Have you just recently purchased a historic house and are wondering what to fix up and what to replace? No one can deny the charm of century old houses, but they often need updating in order to make them comfortable for the modern family.
Items to Fix Up in Your Antique Home
When it comes to choosing items to fix up and restore, choose the things that are hardest to replace or replicate, assuming they are still in reasonable condition. These include items like the hardwood floors, the fireplaces, windows and window frames and sills, the trims and moldings and the internal and external doors.
- The Floors
- The Fireplaces
- The Windows
- The Doors
- The Trim and Molding
Century old homes often have hardwood floors that can be refinished, even if those floors are currently under carpet. The trick is to pull up any carpet that may have been installed after the home was built and have the floors inspected for water and insect damage as well as warping and cracking. If the floors are deemed to be in good condition, you can have them refinished and keep the vintage charm while saving some money when updating your antique home.
Many century old homes contain fireplaces in every room, which add character and charm while giving you alternative heating options. As the years have passed, previous homeowners may have bricked them closed, installed ductwork through them or completely drywalled over them. The goal is to reveal the original fireplaces and have them restored and updated in order to make your home as period-accurate as possible.
Historic homes have glass that is wavy and stained. Since these looks are hard to replicate, you want to keep your original windows. However, it’s important to inspect the frames and sills for water and insect damage. If the frames are heavily damaged, you may need to replace some or all of the wood, but the good news is that the glass can often be saved.
Vintage doors are large, heavy and made of solid wood. They also often have intricate designs or panels that are hard to replicate. Instead of replacing them, you can have them sanded and re-stained, which will keep your home’s vintage charm.
If your home still has the original trim, molding and baseboards, have them sanded and refinished in your preferred color of stain. After all, the trim and molding are what give vintage homes their appeal.
Items to Replace in Your Vintage Home
When walking through your vintage home, anything with water damage and insect damage is going to need to be removed and replaced. The good news is that sometimes you can source similar items from shops and warehouses that save pieces from historic homes. In the worst-case scenarios, you’ll have to have the item replicated from modern materials to look vintage.
- The Roof
- Anything with Lead or Asbestos in It
- The Heating and Cooling System
- The Plumbing
- The Wiring
While the roofs on historic homes typically last a century, there’s a good chance that by the time you purchase the house, it’ll need a new roof.
When you first purchase your century old home, it’s a good idea to hire an inspector to look for common hazards, like lead and asbestos, which were common in construction materials and insulation prior to 1978. If you find lead-based paint or any material that contains asbestos, you’ll need a trained and experienced contractor to remove those components safely. The bad news is that you most likely won’t be able to replace those with the historic equivalent because they may all contain lead or asbestos. Instead, you’ll have to use the modern equivalent that looks the most historic.
It goes without saying that historic homes weren’t built with air conditioners. However, they often had fireplaces and/or wood-burning stoves, and you may have purchased one with a boiler. The good news is that you can replace the boiler and keep the radiators if they are in good working order. You may also find an older air conditioner installed in the home if any previous homeowners had one installed. However, you should check it for proper function. It may need to be replaced if it’s more than 10 years old.
It’s extremely important to have the plumbing system of your older home inspected. Depending on when the plumbing was first installed in the home, it could consist of lead pipes, which can leach lead into your water. If the lead pipes were replaced in the 1960s or first installed in that decade, they may be made out of galvanized steel, which is notorious for corroding and rusting. If the water coming out of the taps is discolored or non-existent, the home probably has galvanized steel. If the plumbing is primarily copper, you may be able to keep it, but have it checked for pinhole leaks and corrosion before deciding whether to keep it or replace it.
The electrical wiring in your vintage home may not be up to modern codes. This is primarily because older electrical systems didn’t require a ground. It was a 2-wire system. Today, wiring systems are either 3-wire or 4-wire, and you’ll need to have the electrical system upgraded to meet modern building codes. This also means that you’ll have to replace the fuse box with a circuit breaker box.