Do your research
Learn what you can about the style of your house, its history and its place in the development of your neighborhood. Understand what is and is not appropriate for its architecture and scale. Seifter and Purdy spoke with long-time residents to understand their home’s importance in the neighborhood and went to the library to do research.
Secure the fort
Make sure your house’s structure and its systems—wiring, plumbing, heating—are sound and acceptable at the start of your project. Fixing or replacing any of these later will be far more disruptive and can undermine improvements that you’ve already made.
Develop a master plan
Since many renovations are incremental, a clear plan will help you organize and prioritize projects to achieve a coherent result. “The master plan doesn’t need to be something you memorialize,” says Seifter, “just an idea of where you want to end up.”
Look before you leap
If you use Band-Aids, make sure they come off “hurt-free.” Stop-gap repairs and impulsive improvements that come with the territory in any older house should be easily reversible. Don’t end up with a temporary fix so difficult to undo that it becomes permanent. Seifter and Purdy reluctantly installed vinyl siding on their house, which was leaking, until they had the funds to cedar shingle the entire exterior.
Take small steps
Take your time. Before you start, make the financial, emotional and physical commitment to finish your project, however long it takes. Breaking it down into smaller components can make it easier on the pocket and the psyche. “We never gave up,” says Seifter.
Have no fear
It’s your house, not a museum; have fun with it!