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How to Bring an Old House Into the 21st Century

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Older homes tend to be packed with charm — that’s why so many homeowners are attracted to them. Unfortunately, older homes also come with more than their share of problems, including outdated features that desperately need updating.

If you hope to invest in an older property, there is a way to keep the charm while renovating and updating to the standards you need in your modern life. Here’s a guide to bringing an older home into the 21st century.

3 Rules for What to Keep

Obviously, you don’t want to change everything in your old house; that would defeat the purpose of investing in an older property. However, you might not know what is important to keep and what you can safely change without eradicating the charm. Here are three good rules of thumb:

Keep a Cohesive Style

The style of your home should remain consistent from the exterior to the interior. That means if your home looks Tudor from the street, you should maintain a Tudor look and feel inside. You should strive to match your furniture and décor to the style of the home to maximize the effect of its charm.

Keep Everything in Proportion

Old homes usually don’t boast the grand entryways or open floorplans of modern construction. In fact, older homes generally tend to be smaller in size — and you should respect that with appropriately diminutive furniture and decorations. An immense sectional sofa that crowds a room isn’t attractive; it ruins the charm of the older space.

Keep the Hardwoods

For the love of good design, you shouldn’t cover up original hardwoods, be they in rafters on the ceiling, paneling on the walls or the floors themselves. Typically, hardwoods only need a sanding and refinishing to look their best, and you should consider this expense a necessary cost of buying the home. In areas with some of the country’s oldest hardwoods, like New England, it isn’t hard to find a qualified refinisher.

8 Examples of Things to Change

Generally, older homes are inefficient. Thus, your primary goal should be to improve the efficiency of your home without impeding its charm. You can do this in a number of ways, but here are some of the best:

Replace windows

Old windows are horrible at insulating against heat and cold, so older homes in areas with extreme temperatures must focus on updating windows first. Phoenix home window replacement is fast, and other areas should have similarly prompt service.

Replace doors

Exterior doors can be just as inefficient as windows, so updating them is a good idea. Additionally, interior doors moderate airflow throughout your home, and the right size door can truly impact efficiency. As always, try to maintain a cohesive style with your new doors.

Relocate walls

You should talk to a contractor to determine whether any of the walls in your home can be shifted or removed. This will open up your rooms, giving you more space to entertain and decorate.

Raise ceiling height

Older homes tend to have lower ceilings. Once, these helped with temperature efficiency, but today, they feel oppressive. Contractors should be able to help you raise your ceilings. To do this, you might need to relocate components in your attic, like HVAC ducts or wiring.

Change the paint color

Paint is relatively inexpensive, and it can radically update the look and feel of a home. You should try to respect the style of your home with your paint color — and you might need to consult with an HOA before you paint.


Switch out light fixtures

Outdated lights severely date a room. More modern fixtures don’t infringe much on style but they can make a space feel new.

Swap outlet and switch covers

The details make a space. Cracked, discolored or otherwise outdated outlet covers will date your rooms, even if you and your guests don’t immediately identify them. At the very least, you should get clean covers, but you can also consider installing decorative options, like brushed nickel or bronze.

Invest in new kitchen appliances

Outdated appliances are inefficient, difficult to use and unsightly. You should acquire a home warranty to help you pay for replacement appliances should you need them before you have saved adequately yourself.

An old house can look brand-new — but still boast that je-ne-sais-quoi that new construction always lacks. By keeping some elements as they are and modifying the rest to suit your tastes, you can survive and thrive in an older home.

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