Blending an Old Home with New Inovations

The walls of an old home, opened up for new wiring and renovations.

An old house has something new houses often do not: character. The charm of an old home lies in such adornments as fireplaces, open staircases, high ceilings, wood floors, cubbies and bay windows with window seats. The purchase of an old home may require renovating and bringing the home into the 21st century with updated features. Blending the new with the old to keep the character but add the wants and needs of now takes careful planning. New and updated building materials help keep the charm of an old house while adding modern convenience.

Neighbors, Zoning and HOAs

Before you begin renovating or remodeling, take a look at the neighborhood. Most of houses will more be similar to yours. Some neighborhoods or towns have zoning laws that demand you keep your home true to its authentic self. As you plan, you'll want to blend the new features in ways that keep the character of the house and in line with others in the nearby.

Older homes usually require a fair amount of maintenance compared to newer ones. There have vast improvements in building materials, making the maintenance less arduous over the long haul. The exterior of old homes often need updating, but making concessions at the risk of losing the character of the old house may not be a good choice. New and updated materials will help keep the flavor the home with less maintenance.

HVAC and Power

The furnaces and air conditioners of today are much smaller and more efficient than those of the past, so replacing old units with new is almost guaranteed to bring your costs down in the long run. And while old knob and tube electrical wiring was perfectly safe in its time, electrical consumption has skyrocketed compared to the old days, with so many more appliances, TVs, computers, etc, and an old electrical system can be easily over loaded. The good news is many older homes have easier to access chimney chases, attics, basements and crawlspaces, so rewiring may be an easier job than you think. Even if it turns out not to be, this upgrade is much more than aesthetic, and is a must to avoid shorts and fire hazards.


Without a sturdy foundation, a house lacks the support required, and like a house of cards it all comes down. Keeping foundations in sound condition is an absolute must. If a new addition to an old home is in the works, blending the new with old becomes important. Many old houses sit on stone foundations, while concrete does the trick for new homes. An old foundation can be shored up with cinder blocks on the interior, maintaining the look of any exposed stone on the exterior.


Siding old homes with wood clapboard or shingles took much longer time than modern homes sided with vinyl or aluminum, and more maintenance too. But vinyl and aluminum look exactly like what they are and can ruin the look of a historic facade. A concrete-based lap siding can replicate the original siding. Like wood it must be primed and painted, but the paint lasts much longer, eliminating the need to paint quite so often. It can be textured like wood and will maintain the aesthetic of your old home.


Beautiful old windows with wavy glass may be authentic, but they undoubtedly allow drafts in and warm air out. In this day of high heating costs, replacing windows is a necessity. You can find manufacturers that build windows that match the existing ones. Often the windows are built with real wood for the inside but maintenance-free vinyl, or even better, fiberglass for the outside. While vinyl is a fine choice for new homes, fiberglass is superior in this case because it can be painted, and so can more closely match the character of the house. Search for companies that do custom work so your new windows will blend with your old home.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

The two rooms that usually need the most updating in old homes are the kitchen and the bathroom. Kitchens in old homes are often small and have little storage, and they tend to have smaller and fewer bathrooms than new construction. It may be necessary to knock out walls and combine two rooms to make one for a full sized modern kitchen, often a formal dining room, less useful in today's world, can be used. If there's just not enough space to have a comfortable bathroom and a working kitchen, an addition may alleviate the problem. To keep the authentic look in both rooms, use period looks for cabinets and plumbing fixtures.

Front Porch

Idling a Sunday away in a swing on the front porch seems to be an old-house past time everyone loves. Porches greet visitors, keep the weather at bay a bit, and offer fair weather living space. Fiberglass and composite materials duplicate old porch pieces like decorative columns, balustrades, and railings. Worrying about rotting wood will be a thing of the past and maintenance will be lessened.

Blending the new with the old is easier today thanks to new and improved materials that may not be made of the same substances, but do lend an authentic aged appearance. The cost of renovating may be higher and the maintenance required may be more involved, but in the end the character of the old house remains unscathed. Just think how wonderful it will be curled up with a good book as you're rocked gently in a swing on the porch of your old house.