How do I Start Rehabilitating and Restoring My Historic Home?Updated 2/17/2008
Rehabilitating and restoring a historic house is an exciting challenge. All of your hard work will be richly rewarded when you successfully complete your project. Keep in mind, too, that you do not have to do it all yourself. Many professionals are available to assist you during every phase of your project: architects, architectural historians, landscape architects, contractors, and suppliers as well as researchers, librarians, and preservationists.
How Do I Start?
Before buying an older house, you should first determine the condition of the building by thoroughly inspecting it yourself or with a trained professional, such as an architect, structural engineer, or a building inspector with renovation experience. A local preservation organization can probably recommend an appropriate person. Carefully map out what you want to accomplish and budget how much money you can afford to spend. The next step is research. The more you know about your house, the more accurate your restoration will be. You will also save money by eliminating as much guess work as possible before beginning any actual work.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Search for deeds, tax records, property abstracts, and maps to determine your house's previous owners and the history of the building. Your city or county records office can help you begin.
- Look through city directories, census records, and insurance maps for information on the house's previous owners. Your public library and local historic society will have this information.
- Conduct a search of the house and its yard. An architect or archaeologist can offer advice as to what to look for, and don't forget to search the rafters for records the former owners may have left behind.
- To determine whether the house is a designated historic structure on the local, state, or national level, or to find out if it is within a historic district, contact your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
- If your house is a locally designated historic structure, or in a historic district, you may need local approval to make any changes to the exterior. Ask your local planning office.
- Easements or other tax abatement programs may be available to you. Again, your local planning office and local preservation commission are the best sources of information.