7 Steps to Renovate a Historic Home

Today I wanted to share a little info on how to renovate a historic home by detailing the steps we took to re-build our 1800’s farmhouse. Whether you’re renovating a historic home or building new construction, it can be overwhelming knowing where to begin! Additionally, it can be difficult to find good information about the process online. While this post is by no means an experts’ guide, my hope is that it will be helpful for some of you in the early stages!

1800s farmhouse with wood siding and red brick chimney
red brick chimney of historic 1800's NC farmhouse before renovation

One of our biggest goals was to preserve the original character and the rich history of the home. We wanted to retain the look and feel of the old house while making it more functional and livable for our family. So here are the steps we took…

Step 1: Photograph Everything!

We went room by room and angle by angle to get as many shots as we could think of. You can’t go back once demo starts, so be very thorough! If you haven’t yet, now’s a good time to go check out our before photos and take a mini tour of the old house.

shiplap and wood floors in the upstairs of an 1800's farmhouse

Step 2: Get out your tape measure.

We walked through the house with a tape measure and a notebook recording the dimensions of each space. In our notes, we specified the location of the windows, doors, fireplace, etc. We recorded all the information we could think of to help us with step #3.

measuring the footprint before renovating historic home

Step 3: Sketch the original footprint.

We used the measurements and photos to sketch the current footprint and layout of the home. These sketches served as our starting point for creating a new layout. Tip: use graph paper for your sketch to keep it proportionally accurate.

sketch of blueprints on graph paper

Step 4: Do your research.

Research and plan: Look for inspiration and ideas on Pinterest and in magazines to get an idea of what you like. View other floor plans to get a feel for layout changes you could make in your own space. Get a pretty solid idea of what you want so you are able to communicate it to the professionals before you hire them!

screenshot of pinterest board for planning a historic home renovation

Architects / Contractors / Builders: Ask trusted friends and family for recommendations. Bring potential builders to the property so they can envision the scope of the project. Choosing the right team is so important!! While we love our home, if we had to do it again, we would spend more time researching other builders in our area. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Step 4: Salvage.

Save as much as you want / are able, and store it somewhere out of the elements. It’s now or never if you’re doing any demo! We salvaged lots of wood shiplap, support beams, mantlepieces, wood flooring, doors, windows, the original chimney, etc. Be sure to save anything you think you will be able to re-incorporate back into the home!

salvaged antique wood windows
man carrying salvaged shiplap

Step 5: Sketch the new.

Sketch out your new layout and narrow down your ideas and vision for the re-build. I invested so much time and graph paper on this step! I wanted to maintain the flow and the feel of the old house, but I needed to add practical things like closets that just weren’t built in homes in the 1800’s. Our master bedroom actually used to be the old living room. Of all the rooms in our house, our bedroom is the one that feels most similar to the old house. When you get to this step, you really rely on your photos and original footprint to nail your design!

historic home living room with fireplace and wood floors
renovated room with reclaimed wood fireplace and wide pine floors

Step 6: Work with the professionals.

Work with an architect to have professional plans drawn up! Finalize your design choices for thing like flooring, siding materials, countertops… your builder will calculate your estimated cost to build based on a lot of these choices. This isn’t to say that you can’t change your selections, but the price points for various materials and finishes will help your builder accurately bid the job.

couple holding blueprints prepared to renovate a historic home

Step 7: Finances!

Once we finalized our plans and selected a builder, the last step was to secure a construction loan. This is another thing you’ll want to shop around to find, so you can get the best interest rates. Once this step is complete, construction can officially begin!

Hopefully sharing the steps we took to renovate our historic home, and providing more information about the process of rebuilding is helpful to some of you! Happy renovating, and thanks for following along…

how to renovate a historic home

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2 Comments

  1. Angie Zinser says:

    Well done! You put a ton of thought and planning on the old home place. GREAT JOB

    1. Thank you!! 🙂 It was certainly a ton of thought and planning but so worth it!

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