can go through a catalog of all the elements of a house that you want and then have them put everything together for you. With old houses, though, there weren’t prefabricated or preplanned features and elements. Instead, they were each designed and built from the ground up, and they were made to last.
I love that, and it’s a big part of what keeps both me and Candis excited about our restorations. We love giving these old homes new life, but sometimes it makes more sense to update our homes instead of doing museum-quality restorations.
Someone Has to Live There
The first big reason to update some features instead of restoring them exactly as they were when the house was built is pretty simple—people have to live there. Some of the houses we restore date back to when indoor plumbing was a brand new feature in a lot of homes. Trying to get the sinks, baths, and toilets back to their original working condition might be a fun project, but it’s going to be expensive. And it’s not going to be a lot of fun for the people who end up living there.
So, when you’re thinking about what to restore and what to update, think about functionality and efficiency. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a home livable for the people who move in next.
Improving Windows and Insulation
Candis and I go back and forth on this one a lot. We both love pure restoration projects, and we love getting as accurate as we can with them. But old windows tend to be poorly insulated. Not only is the glass thin, but it’s usually set pretty loosely in the frame, too.
Old windows and historically accurate replicas can cause a major problem when you try to heat or cool a building. Here in Utah, we get really cold winters and pretty hot summers, too. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on your utility bills to heat and cool your house, you’re probably looking at replacing the windows with more updated glass and sealing solutions.
You Have to Keep Your Budget in Mind
Finally, every project has a budget, and sometimes you just aren’t going to have the money to source the same kind of wood that was originally used in a now-rotted staircase. You’ll have to replace the windows, but updated ones will cost half of what it would cost to restore the originals, and that gives you more room in your budget for the details that will make the most difference to you or your buyers.
Basically, when you’re looking at a restoration project, you have to think about your end goal and how you’re going to get there. If your goal is to sell the home to people who will love it and live in it for years to come, you’re going to have some decisions to make, especially when it comes to plumbing, heating, and air conditioning.
Candis and I have found that the easiest way to figure out what to restore and what to update is to sit down and think about the whole place from a functional standpoint and then look at our budget. That gives us a good place to start and a good outline for a restoration plan. You can do the same thing with your restoration and renovation projects. Good luck!