Renovating Older Homes

If you have an older home, built in the last millennium, you no doubt have a love for older architecture and the character your home has. It can be interesting to find little nuggets of history, or hidden gems of the unexpected. An original light fixture in the attic, or the original skeleton keys on top of the door casing, for instance. But bringing those homes into the 21st century can sometimes be a challenge. Building codes have come a long way in the last 100 years, and so have building materials.

One thing you might not realize is that lumber used so many years ago was sized differently than it is today. A 2×4 from 1935 was actually 2” x 4”, today it is 1.5” x 3.5”. Sometimes people got creative in the building materials they used, using what was available. If you have to do foundation work, you never know what can be holding up your house. You might find railroad ties or pieces of old car frames, who knows. Being able to adapt new to old takes skilled carpenters. Lucky for you, Willet Construction has several.

Finishing a basement in an old house can be tricky. Depending on how you’re going to use the space, or the condition of your home, you might have to start with the basics, the foundation and floor of your basement. It’s possible you might have to lower the floor to get enough headroom in your basement, or you might need to level it. Supporting the floors above might include installing new support beams.

Building materials have evolved over time. What once was considered standard, can be considered dangerous these days, like asbestos or lead-based paint. Knowing how to work around those products, and get rid of them safely, is something that is closely regulated. All of our carpenters have EPA-Approved Lead Renovator Training to detect and remove lead-based paint safely. In fact, if your home was built before 1978, we will automatically test the paint in the area where we will be working for lead, then proceed accordingly.

Replacing a window in an older home has its own set of hurdles. Windows were barely mentioned in the original building codes, other than what their frames could be constructed from. Now, depending on where the window is located, it might have to be a certain size, or contain tempered glass. This is one reason why a permit must be obtained when replacing windows. Luckily window manufacturers can mimic an older style window using updated criteria, which comes in handy if you only want to replace one or two windows.

Older homes typically have separate rooms for each function in the home – kitchen, dining, and living for example. Homes more recently have been trending towards an open-concept design where these rooms are all open to each other. This provides more room for entertaining as well as keeping track of little ones while working in the kitchen. Willet Construction has performed many projects that include wall removal for just this purpose. Don’t take down a wall without consulting a knowledgeable professional, this can cause serious structural damage if not done correctly.

One characteristic of an old home is the hardwood floor. These were covered for many years with the invention of carpet but are now in hot demand. This is one item we need to address when renovating an older home, especially if we’re moving walls. You want a skilled craftsman to make new flooring blend in with old for a seamless look. A successful remodeling project is one where the final product looks like it has been there forever.

If you own a historic home, no doubt you want it to continue looking like it did when first built. But what to do when age starts taking its toll? That’s where we can step in. Trim and siding can be crafted to look just like the original. On this house the back portion was an addition, but the original building was in need of repair. We were able to replace the siding and trim to match the old so that you can’t even tell it was replaced.

Doors are another feature of a home that can be updated without losing the historic appeal of a home. Craftsman style architecture dates back to the 1860s and is still popular today. What started as working class homes was elevated to works of art. The simple lines appeal to many homeowners, along with the use of natural products. This craftsman style door retains the aesthetic of a historic home but with modern features that make it well-insulated and energy efficient.

Bathrooms are one place where old can meet new very effectively. Hexagonal tile became popular 100 years ago, and is still available today. Clawfoot tubs are also a popular style that once was old and is new again. Or you can choose its modern cousin the free-standing soaker tub. Bathroom renovations in an older home might include expanding the footprint of the room for a more luxurious feel. Mixing old with new is a good way to update your bathroom without losing historic appeal.

Kitchens are one room that most homeowners want to modernize. If you want to keep historic appeal, retro appliances are one way to combine old and new. Old kitchens are notoriously small, so updating the space can be a challenge. You have to decide if you are moving walls, or working within the space you have. From there the choices are endless as far as finishes and function in your room. Lucky for you we have design staff that can help you nail down your choices, and craftsmen who can bring it to life.

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