If you’ve purchased an older home — or watched enough of the TV shows featuring their renovations — you know that the original features can lend the most charm. Here are some things to consider as you work to maintain the integrity of a vintage home through updates.
Know what you’re getting into: Be aware of common issues like lead paint and asbestos in older homes, both of which will need to be addressed before you can safely move in. Check the structural integrity of the home’s foundation. Hiring an inspector experienced in older homes will help to ensure that you find and address any non-cosmetic issues at the outset.
Become a historian: It’s important to figure out as much as you can about your home. Knowing when it was built or how the crown molding was done can assist you in renovating. Being aware of your home’s history can help you preserve the most important parts of the design, like transom windows, boot scrapers or Dutch doors.
Be patient and gentle: Don’t treat a vintage home like a new home — it was built differently; the materials are older and require more attention. Take your time with upgrades or remodels — it’s always better to get the job done right than to throw something together in haste. And by using mild cleaners, protecting fragile design elements and touching up dings and scratches as they come, you’ll be giving your older home the care it needs and deserves.
Mix and match: Despite superior craftsmanship in older homes, there will always be wear and tear. Paint chips and fades, mortar crumbles, and appliances go out of style. When one of the home’s original features starts to deteriorate, you do have a few options. One is to match colors and styles as closely as possible during upgrades. But if you truly cannot replicate part of your vintage home, it’s OK to mix it up with modern styles. Many contemporary fixtures work surprisingly well in older homes, and it’s easy to make an old tile pattern new again with some creativity.
Turn to experts: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts at your local historical society. They can equip you with tools and information you need, and they should also know of some local contractors who specialize in renovating and preserving older homes.