Guidance should be sought even before you make the purchase. Heather Rudge, an architect and historic-home owner, suggests hiring a Realtor who specializes in such homes, as they can guide you toward properties with realistic rehabilitation potential.
Once you’ve found your fixer-upper, whether it’s a 1914 bungalow such as Hobb’s Lakewood home or a sweeping Victorian manor, have an expert help you come up with a project plan. One of the biggest mistakes is rushing into a project without any plans or information, says architect David Ellison. He recommends having an expert, “someone who knows what you are getting into,” look at the property with you before you begin any project.
“Don’t just jump into hiring a contractor,” says Ellison. You need to make sure the contractor you do hire has worked with old homes before. Contractors who work primarily with new homes will often go into an old home and try to replace everything, from old-growth woodwork to slate shingles, when such features could easily be saved with a little work.
Not only does this take away from the historic integrity of a home, the process can often be more expensive and result in an inferior product. Instead of slate shingles, you might end up with asphalt. Instead of plaster walls, you might get drywall.
Bottom line? Get help with every step. Hire contractors with experience working in old homes whose work you have checked out. And don’t scrap anything unless you’re 100 percent sure it can’t be fixed. Old-home rehab is a journey, but those who love the architecture and character of old homes collectively agree that it’s a labor of love well worth it.
The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board
City of Lakewood Department of Planning and Development
This board won the Historic Preservation Award in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, thus confirming that they are a great resource for anyone in the area looking to restore their old home. The board’s Web site includes extensive information about revamping a Lakewood home but can be useful to anyone who is remodeling. Lakewood residents benefit from on-site consultation.
The Cleveland Restoration Society
This is the one-stop shop for all your restoration needs. The society is a nonprofit offering support to old-home owners in Northeastern Ohio. Offering various services such as technical assistance, old-home assessments, loan programs, membership options (with perks included) and restoration education, they can help you find that perfect home, get started on a project, make your old home eco-friendly and much more. Architects specializing in old-home restoration.
Doty & Miller Architects
600 Broadway Ave., Cleveland
Van Patten Architects
815 Superior Ave. E., Suite 1207
1939 W. 25th St., Suite 300
Gaede Serne Architects
820 W. Superior Ave., Cleveland
D.H. Ellison Company
6403 Detroit Ave., Cleveland
16608 Madison Ave.,Lakewood
Shaker Heights Hardware
17111 Chagrin Blvd.,Shaker Heights
3848 Prospect Ave,
Fischer & Jirouch Company
4821 Superior Ave., Cleveland
9410 Madison Ave., Cleveland
Antiques in the Bank
4125 Lorain Ave., Cleveland
(216) 281 6040
*adapted from Guide To Hiring a Contractor for a Home Rehabilitation Project from the Cleveland Restoration Society
- Develop a scope of work. Have a specific plan set out.
- Take care of structural or moisture problems before you tackle cosmetic improvements. Think roof and plumbing first, then wallpaper.
- Do your homework. Check model numbers for plumbing and lighting so you’ll know what the contractor should use or install.
- Remember: Fixing your house will be inconvenient, but worth it.
- Create a budget.
- Investigate contractors. Call friends and family, anyone you know who has redone an old home. Go and see work the contractor has already done.
- Hold pre-bid meetings. Have a meeting with each contactor you’re considering. Explain your project to them, being as specific as you can. Get a price quote from each, and give them a deadline to get the price quote back to you.
- Monitor the progress. Once you’ve selected a contractor and the project is underway, make sure they adhere to your plan. Constant communication with your contractor is key.