Ownership of an old brick home in one of DC’s historic neighborhoods comes with a unique set of responsibilities and decisions. Unlike owners of newer and more modern homes, you face the challenge of how to make your home comfortable while maintaining the authentic nature of its architecture and features.
There are many things to consider before you embark on any type of renovation project. One of the fundamental decisions historic homeowners must make is whether rehabilitation or restoration is the better plan.
Restoration vs. Rehabilitation: What's the Difference?
To restore a house means to return its interior and exterior appearance to a particular date or period. Strict restorations—ones that eliminate everything not present during the time chosen—are rare for homes.
To rehabilitate a house means to make it useful and functional for contemporary living while preserving significant historical and architectural features. For example, a rehabilitated old house would always include modern electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems, a modern kitchen, and other attributes typical of present-day homes.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation offers advice for homeowners who are in the decision-making process:
10 Tips: Restoring vs. Rehabilitating Your Historic House
Resources for Homeowners in Historic Districts
If your home is located in a historic district, you face another set of challenges. Exterior modifications, including tuckpointing of brick facades, may be directed by historic guidelines and require permits. Resources and expertise are available to homeowners whose homes are located in historic districts in the Washington DC area:
Permits and forms.
There is lots of information available from various agencies about the permitting process and required forms. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is the place to start. You will find all the forms and requirements for your particular job.
Historic district guidelines.
If your home is located in a historic district, you should familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and restrictions on building permits. These are particularly relevant for any planned exterior modifications.
Homeowners in the Capitol Hill Historic District can refer to the resources of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS).
- For exterior modifications on a historic home: http://chrs.org/living-on-capitol-hill/owning-property-in-the-historicdistrict/
- History of brick construction in urban neighborhoods: http://chrs.org/wpcontent/uploads/2013/04/11_CHRS_Brick.pdf
- Homeowner FAQ's about Historic District Guidelines: http://chrs.org/faqs-on-historic-district/
Homeowners in Georgetown can access the resources of Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG):
- Historic preservation http://www.cagtown.org/content/historicpreservation
- Permits and process http://www.cagtown.com/historic-preservation-apply-for-permit
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.