Be a wise investor. Follow market trends and spend your money with an eye to the future- historic rehabilitation, rather than remodeling, modernizing or budget fix-up's.
An older home is no different from any other antique. Would you replace the handles of a priceless Ming vase with new plastic ones in order to "modernize" or improve its use as a pitcher? Nope. It would be disrespectful to the culture and the artist who produced it and it wouldn't be economical. You would reduce its value as an antique!
Craftsmanship has declined and the costs of both labor and materials have skyrocketed since these houses were built. You could not build a comparable house today for what you would pay for a fine old home with its antique features and wonderful character.
Here are some things I did (and did not do) and will (and will not do) to increase my home's comfort, value and appeal, as well as lovingly preserve it for the next fortunate steward:
- I researched my style of house, as well the philosophy behind its particular design, so that I could make correct decisions regarding its rehabilitation. It saved me much money and grief to learn from the experiences of others. This website contains a great deal of valuable information that will help you with your old house project.
- I DID NOT destroy historic materials. Where something needed repair, I gently repaired it, I did not replace it.
Plaster, for example, provides a much more lovely surface than drywall and it is not difficult to patch. Your wood floors can often be refinished. Do not replace them unless they are worn to below the tongue and groove. And if you must install new, use real wood. I had my lovely old wood windows fixed when I painted my interior walls and they work smoothly, giving me a lovely, old world look into my gardens. It was not costly, which replacements would have been.
- Seminole Heights Tampa bungalow. I did not remove or alter any character defining features. I DID NOT try to “modernize” or “improve” the house. I did not add odd bits of architecture, appropriate to other periods or styles of house. Consider how horrid a 60's bathroom looks in a bungalow today. Well, 40 years from now, the currently fashionable spa style bathroom will strike the eye with the same degree of discord. Install a new “bungalow” bathroom (or one that suits the period of your old house) and it will never go out of style!
- I handled the structural problems discovered in my pre-purchase home inspection, and I replaced the roof. Water intrusion destroys houses. I am ever watchful for signs of leaks.
- Got my own termite inspection and purchased a termite contract. I have my house inspected at least twice a year and keep an eagle eye out for signs of any and all types of nasty, wood destroying organisms.
- Landscaped with plants that would do well in our climate and complement the style of my house. I did not use many Florida natives, instead going for an exotic tropical look, but I do recommend natives. I feed my plants with organic fertilizers and water the majority of them with a drip system which conserves water.
- Plant a couple feet away from the house so moisture from the plants does not destroy the siding and it gives you room to do periodic inspections. Ensure that your grading goes down, away from your house so that when you water, you will not accumulate moisture.
- I painted the exterior of my house with period appropriate colors. I made sure that all surfaces, inside and out, were well prepared so that the paint would adhere well and look good. If you have shingles, that have never been painted, keep them that way. Do not paint them. Just re-stain them. If some are damaged, replace those.
- DO NOT stucco or put up siding which can become a haven for termites, rats and roaches and mold, and reduce the value of your property. If your house has these coverings, they actually can be removed. Often, the surface underneath is in surprisingly good condition!
- I rebuilt the glass doored cabinets in the living room and dining room that had been removed by a previous new owner. Prior to installing them, I photographed the areas where they would sit, documenting the fact that they were added, not original.
- I joined my neighborhood association and Tampa Preservation, Inc. I raise my voice for the built environment of our past. I encourage others to raise theirs-LOUD!