Old House Facets to Keep When Renovating
When renovating a severely outdated home, some elements may increase visual appeal and add value to the property. Before you begin demolishing or reviewing replacement options, look beyond the grime and worn-out appearance and rethink some of these old-home characteristics.
Cabinets: One of the most cost-effective options in a remodeling plan is retaining original kitchen cabinets. Old cabinets are commonly made of hardwoods, with thick wood shelves – virtually indestructible. Heavily-painted cabinetry can be stripped and refinished with stains or paint. Minor damage, including replacing a door or two or adding decorative trim, can be inexpensively completed by a cabinetmaker or finish carpenter.
Vintage metal cabinets are hard to find, but in high demand. Styles from the early 1900’s may have art deco chrome handles. Unfortunately, people see scratched, yellowed and worn enamel finishes and put them in the trash pile. There are several companies, including auto body shops, which sand and electrostatically paint them inside and out, restoring them to original condition, for less than half the cost of new cabinets.
Moldings: Decorative moldings are expensive to replace throughout a home. New styles try to copy old-world looks, but new-world quality is not as fine. Painted moldings can be removed, stripped and repainted. If sections are damaged, look for replacement pieces that can be taken out of old closets or side rooms that are less lived-in, using “new” moldings there instead. If it’s a historical home, you can get custom-milled pieces to match existing molding, or find replacement pieces at architectural salvage companies.
Wood Flooring: Wide-planked floors are premium. Those made from “old” pine, are very hard and have a dark appearance. Slight defects lend charm and do not detract from its value. New wide-planked floors are made from newer growth trees and are much yellower. Old pine floors are highly desirable. Damaged areas can be replaced by purchasing reclaimed pieces from specialty dealers. Word of caution: Have a reputable installer with experience and knowledge about old floors fix troubled areas where boards may have warped and cracked. If the floor is in good condition, sanding and recoating may be all that’s required to bring it up to showcase level.
Stone or Brick Walls: No matter what kind of design style you prefer, an old stone or brick wall can enhance furniture and décor, or be incorporated as an accent wall. Brick and stone can be cleaned, repointed and sealed by a competent stone mason.
Stained glass windows: Lead glass windows can be removed for restoration and reinstalled. Small windows are especially beautiful placed between built-ins or above new windows as a way to introduce subtle color and visual interest into a room.
Antique Bathtubs & Sinks: Claw foot tubs are deep and comfortable. In good condition, it pays to keep them since their value is increasing due to limited supply. If chipped and stained, it can be costly to have them refinished by an expert, but is comparable to the cost of a new tub. Same goes for porcelain sinks, especially those with free-standing legs or built-in utility tubs. They are cumbersome to relocate or reinstall, but are virtually indestructible and functionally attractive when graced with “new” retro faucets. Old soapstone sinks that are also “keepers” despite nicks, dings and knife-sharpening grooves! Keep in mind that new cabinets can be designed to accommodate old sinks.
Lighting: Why buy a retro-looking chandelier when you can have the real thing? Take old lighting down, clean and rewire it. Rewiring kits can be purchased in most hardware stores. Spray paint wrought iron and buy new globes if necessary. With a little TLC, you can create old-world ambiance in a room for only a few dollars.