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5 Lessons from an Old House

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I came across Warrenwood Manor on IG and instantly fell in love with the house and it's renovation story. I took a day and went and met the mistress of the house, Brittney Adams. She was kind enough to show me around and share the history of the house with me while I took pictures. She is living her dream to rehab the house into a living and event space. The very first wedding the house hosted was her very own, the same day they closed on the sale. The house itself is amazing from the hand-painted wall paper to the inlaid wood floors. While we were chatting, she kept imparting these amazing nuggets of wisdom that she had learned during renovations, so naturally I had her write them down so I could share them with you.


Be patient with the elderly. Think of your old home as an elderly individual. Still a beautiful soul, but with lots of quirks from years of experience. As with listening to your grandparents to learn everything you possibly can about their life and bygone years, listen to your house. Even if there have been countless botched renovations to your home, the soul of the house is still in there and your goal should be to recognize it. If you're doing it right, renovating an old home should take much longer than building a home or renovating newer construction homes. With everything that you do, be patient and observant because it will save you in the long run.


Know thyself, know thy house.
Before deciding to embark on the renovation of a home, let alone a historic home, you need to take some time to evaluate if you're up for it. Take an inventory of your risk tolerance, timeline and budget. Owning a historic home is full of surprises, you have to be able to handle those mentally, physically and financially. Now, spend some serious QT with your potential new home. Sit in every room for extended periods of time, at different times of day...even the basement and attic. GO THERE WHEN IT'S RAINING! Water is a devious little jerk and will ruin all of your hard work if you're not careful. Before starting any projects, you need to make sure that your roof, gutters and downspouts are all draining properly away from the foundation of the home. You also need to make sure that no water is penetrating the house via cracks around windows, doors, or mortar shortcomings.

Do your research, but don't be a know it all.
You have to be flexible and creative! Here's why, there are 1,000 ways to do everything in life and the same goes with each little project in an old home. It will behoove you to think of each and every option, even for the smallest of projects. With everything that you do, consider the impact on the historic nature of the house and the impact on the future use of the house. You don't want to have to go back and redo something that you've invested a lot of time and money in just because you were rushing through a renovation and not thinking about every possible option. Do your research, listen to professionals, listen to your house and you can't go wrong.


Set a budget and then set it again.
Budgets are annoying. Especially when you're excited about the possibilities of a renovation and you just want to do it all at once! Calm down. Your house has been around for a long time, take your time, do it right and in keeping with the soul of your house. Set your max budget. Now, take out 25% and pretend like it never existed. Seriously, do it. That 25% that you've put away will end up saving you and possibly your sanity. Inevitably, because you lack x-ray vision, during your renovation you will encounter something that you weren't expecting. I would venture to guess that in older homes it's usually either plumbing, electrical or water related issues. None of which are cheap or easy fixes. Guard that 25% safety net with your life, try to avoid using it, but if you must, make sure it's used towards a need and not a want. You'll thank me later.

Utilize contractors selectively.
Whether you're doing the entire renovation yourself or you're bringing in the big guns, be selective about who and what you let in your home. If hiring help, make sure they're sensitive to the delicate needs of your home. Utilize someone with years of historic preservation experience to execute any penetrations associated with your project. What the heck does that mean? It means, don't let your plumbers or HVAC guys go cutting holes in your 100-year-old hardwood floors or original brick. Pay the high dollar contractor that's sensitive to your home's needs to create all of the holes in accordance with the plumber's or HVAC guy's needs. And again, I can't stress this enough, be creative! You want to preserve and protect as much as of your home as possible and stay true to the original construction, so make sure you're making every decision with those goals in mind.


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