How to Find & Hire a Historic Home Remodeler

How to Find & Hire a Historic Home Remodeler

Historical details are one reason you fell in love with your home - Don’t lose them!

Remodeling a historic style home can be a daunting task that may require thorough vetting to ensure that you are partnering with a reputable architect, designer or builder who can oversee and deliver not only the design and renovations but also help you determine how to best respect and highlight the historic architecture of your house. We have seen some terrible mistakes and loss of architectural details, so don’t allow anyone to tear apart your home without a clear and thoughtful plan.

When updating or remodeling a residential property, the mantra is often, “Remove everything, it will be cheaper” - However, when you are upgrading a historic style home in Philadelphia, you should always consider a selective approach. If you appreciate your home’s history, you can preserve and enhance the architectural elements without losing the quality and updated features that you need. Designing to include preservation options does require more creativity than a basic removal and replacement project, but selecting a thoughtful partner is crucial to a historic project’s overall success.

Before Hiring a Historic Home Remodeler

Renovating historic homes is not a job for an average builder or general contractor. Historic renovations require a higher level of knowledge about good design and older homes. Further, most designers and builders are not equipped to provide the expertise and skill to determine what is worth saving and what should be replaced or replicated. Over the years, we have had several clients approach us after parting with a general contractor who was not experienced in renovating historic homes.

One young couple comes to mind. They had recently purchased a beautiful Arts and Crafts home in the Philadelphia Main Line in hopes of completing a historically appropriate remodel of the first floor plan. It was their first major renovation project and the architect that they worked with developed plans that required the removal of most of the beautiful period details. Because preserving those details was not prioritized, the contractor they selected had to create new historic details from scratch. The problem was that the cost for replacement was too high and they were forced to pick a low cost general contractor.

The owners realized after many of their historic features were removed that the contractor was not prepared or capable of replicating the fine, old craftsmanship that was lost. After parting ways with their general contractor we were introduced to finish the project. We were able to find creative design solutions to restore as much of the details as possible, but it was not an easy feat and ended up costing our clients more than a well planned preservation design would have.

With appropriate respect for the original architecture, craft and construction, we recommend that you ask whomever you consider working with how they can help you to revive historic details with an interest in preservation. Ideally you should explore options to return period elements to their original distinction.

As a design-build firm, our design and construction team are able to collaborate early to focus on what is the best approach and more importantly, what options are in your budget. Our main goal is to preserve as much of the history and character as possible, but when that’s not an option (due to age, neglect or structural issues) our architectural designers are able to present modern alternatives that compliment the historic elements. During your improvement project, you need to understand your options for preserving historic design elements that could contribute to the original character and overall value of your Philadelphia home.

Hiring to complete a quality restoration of your historic home, requires more than confirming references, licensing, and insurance. It is also important to confirm that they have worked on historic homes before and can plan for normal discoveries and conditions.

Help With Remodeling a Historic Home

In order to get the most out of your house in Philadelphia, you’ll need to rethink certain spaces and adapt your home for some modern tech. So, how do you do that without compromising the original character that characterizes the interior and exterior of the structure?

To help you develop an effective design and development plan for remodeling your old house, we recommend that the architectural designer you partner with has your primary remodeling goals top of mind at all times. Remodeling or restoring an older house is a tricky business. You want to make sure the space is safe and up to code, with plenty of modern amenities and conveniences, while not completely spoiling the personality and historic value that probably drew you to the house in the first place.

Some of the details that were removed and lost from the project I mentioned above were the historic moldings, trims, windows and doors, which are all often irreplaceable. We worked with a local salvage company in Philadelphia to have similar ones reinstalled, but it wasn’t the same.

At Bellweather Design-Build, we have an experienced team to help you navigate this complex process. Based on your remodeling vision and priorities, we will develop a plan that preserves the history and architectural integrity of your historic Philadelphia house while ensuring it is completely functional and suitable to serve your family well into the future.

Working Bellweather Design-Build 

At this point, you may be wondering what is design-build? And is design-build a good fit for your historic home remodeling project? Design-build is a single-team approach for home remodeling projects. Rather than employing a separate architect and then hiring a separate builder, the activities are streamlined into one firm that does it all. Design-build offers the opportunity to consider the costs of various options before you waste your time and emotional investment into details that are outside of your budget.

Most remodeling projects benefit from a collaborative design and build approach, and historic remodels are one of them. A qualified design-build firm will make suggestions during design that will help simplify and reduce the overall cost of the project, using their knowledge of how to most efficiently build your project and solve your home’s unique construction challenges.

Bellweather Design-Build will also take responsibility for managing the permitting process, as well as any required zoning and engineering work needed for the project – which is a large undertaking when renovating historic homes in Philadelphia.

As you can imagine, there are multiple reasons to partner with a design-build firm, some of which include cost control, timeline compression, budget-directed design, consistently high-quality construction methods, trustworthy communication, and easier project management.

Interested in partnering with us?
Contact us today!

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