San Francisco

8 Things to Remember While Remodeling an Old House

August 26, 2022

San Francisco

Did you purchase an old house recently? Many old houses have an aesthetic charm to them that most modern houses today just don’t have. Perhaps it’s the sense of history literally being inside the walls of your home, or maybe you just really like having the traditional feel that these old homes offer.

Whatever your reasoning, you now own a part of the past in the present, which that means it is your responsibility to take proper care of it too, because it does not just bring the nice historical look with it: It also brings its historical problems and outdated, possibly even dangerous, systems that it had in the past!

Here are a couple of things you should remember while you renovate:

Inspect and lay the groundwork

Knowledge is power, as they say. Before you get to designing or even repairing any possible damages, you need to know just what needs to be changed. Not everything might to be replaced, after all, but it is also essential that you find out just what needs to go and what can stay.

For instance, the locations of water inlets and outlets of the bathroom, kitchen, and sinks, are recommended to be retained, as well as the current parallel and perpendicular dimensions of the house and its rooms.

You would want to survey the entire structure in this case. Hiring a surveyor will help you in assessing how much the damages cost to repair, as well as determine what your next steps on renovating your home should be.


Thoroughly inspect the electrical system

Technically speaking, not all old wiring and electrical systems are hazardous, but just to play it safe, it is still best to replace them outright by hiring an electrician to assist you, as keeping them as is can run into many complications in the future. They would be able to point out things like if the electricity is grounded or not, as old outlets that are two-pronged may prove dangerous.

Modern technology runs on a lot of electricity, and most of our appliances having to rely on electricity reflects that shift. It means that older an electrical system may not be able to handle powering all of them simultaneously and may shut down, go haywire, or have other unexpected problems.

To add on to that, smart homes have started to rise in popularity, and if you wish to change your modern home to reflect it as such, you will need to upgrade to modern wiring, especially to support newer iterations of appliances, entertainment systems, lights, etc.

Many old homes use a conventional switchboard, which can be seen as an outdated tool for modern houses, so it is recommended to make the switch to a simple switchboard. There are many options too, such as non-contact LED switches, to full control systems, which is dependent more on how “smart” you want your house to eventually become.


Replace the old plumbing system

Other than, electrical systems, it is paramount that old plumbing systems such as wall mounted toilets should be replaced as soon as possible, even when they are seemingly doing well. Galvanized pipes only have a lifespan of between 80 to 100 years. Depending on how old the plumbing system of the house is, that may come sooner than later.

But age is not the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to old plumbing systems. Corrosion buildup on the inside is a big concern, as even though pipes are coated to prevent corrosion and rust, it eventually wears out through decades of exposure to water, leading to potential corrosion. As a result, it can lead to lower water pressure and uneven distribution of water. Left alone for too long, and the water might be stained and rusty, while the pipes themselves might start leaking water.


Check for foundation issues

You should also watch for other more nuanced problems that may not be noticeable at first glance. For instance, uneven flooring might show that the foundation is not stable. Cracked/Bulged walls, chipped areas, and doors that are hard to lock may be a sign of this as well.

If the house has a lot of wooden walls interiors, wood rot might also be a cause for concern and may need to be repaired to ensure that they don’t become a bigger problem.


Check for potential hiding pests

This is usually frequently overlooked, as rats and roaches don’t usually come out to party when humans are around. Even if the house seems fine and clean on the outside, you can’t be so sure as pests tend to nest themselves inside walls, disrupting the foundation and leaving your house vulnerable to infestations.

As early as now, do a proper sweep of the house for any possible infestations, and call an exterminator if need be. It is much easier when things have not been settled down inside the house yet, giving you a lot more space to hunt them down. 

Test for lead

Lead can be found in old homes that have not been properly maintained. The plumbing system, as mentioned earlier, can potentially be one of the sources, but they can also appear from old coats of paints. You would need to filter the lead and to use non-toxic paint to remove the danger. 

Fix up the windows without replacing them

Unlike most parts of the house, windows don’t necessarily need to be fully replaced especially if they are still in decent shape. In fact, in the long run, it is much cheaper and better to simply repair them or even upgrade them to storm windows.

Those windows can last for centuries with a little bit of proper maintenance. You can even make them look as grand as they were in the past by using made to measure curtains.


Hire a professional inspector

If you are unsure of your ability to make these determinations, you can consider seeking the services of right of light surveyors who can offer design recommendations and reports that will point the remodeling project in the appropriate direction.

 Interior design

Finishing up

You might have your work cut out for you, but don’t be discouraged. When you have finished your renovations, you will have a house that you can be proud of owning that has modern working functionality, yet traditional design and aesthetic.


Guest Post by Javed Soni 

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