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Kevin Ahern

By: Kevin Ahern on November 30th, 2023

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How to maintain historical integrity while renovating a historic Connecticut home

Residential | Residential Remodeling

If you live in a historic home, you know that renovating your house can be a delicate process. The materials can be fragile, hard to come by, and in some cases, impossible to obtain. Even small changes to your home can impact its character and thus its value, and yet all historic homes need regular maintenance and updates in order to remain functional and comfortable places to live. 

Ultimately, renovating a historic home comes down to doing your homework and hiring the right professional for the job. Litchfield Builders has completed renovations on historic homes and buildings all around Connecticut. During our time in the field, we've learned a few things about renovating historic homes. Below are some of the things we think homeowners aught to know before performing a renovation of their historic property. 

Familiarize Yourself With the Building Conventions of the Time

If you're an owner of a historic home, it's helpful to read up on the architectural standards for homes like yours. Looking at the available resources will help you identify the unique, period-specific features in your house that make your house what it is. Once you've identified these features, you'll know what should be preserved during your renovations. Being informed in this way will help you maintain the value of your home, even as you're taking the time to remodel. 

Select Period-Appropriate Materials

It's important to choose materials that are true to the time period. Whether you need slate for your roof or an antique wood for your floors, there are material suppliers that deal with the type of materials you need. A contractor experienced in historic renovations should have contacts in the area and will help you source these materials during your renovation. Sometimes, antique materials are no longer commercially available. In cases where the material is no longer available to modern consumers, you may need to purchase salvaged or reclaimed materials.  

Do Your Homework

There are many resources online for homeowners performing historic home improvements. The state of Connecticut is dedicated to preserving its history, so the state website has quite a lot of information about historic renovation and preservation. This includes information about local building material reuse centers, tax credits and funding opportunities for maintaining and preserving historic properties, historic designations and more. 

In addition, Connecticut is home to quite a few societies and organizations, including Preserve Connecticut and the Hartford Preservation Alliance, that are committed to preserving the state's historic buildings. These organizations help building owners maintain their historic properties by providing ample information to homeowners and members about renovations and preservation of historic properties. 

Hire the Right Professionals

Hire professionals who know how to work with old materials without damaging them. Look for contractors that have membership status in organizations dedicated to preserving historic structures. Any contractor you hire should have a portfolio that reflects their previous work on historic houses, and should be able to talk about historic renovation processes with confidence and obvious expertise. 

  • Meet with multiple contractors before choosing the one for you.
  • Check references, including references from homeowners that can vouch for the contractor's past work on historic homes.
  • Worry less about the cost and more about the contractor's expertise with homes like yours.
  • Look at the contractor's portfolio of work on historic structures. This portfolio will help you decide if the contractor's work is of the caliber you expect for your home. 

Be Aware of Hazardous Materials In Your Home

Old homes can have hazardous materials embedded in the walls, floors and more. Friable asbestos and lead paint are both real problems that you can encounter when you're renovating an old home.

The EPA has special licensure required of anyone doing work that disturbs surfaces larger than 6 square feet in in pre-1978 homes. The state of Connecticut requires anyone working with friable asbestos to have a special license as well. These licenses ensure the professionals doing the work in older homes know how to protect themselves and your family during the renovation process. 

Don't forget that old wiring, especially knob and tube wiring, can be hard to work with and dangerous as well. Any time you renovate a part of your house that disturbs the old wiring, it must be brought up to code to get through the permitting process.

It's important to hire a professional with the right licenses to get the job done. Be careful of performing DIY projects. These problems are more than most homeowners can handle on their own. It's best to hire someone who is specially trained and qualified to get the work done right and safely. 

Be Prepared to Hire an Architect

Many major remodels require some design work in order to maintain the historic accuracy and to comply with regulations that preserve the historic character of older homes. Often, these design projects require help from an architect as well as a contractor. If you feel lost in this process, your contractor can help you find an architect that will meet your needs. 

Renovating a Historic Connecticut Home? Download Our Guide

If you're renovating a historic home, start your project by hiring the right contractor for the job. Litchfield Builders created a guide for hiring a professional home improvement contractor for your upcoming project.

Litchfield Builders has worked on homes hundreds of years old, and we're experienced in helping homeowners preserve and improve their historic homes. We can help with your renovation and would be happy to ensure that your home improvement project is a success. 

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.