Historical Tips and Tricks

Finding The Right Contractor For Your Historic Home

Hiring a historic contractor to restore a home can be a daunting task that requires thorough vetting to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Restoring your historic home is a major project that requires a lot of skill and care. Therefore, finding the right contractor to work with is crucial. While the vetting process can be tedious, following this recruiting guide will simplify it.

Historic home restoration or renovation?

Essentially, restoring a house means bringing it back to its original condition, while renovating means adding something new.

If you want to preserve the features of your historic homes, such as classic cornices and stained glass windows, restoring is the way to go. Landmark home restoration allows you to preserve all the old home features while refurbishing them to look nearly brand new again.

Renovation usually means starting over, and it’s a great option if you prefer a more modern space. During a renovation, you (or your contractor) take out old cabinets, floors, appliances, etc., to replace them with brand new versions. This usually takes more time, labor, and materials, making renovation more expensive than restoration.

Some contractors are experts at restoring historic home features, while others are better at renovations: research, the professional who is right for your project before doing groundbreaking work.

The historic charm of older homes can come with hidden plumbing issues that you need to fix.

Before Hiring a Historic Home Restoration Specialist

First of all, call your local heritage office, historical society, or house museum. The folks there may have suggestions for reputable contractors to work with. You can also ask them about historic home restorations you’ve seen and liked in your area to determine who worked on them. “

Renovating historic homes is more than a job for a general contractor; it’s a passion, “said Bob Tschudil, an Angi Expert Review Board member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. If your contractor is not enthusiastic about the historical part, you should find another contractor. Historic renovation often requires extra work to make it historically “correct.”

Do your research before hiring a contractor to restore your historic home. Break out that yellow notepad and list potential contractors or companies you want to work with. Check out everyone’s past work and read as many customer reviews as possible to understand their skill level.

Check Your Historic Home Restoration Contractor’s Qualifications and References

When deciding which contractor to hire to restore your historic home, make sure it is fully qualified, licensed, and insured. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so check your state’s requirements online.

Check the contractor’s or company’s license and see how long they’ve been in business. The longer they’ve worked on historic homes, the more experienced (and skilled) they’ll be.

After you’ve vetted the contractor thoroughly, talk to people they’ve worked within the past. It’s best to target past clients with projects similar to yours, and they can let you know how their overall experience was. And, if possible, you can request a visit to see the finished work first-hand.

Questions to Ask Your Historic Home Restoration Contractor

Ask your contractor about their qualifications and previous work before hiring them. Their answers to other questions about project timelines and payment options will help you determine if this is the right person for your project. Questions to ask your historic home restoration contractor include:

  • Do you have a permit, and are you insured?
  • Does the project require a building permit? 
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have experience with historic houses?
  • How much are you asking for it?
  • Do you use subcontractors? 
  • Are there any outdated features, such as knob and pipe wiring or lead paint, that need replacing? 
  • What would you recommend replacing versus repairing?
  • Are there any significant structural issues, such as a sagging basement or vertical cracks? 
  • What modern features, such as internet access or heating and cooling, can be added? 
  • What is the timeline for completion?

Hire a contractor for historic home restoration.

Now that you’ve found a contractor, here’s what you can do.

Enter into a contract and arrange payments. When

A contractor ticks all of your boxes, and you’re ready for the next steps. Once they’re on board, make sure you have a written contract to describe every little detail of the project. A signed contract ensures that all parties know the expected work, project timeline, and expected payment. This document will protect you if a problem arises or the contractor goes back on his word. So, even if you know the contractor personally, having a signed contract is essential.

Some contractors will ask for a payment plan that calls for periodic payments throughout the project, and they usually don’t need the money upfront. Record all of this in the contract.

Keep records of your historic home restoration projects. 

Take out that yellow notepad again and get ready to take notes. Document the contractor’s progress throughout the project. Keep track of how many hours they work and whether they stick to the agreed schedule. Then if something goes wrong, you’ll have proof that they’ve breached the contract. If a problem arises that needs to be resolved in a court of law, your diligent notes and your trusty yellow notepad will come in handy.

Be aware of any contractor red flags. 

Unfortunately, home improvement scams are not that uncommon. That’s why it’s so important to vet contractors before hiring them (just like signing a contract). Be wary of contractors who want cash upfront or ask you to get the proper building permits yourself.

A company is only as good as its word, or in this case, the words of others. 

After Your Historic Home Restoration Contractor Is Complete

The weeks (or months) of stress and hard work may be over, but you still have a few tasks to do before all is said and done. Do a final run-through of your recently restored historic home with your contractor. They can point out the specific work that has been done, and you can ask questions and make sure everything is in order. 

If everything looks good, make the final payment to your contractor and congratulate him on a well-done job. Make sure to leave a review or agree to be a reference for future projects if you are happy with their work. 

Now it’s time to put away your yellow notepad and get your cleaning supplies instead. Home remodels notoriously messy, so you may pick up stray brushes and random nails even after the contractor is done. Home projects of this scale also leave a thick layer of dust covering every nook and cranny. Thoroughly clean your home to make it look sparkling again—bonus: No more worrying about stepping on a loose nail while walking around barefoot.

Congratulations! You made it! It’s time to make a hearty cup of tea and admire your nearly new home.