Nashville is home to some of the most beautiful historic properties, and the market is rife with opportunity to give older homes a new lease on life. Taking on a project such as preserving your historic property comes with its own unique set of responsibilities that require careful planning to achieve the best result. You’ll have to obtain unique documents, decide what type of preservation you will complete, and develop a strategy to work within strict guidelines of owning an older home.

Know the Difference Between Restore and Rehabilitate

Historic ownership brings with it a unique set of responsibilities, questions, decisions, and goals. The answers to these questions determine the amount of time, money, and the amount of work required to complete your project. One of the easiest ways to reduce overhead and to set yourself up for a favorable outcome is to know the difference between “restoring” and “rehabilitating” a home. The Technical Preservation Services define them as follows:

Rehabilitation: the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.

Restoration: The process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period.

When you are restoring a home, you return its interior and exterior to the exact time and date of the period. Rehabilitation includes keeping critical historical features but adding updates to make the house habitable with modern conveniences like electricity, plumbing, and central air. The average homeowner will want to work on rehabilitating their home rather than restoring as it allows more flexibility.

How Do I Start Preserving an Old Home

Before purchasing an old home, you’ll want to identify the condition it’s in and assess whether or not it can withstand any renovations. Because older homes have dated fixtures, floor plans, and plumping someone with experience in historic developments is ideal. Many preservation organizations can recommend someone with the appropriate expertise. Before you shell out a dollar, try to locate the proper documentation such as deeds, tax records, and maps about the house to ensure you can complete any changes you need. Another major factor is identifying if your house is a locally designated structure or in a locally designated district because each comes with a different set of rules as to what changes you can make to the home. Some areas offer easements or tax reductions, and you can learn more by contacting the Tennessee Local Planning Commission.

Developing the Plan for Historical Renovation

After you obtain the proper documentation, you can start planning how you are going to use your home. Ideally, you work from the outside in assessing exterior structure, materials, finishes, and fixtures that need replacing. Decide if any mechanical systems need replacing or identifying other areas that could use an update. According to the National Trust Historic Preservation, you want to:

  • Make every effort to use the building for its original purpose.
  • Do not destroy distinctive original features.
  • Recognize all buildings as products of their own time.
  • Recognize and respect changes that have taken place over time.
  • Treat sensitively distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craft work.
  • Repair rather than replace worn architectural features when possible.
  • Clean facades using the gentlest methods possible. Avoid sandblasting and other damaging practices.
  • Protect and preserve affected archeological resources.

After, you can move into the house and start considering the layout of the home and how your family will use each room. You’ll want to take into consideration the relationships between each and decide on appropriate fixtures and equipment needed to make the house habitable while still maintaining the historic character. At this stage, you concern yourself with only the core functions that exclude design. Focus on being objective towards getting the house in a livable state while maintaining the original plan for the space.

At Stratton Exteriors, we have years of experience restoring and renovating historic homes to their rightful splendor. We work with the city’s best architects, craftsmen, and designers to develop drawings and a plan that works for you, your neighborhood, and your family. Schedule a free estimate today.