Renovating an old house can be a wonderful experience that produces a beautiful, comfortable home. It can also be a series of headaches that leave you feeling like you’re going to live in a pile of sawdust for the rest of your life. The following will explore a few renovation ideas specifically for old houses, as well as some tips and tricks that can help you bring them about without losing your mind or running up against problematic pitfalls.

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Start With An Inspection

It doesn’t matter how pretty your renovations are if they’re resting on top of a poor foundation or problematic features. Start your renovation and planning process with a professional inspection. This way, if there are structural or foundational issues, you can address those first. This will help you avoid having to take rooms apart after you’ve polished them all up.

Set Helpful Expectations

Renovating an older home isn’t like renovating a newer one. The chances that you encounter a surprise while you renovate are quite high, and this means things might end up costing you a little more money or time than you’d expected. There might be water damage behind the wall in the kitchen. There might be seven more layers of wallpaper than you were expecting. Piping or electrical work might be funky, having been altered several times over the years. This is all part of the process.

To help ensure that these surprises don’t derail you, there are two ways you can alter your expectations, both revolving around the idea of one-third. Expect that the renovation is going to take one-third more time than expected. This means if a project is estimated at three days, you should expect it to take four days. The same applies to the financial cost of your renovation. Budget for things to cost 30% more than expected so that if you run into something wacky like a nest belonging to an endangered bird and have to wait for a member of a conservation team to show up and safely move the nest.

In addition to allocating 30% more time and money than expected, you want to get solid estimates regarding the work that needs to be done. Speak to professionals about how long a given renovation will take. You can even arrange free quotes from and then budget accordingly. High-quality estimates can help keep your expectations realistic.

Finally, when it comes to setting realistic expectations, you want to be honest about your own skills and the time you have to do work on the house. It’s totally okay if you have six hours every Saturday and two extra hours throughout the week to work on the house. What’s not okay is thinking that with that amount of time allocated each week, you’re going to renovate the whole house in the next three weeks. Be honest about what time you have to offer the projects you’re taking on.

Polish Up Existing Elements

Old houses are charming for a myriad of reasons; you don’t want to eradicate those reasons as you renovate. One of the best tips for renovating an old home is to think about what you can polish up and save. Classic fireplaces with a few crumbling bricks, hardwood floors that are a bit scuffed up, hand-carved banisters with chipping paint—polish up these classic elements rather than replacing them. They’re unique; you’re not going to be able to find them in stores nowadays.

Research Toxins From The Era

Building standards change over time as we learn more about health, contaminants, and toxins. Before diving in and tearing up floors, take the time to do research on the era your home was built and the common toxins you might encounter. Follow appropriate safety precautions like ventilating your workspace or wearing masks.

Upgrade Plumbing And Water Fixtures

One of the big differences you’ll probably notice when comparing old houses and new ones is the way water moves throughout them. If you’re going to overhaul one system, plumbing might be the right one. Having baths and showers that stay hot and meet modern standards for water pressure can dramatically update your lived experience in the house. Think about your kitchen sink needs. Think about toilets, dishwashers and washing machines. Not all old houses are equipped to handle these modern wonders.

The above information should help you approach renovating an old home and make changes that suit the style of the building while also meeting your modern-day needs. Go slowly and take lots of breaks to look at pictures that inspire you when you feel your motivation waning. Also, be sure to schedule days away from the house where you can simply enjoy the present moment without thinking about all the things that need to be done.


Northern girl Laura is the epitome of a true entrepreneur. Laura’s spirit for adventure and passion for people blaze through House of Coco. She founded House of Coco in 2014 and has grown it in to an internationally recognised brand whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Travel is in her DNA and she is a true visionary and a global citizen.

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