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What to do with old addition on old house?

Posted by lavender_lass (My Page) on
Sun, Jul 22, 12 at 14:46

As some of you know, we have an old farmhouse that we're planning to remodel. The home was built in 1904, with some upgrades in the 1920s and an addition in the 1950s.

The house started out quite small, since it was all heated by wood stoves (one in the kitchen and one in the living room) with a bedroom alcove on the main floor and a half story for the kids' shared attic/bedroom.

The bathroom, electricity, phone, etc. were added in the 1920s...along with the side glass porch, I believe. In the 1950s a larger living room and master bedroom/bath were added to the house, making the old living room the dining room, along with a basement rec room, the furnace and some attic storage.

So, what we ended up with is a mixture of trims, window styles, flooring, cabinetry, etc. What I'd like to do is come up with a 'story line' that makes sense of all these elements.

Has anyone else run into this situation? How did you handle it? Did you restore everything to the original year the house was built...or work with the changes?

So far, my plan has been to start with the 1904 home and make most of the changes in the 1920s...windows, trim, flooring, doors, main bath, etc. Then, try to work with some of the 1950s features we do like...the big brick fireplaces in the living room and basement rec room, the master bathroom, more closets and storage, etc.

Then, I get a little stuck. I'd like to flip the kitchen and dining room, creating access to a sun porch on the back. This will be new, but will look a lot like the old porch, which is becoming the pantry/laundry area. I can't reuse all the old windows (too damaged) but I'd like to use something similar.

Here's the old porch...and we will be using the door :)

From Farmhouse pictures

And what we'd like to do for the sun porch...

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures

I have a feeling flipping the kitchen and dining room (putting kitchen in the front of the house) is going to look more like a 1970s change, but houses continue to evolve, so that's okay. But, how much of the 1950s and beyond should we bring in? Kitchen countertops, lighting, flooring, etc. or should we stay more in the 1900s to 1920s with only a few more modern touches (such as TV, appliances, etc.)

Here's a quick sketch of the floor plan, but the laundry/mud room is a little cut off. There should be doors on the front and back, with a big farm sink (window above) and storage cabinets on that left wall. Also, the back door and door from the sun porch will share a back deck/porch area with steps down to the back yard.

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures

Thanks in advance for your suggestions, ideas and experience with your old house :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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Laundry and mud room

I ran out of paper, so here's another view, with the kitchen, pantry and laundry/mud room :)

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

The first thing you do is pay for a consult from a structural engineer to assess the integrity of the home as it sits. This is especially important since it hasn't been lived in in many years and had issues with roof leaks and the addition physically pulling away from the main home. That says structural issues that are $$ to fix.

Then, if the foundation, framing, and roofing systems aren't too damaged, you assess whether or not any of the old plumbing or electrical is suitable for modern day demands or whether or not it will all have to be removed and re-run. You will definitely have to have an electrical update to a 200 amp panel if you want a modern kitchen and HVAC for the home. And, you will have to have a modern septic that is adequately sized for the bedrooms planned installed. You will need to talk to your county's health department for that issue as they are the ones that deal with the permitting for that and similar health and safety issues such as well water testing. You do not want to simply "assume" that you can use anything that was created in the 50's. That may possibly be the case, but testing would need to happen to ensure that the tank isn't ruptured and the leach field still percs. Nothing say 1900's living like an actual open cess pool full of raw sewage!

If all new plumbing and electrical will have to be done, as would most likely be the case here, then flipping the function of the rooms is less of an issue than if anything original were to be retained. You simply gut the entire home down to the studs and let the trades at it. Once that 80K worth of basic needs is met, then you can address any cosmetic issues.

The guts of a home aren't sexy like the doors and windows and trimwork, but they are the heart of the home, and without those being in good shape, it does zero amount of good to fantasize about having the fingernails manicured if the actual body is in danger of expiring at any moment.

BTW, a "contractor's opinion" is NOT a substitute for a structural engineer's report, especially on an older home such as this that has been added on to over the decades and whose foundation is suspect. Pay the $500-$700 and get an actual real world assessment of the concrete issues that rehabbing this home will entail. Until that is done, anything else is useless mental masturbation.


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Hollysprings- Thank you for the response...I saw it on the Building a Home forum, too. I understand what you're saying and I agree with you...but in this instance, I really would like to get some opinions, from people who have remodeled older homes.

What I'd like to know (since you're a professional) is how you would approach the design question. Would you try to keep everything in the '1920s style' or have a '1950s update' or more of a transitional space?

Marcolo said something on the kitchen forum about a kitchen having changes made, in each decade. I find this very interesting...as the house would reflect the changes and improvement that would have naturally occured over time. So maybe an older sink or range, with a slightly newer fridge, countertop, or work table added in...but still looking good with the original architecture.

So, what do you think? Again, this is a design question, so putting the other comments aside (although duly noted) how would you approach the design elements?


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

I don't understand, I thought you had already started the renovation process? You had all those plans from the building the house forum?


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

. . . and the Kitchen forum and the Smaller Homes forum. This woman has been abusing the creative energy and kindness of countless people with literally hundreds of posts going back years with versions of her "farmhouse" plans. Eventually people catch on - she was all but booted off the Kitchens forum and moved on from there.


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Wow! Happy Thursday to you, too Graywings :)

I've never been booted off the kitchen forum (LOL) and not only do I help a lot of posters over there...I have been asking some questions recently on DESIGN and incorporating different decades/styles into the kitchen style. Marcolo has some great ideas (as do many others) but I thought I'd ask a similar question over here...but with respect to the entire house. Sorry, if this was not clear from my initial post.

Krycek- We were originally going to start remodeling the old farmhouse, when the economy started taking a dive. So, we decided to wait, but I kept trying every possible scenario for floor plans. We came up with a really nice one...but it was just too big and while I liked the space, the charm of the original home was lost.

So, this is an OLDER plan (not a new one) with a few changes. It's smaller, but keeps the style of the original house. We will be starting demo and fixing the roof on the addition (hopefully soon) but have decided to remodel in stages and not go into debt doing this.

Now, my question is...how have others incorporated existing additions into an older home remodel? Did you just tear everything out (or down) that was newer? Or did you try to incorporate the different elements into the remodel? I'd like to try to recognize the different stages that make up the 'story' of the farmhouse, but still keep with an overall theme.

That's why I've chosen the 1920s for a starting point. Many of the upgrades and nicer details of the house are from this era...with some of the 1950s changes brought in. Houses don't stay static. After WWI, in our rural area, electricity, plumbing, telephone service, etc. was finally available in homes. After WWII, other technology was made available...especially TVs. Then in later decades...computers, microwaves, DVDs, flat screens, etc. I'm not such a purist that I won't have any of these things in a 1904 home. LOL

So, how did you approach this? Thanks in advance for any ideas, examples, pictures, etc.


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Lavender Lass, thank you for responding to my post. I am simply repeating what others here have written using varying degrees of tact. Hollysprings wrote eloquently in another thread: "You've received some indulgently generous help from many many people on your paper project dreams. Yes, it can take a long while to figure out a functional layout given the constraints of an older home, but at some point, if you don't start doing a few concrete real world steps to establish exactly what those limitations are for your paper scribblings, you are doing nothing but spinning your wheels and being abusive of the very generous posters who have contributed greatly to more paper scribblings in the past." And then there was the curt response from Renovator8 when you posted yet another version of your dream house, "Time to build it." And you know what Kitchen Forum thread I am referring to - the one the mods deleted. You alluded to it in a post on the Smaller Homes forum.

Many of us on Gardenweb don't have the money for our dream house renovation. We realize that and instead take on smaller, affordable projects and ask for help for them. We encourage other people with their projects, big and small. Unless your fortunes are going to turn around in the next year, the plans you are drawing now will be outdated by the time of the actual build. Your needs will change. You will be x years older, you may have more or fewer children, you and your husband may be in different physical conditions.

I have seen people who live with dreams of something in the future, maybe because it allows them to believe that their here-and-now is only a temporary condition. But they miss out on what they could be doing instead of dreaming. I'm not saying that is the case with you, but I can see from your posts how much time you spent on your dreams. Maybe it is time to cease the drawings and planning and instead focus on projects you can actually do now. Which reminds me of the famous Magnaverde quote, Decorate for the life you really have, not the life you wish you had.


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Graywings- Thanks for the response. There was one kitchen forum thread that was deleted, when a few posters got mad at a few other posters, who came to my defense, when someone got a little carried away and questioned my degree, my job, and whether I even lived on a farm! LOL

Since then, I've posted more pictures and haven't had those problems. It's easy for people to misinterpret a written response, so I've tried to see the positive, even in the most questionable responses, rather than assuming they mean to be negative.

For instance, I thought Renovator was funny when he(?) said that, because I took it to mean, that plan was the most popular. If not, I still got a good chuckle :)

I would guess I'm not the only one, who may have had plans that have been put on hold, for a variety of reasons...often financial. Bottom line...this farmhouse is sitting here, and if I don't do something in the next few years, eventually it will be too damaged to realistically remodel.

If we're able to start soon, than this would be the plan we'd choose. I will admit, when the truck hit our house...I did change my plans dramatically! For six months, every time a loud truck went past our house, I flinched, just a bit. But, life goes on, the damage has been repaired and we're back to life more or less, as usual.

However, that's probably one reason the dining room is now in the back and the sunporch is a living area. And, the bedroom is in the back again, too. Nothing like a big pick-up crashing through a bay window (after hitting both vehicles and moving your porch over 5') to make you re-think your home design!

And...because of all I've learned from the GW forums (from many posters) I will say, I think this plan is far better and more detailed, than my earlier versions. And, if people don't want to respond to my posts...they certainly don't have to...but I am grateful to all that I've learned, here :)


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Now, my question is...how have others incorporated existing additions into an older home remodel? Did you just tear everything out (or down) that was newer? Or did you try to incorporate the different elements into the remodel? I'd like to try to recognize the different stages that make up the 'story' of the farmhouse, but still keep with an overall theme.

You start by getting a structural analysis of the current house. Can the older elements be saved? Because if it turns out that the addition done in the past is not structurally sound, why incorporate that element? And even if they can be saved, does it make fiscal sense to do so? Just because something was build in the past, does not mean the workmanship is better than what you would have today. My brother has a house that was build in the 1920's. There were some tough times in the 1920's. When he opens up his walls he finds all kinds of things - any type of lumber was used because they used what they could find. And insulation is nothing like what is available today. Unless you know that the finest workmanship of the time was used, you have to be prepared for anything.

Then, you consider the other systems that go in the house and how those will impact the structure you are trying to save. How will new electric, plumbing, HVAC, etc. be tied into the old systems. What about insulation? Can these updates be incorporated without damaging the structural elements that you are trying to save?

If you need all new plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, does that mean you are demoing down to the studs? If that is the case, and you need a new roof and siding, then what is the value in staying with the footprint of the old house? Financially, does it make more sense to completely demo the building and start from scratch? I am not saying that this is the case for your house, but without having a complete structural analysis plus an analysis the of electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. you cannot determine whether it even makes sense to save the house.

Once those questions are answered, then you move on to design. At this point you ask if house layouts from the past work with the life you are living today. Some people don't have a problem living in layouts from the past, while others prefer open floor plans, wide doors, walk-in closets, larger laundry rooms, larger kitchens, heck larger rooms in general. And then there are the materials that go into building a house that looks like it is from an earlier timeframe. Are they still available today, at what cost, and are newer designs better? Changes in building systems/materials have usually been made for a reason. You have posted pictures of the 1920's sunroom windows that you like. When I look at them, I see single glazed multi paned windows that are very energy inefficient and a pain to keep clean. Different strokes for different folks, you probably wouldn't care for my house.

You also have to figure out how much the current footprint of the house is limiting your ability to design the house of your dreams. If you are completely renovating a house, you are going to end up with a custom home. To me, a custom home means it is customized for the people who are living there. Being unnecessarily constrained by what was, is, imo, not the way to get to a custom dream home. If you don't feel constrained by the current house, than you don't have a problem. But since you have been at this for quite some time and haven't been able to finalize your design, it doesn't sound like the process is making a lot of progress. I suggest getting a complete analysis of the current house, then taking that information along with all your inspiration photos and ideas to an architect that specializes in old house renovations and getting a professional's opinion on how best to get to the goal of a dream home.


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Bottom line...this farmhouse is sitting here, and if I don't do something in the next few years, eventually it will be too damaged to realistically remodel.

But drawing plans on a sketchpad is not "doing something." Asking other people about whether you should flip rooms around is not "doing something."

You have to ask yourself, what right now do you have the money to do with this house? Do you have the money to have a structural analysis done? When will the roof be repaired? Stop with the pretty pictures and focus on the real stuff - your budget and structural issues.

This is an example of you not hearing the good advice you are being given: "Hollysprings- Thank you for the response...I saw it on the Building a Home forum, too. I understand what you're saying and I agree with you...but in this instance, I really would like to get some opinions, from people who have remodeled older homes."

Your answer from real people on this forum is going to be the same that Hollysprings gave you: "a "contractor's opinion" is NOT a substitute for a structural engineer's report, especially on an older home such as this that has been added on to over the decades and whose foundation is suspect. Pay the $500-$700 and get an actual real world assessment of the concrete issues that rehabbing this home will entail. Until that is done, anything else is useless mental masturbation."


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Lavender, I recall you said this in July of 2010:

"You all must have much nicer homes than my little farmhouse. First of all, I couldn't possibly live in it for a year (or even a month) in the condition it is today. The ceiling in the living room is caving in, the bathrooms were flooded years ago, the furnace went out several years ago and I'm sure there's mold from when the basement flooded."

If they are not maintained on a regular schedule, houses deteriorate quickly, alas, even the best of them -- from the photo in your OP on this thread, it looks as though the doors and windows are already suffering some fairly major water damage, and the corrugated tin roof does not look stable. Water and changes in temperature (did you ever replace the furnace or has it been without HVAC at all for at least 5 years now?) are the greatest enemies to stick-built structures.

Quite realistically, will there still be a house left to remodel when you're finally ready after another few years of dream-planning on these forums?


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Okay, full disclosure...I'm starting classes next week and won't be on the forums nearly as much, at least for a while. I'm hoping that this will give us a way to expand our business and attract more clients.

So, construction is finished on the 'truck hitting our house' incident and just a garden bed left to add, to the front of our current home. I thought I'd take a final opportunity to throw a few plans out this summer, since I knew I'd be busy with classes.

And, since there seems to be so much interest in the history of my farmhouse plans...here's one other option, with the dining room in front! Again, these are EARLIER plans from Summerfield, with a few small changes, which is why they're on graph paper and not Summerfield's software.

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures

And speaking of the economy, two more friends/family members are losing their jobs, this month. One is a bank loan specialist in Seattle and the other a Vice President for a company in South Carolina.

I hope things improve soon! It's such a 'challenge' running your own business, but at least I don't have to walk into work one day and find out I've been 'let go'...which is such a casual way of phrasing it.

And, my BIL (who has been out of work for ten months) finally got a great job and in his field...he just has to move to Alaska! Much further to get together, for the holidays :(

Don't worry...I'll be back, to let you all know the progress on the 'farmhouse project' and hopefully have some new pictures, too.

I'm still optimistic that we will get this project done, but in stages and not by going into huge debt. If I'm wrong, I won't be out any more money than I can afford...and if I'm right...it's a fun hobby/project! I mean, who can go on vacation to Hawaii, when you have six horses to feed? LOL


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

for me, it would help if you eliminated the
furniture and indicated built ins. sinks
tubs cabinets and maybe refrig and or dishwasher.
any furniture stuff like built in cabinets
or features like fireplaces would also
be indicated. names of rooms and sizes of rooms
are also helpful.

you draw the house, indicate doors and windows
approx sizes. interior doorways & door swings.
if you have a heating system closet..indicate it on
the drawing.

you have to have a good structural frame
to support any work to be done.

when you show a pic of the outside of the
rear room & the furnished dream of what you want
it to be, you miss a lot of steps inbetween.

keep in mind that it is costly to move kitchens
& bathrooms. plumbing & venting are expensive to
move and re-do. flipping sounds nice..but its
difficult and costly.

I haven't read your previous threads..or at least
not all of them. those kitchen forum folks scare me,
so I avoid that forum at all times.

what plans for cladding, insulation & hvac do you have?
is the farmhouse on piers? basement? slab on grade?
what is currently there in cladding, insulation
and heating and cooling?

knowing these things would give us a basis of what
you are working with.

I know people who have bought old houses and
made show houses out of them. some unfortunately
focused more on looks and now can't afford the
utility costs to heat and cool the old house.
you have to factor in things that dont show
but contribute to comfort and affordability.

best of luck.


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

Thanks, Energy rater...good advice! That's one reason I want to scale back the size and include the wood stove, on the sun porch.

In the interests of getting heat closer to the bathrooms (and for convenience sake, too) Rosie suggested adding a door from the back hall to the sun porch. What do you think?

From Lavender Lass farmhouse pictures

The right side of the house (addition) is over a basement and the left side (original house) is over a full height cellar. That's where the furnace is, now. Siding is asbestos (I know!) but not too bad in our area, if you hire someone to remove it professionally. We've looked into that cost, already. Actually, the asbestos is in amazing condition, but it's just not safe, especially with a remodel. Underneath, the original part of the house has clapboard siding.

The kitchen forum can be a bit scary (LOL) but I think very helpful, too :)


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RE: What to do with old addition on old house?

nothing wrong with asbestos siding.
its durable stuff. I've seen it used
as roofing material and as long
as you don't walk on it and crack it
it lasts forever. (well...maybe not forever,
but I've seen it last a long long time)

why would it not be safe? the asbestos is
on the outside..so if it were cut there is enough
fresh air to keep it from being a problem.
I'd keep it. carefully remove what you have
to for windows/doors or whatever & then
re-install it. save you some money.
if you have pipes wrapped in asbestos inside
the house and you cut thru the asbestos..then
you have safety/health concerns.
when I come across asbestos wrapped pipes
(the only asbestos I ever see) I just leave
it alone. I'm not messing with it!

I don't know much about cellars or basements
we don't have those here. are you planning on
using them as living areas? when you say the
furnace is in the basement..what kind of furnace?
does it have ductwork?
will you be keeping old furnace?
do you need a/c where you live?

having a drawing with more bones and less clutter
would be more heplful. after all..you can't
arrange furnishings until the space is liveable.

just because I'm curious..what kind of classes
will you be taking?

best of luck.


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