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How To Update An Older Home The DIY Way

Thinking about buying a home but not sure if you should get a new one or reno an older one? Find out what you need to know about how to update an older home.

The Older Home

Many homeowners think of remodeling their home as a daunting task and instead opt to buy a newer home. And I get it. Remodelling an older home is a big undertaking. And when you are DIYing the majority of it it’s also a ton of work. That being said, updating an older home is not only doable but often cost effective when compared to the price of buying a newer home. And it is immensely rewarding.

The home that hubby and I live in now is over 120 years old. It’s an old farmhouse in the middle of a bustling city and when we made the purchase it needed a whole lot o’ work. I’m talking full gut job. The woman that had been living in it before had done nothing to update it since the early 1980’s and everything (I mean everything) was beige.

Hubby, a few friends, and I did all of the hands on work. At the time we had school aged children, jobs, and another home to take care of. It was a lot of work but the end result made it all worth it. And now we have a home that we have an energy efficient older home that offers tons of storage, natural light, and all of the modern comforts we rely on in today’s world.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you go all out with a full home renovation (although if you wanted to it’s doable and a blast!) but there are a few things that you can do to update your older home and make it feel more current and user friendly.

Let’s Get This Reno Started

Updating an older home can be fantastically rewarding but it is can also be stressful, costly, and a lot of work. To keep things manageable here are a few basics. Make sure that you:

  • Prioritize projects by deciding which projects are most important to complete. Start with the smaller, more manageable tasks and work your way up to larger projects.
  • Set a budget that you feel comfortable with. Research different materials, products, and tools needed to update the home, as well as the approximate cost of each item. This can help you determine which projects are feasible and within your budget.
  • Understand the scope of the project, what materials and tools will be necessary, and how long it will take so that you can have realistic expectations and set a. reasonable timeline.
  • Research before you buy any materials or supplies for updating your home. Take the time to research different options and prices. This will help you determine what works best for you and your budget.
  • Consult an expert about the more complex projects planned. Even if you’re comfortable with DIY projects. An experienced contractor or professional can help advise you on the best materials to use, which projects are most cost-effective, and what will fit into your budget.
  • Hire a trade person for those projects that are above your skill level. Hubby is super talented but even he needed to call in an expert when it came to the electrical components of our reno.
  • Take out any necessary permits. You don’t want to put in a whole lot of sweat equity and money only to find out that you don’t have the proper permits or you didn’t do things to code and you then have to tear all of your hard work down. Trust me. This is a total bummer.

PRO TIP: When updating an older home always be prepared for things to cost twice as much and to take twice as long as you expect it to. Then add this to your plan. Trust me, you’ll be grateful that you did!

Top Tips For Updating Success

From the humble kitchen appliance to the sparkling windows, it can be easy to overlook the complex process of updating an older home. It isn’t always as simple as finding a wallpaper in a magazine that you think looks good and slapping it up on your walls.

Luckily, with some knowledge and plenty of planning, you can have an updated home that will last and that you will enjoy for years to come. Let these tips for how to update an older home get you started:

  • Take it step by step. Break down the process into smaller tasks to make it more manageable. Choose one project at a time and focus on completing that before moving onto the next.
  • Add subtle modern touches. One of the most effective changes we made to our older home was to increase the door heights. It was subtle change but it made the whole space feel bigger, brighter, and gave it a slight modern touch.
  • Pay attention to the little details. Little details matter. When hubby and I were in the middle of our kitchen reno I noticed that the window above the sink was off centre. It made everything look off. So we moved it over a few inches and suddenly everything looked balanced.
  • Stay true to the style of the home. Older homes always look best when you stay true to its character. That doesn’t mean though that it has to look exactly like it came from that time period. Example: many older homes come with dark wood panelling. It’s truly amazing what a fresh coat of white paint can do to all of that panelling.
  • Add modern luxuries. Stay true to the style but add updated touches like modern appliances, heated floors, air-conditioning, built in speakers, or crank out windows.
  • Add storage where you can. Older homes are notorious for having a lack of storage. Adding tons of creative storage will not only update your home but it will make it a lot more practical.
  • Have fun with it! Blast those tunes, attend those home reno shows, toss a little paint, and invite others to join in on the process.

PRO TIP: Get the family involved. There’s a picture somewhere of our daughter (who was 7 at the time) holding a sledge hammer and smashing down her bedroom wall. We turned that space into her now walk-in closet. Great memories!

Frequently Asked Questions

Everyone wants their home to look up-to-date and stylish, and modernizing an older home can take it from dull and drab to fresh and chic. But with so many possibilities, it can be tricky so here are some of the more frequently asked questions… answered.

A good starting point is to update those things that are easy to update. Think lighting, wall colours, and appliances. Focus on spaces that best increase the value of the home such as the kitchen and bathroom. Embrace energy efficiency you wallet and the planet will appreciate that. Finally, incorporate smart home technology and installing a home security system can add convenience and safety to the home.

To get the best bang for your buck don’t forget to look for discounts, sales, and other money-saving opportunities. A great way to get the look you want is to shop high end and then look for similar products at lower end store. DIY whenever it is reasonable to do so and don’t forget to check out those money saving restores, garage sales, kijiji, Facebook Market Place, and thrift shops.

Ah, the age old question. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to restore an old house depends entirely on your individual situation. If you have the time, money, and inclination to take on a project like this, the reward can be great. The potential financial benefits of restoring an old house are hard to ignore. Homes of this type are often much more affordable than new or recently updated homes, and there can be quite a bit of money to be made when it comes time to sell.

Ok, technically not a question but important all the same. Always wear protective clothinG and eye wear. Tie your long hair back when using electrical tools. Use appropriate tools for each project, and read all instructions carefully before beginning any update task.

Jenny’s Finishing Thoughts On How To Update An Older Home

Updating an older home can seem daunting. I get it. Been there and bought the t-shirt… several times. You never know 100% what you’re getting yourself into. But remember that all problems are solvable and have confidence that with research, planning and dedication, you can update your older home with ease and make it look better than ever. Plus think how proud you will be. Got to love that!

Tell me, do you live in an older home and are thinking of updating it or are you in the market for an older home and are thinking about updating? I’d love to know! Share in the comments below.

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