Many homeowners prefer older homes to new for a variety of reasons: Often the craftsmanship is better, the wood trim and floors have the rich patina of age, architectural windows and other detailing give the home character, and the structure may just feel more solid and settled.
But when it comes time to restore or
renovate, older houses can present new challenges for
homeowners who haven't braced themselves for the costs
"Everything is more expensive than
people think," says Jake Schloegel, president of
Design Remodel Inc. in Kansas City, Mo.
"It's not uncommon for people's ideas
of cost to be about half of what it's really going to
There is a considerable price difference
between a restoration, which attempts to restore part
of a home with historical accuracy, and a renovation,
which upgrades old with new.
"Working on older homes is more expensive
if you're going to try to maintain the authenticity
of the original construction," says Schloegel.
"There is a big difference between restoration
and renovation. Restoration is really expensive, matching
things exactly. You may have to have molds made, blades
made. It can be rather involved."
In addition, a restoration that alters
the exterior of the house will likely require the approval
of a historic-home or -landmark commission, a process
that can add months to your project.
Whichever project you undertake (we'll
deal primarily with renovations here), it's a good idea
to interview several design-build companies in your
area and choose one to work with before moving beyond
the dream stage. Low-ball renovations, while tempting,
rarely yield satisfactory results, and in a worst-case
scenario can actually decrease the value of your home.
"Since we are a design-build company,
we like to be involved from the date the idea was conceived
through all the construction and complete project management,"
Schloegel says. "Not only is the idea and design
important, but also a realistic budget. Many projects
never get built because the design and the budget don't
run together; they start running at right angles. A
reality check can come fairly early in the project when
it comes to budget."
|That old house sure
has character, but it's going to take more
than character to overcome some of the special
problems you're going to encounter.
Challenge 1: Water
David Tyson, of David
Tyson and Associates Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., knows
what he goes up against in most renovation projects.
"Water is the No. 1 enemy, in my
opinion," he says. "Just moisture presence
is the worst problem because it starts the mold and
mildew effect, then bacteria, and eventually termites.
Those are detrimental to a house anywhere, anytime."
Moisture behind wallboard can often lead
a renovator on an expensive side trip to replace rotten
or termite-infested studs with new ones in order to
proceed with the remodel.
"I tell all of my clients to put
5 to 15 percent aside for contingencies, regardless
of the size of the project," says Tyson. "I
don't have X-ray vision."
2: Foundation cracks
Old homes may have been built better from the ground
up, but their foundations often don't withstand the
test of time, says Dennis Gehman of Gehman
Custom Builder in Harleysville, Pa.
"In cement block or cinder block,
which was used from the mid-1960s on back, the cinder
portion is not as structurally sound as the cement block,
so you get cracks, and water penetrates," he says.
"In homes 40 or 50 years ago, they typically didn't
use foundation sealer on the outside, and now it wouldn't
seem real prudent to dig up landscaping and sidewalks
to do exterior sealing."
Cracked foundations also are a common
source of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas
that has been identified as the second leading cause
of lung cancer in the United States.
Sealing the inside of the blocks (say
in a basement) may rectify the problem, but you'll want
to make sure you divert as much water as possible with
drainpipes and grading outside, or the hydrostatic pressure
may cause the sealant to peel.
$600 to $750 to seal a basement floor; $1,200 to seal
and vent a basement; $7,000-$10,000 for a new foundation
Posted: April 12, 2006