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Kevin Ahern

By: Kevin Ahern on January 18th, 2024

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Renovating a Historic Building vs. Building a New Structure in Connecticut

Connecticut is one of the oldest states in the union, and one of the original 13 colonies. A history like that means that the state has many beautiful, historic buildings. If you're a business owner or real estate investor, you have your choice of purchasing a new construction building or buying a historic property and renovating it for your purposes.

Picking one over the other can be hard. Historic buildings are beautiful to look at, but renovating and maintaining a historic building can be costly. On the other hand, new construction buildings have an entirely different aesthetic appeal and maintenance routine. Knowing which one is right for you can be difficult, so it's important to consider all the variables before making a choice.

Either way, it's important to choose the right contractor for your project. New construction requires a contractor with experience with new building construction. If you're going to purchase a historic building, you're going to need a contractor with experience renovating historic structures. Below are some of the factors that you should take into consideration when you're selecting a commercial property. 

Historic Building Renovation

Historic building renovation is a process that's fraught with challenges, although for the right building owner, it can be an exciting and rewarding process. Registered historic buildings are generally protected by local authorities, will often be affiliated with a historic society, and may be represented by a board with the authority to approve all changes and renovations. Before you can begin your remodel, you'll have to have your project approved by the governing body. 

Changes made to a historic building must be consistent with the time period in which the building was constructed. The contractor you choose must be knowledgeable in working with materials that are correct for the time period, and should also be experienced working with a board to get changes approved. 

Pros of Renovating a Historic Building

  • Character. Historic buildings have a great deal of character, which can be beneficial, depending on your business and brand. Retail locations, restaurants and businesses that rely on a certain ambiance can benefit from the look and charm of a historic building. 
  • High value. Historic buildings that have protected status are especially valuable and can be a good investment if they're well maintained.
  • Funding sometimes available. The state of Connecticut is dedicated to preserving its heritage. Historic Restoration Fund Grants are available to help defray the cost of renovating and maintaining a historic building.
  • Own a piece of history. For some people, the charm of owning a piece of history is itself a benefit of owning a historic building. 

Cons of Renovating a Historic Building

  • Maintenance needs. Historic buildings need more maintenance and work than new construction buildings. These buildings need ongoing care to remain functional and safe. 
  • Cost. Renovations in historic buildings are typically more expensive than the cost of building a new construction building. There are many reasons for this. These buildings require special materials, require contractors with special knowledge of how to work with those materials, and often have old wiring or plumbing that must be brought up to code during the renovation. 
  • Difficulty. Finding special materials and contractors with knowledge of how to perform a renovation on a historic property can be challenging to say the least. Renovations can happen more slowly and laboriously than new construction. 
  • Less flexibility. Working around a historic building's existing structure, layout and historic details can mean less flexibility overall. If your business requires your building to look a certain way, then you may be better off buying a new construction building. 
  • Difficulty achieving ADA compliance. ADA compliance is a requirement no matter what kind of building you own. Achieving ADA compliance in a historic building can be difficult and sometimes more expensive. 

As you can see, there are many challenges to renovating a historic building for commercial purposes. However, for some commercial building owners, the downsides are not as significant as the considerable benefit of owning a historic property. With sufficient funding, a good business plan and the right contractor, you can make owning a historic building a worthwhile, rewarding and even profitable endeavor. 

New Construction Commercial Building

New construction commercial buildings are designed to be functional. With brand-new plumbing and wiring, brand-new bathrooms built to comply with building codes and ADA requirements, and a layout that is designed for your business' unique needs, new construction commercial building is efficient and cost-effective.  


  • Faster. Although you're building a new structure from the ground up, sometimes constructing a new building is faster than renovating a historic property.  
  • Designed for your unique needs. When you're building your own structure, you'll have more control over the layout and appearance of your structure. 
  • Lower cost. Modern construction generally costs less per square foot than the cost to renovate a historic structure. Of course, cost depends on scope and other details. Have a budget in mind when you begin your project. Work with the right architect and contractor to control costs and build your commercial structure for a price you can afford. 
  • Energy efficiency. New construction buildings are almost always more efficient than historic buildings. This saves you money as a business owner and is better for the environment as well. 


New construction buildings rarely have the charm and architectural value of historic buildings. For some building owners, this is a significant downside. 

Get Started With Your Commercial Construction Project Today

Whether you're renovating a historic building vs. building a new structure, it's important to find the right contractor for your project. Download the Litchfield Builders guide to selecting a Connecticut contractor. 

How to Choose a Professional Home Remodeling Contractor

About Kevin Ahern

Kevin is the Co-Founder of Litchfield Builders, an award-winning, industry leader with a reputation for managing projects others shy away from. They are known for their high-quality work, customer service, and reliability and though still relatively small in size, Litchfield Builders now competes with some of the areas largest firms in both the residential and commercial arenas.