Home renovations can seem like an intimidating process, especially with older homes. If you own a heritage home, there’s a great deal that you likely adore about it: its historical importance, beautiful aesthetic, and significance to the surrounding area. After all, there was something charming and old-fashioned that drew you to purchase the house in the first place.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to love everything about your old home. You can make permitted interior and exterior home renovations that keep some traditional elements, while also adding modern, more functional features to make the space livable.
In most cases, the exterior character of the home should be preserved as it originally was. But that doesn’t mean you need to stick with appliances and layouts that are decades old, especially if you’re living there full-time. It’s all about learning how to carry out home renovations with respect and quality.
To help you understand what you can do to your heritage home, we’ve compiled a list of four major myths about historic house renovations in Canada. Keep reading to learn what you can and cannot do during heritage home changes.
Myth #1: Heritage Home Renovations Are Overpriced and Risky
The first misunderstanding we want to address is the pricing of heritage home renovations. Many believe that it costs too much to make the updates worthwhile – as well as being risky. That’s not always the case.
In reality, there are many construction companies that specialize in heritage home renovations. They can re-use old materials, cutting down on your expenses and maintaining the old-fashioned charm of the building. In fact, the wood used in many old homes is actually superior (and stronger) to the wood we use today, making certain types of renovations quite safe. The homes’ finish details and craftmanship are rare and old, but well-built and therefore able to withstand a bit of work.
Some factors that contribute to low/high prices for renovations:
- The complexity of electrical/plumbing systems
- Fixtures and finish quality (which should be high in a heritage home)
- Timeframe (faster is more expensive)
- Labour quality
- Size of the home
- Unwelcome surprises such as mold, lead pipes, etc.
Another thing to consider: renovating/updating your home can actually preserve the property values, making you more money in the long run. Everything deteriorates over time – adding a fresh coat of paint or redoing the front porch in the style of the home’s original state is a great way to invest.
Myth #2: You Are Stuck with the Layout You Have
This isn’t true. Many heritage homes are oddly laid out, confined, or too small. You don’t want to change the feel of the house, but you do want to optimize the layout for better living space and/or future opportunities.
Fortunately, it’s possible to pay for expansions without changing the appearance or legacy of the home. At TQ Construction, we work to use the materials from the home’s original build to change the flooring, expand rooms, and alter layouts. Based on the square footage of the lot, we can make the home as big as possible without significantly changing its aesthetics.
You may even want to consider reconstruction in which you re-create vanished/non-surviving portions of the property. For instance, if there used to be an old chapel on the grounds, why not rebuild it?
By doing so, you’ll preserve the historical elements of the grounds and optimize the layout for living, tours, and other needs.
Myth #3: Older Homes Can’t Meet Modern Standards
Many heritage homes are not well-insulated, which means they get quite cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Many owners decide to improve the insulation and upgrade their HVAC systems. Additionally, by installing new windows, maintaining wooden structures, and adding extra insulation, you can make your house more eco-friendly by modern standards.
A great way to modernize your home and preserve it is to install renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, or geothermal options. These will lower the bills created by a drafty old house.
You’ll also want to look at your old home’s plumbing and heating systems. These are often out of date and prone to leaking, which poses a threat both to your family and to the historically-significant building. Have experts conduct a search for tube wiring or old copper plumbing that is known for leaking, especially as it ages.
The key to modernizing an old house is smooth integration. Keep your changes non-intrusive so they easily match the home’s design and layout. The builder will need to blend the old with the new, creating something that looks like it was originally supposed to be there.
If that isn’t possible, then you may have to go without the change for the sake of the home’s significance and history.
As old-house expert Steven Gambrel once said, “You must understand that you’re not going to be able to have some of the creature comforts that come with 21st-century living.”
Myth #4: As a Homeowner, You Can Make the Renovation Decisions
This is a big misconception. If you own a historic or heritage home in Canada, you CANNOT make any changes without seeking approval and understanding your restrictions. In many cases, you’ll actually need to seek permission from the city to change certain aspects of the building.
At the same time, you’ll also need to keep the home in accordance with city codes. The easiest way to do this is to work with a construction company that’s well-versed in historic restrictions and town expectations. Do your research before hiring just any team to do work on your heritage home.
Remember: each province of Canada has its own Heritage Act, so what applies to a home in Alberta may not be the same as what applies to a Vancouver house.
The City of Vancouver’s stance:
“The exterior of a building listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register can be altered. However, the heritage value of each building on the Vancouver Heritage Register is formally recognized, and the elements that define the building’s character should be respected.”
Have questions about getting a historic home recognized or understanding what you can do? Visit Canada’s Historic Places website for more information. To learn about regulations specifically in British Columbia, visit the Heritage BC website.
How TQ Construction Can Help with Heritage Home Renovations
Here at TQ Construction, we’ve been renovating homes of all shapes and ages ever since 1985. We especially love working on and updating older buildings, such as heritage houses and character homes. Our team frequently conducts projects on homes that are more than a century old., and we are a proud member of the Vancouver Heritage Society We enjoy preserving timeless characteristics while also offering facelifts, repairs, additions, and more.
What makes our approach special? Well, we try to make each home repair or renovation project unique. We personalize our strategies for our clients and their homes. Our decades of experience working with heritage homes gives us the necessary confidence to preserve what should be preserved and add what should be added.
Looking for a turn-key solution to your complex construction project? Don’t hesitate to explore your heritage home dreams today. Call 604-430-9900 to speak to a TQ Construction renovation specialist right here in Vancouver. You can also contact us online!