Beth and Ryan live in a home built in 1932 in the Exhibition Park neighbourhood of Guelph. Now approaching “century home” status, the home has a number of renovations throughout the years. Some of which were more thoughtfully done than others.

Here is a list of considerations for when you’re trying to do new renovations on an older home, but also figuring out what previous owners have done when they did renovations before you owned the property:

Not considering the flow during renovations

This is probably the biggest one. In many cases, previous homeowners became too focused on adding square footage during renovations, but not considering how the layout impacts the flow.

We’ve seen a lot of houses that sound great on paper. Things like “newly added main floor bathroom” sound great. But when you get to the house, you realize that the owner didn’t consider that having a shower in a bathroom right next to the stove is not that practical (yes. we’ve seen it)

Another common previous renovations flow fail is a previous owner adding a room onto the back of the house. The main problem with this is that you need to go through the original bedroom to get to the new bedroom. (yes, we’ve seen this too).


The key here is to hire a planner or a design/ build renovator who considers this when drawing plans. If you don’t, it may impact your re-sale value down the road because new buyers have to undo previous renovations because they don’t flow well.

Consider the style, era and architectural details

Digging into your home’s past can be fun. It can also help you make aesthetic decisions and avoid costly mistakes. Guelph has a Designated Heritage registry of homes that hold significant architecture importance. These homes require many approvals for renovations.

The other factors are that you really want to ensure that your renovations line up with the style of the neighbourhood. Not considering this could seriously impact resale value, not to mention ticking off your neighbours.

As an example, are you going to tear down a home in an older neighbourhood? Take a look at the style of homes in the area- what colour is the brick, how tall are they, what features are unique. Building a modern home with modern amenities in an old neighbourhood can be great- or it can stick out like a sore thumb.

Previous owner DIY renovations

In this age of HGTV shows and YouTube tutorials, many homeowners figure they’ve got it all figured out. But consider your own job: could just anyone do your job? Not likely, it takes training and skills that you’ve learned over time.  One option may be to consider the jiffy app to find a local maintenance person near you.

A common example is when homeowners try restoring curb appeal by doing their own gardening and landscaping. Ryan tried this and failed miserably, so Beth saved him by hiring a landscaper. That landscaper knew the right plants for the exposure of our front yard, had a design plan and timeline. It is money well spent!

Stripping or removing paint is especially an area to exercise caution. Although in newer homes it’s safer because modern paints don’t contain harmful substances such as lead, old paints can contain such substances as asbestos. But simply applying a new coat shouldn’t be a problem for DIYers.

Leave the electrical and plumbing to the pros. We’ve heard stories of homeowners trying to replace their own knob and tube wiring, which is a giant project even if you’re a pro (not to mention dangerous)

Try to avoid being “too trendy”

A previous owner mistake is renovating to the exact moment in time. Avocado green appliances anyone? Shag carpet? Stainless steel appliances? These have a life span and renovating to this extreme will not end well, because styles change.

Many owners of older homes will either refinish the original elements, such as the woodwork, or install reproductions. Juxtaposed with the worn details, however, these pristine copies or gleaming finishes can look out of place. Worse yet, some of the materials used in decorative reproductions lack the quality and durability of the original materials.

One thing that has stood the test of time: respecting original features. Door knobs, wood flooring, baseboards, light fixtures, and other details of years gone by are desirable. 

If you want to modernize, you may want to consider toning it down 1-2 notches from the hottest thing. Otherwise, your super modern renovation will need not look so hot in 10-15 years when the new trends settle in.

Cheap fixes

Older, unrenovated homes aren’t going to win any awards for energy efficiency because they usually have a lack of insulation. So many homeowners target those drafty wooden windows for replacement. But architects caution against choosing modern vinyl options.

Cheap, modern looking flooring is cheap for a reason. They can be made of poor quality materials and look bad within years, sometimes even months. 

If you’re going to be doing a renovation on the cheap, don’t spread the cheap across the board. As an example, if you have $100,000 to spend on an addition. Don’t do as much as you can, as cheap as you can. Do fewer, higher quality elements. Future owners will appreciate smaller, higher end finishes than larger, cheaper finishes.

Being afraid to remove walls during renovations

Architects are split on the idea of opening up historical homes. But older floor plans can clash with modern-day living, and a well-renovated and expanded kitchen. For example, can increase the value of most properties.  And an open concept might serve some families better than a compartmentalized layout. 

Removing walls cannot be taken lightly. A mistake here, either by not consulting an engineer or not taking out permits could have serious short and long term implications. And, especially when you go to re-sell the home down the road and a potential buyer views your home as a red-flag because of sloping floors or sagging beams.

Also, sometimes homeowners consider making 3 small bedrooms into 2 larger bedrooms by removing a wall. This may make sense if you’re planning on being there for years of enjoyment. But 2 bedroom homes have less of an appeal than 3 bedrooms. This could be worth considering.

In older homes, each room had a specific function and there was a transition, whether doors or a threshold.” She adds, “There is something about each one of those spaces that made it unique, so taking that away takes away something from the house.”

For more information, contact us here.

Related: a series of posts called “16 things to consider when buying an older home” including this post about considering previous renovations.