Renovating an historic home takes careful consideration, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Historical and architectural accuracy can conflict with modern convenience, as well as local building code requirements and historic preservation standards. Here are the top six renovations to be careful of in your reno planning:
1. Windows: If at all possible, find ways to address energy efficiency without compromising the home’s appearance. The windows in an historic house often convey the charm and distinction of older homes. Rebuilding the wooden sashes while using the original glass is often the best solution to the dual goal of energy efficiency and historic integrity. You’ll probably need to hire a contractor who specializes in historic homes.
If it’s absolutely necessary to replace windows, make sure to stay within the style of the era in which your home was built. If your home is within a historic district, you’ll have to consult the local historic guidelines for renovation. They will help you stay within guidelines as well as be a resource for possible replacements and contractors.
2. Exterior Paint and Trim: Most of the time the particular Historic District will have rules concerning outside features. They may require period-accurate colors and appointments. The details like lighting, trim and hardware should be in keeping with the historic period architecture.
3. Landscaping: Doing research regarding plants and garden design of the historic period of your home is worth the trouble. If you are planning hardscape of any kind you’ll want to stick with what was common during the period. For example, adding a modern Zen garden to a Federal home can be a negative. Again, Historic Districts will have guidelines regarding permanent outdoor fixtures.
Visiting a public historic site will be a great way to research what is typical of the era in the way of landscaping. In Frederick County, you can visit the Schifferstadt for an historically accurate 18th Century garden. The Museum of Frederick County History also has a garden, located on Church Street. Other museums include Rose Hill Manor Park on North Market Street, and the Carriage House Inn in Emmitsburg. Oatlands Historic House and Gardens is located in nearby Leesburg VA.
If you own an historic house that isn’t in a Historic District, you may still find the publications from a Historic District useful for your own home, if the historic era is similar. See resources at the end of this article.
4. Decks, Patios and Porches: Adding or renovating these outdoor rooms in styles other than your home’s historic period and architecture can have a negative effect on its value. These things are permanent and harder to change for someone who might want historical integrity.
5. Pools and water features: Historic preservation guidelines can help in deciding what features are appropriate for your home’s architecture and historic period. These additions can be permanent, so you want them to be accurate.
6. Roof Materials: As with most outside issues, local historic districts usually have guidelines that must be followed regarding roofing. There are modern fire resistant materials that resemble traditional materials that are often ok to use, but be sure to check.
Don’t forget the State and Federal Tax breaks for historic home renovations. Sometimes they will dictate historic accuracy in order to receive the deduction. It’s best to research during the planning stage.
7. Inside Renovations: This is a topic that is debatable; you’ll find several different opinions on what keeps the value in a home and what ruins it. Sometimes modern, open floor plans on the inside of an historic home are perfectly acceptable, sometimes they’re a tragedy, depending on your neighborhood, your market, and the expectations of typical buyers in your area.
Most Historic Districts don’t address the inside of the home, just the exterior. There are so many variables, depending on when your home was built, what is typical for your neighborhood and era, and much more. You’ll need to do your research, and consult experts in the area.
If you want to be absolutely sure you maintain your home’s historic integrity, then you’ll want to keep the interior as close to the original design as possible. Reproductions in hardware, lighting, and inside architectural details are widely available, in many stores, specialty shops, and certainly, on the internet.
Renovating an historic home can be painstaking if you determine to do it correctly, but the work will be worth it when you have an end product that maintains the integrity and authenticity of the historic period. The Frederick Historic District guidelines for renovation can be found on the City of Frederick website.
- Historic District Homes Hold Their Value
- Things to Do in the Frederick Historic District
- How to Research A Historic Home
Resources for Historic Home Owners or Buyers
Whether you already own an historic home or are considering a purchase, whether in the Frederick Historic District or other location, research is your friend. Historic homes are a labor of love. The following are some resources you might find helpful:
National Register of Historic Places
Maryland Historic Trust
Federal Historic Tax Credits
This Old House
Historic Preservation in the City of Frederick
Here’s a nice article from Business in Frederick Blog, a publication from the City of Frederick, How to Take Advantage of Historic Tax Credits in Frederick.
The C.Burr Artz Branch of the Frederick County Public Library has records and books in the Maryland Room on the second floor. The Frederick County Historical Society also has a wealth of resources. You can find out a lot of information about a historic home by doing a title search in the records room at City Hall. Happy Researching!