Buying an older house is your chance to create the stylish and luxurious home you’ve always wanted at an affordable price.

One of the things we love most about transforming older homes is the opportunity to preserve and celebrate the soul of that particular property. This kind of character and charm cannot be found or replicated in brand-new builds so it’s definitely, in our opinion, worth saving.

The reality is that it takes time and dedication to bring the old glow back into an older home, but the result is well worth it. Here are our top tips to keep in mind when it comes to fixing up an old home.

 For sale: 16 Wolger Road, Mosman, NSW For sale: 16 Wolger Road, Mosman, NSW

Assess the damage

Perhaps you feel confident enough on your own, but it doesn’t hurt to have an expert assist you with estimating any damage and wear a house has suffered over the years in a building inspection report before putting in an offer.

  • Water damage – You would be surprised by how much damage water can cause. It can soak the floors and beams, speed up the rotting process of wooden parts, cause corrosion of pipes, and make the perfect breeding ground for mould.
  • Insect damage – Have all structural wooden elements assessed for rotting and termites. Replace them if there is a need before you start the renovation.
  • The settling of the house – If you find that the foundation has cracks in it, find a professional that can fix this issue for you. You cannot leave foundation issues unchecked as they may compromise any structural changes you make, let moisture through or build up radon, a natural radioactive gas.

Check plumbing & wiring

Another thing to take care of is the state of plumbing and wiring. Chances are, depending on the period the house was built and whether anyone has done anything to it since, that some pipes and wiring may need replacing.

  • Check plumbing- If your water is cloudy or rusty and you have no water pressure you will probably want to look into replacing the plumbing and the hot water service. Rust typically comes from the corrosion of old copper piping over time and may lead to a burst pipe and flooding in the not too distant future. So, it’s better to be safe than sorry in old homes and fix any minor plumbing issues before they turn into a major one.
  • Old wiring – Your major concern should be that the electrical outlets may not be grounded, which we now know is a must. The electrical box will most likely need upgrading to be able to support a safety switch, which is especially important while renovating to minimise the risk of electrical fires and shocks.

 Ripe for reno- For sale: 1 Alsace Street, Brunswick East, VIC Ripe for reno- For sale: 1 Alsace Street, Brunswick East, VIC

Check the roof, windows, & mortar

  • Windows – If the current windows are still in good shape, you can refinish them and avoid the expense and hassle of replacing them. If you’re looking for energy-efficiency or the windows cannot be refinished, you could replace them with modern double-glazed windows. If you’re splashing out on a few new windows try to make them similar in style to the rest of the house to keep as uniform an appearance throughout as possible. Also check out auctions, antique dealers and landfill recycling centres for old windows you could reclaim and reuse in your house.
  • The roof – You may need an entirely new one or just to fix up certain areas to avoid roof leaks ruining your freshly renovated property. I suggest using the same two options as for the windows mentioned above, either buy a modern version or find old roof tiles to match the few that need replacing.
  • The mortar – If you purchased an old brick house you may find that the mortar is crumbling and falling out. This isn’t much to worry about, you can easily replace the mortar yourself with a little skill and a lot of patience.

 For sale: 16 Wolger Road, Mosman, NSW For sale: 16 Wolger Road, Mosman, NSW

Decorating

Since your house already has its own personality, perhaps you should consult it first when it comes to styling and decor.

  • Preserve original features – When painting the home, work around the historical architectural features and use colour carefully to accentuate them.
  • Lead in paint – Speaking of paint, lead-based paint was commonly used for both interior and exterior surfaces in Australian homes built before 1970. Commonly painted features included window frames and doors, railings, gutters and other metal surfaces, as well as kitchen and bathroom cupboards. It was combined with red and pink primer which also contained lead. Cover any potentially hazardous areas with latex paint to be on a safe side. If the paint has started chipping off and you really want to remove it, the safest option is to hire experienced professionals to do the job using methods such as wet scraping, wet sanding, heat processes or chemical stripping.
  • Old meets new – Mixing different styles has become a great trend in contemporary home décor. Mix historical style with modern features to make the house more personal, functional and connected to modern living but remaining true to its roots. Depending on whether the house has been occupied recently or not, you may have to find space for some new appliances that were never planned for in the original layout.

 For sale: 4 Thornber Street, Unley Park, SA For sale: 4 Thornber Street, Unley Park, SA

Ventilation

Check whether there is a ventilation system in the house, as well as a cooling and heating system. If the house has been occupied within the last two or three decades, you might actually still have functional systems ready to go. An AC repair and heating service may end up costing you much less than installing new ones. If this is the case, you’re in luck.

Check for asbestos

We cannot talk about old houses without mentioning the A-word. Have a professional building inspector check for asbestos in your new home and how friable it is. If there is a need, get the permits and hire the right people to do the job of removing and disposing of it for you.

Your old house is a great opportunity to create something completely customised and unique. Allow enough time to complete the necessary repairs and don’t rush your move-in date. It is easier to build a house from scratch than to repair an old one, but the satisfaction you get from conserving and living in a refreshed piece of history makes the extra work and time well worth it.

For more advice for aspiring renovators take a read of our guide to avoid a money-guzzling reno nightmare, how to renovate for your target market and ‘Renovate or detonate? That is the question’.


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