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From Colonial Revival-style to turn-of-the-century Victorian and everything in between, there are plenty of old homes in Delaware, and they possess a sense of character and history that you simply can’t replicate with new construction.

However, renovating an older home to make it livable is a major undertaking, and you want to make sure it’s worth the investment before starting such a project. Depending on the condition of the house and the maintenance and remodeling it’s undergone since being built, you could be in for a major remodel that involves taking the structure down to its studs in order to make it more functional, efficient, and safe.

Should I remodel an older home in Delaware?

Before you decide to remodel an older home in Delaware, there is plenty to consider: the cost, the scope of work, and if it’s a historic property, any potential restrictions you are likely to face. You also want to find a home remodeler that is experienced with projects involving vintage houses. Here are a few questions to ask in order to help you figure out if it’s worth remodeling your older home:

What do home renovations cost?

In general, the cost for any type of home remodel varies depending on the size of the structure, its current condition, the scope of work, and the materials you choose to include. The average cost of a home remodel is about $50,000, but your project can range between $25,000 to $150,000. Kitchen and bathroom renovations tend to require a bigger investment because of the fixtures, appliances, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work involved.

When it comes to older homes, the initial purchase price may be lower—especially if you purposely select a fixer-upper. However, the price to complete modern renovations to old homes tends to be steeper than normal renovation costs, especially if you have to replace the foundation, install a new roof, or add a new HVAC system. Additionally, the project may be more complex since older homes tend to be unique in their construction as opposed to the cookie-cutter structures built in recent years. However, if you find an older property for a good price and carefully plan your remodel to include cost-saving measures, the project can be a worthwhile investment.

Is your home or neighborhood considered ‘historic’?

Delaware is known for its historic communities, but that doesn’t mean every old house is automatically considered a historic home. In general, properties in Delaware require three main attributes to be “historic”: being more than 50 years old; having a high degree of physical integrity; and maintaining historical significance. They also must be relatively unchanged or modernized.

If you purchase a historic home in Delaware with the intention to renovate the property, you should check with the Historic Preservation Office about any guidelines and restrictions you need to follow. The City of Wilmington Department of Planning also has a preservation planner on staff, as do the planning departments for Sussex, New Castle, and Kent counties.

Many neighborhoods also have homeowners’ associations (HOAs) that pose their own rules and restrictions when it comes to the properties within their jurisdiction. Generally, the guidelines apply to features that are part of the original exterior façade, such as the materials used for siding and roofing; various architectural and design elements; and landscaping and fencing. You will want to consult your HOA to make sure the plans for renovating your old home are copacetic with the overall vision for the neighborhood.

Additionally, there may be original architectural features inside and outside of the home that you want to preserve because they have historic value. Your Delaware home remodeling team can help you identify which architectural details should be salvaged or repaired and which ones should be replaced.

What renovations are necessary for an older home?

The scope of work for your remodel depends on the current condition of the old home you purchased or inherited. If you recently acquired the property, you will want to first deal with any issues that make the house dangerous or uninhabitable, such as structural damage, faulty wiring, and hazardous or toxic materials or gases. Older homes also tend to have layouts or floor plans that don’t mirror the lifestyle of modern families, from small, closed-off kitchens to narrow hallways and a lack of first-floor bathrooms.

Remodeling enables you to reconfigure the space to make it more comfortable, convenient, and functional for your family. That may involve creating a more open floor plan, adding a downstairs bathroom, and converting a basement or attic space to make room for modern amenities. If you’re removing load-bearing walls, you also will need to reroute existing water lines, gas pipes, ductwork and electrical wiring in the process. Depending on the age of the home, the electrical and HVAC systems as well as the hot water heater may need to be replaced altogether.

Other projects often involved when remodeling an older home include:

  • Installing new insulation
  • Replacing windows with energy efficient models
  • Tearing up carpet and/or preserving wood flooring

Old Home Renovations in Delaware

Renovating an older, potentially historic home in Delaware is a complex process. To make sure you get the most from your investment, it’s important to partner with a qualified home remodeling team that has experience with older properties. At Bromwell Construction Company, we have completed multiple historic home remodels in Wilmington and the surrounding area. We can work with you and your architect to develop a plan for renovating your house so it retains its vintage charm while making the space more comfortable and functional for your family in the 21st century.

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