Blending the New with the Old
By Teresa Opdycke
An old house has something new houses often do not: character. The charm of an old home lies in such adornments as fireplaces, open staircases, high ceilings, wood floors, cubbies and bay windows with window seats. The purchase of an old home may require renovating and bringing the home into the 21st century with updated features. Blending the new with the old to keep the character but add the wants and needs of now takes careful planning. New and updated building materials help keep the charm of an old house while adding modern convenience.
Before you begin renovating or remodeling, take a look at the neighborhood. Most of houses will more be similar to yours. Some neighborhoods or towns have zoning laws that demand you keep your home true to its authentic self. As you plan, you'll want to blend the new features in ways that keep the character of the house and in line with others in the nearby.
Older homes usually require a fair amount of maintenance compared to newer ones. The market has witnessed vast improvements in building materials, making the maintenance less arduous over the long haul. The exterior of old homes often need updating, but making concessions at the risk of losing the character of the old house may not be a good choice. New and updated materials will help keep the flavor the home with less maintenance, but it comes with a higher price tag.
Without a sturdy foundation, a house lacks the support required, and like a house of cards it all comes down. Keeping foundations in sound condition is an absolute must. If a new addition to an old home is in the works, blending the new with old becomes important. Many old houses sit on brick foundations, while concrete does the trick for new homes. A new process called brick stamping uses a concrete foundation that is given a brick look. It can be painted or stained to simulate the original foundation.
Siding old homes with wood siding took a much longer time than modern homes sided with vinyl or aluminum. A concrete-based lap siding can replicate the original siding. Like wood it must be primed and painted, but the paint lasts much longer, eliminating the need to paint quite so often. Of course if you want to stay with wood siding, you can purchase it in six and eight-foot long sheets. Hanging these lengths takes less time and less effort.
Beautiful old windows with wavy glass may be authentic, but they undoubtedly allow drafts in and warm air out. In this day of high heating costs, replacing windows is a necessity. You will find manufacturers that build windows that match the existing ones. Often the windows are built with real wood for the inside but maintenance-free for the outside. Search for companies that are willing to do custom work so your new windows will blend with the character of your old home.
The two rooms that usually need the most updating in old homes are the kitchen and the bathroom. Kitchens in old homes are often small, dingy, and have little storage. It may be necessary to knock out walls and combine two rooms to make one. If there's just not enough space to have a comfortable bathroom and a working kitchen, an addition may alleviate the problem. To keep the authentic look in both rooms, use period looks for cabinets and plumbing fixtures.
Idling a Sunday away in a swing on the front porch seems to be an old-house past time everyone loves. Porches greet visitors, keep the weather at bay a bit, and offer fair weather living space. Fiberglass and composite materials duplicate old porch pieces like decorative columns, balustrades, and railings. Worrying about rotting wood will be a thing of the past and maintenance will be lessened.
Many old homes sport a slate or clay tile roof that needs replacements or repair. Both of these roofing materials can still be found, and unlike other styles of roofs, these materials come with long lasting qualities.
Blending the new with the old is easier today thanks to new and improved materials that may not be made of the same substances, but do lend an authentic aged appearance. The cost of renovating may be higher and the maintenance required may be more involved, but in the end the character of the old house remains unscathed. Just think how wonderful it will be curled up with a good book as you're rocked gently in a swing on the porch of your old house.
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