If you're thinking about buying an old house, or if you own one, and want to renovate, make it profitable by preserving key features. Features you might not think are worth restoring, or have unknown historic importance, might be the very features that a future buyer is looking for in a historic home. Let's look at a few features you'll want to save whether you own, want to buy, or plan on flipping an old house.
The idea of buying an older home and restoring it to it's former glory is exciting, but where do you begin? Consider keeping features that are unique to the period of the home and are irreplaceable. Most modern homes aren't going to feature one hundred year old, hand-cut hardwood floors, original stone fireplaces, and antique hardware. Those historic features are worth restoring and sharing with future generations.
Most newer homes do not include hardwood floors, but engineered or laminate flooring instead. Original hardwood floors are an asset, especially if they're in good to fairly good shape. Start by having a professional look at the hardwood floors to determine if they need to be sanded and refinished or simply cleaned and re-stained. After determining what needs to be done to restore the them, discuss the cost. If restoring the floors cost more than replacing them, a professional may encourage you to replace them with new hardwood. If you can restore them, you can proudly put your home on the market with "original hardwood floors" making your home stand out.
At the heart of many historic homes is a large stone fireplace. Stones used to build the fireplace were traditionally gathered from the property surrounding the home. Originally built to heat the home, fireplaces are a great gathering place for families and should be restored whenever possible.
Have a professional inspect the fireplace for soundness and the flue for safety. If the fireplace is safe and functional, a good cleanup may be all that's in order. For example, a little dish washing soap in a bucket of water and a scrub brush may be enough to remove dirt and creosote build-up from the grate. To clean the fireplace floor and walls, you will need to use something a bit stronger, like TSP or these options. Remember to wear protective gloves, long sleeves and goggles to protect skin and eyes. Afterwards, wipe everything down with a clean wet cloth.
Vintage hardware is getting harder and harder to find. If it exists in your home, that's where it should stay. Although there are companies that create reproductions, like door knobs and drawer pulls, replacing them won't bring as much of a return as leaving the originals in place.
If the antique hardware needs to be cleaned, due to paint buildup for example, consult with a professional or your local hardware store before using harsh chemicals. Some cleaning solutions may corrode metal, crack glass, or even cause scratches. If the hardware hasn't been painted, simply wiping it down with a soft cloth may be enough. In most cases, you'll want to remove the hardware before cleaning it. Check out the following suggestions to help tackle dirty, painted or rusty hardware:
- Glass door knobs and pulls: avoid soaking them in hot water as it could cause the glass to crack. Brushing with a soft toothbrush and warm water may be enough to remove years of grit. Old paint can be cleaned off using a rag soaked in a hot vinegar/water solution then rinse with clean, warm water.
- Brass door knobs: removed paint by soaking them in a crock-pot filled with water and a few teaspoons of dish washing soap overnight. Use a nylon brush to remove anything that doesn't come off easily.
- Door hinges: if they're covered in paint, soak in a crock-pot, as suggested above. If the paint doesn't come off, talk to a professional about using a paint remover that will not damage the metal. If they're rusty, use a scrubber sponge to return the hinges to their former glory. Don't forget the hinge pins and remember to dry all pieces after cleaning them.
Before purchasing or renovating an older home, consider what can be done to restore the original features. Hardwood floors, fireplaces and antique hardware are important, historic features that are worth saving. If you're on the fence about whether or not something should be repaired or replaced, seek professional advice. By restoring features original to the home, you're spending money in the right places, extending the life of the home, and contributing to the overall value of the home.
NOTE: If your home is registered as a historic home, there will be restrictions on what can and cannot be done to restore it.