Urban Home Renovation, Pt.3: Respectfully Reclaim An Older Home

Living in the city often means moving into more established neighbourhoods. In turn, this often means older buildings, older homes. When you renovate homes like this, there are often considerations that apply. One is to know something about the traditions of a building, and how to restore a space while not affecting its subtle spirit.

But, how do you do that?

Returning with a long-awaited third part in her series about urban home renovation, writer Sam Peters explores the unique world of older home restorations, and how to respectfully reclaim a home with a history that pre-dates you as your own.


Source: frontdoor.com via Marie on Pinterest

There’s no denying that older homes usually need a bit more love and attention to return them to their former glory. Fortunately, home reclamation offers its own rewards. Older homes have an inherent integrity and beauty that’s not often seen in modern home construction.

Whether it’s a Victorian gem, a mid-century bungalow or a colonial mansion that actually dates back to the Colonial Period, restoring a home can be a satisfying, though challenging, project. These five helpful tips can make the process go smoother and make your home reclamation project a success:

Reclaim Original Features with Authentic-Looking Replicas

When an older home’s original features have been lost or damaged beyond repair, you can find a wide range of replica products available both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Hansen Lighting, for example, offers a broad selection of period lighting fixtures, from wall sconces to crystal chandeliers. Their online site allows users to filter searches by fixture, style or finish, simplifying the hunt for the ideal lighting fixture.

Save the Plaster

Lime plaster was once a common building material for ceiling and wall surfaces, and the material is still a common feature in older homes. Flexible and resistant to water damage, the material is worth preserving. Modern alternatives simply don’t match its durability.

If the plaster has become unattached from the lath, it can be reattached with adhesive. Cracks can be repaired with an application of a mix of gypsum and lime putty. This is one example of old construction methods standing the test of time.

Replicate Architectural Molding and Medallions

You can replicate architectural details by making molds of existing architectural details like ceiling medallions and crown moldings and then casting plaster copies from the molds. Damaged cornices can be repaired as well. Cracks and holes can be filled with the same mixture of lime putty and gypsum used for plaster repair. The cornice profile is then developed with the aid of a plasterer’s miter rod.


Visit Salvage Yards and Recycling Centers

Architectural salvage yards can be a great resource if you’re searching for items like a marble mantelpiece, an antique bathtub or period windows and doors. Items can range from large-scale pieces like built-in cabinet units to hardware and plumbing fixtures. Recycling centers can be a good source for historically accurate home materials, products and furnishings as well and may also feature reclaimed lumber.

Investigate Government Resources

Homeowners of certain designated historic homes may qualify for a number of governmental incentive programs. Some states allow for property tax exemptions if the governing body approves a preservation plan. You can ascertain if your home qualifies by consulting your state’s historic preservation office. The National Register of Historic Places is an excellent resource as well, listing tax incentive and grant programs. Getting in touch with a local historic society can open up contacts with other homeowners who have gone through the reclamation process.

A sense of stewardship

Homeowners of older homes often view their properties with a sense of stewardship, and seek to restore these buildings in order to preserve the architectural history of the community. Reclaimed properties with historical value can be a source of pride for a neighborhood, community, or entire town. However, it is not a simple process. Home reclamation requires devotion on the part of the homeowner. Fortunately, the broad array of resources available can also make the experience a successful and satisfying endeavor overall.


Thanks, Sam!



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