Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Older home renovations, things to consider

Older homes have charm and beauty galore, but they also need to be updated in ways that make sense economically and environmentally. There are things to be prepared for before renovation begins. Never go into a home renovation project without some information beforehand.  Otherwise, you could end up spending a fortune in a renovation that has no end in sight.
Priorities - Always factor in what is a priority in renovations with older homes. Is the purpose to simply update old fixtures and appliances? Is your goal to replace heating, electrical, plumbing etc? Think from the outside-in with older homes. Issues concerning energy efficiency should be addressed initially. Don't start something you can't finish. Make sure you know what your own personal limits are with regards to renovation/home improvement experience. If it could get over your head, be smart enough to realize it and call in professionals.

Expect the unexpected- Even well planned renovations can be sidetracked by things that come up that couldn't be factored in. Always leave a buffer in the budget for those unforeseen issues. Sometimes you open a hornets nest when doing a project. This is good and bad. Sometimes a hidden issue like termites or mold could be lurking that you would never have realized until it was too late. That being said,  don't let renovations that make sound economic sense stop you.

Reface or replace?- When doing older home renovations, you may opt for refacing a lot of the surfaces. This could be a bad idea especially in homes that are very old. For instance putting sheet rock over old walls that are poorly insulated and built with plaster and wooden slats isn't wise. There could be underlying issues that you can't see that could come back to haunt you later, resulting in a tear down of the reface and the old layer beneath. New over old usually isn't the best route to take.

Does it fit?- Do not make the mistake of assuming that the new standards fit  the old standards even when the measurements are the same.  Even dealing with homes that are only a few decades old, replacing things like sinks, and tubs in bathrooms will be a challenge. Many homes had cabinetry, tubs and sinks site-built and installed  during the construction. The room may have been built specifically around those pieces. When you go to replace an old tub unit with a new one you may be in for a surprise. Yes the measurements may be the same, but it doesn't mean it will fit into the space. Be prepared to do additional carpentry to make the new unit fit into the old space. This is particularly important if you are replacing a tub/shower single piece unit with a tub and wall set.

How much and how long ?- If you are doing all the work yourself, assume that it will cost around 15-30% more than what your initial budget is. The same goes for how long the project will be. Never assume a weekend project is a "weekend project". Be prepared for it to take several weekends, even if you thought it was a simple renovation. In older homes, there are no simple renovations, especially if you are doing the job yourself.

Safety first-
Older home renovations, especially those 30+ years old, have certain risk factors involved. Research the potential hazards, and have your home checked out prior to any renovation for lead paint and asbestos. Make sure to purchase safety gloves, goggles, and filtered masks during renovation. Don't renovate on the fly, do your homework first.
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