Preserving historic homes offers numerous benefits not only for the property owners but also for society. The preservation process involves several steps, each of which must be handled with care and focus. You should always identify what needs to be done, including cleaning, repairing, and replacing different components. Before you complete any work, you should research the best way to complete the task, consulting experts in the field for the best strategies. Finally, you should develop a plan that includes what, when, where, how, and who is to be involved before beginning the identified preservation task.
What Makes an Old Building Historic?
Just because a structure is old, doesn’t mean that it can be listed as a historic building. It needs to meet certain specifications, such as the following:
• It must have played a significant role in creating or defining the country’s history, such as a crucial event occurred there or an important person lived in the home.
• Its historic significance may be a reflection of local trade, development of the area, or construction by a famous architect.
• The building may even get recognition for being the first of its kind in the country, state, or town.
Economic Benefits of Owning a Historic Home
Purchasing and owning a historic property delivers the following economic benefits:
• Energy Efficiency – Older construction often provides high levels of energy efficiency achieved through spatial designs, cross ventilation, and long-lasting materials. As a result, historic property owners often realize savings on heating and cooling, lowering their cost of ownership.
• Monetary Savings – The fact that the building is already constructed simplifies moving in while also potentially lowering the costs associated with buying a home or business building. If modifications are required to bring the property up to code or to enhance livability, these changes can easily be incorporated affordably by someone who understands the economic value of preserving existing features such as plaster, wood flooring, and windows.
Social Benefits of Preserving Historic Properties
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and subsequent amendments help to safeguard the integrity of historic buildings. The goal is to conserve historic buildings and the authenticity of surrounding grounds in order to preserve the country’s national heritage and promote tourism. Moreover, preserving historic sites delivers the following benefits:
• Promotes an educated society
• Creates the opportunity for residents to bond with their community
• Enhances the value of a neighborhood by improving the appearance of older buildings while retaining the aesthetics of the original style, texture, and craftsmanship.
How to Obtain Historic Status for Your Home or Building
In most cases, a home must be 50 years of age or older to receive historic status. To nominate your home or building, you need to submit appropriate documentation along with the required forms to the historic preservation office located in the same state as the property.
Research Before You Begin
Each project is likely to involve several consultations with specialists in historic preservation, including:
• Cultural professionals
Try to learn as much as you can about architectural elements during the time period when your historic home was constructed. Different cities across the U.S also have their own unique architectural style and history. For example, many historic neighborhoods in Seattle adopted the Four Square architectural design in the early 1900’s.
Schedule Regular Maintenance to Preserve Historic Value
Keeping to a regular schedule for maintenance makes a critical difference in preserving important features of your historic building. Old buildings require certain tasks on the inside and outside to avoid unnecessary damage and the need for repairs, including:
Minimize Repairs to Preserve Architectural Value
While sticking to a schedule of proper maintenance minimizes the need for repairs, eventually, you are going to discover something that needs fixing. Just be sure to use the best techniques for the style of wood, tile, brick, or mortar that is involved.
Keep in mind the following points:
• Duplicating architectural details is difficult and expensive.
• Historic moldings, trims, and flooring is often irreplaceable.
• If damage does occur, you should make the repairs quickly to minimize the extent of the problem. This strategy allows you to preserve as much of the historic construction as possible, while also maintaining the building’s integrity.
• Before you make any repairs, take photographs to help you maintain the original appearance as much as possible.
Keep Eccentric Aspects to Preserve Historic and Architectural Value
One of the most appealing aspects of historic buildings is the simple fact that they look different than contemporary structures. In all likelihood, you can tell your home is old simply by looking at it. Just because one of the home’s features is crooked or improperly centered doesn’t mean that it needs to be corrected. Keep the oddities to preserve the architectural and historic value of the building.
Preserve Vintage Windows in Your Historic Home
Older buildings typically contain vintage windows that simply aren’t made anymore. They offer unique characteristics, creating a distinctively different appearance from modern windows. While older windows may not be as energy efficient as contemporary ones, they are designed to last for decades and can easily be repaired. By installing a window such as a storm window updating your window with an insert, you will be able to retain your original windows but make them more energy efficient and soundproof.
Maintain Wooden Floors Properly
Most older homes are constructed with hardwood flooring. Due to their age, the floors often experience damage of many sorts, including scratches, dents, and stains.
Keep in mind the following points:
• While sanding can easily lift away visible signs of this damage, too much sanding can reduce the longevity of the floors. It is better to embrace minor imperfections as small badges of the floor’s journey through life than it is to continually sand the floor to remove signs of damage.
• If you believe the damage experienced by your hardwood floors requires sanding, take the time to do it by hand rather than with modern machinery.
Avoid Replacing Plaster Walls
Plaster walls are no longer used in construction in the manner that they once were. Keep in mind the following points:
• It takes a skilled craftsperson to put up plaster walls.
• Putting up plaster walls takes longer than putting up drywall.
• Plaster walls are actually superior to drywall because they absorb sound better and resist water better.
• If your plaster walls become damaged, pay to have them repaired rather than replaced. It is less costly and preserves the historic value of your building.
Undertake Masonry Repairs Carefully to Preserve Historic Features
Bricks are no longer made in the same way as they once were. Keep in mind the following points:
• While today’s bricks can handle the heaviness of modern cement, old bricks cannot.
• If you find yourself in a position where you need to make repairs involving your building’s bricks, hire a professional mason who has the experience to match the type of mortar used for the repairs to the kind of brick involved.
Remodel with Architectural Compatibility in Mind
Historic houses come in a varied assortment of sizes. It is possible that you may outgrow your home and wish to build an addition. Preserving the historic value of your home requires careful attention to details. Build your addition to complement your existing structure, choosing a compatible size and architectural style.
Embrace the Historic Home Elements
Old homes have lots of unique features from winding staircases to full-size attics to root cellars. These aspects of the building provide character. Even more importantly, the smaller details of the home’s construction tell an interesting story of the home’s origination from the window trim to the chair rails to the decorative appearance of the doors. Preserving these features is an important part of maintaining the building’s history.
If you own a historic house, you have a responsibility to protect it. The building, while it may be repairable, is irreplaceable. It is a significant part of the country’s history, and it is your job to preserve its defining features, the building’s style, its character, and its architectural integrity through appropriate renovations and regularly scheduled maintenance tasks.
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Updated on May 14th, 2019