Checklist for Renovation of an Old Structure

Checklist for Renovation of an Old Structure


Renovating an old structure is a very daunting task. Where to begin? It is much more complex than we see on a half-hour home renovation show. If you are looking to simply make small changes and updates to your home, you can pick and choose the projects that you wish to take on. On the other hand, if you have an old structure that needs a total renovation, it’s important to have a checklist in mind.

Checklist for Renovation of an Old Structure

1. The Planning Stage

Depending on your level of expertise, you will want to begin the renovation by deciding which projects you are able to do yourself, and which will require subcontractors or contractors. It’s likely that you’ll continue adding to the list for some time, remembering to add important items such as pest control (like those offered on and permit applications as you go. It is often wise to hire an experienced architect as well, who is familiar with the local codes. Look for estimates, and ensure that your budget will be enough.

2. The Foundation, Roof, and Windows

Once you are ready to get to work, these tasks should be at the top of your list. Make sure that the foundation is secure during the process, and that the walls and windows are enough to keep everything dry (if the windows are adequate to keep the structural integrity intact, these can be saved for later in the process). During this time, begin checking for any water damage or infiltration, as this will need to be stopped and fixed immediately.

Check for foundation repairs that need to be taken care of as early in the process as possible, and fix any walls, beams, or joists that have been weakened. Replace the roof once the foundation is stabilized, ensuring that it will protect the structure and the work being done.

3. Demolition

Many people view this as one of the most fun parts of the renovation job (for good reason), but it can be pretty difficult! You have to exercise great caution during this process, ensure that you don’t go overboard with demolition and removal, and be very cautious with any potential lead paint. It’s typically best to do all of the demolition at once and rent a container for anything being discarded.

4. Supporting Carpentry

Any carpentry that is structural, or supporting other work, must be focused on next. If you plan on moving existing walls or constructing new ones, it’s best to do so at this stage. This is also the time when you will punch in new windows and doors, and add support beams as needed.

5. Plumbing, Electrical, and HVAC Systems

When all structural carpentry has been completed, these vital services are the next task on the list – while you still have open walls and ceilings. This is likely also a task that will require hired help. In particular, professional electricians can save you many costly and dangerous errors. You will want to have inspectors begin visiting as well, especially plumbing and electrical.

6. Insulate

You can now begin laying the insulation within your structure, before closing the ceilings and walls. You may hire an expert or choose not to if you have the skill, but remember that if you hire it out, it will go quickly, so be ready for the next step!

7. Hanging Drywall

After final inspections, your electrical and plumbing inspectors will give you the okay to move forward with closing up your walls. You or your hired drywall professional will hang the sheets, and then follow by alternately mudding and sanding the seams until they are no longer visible.

Installing and Replacing Windows

It’s rare to avoid replacing at least some of the windows in the renovation of an old structure, but it can be nice to save any vintage or decorative ones as home decor for the completed structure. Choose windows that are cost-effective or even energy-efficient, that is right for your structure

Detail Carpentry

This next step involves any carpentry that is more decorative than functional, such as window and door trim, molding, and baseboards. It can also include any built-ins such as bookcases and shelves. It can be lovely to restore the fine carpentry in an old structure, if possible, adding character and historical quality.

Surface Finishes and Flooring

There is an ongoing debate over the sequence of many of these last few tasks, so you’ll have to decide what is best for your old structure. Choose whether you want to risk scuffing your already painted walls with a floor sander, or risk dripping paint on your freshly laid floors This is when you lay flooring, paint walls, and hang wallpaper, and stain and seal (or paint) any wood trim.

Exterior Finishes

While it’s important to check early for any gaps in the siding that could let water into the structure’s interior, you want to save the rest of the siding for the end of the project to account for new windows and doors. This step in the process is where you will install the gutters as well.

At this point in the renovation, all that should be left is minor details and interior decorating. You should be able to congratulate yourself on a job well done!

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