Renovating an old house seems to be the new hot thing to do these days if HGTV is to be believed. While we know we can expect to find some surprises along the way when renovating a relatively modern house, things can get downright creepy-crawly when renovating an old home or farmhouse.
Expect to Share Your House with Nature
Spiders, insects, sometimes even snakes. You never know with an old house. Sometimes you just have to be open to living with nature in your home. I spent two months in my farmhouse with almost no bugs and only a few spiders, but once the warmer weather moved in for good, so did a lot more 6 and 8 legged residents. I don’t mind the spiders so much since they aren’t poisonous in Maine. To be honest, they’re quite handy for catching the more annoying insects like mosquitoes, but I draw the line at the no-legged, slithery Summer guest who has taken up residence in my kitchen cupboards. I’m sure the snake will be great at catching mice for us…but I would appreciate my cupboard back.
Unforeseen Repair Work
While you might have earmarked some of your savings for that full living room renovation, you may find that some (or all) of those funds (and your time) must now be allocated to ripping out and replacing rotting plywood in a bathroom floor and shoring up some precarious floor framing instead. Keeping an emergency fund is essential for tackling unexpected renovations in an old home. I find that every time we start a new project, two or three new issues which need repair tend to crop up. Be ready for dealing with the unforeseeable by setting extra money aside…and maybe have a plumber or electrician on speed dial.
Hidden Surprises – Both Good and Bad
There are always a few discoveries made along the way while repairing an old house. Sometimes those discoveries are great finds like the original shutters we discovered in the barn attic. Sometimes they’re not so great like the broken gravestone maker we also found in the barn. (Did it come from somewhere on the property? Should we be concerned about a Poltergeist-esque scene in our future?) Take the bad with the good and try to maintain your sense of adventure as you make your renovation discoveries. Someday these things will make great stories to tell your guests – unless you end up sucked into an alternate dimension like in Poltergeist. But I’m sure everything is fine. Totally fine….
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I’ve been battling the lingering odor of cat urine left from a gray-furred previous feline tenant. (I am continually finding gray cat hair throughout the house.) In an old house, you may encounter all kinds of lingering scents which have been absorbed by the walls, the flooring, the carpet, or event any left behind furniture. Some of these scents are a hallmark of the home’s era. An old house with a smoking room that has the faint, lingering scent of pipe tobacco might actually add character, but a barn attached to the house that harbors the remnant odor of manure might be a bit off-putting to guests if it’s adjacent to their quarters. Getting rid of a lingering odor can be a long process, so figure out which scents you can live with and which ones you plan to do battle with.
Scary Noises (Usually Just As You’re Falling Asleep)
I’m sure old farmhouses make the same noises during the day as they do at night and we just don’t notice as we go about our busy, Pandora-music filled day. Even if they do make more noises at night, it’s probably just the house settling as it cools off in the chillier evening air. It’s TOTALLY not an axe-wielding ghost descending the stairs one creaking step at a time to murder you in your sleep. Actually somewhat like a car, house noises can be a useful method for learning about issues in the house that need your attention. Notice a loud whooshing sound near your window? You may need to recaulk around the seals before Winter. Knocking and/or banging noises coming from the basement? You might want to check your pipes to make sure they’re more secure (and won’t start leaking due to lots of continual movement.)
This is just a short list of things one might expect when renovating an old home. What have been your experiences in fixing up or taking on a project in an old home?