Tips: Restoring vs. Rehabilitating Your Historic House

1.Evaluate existing alterations. Consider the quality, design, materials, and craftsmanship of the original house as well as the changes that have occurred over time. Compatible interior and exterior changes of the same or better quality than the original house, even if done in different styles or materials, should probably be kept and restored. Conversely, you should probably remove any poorly designed or executed changes.

2. Design new additions and alterations with attention to detail. When adding to or altering your home, consider its scale (apparent size), actual dimension, and massing (proportion/balance). Use materials, textures, and colors similar to those of the original building.

3. Integrate modern touches with care and caution. The key to a quality rehabilitation is how well it accommodates modern technologies and living styles. Keep changes non-intrusive and compatible with the house’s design and style, and don’t let alterations destroy or cover historically or architecturally significant features or materials.

4. Take care not to falsify the history of the house. This might seem counter-intuitive, but you actually do want to be able to tell additions apart from the original. That way, the house’s history is visible and transparent. Also be careful not to design additions that make the house appear to date from an earlier or later period, or alter the house’s details to an extent that suggest a different architectural period.

5. Look to the experts. For a more detailed list of recommendations, check out the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. This jam-packed resource from the National Park Service includes guidelines on preserving, rehabilitating, restoring, and reconstructing historic buildings.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to determining whether you should restore or rehabilitate your historic home. Let your property, capabilities, and needs help guide your decision, and chances are you’ll arrive at an accurate, appropriate solution.

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