10 Small Ways To Modernize An Old Home

There are some features in old houses that are worth preserving. For instance, an old fireplace or some original timber windows could help to add character and value to your home.

Other old features may not be so charming. They could end up making your home look tired or ugly. By modernizing them you can breathe new life into your old home and possibly even increase the value.

A lot of practical modernization improvements such as adding insulation, rewiring old electrics and replacing old pipes can be quite expensive. However, you don’t have to splash out lots of cash to modernize an old home. In fact, there are many small improvements that can make just as big an impact. Below are just 10 small ways to modernize an old home.

Remove old carpets

Carpets typically have an average life of 5 to 15 years (depending on the level of foot traffic). Old carpets can become visibly worn and will make your home look tired. You should particularly consider removing old carpets if they’re frayed or ripped.

Old carpets can also become unhygienic and may also start to develop stains that are hard to remove. A professional carpet cleaning service may be able to remove any dirt and stains, but there may come a point when even this has little impact.

In recent years, carpets have become a lot less fashionable. You may find that switching to laminate flooring is a more stylish and practical option. That said, if you prefer the warmth and comfort of carpet, there are many modern carpet options worth exploring.

Installing new carpet costs about  $3 to $6 per square foot. Laminate is a bit more expensive, often costing $8 to $15 per square foot, so may not be possible on some budgets (drop-fit laminate flooring is typically a bit cheaper as you can install it yourself).

10 Small Ways To Modernize An Old Home

Switch out old light switches

Light switches may only be a small feature, but they can make an impression. Old plastic light switches can become worn and discolored over time. Old metal toggle switches can look particularly outdated, especially if they’ve started to become tarnished and rusty.

Light switches are relatively cheap to replace, providing that you’re not moving them. It makes sense to get them all replaced at once. You could also consider replacing other old electrical features such as worn plug sockets and a worn thermostat. This should ideally be carried out by a licensed electrician.

Upgrade to LED bulbs

Old incandescent bulbs consume more electricity, resulting in higher energy bills. Switching to LEDs is an easy way to make your home more energy-efficient.

LEDs cost more to buy than incandescent bulbs, however you’ll save money in the long run due to the fact that they use less electricity. The fact that they also last longer than incandescent bulbs also increases the savings.

You’ll spend about $5 per bulb in most cases. It’s worth noting that you can buy LED bulbs in vintage styles – an oversized Edison-style LED bulb in a kitchen could bring out the character of an old home without consuming as much electricity as an incandescent bulb.

Replace old faucets

Old faucets can bring down the appearance of your bathroom or kitchen. While there are tricks for removing rust and limescale, there often comes a point when it’s more practical to replace your old faucets.

Installing new faucets can give your bathroom or kitchen a refreshed new look. An old sink or tub could look practically brand new afterwards (which is great if you don’t have the money to buy a new sink or tub). You can also maintain the character of your old home by exploring modern vintage-style taps. Alternatively, you could opt for a modern design such as a bathroom waterfall tap or pull out kitchen tap.

Faucet installation can vary in cost depending on the style of faucets you choose, but usually costs between $120 and $300 including labor. It is worth hiring plumber services, especially when dealing with older plumbing. This will ensure that your faucets are installed correctly.

Strip dated wallpaper

Old wallpaper can greatly devalue a house. This is particularly the case with gaudy patterns, which are now completely outdated. Even plain wallpaper can look ugly as it gets old – wallpaper does not age well and often ends up becoming dicolored and worn (especially if a home has previously contained smokers, kids or pets).

Wallpaper can be a hassle to remove (especially wood chip wallpaper!), but it’s worth it in order to modernize your home. Walls are a big and noticeable feature in homes and can benefit from being regularly redecorated.

If you’re going to replace your old wallpaper with new wallpaper, don’t just place the new wallpaper over the top. This will cause the new wallpaper to age faster as it may start to decay along with the old wallpaper beneath. Strip the old wallpaper and then add the new wallpaper. You could do this yourself or hire a decorator to do it for you.

Of course, you don’t have to replace your old wallpaper with new wallpaper. You’re much more likely to add value by repainting a wall rather than adding wallpaper, since wallpaper isn’t for everyone.

Repaint walls

A new lick of paint is one of the easiest and most effective ways to freshen up an old home. Old paint can start to become dirty and faded. A new coat of paint will make each wall feel brighter and cleaner.

Painting a wall can be a fun and easy DIY job and could save you money. That said, some people may prefer to hire a professional painter/decorator. Either way, it’s not too much of an expensive job compared to many other forms of home improvement.

If you’re looking for a safe modern color, choose white. Alternatively, you could try something a little more daring such as one of these chic farm colors.

Touch up old cabinets

There are cases where old kitchen cabinets can provide character. However, more often than not, old cabinets age quite poorly – becoming scratched and discolored.

Installing new cabinets can be an expensive job. Most homeowners end up spending over $2500 on new cabinets. You then often need to hire a professional to install them to make sure that the cabinets are all level, which can add to the total cost. To save you all this money, consider simply touching up your old cabinets.

Adding some white paint could completely transform your old cabinets and make them look new while preserving the original wooden features. You could also consider replacing handles and drawer pulls with modern options to further help refresh your cabinets. This will cost a fraction of the amount you’d spend replacing these cabinets.

Refinish hardwood floors

Unless the floorboards are severely damaged, you should always try to preserve original hardwood floors, as they can provide so much character to a home. Of course, over time bare hardwood can start to become scratched or stained, which may start to bring down the appearance of your home. You can solve this problem by simply refinishing your floors.

Refinishing involves sanding down your hardwood flooring and then adding a new sealant over the top. This can allow you to still preserve the history in the timber, while getting rid of any unsightly marks on the surface. There are companies that specialise in hardwood refinishing. Alternatively, you could try taking on the job yourself to save money (check out this guide to refinishing hardwood floors).

Take down old curtains

Old historic windows are features that you don’t want to let go of. However, old curtains could be ruining the appearance of your windows. Over time, curtains can become dirty and faded. Cleaning them may help to breathe some new life into them, but if they’re very old, you’re often best off replacing them.

Curtains can cost anywhere between $7 and $1500 per curtain depending on the style and fabric. If you’re decorating a historic home, it could be worth looking into retro designs that will compliment the age of the building. Alternatively, you could add a modern touch with some new drapes, blinds or even shutters.

Regrout old tiles

Stone tiles can often age quite well. In most cases, it’s the grouting that doesn’t age so well. Old grouting can become grubby and moldy and may even start to crumble over time. Instead of spending lots of money retiling an old wall, consider whether regrouting it is a better option.

Regrouting could be particularly worthwhile if your wall has historic decorative tiling. It could allow you to preserve the old tiles while still freshening up the wall. You can take on this job yourself, however it can be pretty tedious and fiddly, so you may want to hire a professional tiler to save you the time and hassle. Only replace tiles if they are cracked or seriously worn (or if they’re simply not to your taste).

Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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