Are you thinking about buying and restoring an old house? The chances are that you are "curb appeal shopping" in one of DC's historic neighborhoods. In spring and summer when homeowners refresh their entrances, gardens, and walkways, the stately elegance of historic DC brick homes can be seductive. Here are some things about old houses to consider before you commit.
Renovating an old house is a major undertaking. Old structures need special care, require appropriate building materials, and are full of surprises. Costs can quickly escalate. It is not uncommon to have to correct work done by previous owners. You may have to live with drafty windows, small closets, inadequate wiring and plumbing, and sticky cabinet drawers during the renovation.
Have changes in mind? You will need the right kind of advice. Reach out to those local historians and contractors who are familiar with the historic buildings in your new neighborhood. Ask for their professional opinions on what is possible for your historic home renovation. Make sure that they share your goal of preserving the historical authenticity and charm of the home. Don't compromise. Use quality materials even if you have to reduce your renovation plan or slow down your schedule to do so.
Keep your budget in mind while you develop your renovation plan. Whatever the size of your old home, if you don’t have unlimited resources, you will need a schedule for each project. Be practical and start with the exterior. To repair or prevent water damage, focus on the roof, windows, and masonry and make sure the house is watertight.
Pay particular attention to mortar joints in the walls of historic DC brick homes. Check fireplaces and chimneys to see if the mortar is in need of repair, a process called tuckpointing or repointing. Contract with masonry contractors that have experience with old brick and lime mortar for an evaluation.
An old house can be a lifelong series of projects. After you stabilize the structure and upgrade systems – wiring and plumbing, for example – take a break and live in the house. Many renovators suggest that you should wait at least a year before acting on plans that permanently alter original details such as removing walls or replacing original windows.
Renaissance Development, a leader in brick restoration and historic preservation, specializes in the restoration of a historic brick building’s mortar joints using traditional methods (tuckpointing) and materials. Contact us for a free site visit and project quote.