Have a successful historic home renovation with these 5 tips

You see a Benihana chef flip some shrimp into a gentleman’s shirt pocket. You think, “that looks easy, I could do that”. So too with renovating your historical home. It may seem like a simple task but it is anything but. It takes planning, dedication, budgeting and patience. You may think it takes a few coats of paint and some shingles here and there to fix a historical home, but there are many hidden details which most homeowners don’t know about. For instance, did you know contractors are required to adhere to historical preservation requirements? Plus, these buildings need to follow current building codes. We will show you how to have a detailed plan to identify any work and the cost.  In the experience of Hiland Hall Turner Architects, having a detailed plan will usually result in a smoother more successful historical home reno.

scott rendering houe II

Part One – Where Every Homeowner should Begin

We want you to envision your beautiful historical home completely renovated. Everything is done, the paint is dry, the fixtures are set. Now, what do you see? What will your home look like? If you have some artistic talent, try drawing it. If  you can take pictures with your phone that is always a plus. Any digital images or 3D Sketches can help your contractors understand your needs. If there is another historical home you would like to model yours after, make a note of it. Keep in mind this vision of the “complete house” will evolve with your tastes, details, and budget.

Some interiors done by Hiland Hall Turner Architects for their clients.

Some interiors done by Hiland Hall Turner Architects for their clients.

Part Two – Make a List

What historical details do you want to keep? Do you like the lighting? How about the wood floor? Basically, which parts of the house do you want to get rid of and what would  you like to keep. Some items can be removed and replaced. Others are protected and must be kept. If the item is protected and there is a fear that it can become damaged during the renovation, it is usually removed. Keep these items in mind and make a note that they must be removed before construction.

What Items can get tossed? Which features, material, or piping need to be taken out of the house during the renovation? We aren’t talking about protection, we mean straight up removing it.  People will usually gut parts of the house that are falling apart or are obsolete (old wiring).

Highlight the major changes. Does the historical house require new doors, windows or walls? Are you replacing the plumbing, electrical and air conditioning? How about that new staircase  you wanted? Are you redoing the bathroom, kitchen or garage? Is there a modification to the deck or landscape you had in mind? . All of these decisions will help you develop a plan, schedule, and a budget.

Carriage House Ext, New Vernon

Part Three – Are your Eyes too Big for your Stomach? A Budgeting guide.

The most time consuming but detailed way to figure out your initial budget is by using a spreadsheet. You can itemize every detail based on previous or current costs from manufacturers, website retailers, or local designers and store. The itemization technique will develop the most precise budget, but it is also the most labor intensive and requires the longest time to complete. Too many projects stall because the project costs are higher than the budget. Costs are generally reduced by using lower priced material. However, this tends to be lower quality. Some people care, others do not, it is personal preference.

Tips for a great Budget

Successful budgets include costs such as permits, local taxes, energy costs, home insurance, utilities, and other fees. We recommend you add 8-15 percent budget padding in case of emergency. Who knows, maybe the line by line itemization technique was based on old quotes for materials. Prices go up. Having a partitioned piece of budget dedicated to emergencies or extras is always a good idea. We always recommend having a project manager, they can effectively ensure your costs don’t double.

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Part Four – Create a To Do List

This is a very special to do list, it is a schedule of work activities in an ordered sequence with the approx. duration, a start date and a completion date. The goal here is to minimize delays and cost. Keep in mind that each task should not take longer than two weeks (unless you are explicitly made aware of why it would take longer). Each week you can verify the progress you are making. Look at the list, did everything for this week get done? As for larger tasks, taking more than two weeks to complete, should be turned into multi week tasks.  Generally, the schedule will start with planning and end with you moving back in.

Polo Show House

Historic Home Renovation Schedule

Your schedule should generally be ordered like the list below. Pepper in some personal details about your specific home, but this should be the general outline.

  • Preparatory work and planning
  • Protecting the historical structure while removing precious artifacts.
  • Demolition and removal of old or unsafe materials (e.g. lead paint, cotton wrapped wiring, damaged floors, lead paint, mold, plumbing)
  • Installation of modern infrastructure (electrical, plumbing, AC, Solar panels, or even geothermal systems) usually follows removal of unsafe materials
  • Building inspection for mechanical systems
  • Install new walls, floors, doors and windows.
  • Finishing work (e.g. hardwood flooring, tiles, floor trim, window casings, painting, and electrical work) is usually the last work to be completed.
  • Final permit approvals
  • Building occupancy permits
  • All work is completed on the historic home renovation
  • Move back in

Part Five – Planning will always save you money

As you can tell, starting and updating a detailed schedule and budget for your historic home renovation is a coordinated and somewhat difficult process, and like our favorite Benihana chef, it takes experience to get it 100% right. Generally for smaller projects, less than 18K, you may just want to make decisions as they are presented to you. Plan what you can, but this smaller renovation shouldn’t be too much trouble.

You should save the heavy duty budgeting and planning for larger renovations, think upwards of 22 thousand, possibly even a million in renovations. When your budget is larger, it is best to apply the project management style we discussed today. Remember, many of your scheduled tasks can be performed independant of each other. There is no need to wait if you can get something done at the same time. Identify larger costs and expenses before you start. This will lead to better funding and less project stalls. For these type of larger historic home renovations, an experienced project manager is crucial in getting everything accomplished within budget.

Hiland Hall Turner Architects Guide

Here at HHTA, we can help you create your dream home. We have award winning architects who can ease your concern when making the difficult choices. HHTA can help you with a small historical restoration project, all the way to restoring your home after a natural disaster, like Hurricane Sandy. Do not take on more than you can handle.Contact us for all the advice and guidance on your home restoration.

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