As we conclude our series on older homes, I’d like to spend this time discussing ways to keep your older home both functional and beautiful as it ages. All older homes, even those that are not on a historic register, deserve to grow old gracefully. Even still, your home may have significance that you haven’t uncovered. If you’re living in an older home, research the house and the neighborhood to discover its hidden history. The local library or historic society often hold records on prior owners and detailed maps of a town’s previous layout. When you find out the context of your home, the significance of your street name, or previous owners, it not only can enhance the enjoyment of your home, but can also potentially increase the value of it. In Dallas, there are not a lot of homes that date back to before the First World War, which makes that small number of homes more rare and interesting.
Thankfully, hiring experienced home inspectors, architects, and contractors can easily mitigate most problems that arise with older homes. Do your research when it comes to your home design team. Seek out professionals with prior experience with older homes and great references from homeowners. Despite educated guesses, it is truly hard to know what kind of shape the plumbing, electrical, and walls are in until sheetrock comes down. You should plan on including a financial safety net in your purchase or renovation budget which will take the sting out of any unforeseen setbacks. Thankfully, lots of older homes were built with a crawl space underneath the home. This makes it easy to move plumbing, check ductwork, and even install or maintain air conditioning systems without disrupting the permanent structure.
Before you start thinking about knocking down walls in your older home to create an open floor plan, think carefully about the style of the home and why it was built in that particular way. For example, many Victorian homes were created with distinct separation between public and private space. Victorian homes were also built with the family in mind, such that any public space is designed to enhance social interaction. Instead of trying to mold the home to fit your ideals, think of ways that you can furnish and live in your home the way it was intended. Perhaps two smaller love seats and a set of comfortable armchairs could create a cozy sitting area for conversation better than a giant sectional sofa.
Finally, let’s talk about your crooked little house. Perhaps your floors are bit uneven or your doorframes slanted. Resist the urge to try and level the house. Leveling a home can actually do more damage than good. Homes and their wooden frames harden as they settle. Any attempts at leveling may crack the existing sheetrock and set up a domino effect of problems. Best to chalk any crooked quirks up to charm and leave it at that unless the problem is extreme.
I hope you truly enjoy your older home. It is anchored in your neighborhood, a stalwart of the community, standing time-tested among the years. Its walls are filled with memories, laughter, and life.
William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC