Historic Homes Require Historically-Knowledgeable Contractors

historic-home-designation-National-Register-plaque-Först-ConsultingMany homes in and around the Washington DC metropolitan area can be considered “historic homes,” with some easily identified by a plaque near the front door like those from the National Register of Historic Places or those designating specific historic district.

Generally defined, a historic home is of a certain age, contains historically-significant architectural features, or was significant to the local culture. These homes may be inhabited, and therefore should not be confused with “historic house museums.”

As neighborhoods age and we strive to preserve homes of cultural significance, more and more homes are being designated as “historic.” It is a way to resuscitate foundering neighborhoods and strengthen the economic development in more urban areas because the designation of a house as historic will likely increase both its value and the value of the surrounding homes, in a ripple effect.

To apply for a historic home designation, your house must pass qualification standards. It must be a certain age, still maintain the historically-accurate original features, and a significant event can have happened on site or an important person lived there. This historical significance aids in acquiring a historic designation. You must document the home’s significance, indicate why it is unique, and supply deeds, photographs and other evidence as required.

Some homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the National Park Service. Others are held by a local designation or a local preservation board. State designations are a third option. With a historic homes designation, homeowners may be eligible for special preservation grant awards that can help them restore a home. Additionally, owners of property on the National Register may be eligible for a 20% investment tax credit for rehab of an income-producing certified historic structure such as rental buildings.

If you do acquire the historic home designation, you need to alert your homeowner’s insurance company, as the cost to rebuild an older home are higher because of materials and required craftsmanship. It can run up to 20% higher in some cases. Also, the appraiser needs to be aware of its new significance. A stand-alone historic home in a non-historic neighborhood can be overlooked.

Preservation and Restoration of a Historic Home

There is a difference between restoration and rehabilitation. Restoration means returning a home to its original design based on a specific time period, but strict adherence to outdated original features (like plumbing) are not often enforced. Rehabilitation means remodeling a home to modern comforts while maintaining its historic and architectural features. A new kitchen, electrical wiring and a modern heating system are common upgrades.

A historical designation will put restrictions on what modifications or renovations can be made on the home, and these rules are delivered depending on which type of historic home designation you receive, whether national, state, or local. Owners of historic homes are required to follow strict guidelines that may allow you to repair your home but not rebuilt or replaced. Repairs must be done “in kind” and cannot, in most cases, be done with modern materials, such as in window replacements. In addition, remodeling and expansion may be disallowed; footage is rarely allowed to be added.

Specific knowledge in historical renovation practices is required to restore a home’s significant details, like its custom moldings, carved railings and mantels, or wooden eave brackets, a knowledge that most general contractors do not have. And specific requirements need to be met as to workmanship, craftsmanship and materials standards.

Först Consulting Group’s founder, Matthew Furlong, began his career as a highly-skilled craftsman/custom home builder in the restoration and preservation of historic homes. After helping to restore hundreds of historic properties, he transfers those skills to the Historic Renovation division of Först Consulting Group.

Contact Först Consulting Group

As a highly-qualified and experienced resource, Först Consulting Group can advise you on preservation techniques and proper historic renovation practices, and aid in the selection of a qualified contractor for your unique historic home. Contact us today.


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