Making renovations to an older home is all about balance. You want to do the things that bring the home into the modern world, but you don’t want to destroy what makes it a charming, cool older house. Here’s what you need to know about making improvements to your historic home.

Know What Roadblocks You’re Likely to Encounter

There are some specific challenges you’re likely to encounter while you’re trying to make updates to an older home, and you need to know this going in. Most of these roadblocks are passable, but you’ll need the help of professionals, and you’ll need to understand the costs. One main hitch could be outdated electrical and plumbing — both of which should be updated to more modern standards. You may also run into building materials that are either unsafe (lead and asbestos) or are unable to be recreated (certain types of wood, molding, tile, etc.). Lifehacker suggests shopping at architectural salvage stores and home reuse stores to help solve this latter problem.

Make Arrangements to Protect Your Antiques

Your furniture, decorative elements, and other antiques will not be served well by sitting around your home while any sort of construction occurs. Whether you’re refinishing hardwood floors, knocking out walls, or simply painting, you should consider getting your precious items out of the house to somewhere safe for the duration. For example, consider renting a self-storage unit.

New Floors and Windows Are a Bad Idea

It’s tempting to consider improving your older home with new, energy-efficient windows and pristine new floors, but this is a huge mistake. Instead, you want to spend funds to properly refinish your hardwood floors; if you hire professionals to do the job, Homewyse estimates that you’ll pay between $556 and $681. The windows are in the same boat, as the old ones add value and character. To make your home better at heating and cooling, try storm windows or “add weatherstripping or low-emissive glass [to] reflect heat but allow light in to reduce energy costs while keeping the home’s historical character,” says US News Real Estate. However, keep in mind that according to, one storm window will cost you between $114 and $174.

Be Careful with the Styling

In older homes especially, design elements are carefully constructed to match across the whole house. Changing one element in a big way without paying careful consideration to how it fits as a whole can leave your home looking unbalanced. Your renovations need to harmonize with the house as a whole and with the surrounding neighborhood. Don’t make your older home into a sore thumb with too many incongruous remodels. Know how to style an older home. Consider hiring a professional architect and/or someone specializing in older homes to help you with this.

Energy-Efficient Projects Are Worthwhile

Improvement projects dealing with the skeleton and guts of your older home may not be flashy, but they are the ones truly worth doing. Take the steps to improve your older home’s energy efficiency sooner rather than later. This includes your HVAC, water heater, insulation, the roof, and thermostat systems.

Although there are plenty of projects you can DIY, one final tip is to be careful. Older homes are more delicate in places and often contain materials and design elements that are unfamiliar to a modern homeowner — even one with solid DIY cred. If you’re up in the air about a particular improvement, err on the side of calling in the pros.

Photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash

Guest Blog by Paul Denikin
Paul Denikin is passionate about sharing his experiences working on DIY projects to benefit people with special needs children. He is the owner of, which shows off helpful DIY projects.