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Restoring a Historic Home in Ann Arbor: Dos and Don'ts

Restoring a historic home is an exciting undertaking! While it might feel a little overwhelming at the start, trust us — there's nothing better than restoring that older home to its original glory (and making a few additions for your own comfort, too!).

If you're planning to restore a historic home in Ann Arbor, Meadowlark is here to offer a few do and don'ts to ensure you embark on this project with all the information you need for success.

Do Connect with the Historic District Commission

If your home is located in Ann Arbor's beautiful historic district, you'll need to connect and work with the Historic District Commission. Any remodel that would change the exterior of your home in any way — like replacing the roof or rebuilding a porch or even changing windows — will require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Commission. While not every remodel project in your historic home will require approval, it's always best to connect with the Historic District Commission first, just to make sure everything is on track before you kick off your project. 

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If you're new to Ann Arbor or have questions about whether your remodel is something that would be appropriate per the Historic District Commission's guidelines, they offer a wealth of information on their website. With answers to Frequently Asked Questions and Ann Arbor Design Guidelines available, you're likely to find the information you're looking for somewhere on their site.

And if you have any other questions about working with the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission, you can always reach out to the Meadowlark team. We've worked on a number of renovation projects in Ann Arbor's historic district, and are more than happy to offer historic home remodeling tips that will help you figure out how best to approach your project. 

Don't Be Afraid to Make Changes

While it can sound intimidating to work with and gain approval from a commission, restoring your Ann Arbor historic home can be fun. Any limitations or guidelines are a framework for your project, and there are so many ways to find freedom within that framework.

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Restoring your historic home is a way to pay tribute to the years it's served other families and the years it will continue to serve yours. Any updates you make, when done within the framework provided by the Historic District Commission, are sure to extend the lifespan and sustainability of your home. So, don't be afraid to make changes — your historic home will thank you!

Not sure what modernizing a historic home looks like? Check out this Historic Primary Bathroom Remodel Meadowlark completed in a historic Ann Arbor 1890's home. 

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Do Find a Design-Build Firm with Historic Home Experience

Restoring a historic home in Ann Arbor is a rewarding experience, but it does require a few extra steps a traditional remodel doesn't. It's worth it to look around the city for a builder or design-build firm that has experience remodeling or refreshing historic homes. Firms like these will have great working relationships with the Historic District Commission. They'll also have steps and strategies in place to ensure you get the most out of your restoration while preserving your home's character. 

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Restoring a historic home isn't a project you want to entrust to just anyone. Take your time finding a professional team you're confident handing your home over to. 

Don't Compromise on Safety or Comfort

Historic homes, especially some of the older beauties in Ann Arbor, each have their own quirks. While you certainly want to preserve the original charm of your home, you shouldn't have to do so at the expense of your family's safety or comfort. 

Don't be afraid to embark on a remodel or restoration project that brings your historic home into the modern era, and don't even consider restoring a home without bringing it up to relevant safety codes. The foundation of an Ann Arbor historic restoration should be to keep the home current, so it can continue to provide a home for families a hundred years from now. 

At Meadowlark, we believe that bringing historic homes into the modern world is key to preserving them for the future. Check out the client story Fit for a Queen, to see how we brought an 1894 Queen Anne Victorian into the 21st century while staying true to its architectural heritage. 

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Do Identify Key Historic Qualities You Want to Preserve

What do you love about your historic home? At Meadowlark, a few of our favorite features of Ann Arbor's historic homes are:

  • Amazing construction. They really don't build homes like they used to. We love the solid wood construction that makes Ann Arbor historic homes strong, stable, and beautiful!

  • Original woodwork. You can't put a price on true craftsmanship. We're always looking for ways to highlight beautiful original features and hand-crafted millwork. 

  • Traditional character. Ann Arbor historic homes meet a range of design styles, but they all have an original character and feel that is important to us to preserve. 

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There's a reason people love historic homes, and there are probably quite a few reasons you chose to purchase the historic home you now own. Identify exactly what those features are, so that when you do start your renovation, you know what to keep and what to emphasize in your new design.

Don't Plan on Doing Much To Your Windows

When it comes to restoring a historic home in Ann Arbor, it's good to know that the biggest limitations you're likely to find come with updating or moving your windows. The Ann Arbor Historic District Commission has specific guidelines regarding moving and updating original windows. While this is one of those considerations that will help form the framework for your historic home renovation, it is a good one to be aware of upfront. You can find more information about repairing, replacing, or moving windows in an Ann Arbor historic home here, or consider talking to a renovation professional in Ann Arbor for more information. 

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This Meadowlark client story The Biggest of Chills is a great example of historic home renovation that was influenced by window preservation guidelines. We're biased, but we'd say the end result is pretty chill!

Restoring or renovating a historic home in Ann Arbor might take a few extra steps, but know that it can be done in a way that best suits you and your family's lifestyle. If you'd like to remodel or renovate your historic home, it's a good idea to connect with an expert. Meadowlark Design + Build specializes in renovations for Ann Arbor's historic homes, and we'd be happy to help walk you through the process. Give us a call at 734.332.1500 or contact us online today.Your blog post content here…

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