Monday, February 22, 2016

Now what with your Old House Remodel?

This Old House Remodel...

The best place to start was laid out on my previous post with tips and advice. Now you've done it! Your standing there with the keys in your hands smiling and quaking in your boots at the same time. What have you done?

Take a breath and remember the long term goal. Your gonna get there! In fact we can journey through this together.

Now that you have your house, a plan and a contractor it's time to think of the BIG issues.

Most homes that are as old as 50, 75, 100+ years old have some issues that will costs money and you wont see the benefit. That meaning it's not pretty but necessary and you will feel the impact of the changes.

Wiring. Many homes have what is referred to as Knob-and-Tube wiring. This wiring is very dated and can be a hazard. Most cities require that if you are doing any remodeling that you include updating all the wiring in your home.  This does add a chunk to your budget.  It is a necessity.  Your contractor will have it bid out and be able to give you a clear understanding of costs and timing.  The good news is if your going to have many of the walls opened up this is perfect timing. Fortunately, with the house we just purchased some of the wiring is up to date and in good shape. We have about half the house to re-wire.  We also will need to replace and update our breaker box. The box on the house is original and it has a known safety concern.  That is another costs.  We also have a fuse panel in this house that is for some of the area. That is a required update as well. 

Things to consider while you are updating your wiring: What type of computer or TV cables will you use? Call your Cable company or Internet provider or someone who specializes in this and have them layout a design for those cords and cables.  Perfect time to have them in the walls where they should be than draped across your house! Another thing to consider are you going to have an alarm system? Call your provider and have them also layout the wiring and keep as much of it in the walls as you can. How about a surround sound system? Plugs! Does each room in your older house have 1 plug or non at all? Decide where you will need or use plugs in each room and lay them out.  Much easier and cost effective to add this while your walls and ceilings are cut up than to retro fit later. This is a simple way make your home feel and function for today (modern) but keep it's classic charm.

Lighting - Lighting is one thing that is usually lacking in a period home.  Sometimes electric lighting wasn't original to the home. So a single light bulb light maybe all that is in most rooms. Some rooms may not have any lighting at all and are solely dependent on lamp light. To me lighting makes a house inviting and function better.  While your electrician is still on site and working layout where you want your lights.  Consider a combination of can lighting, flush or semi flush mount, ceiling fans with lights and or chandeliers and pendants.  Think through the times of days the rooms are in use. Where furniture will be, what the room is used for.  Will you need task lighting? Do you want dimmers for mood lighting? Will you be reading or doing crafts in the room?  Lay the lighting out well. Yes, lamps and task lighting can still be added too. Layering lighting gives a home balance and lends comfort to a room.  I also like to repurpose or use original lights when possible. They are intricate and beautiful pieces many times.  With that said not all of them are safe. The wiring my have started to deteriorate or fray.  The lights may not have proper grounding.  Having a piece re-wired is still often times more cost effective than buying new lights and will give you a unique one of a kind fixture that fits perfect in the style of home and is more valuable than a reproduction.

Plumbing - Old homes can be riddled with plumbing issues.  From Cast Iron or Clay pipes that have succeeded their lifetime, lead pipes, pipes that are not the proper size for the current use of the home, is your chance while the home is having walls and floors opened up to address this. Talk it through with your contractor as to what is there and what are the most urgent needs to be addressed. Plumbing like electrical can be a big hit to the budget. Don't be na├»ve but also you don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Review your plans and see where changes to the plumbing are needed. Address where you want new plumbing to run.  Know what changes are your responsibility and what issues or expenses may be the Cities.  Now that you've gone over the in's and out's with your contractor talk to an expert. A reputable and knowledgeable plumber that is used to working with antiquated plumbing issues will be key to the success of your project.  That patch work quilt you've discovered can be repaired and keep your water flowing and your toilets flushing but you need to hire someone with experience to help walk you through what is next.  Be prepared that more may need updating or repaired than the new bath or kitchen lines you were envisioning. 

Lead Plumbing pipes

Old Cast Iron

Mixed Materials

Old Rusted Pipes

Thing to investigate before you buy, find out if the plumbing has been updated and to what extent. Plan to replace old plumbing made from materials that won’t hold up, even if it doesn’t seem to be a problem. It eventually will be. You don't want to tear out all your new materials for an old plumbing problem that you didn't address.

  • Talk to neighbors about which sub-contractors they would recommend. My neighbor recommended a plumber who has replaced plumbing in old houses being converted into apartments — I knew that was the kind of experience I needed.

  • Get a second opinion before you start any work. Find out exactly what access the plumber needs, Don't create extra work and expense by tearing out areas that are not needed for access. Most plumbers will do a walk through and assessment for free and this will give you valuable information that will help you with the ongoing job.

  • Don’t spend money on new finishes and fixtures until the plumbing repairs are completed. You don't want to waste your money or cause damage to those new materials by an underlying or lurking problem.

  • Outdated Windows - If your home has it's original windows you may be captivated by the wavy glass and charm of the rope sashes.  Regardless that most of the sashes are deteriorated or broken and many of the windows haven't operated in years, this does not deter you from loving this "original" charm! Choosing windows with a period look and feel will be important if you want to keep the historical accuracy and charm of your home.  With that said updated windows will help button up and create a more energy efficient home.  New windows will also add function and beauty that will breathe new life into your home for the next 100 years.  Some might ask if you ever save old windows.  The answer would be yes, I do believe in stained or leaded glass from the original home if it is there is a wonderful and often valuable asset to your home.  Hire an expert to evaluate the stained or leaded glass. Often times minor repairs or new frames may be needed. This can be an extra costs and sometimes as much as replacing the window but the over all beauty and value out weigh simply replacing.  If it is a large window and you are concerned about energy loss you can also have these encased with clear glass on each side.  This will protect the leaded and stained glass but it will also create an energy efficient window for years and years to come.

    New windows with period details

    Restored Stained Glass

    When replacing windows to exact period details with new windows the costs can go up.  Weigh your options. Choosing to replace the windows on the front of the house with exact replica's or details will save you some money than replacing the whole house with the more exact period detail windows. Choosing a simplier designed new window for the rest of the house will be more cost effective.

    What you need to know. If your home has an HOA or is in a Historical Society then you need to contact them first. Chances are this hot topic has been discussed.  There maybe certain vendors you are allowed to use. There maybe detailed specifications that you have to consider.  Again, a little upfront research will save you from buying materials or making costly custom decisions that you may not be able to use. 

    If you are restricted from replacing windows or you just have a love affair with all things original then this article from DIY Network maybe helpful for you.

    Roof - Don't overlook your roof.  Again, if you are in an HOA or Historical society you may be bound to using certain materials or limited in the changes to your roof.  Talk to your contractor. Know if you are adding on to the home or making changes that will change the roof line.  Choose materials that have a good R value.  The roof is important for buttoning up the energy efficiency of your home and for creating a comfortable and inviting home.

    Why R value matters, read this article from HGTV:

    You next want to choose the best attic insulation for your home and geographical area.  Most older homes have little or no insulation in their attics and walls.  However, addressing the roof and attic area will give you more return on your money than trying to go back and insulate your walls. In fact you can create other problems by putting insulation in walls without proper vapor barriers. 

    We are making these decisions now on our Old House Remodel. I will keep you posted on the materials and choices we choose.  I hope you find this information helpful.


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