Renovating an older home can be a more involved endeavor than remodeling a new house. While a relatively new home can be a fairly straightforward project, there are unique elements to a design-build project on an old home. 

What should you expect when you renovate an older home in Ann Arbor? Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Your Actual Needs

You may not need as large an addition as you think you do. Because people used living spaces differently from today, older homes in Ann Arbor tend to have smaller rooms and living areas. 

Often, simply redesigning the circulation routes can open up the rooms in dramatic ways. We can reorganize the way the spaces are used by taking out a wall, or moving an opening. It often solves more problems than homeowners expect. 

It’s not unusual for a client to ask for a big addition, then to see the design drawings and realize they don’t need nearly as large an addition as they thought — and sometimes, none at all.

Resale Value

Not every home renovation pays off when you sell your house. Some homeowners are sometimes surprised to discover that their $100,000 renovation didn’t improve their home’s value by the same amount. On the other hand, you may be shocked how much value a renovation has added to your home.

Before you begin a home renovation, consult with a real estate agent if you want to recoup the costs — especially if you plan to sell your house within just a few years. 

It often makes sense to do additional work on your home, besides that bedroom addition or kitchen remodel you’re planning. While a renovated master suite may provide the serene escape you’re dreaming of, homebuyers are looking for a complete package that’s move-in ready.

Historic Commission

If you live in a historic district in Ann Arbor, renovating your old home means working with the historic commission. While getting approvals will extend the project timeline, the process doesn’t have to be a painful one. 

Maintaining a dialog with the planning department throughout the design process will help ensure that you present successful proposals to the review committee. It is also helpful to present a list of reasons for the changes you want to make. This shows the committee that you have been thoughtful and intentional with your design decisions.

Be prepared for the renovated work to be easily distinguishable from the original structure. The historic commission will want to see clear differences between old and new. For example, you might change the orientation of the trim, use different materials, or install slightly different size windows.

Toxic Materials

There are still many houses that contain asbestos and lead paint, and you could unknowingly have these toxic materials in your home. If your house was built before 1980, it should be professionally checked for asbestos and lead paint.

Hire only qualified professionals to do the demo work. Otherwise, you could be releasing toxic chemicals into your house, without knowing it. The dust from asbestos and lead paint can be very harmful. Asbestos is debilitating to the respiratory system, and lead dust is very harmful to brain development and cognition. 

If your home has materials that contain asbestos, they will need to be removed by a professional asbestos or lead removal company, which can increase the cost of your renovation. Asbestos removal commonly ranges from $1000 to $2700, and most homeowners spend anywhere between $1000 and $5000 to remove toxic lead.

Renovation Budget

Older homes often have unwelcome surprises hiding behind the walls or under the floorboards. Remodeling an old property in Ann Arbor always has the potential of dealing with any number of unknown issues — and that means unknown expenses, as well. 

As a general rule, it’s wise to be prepared to spend an additional 20 percent beyond the project budget. Having a buffer will help ensure that you’re able to address unexpected issues as they are discovered.

We recommend setting expectations with the contractors you talk to, before you hire. Don’t hesitate to explain if you have little to no room in your budget for unplanned changes. Also make sure the contractor knows how much (and what kind of) communication you want if something unexpected arises during the project.

Related reading: How Will Your Contractor Handle Unexpected Renovation Problems?

Get Started with Giraffe

Not every builder takes the time to thoughtfully blend a new addition with an older home. At Giraffe Design Build, we combine inspired design with unparalleled craftsmanship to build an addition that feels like it could have always been part of the home. Giraffe has the team to help you bring new life to an older home — we’ll walk with you through every step of the design and construction process.

Call us today to start a conversation about renovating your old or historic home.