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The 10 Reasons to Restore an Old Building

It’s inevitable that buildings will age and eventually need to be either renovated, repurposed or demolished. If you own an old building and are trying to decide if you should restore or build new, read this article first before making any decisions. A majority of people believe that new buildings offer many advantages over historic ones, but we beg to differ. We’ll show you how restoration can, in fact, be more sustainable and save you a significant amount of money, time and effort. 

First, let’s explore the differences between what a building restoration is versus a renovation or remodel; and what’s involved for each with this quick guide:

What is Building Restoration?

If your goal is to make your building look as good as it did when it was first completed, then a restoration is needed. Restorations return a building back to its original style and look without changing its structure. If a new system is needed, like a furnace, this will be done in a way that replicates the authentic style of the building without interfering with its appearance.  

What is a Renovation?

Renovation and restorations can go hand in hand when you want to restore a building while also adding some modern touches to improve it. Renovations focus on repairing, replacing, and upgrading the structure. 

What is a Remodel?

If you want to transform the layout, change the functionality of the interior completely or add in a feature that your building is missing, then it will be considered a remodel. This is generally much more costly, time-consuming and labour intensive than the other two options since significant changes are usually required. Some remodel examples could include:

  • Altering the plumbing to relocate the bathroom or kitchen.
  • Expanding the square footage.
  • Raising the ceilings.
  • Removing walls. 

Why Restore an Old Building?

Here are our 10 reasons to restore an old building rather than tearing it down to build something new. 

To Maintain The Unique and Original Design

As buildings age, they go under significant wear and tear that includes discoloration, concrete deterioration, foundation damage, salt crystallization, and even microbiological growth from bacteria and fungi. Even with regular maintenance every year, exposure to weather and other environmental factors will significantly deteriorate the building over time. However, that does not necessarily mean the building needs to be torn down. If you have an emotional attachment to the building, sometimes simple foundation repair work, cleaning, patching, and painting will be enough to bring the building back to life while still maintaining the stunning, original design.  

For Heritage Reasons

We can learn a lot from older buildings. They are landmarks that portray the history of generations before us as well as the architectural and design features that are no longer used today. Old buildings help us to maintain a connection to our past and bring a certain character and charm to our neighbourhoods.  Just think of what our cities would look like if we tore down all the historical buildings and replaced them with new ones. It would not only diminish our city’s heritage, but also our sense of pride. 

More Cost-Effective

Restoring a building is often more affordable than building an entirely new one. This is especially true when the interior design of the building does not need to be changed at all. Simple steps like cleaning the exterior, fixing cracks, adding a fresh coat of paint, and reinforcing the structure do not take a lot of money when compared to a new build. For a fraction of the price, you can restore the building to provide adequate strength and revamp the appearance without interfering with the original condition. 

Saves Time

Tearing down a building to construct a new one takes a lot of time, energy and money. On the other hand, exterior restoration of the original building can be done much faster with the right company behind the work. With specialized equipment and skilled staff, you can have a fully restored building in a matter of days or even weeks.

More Sustainable

Construction waste greatly impacts our environment by filling landfills and polluting our rivers and lakes. Preserving an old building can reduce the amount of waste that enters our environment. It can also preserve the resources that are involved in building new materials. 

Offer Grant Potential

You may also be able to receive a grant for the preservation of the building. There are a number of funds that support historic preservation, such as the City of Ottawa’s Heritage Grant Program. They offer grants up to $5,000 on a matching basis to assist owners of heritage buildings with restoration work. 

More Impressive

When you imagine a beautiful-looking business or living space, what do you think of? A repurposed building used for your home, office space, or retail adds a touch of class and elegance that a new building just can’t match. 

Hold Cultural Significance

You can witness an area’s cultural history first-hand just by looking at all the older buildings that line the streets. Old buildings give people a connection to certain social values, beliefs, religions, and customs that once shaped an area. It allows us to better understand where we came from and who we are as a country.

Offer Intrinsic Value

An old building is often worth more than a brand new one. Why? Because many old buildings were built using higher-quality materials and offer impressive architectural design touches. In fact, in most cases, a century-old building will likely outlast a new one that has been built with brand-new materials. Plus, if there’s a prominent story behind the building, it could be worth a pretty penny.

Lower Establishment Costs

There are many cost advantages as you can see to renovating and repurposing an older building. One that many people don’t talk about is the lower establishment costs. Because the structure is already in place, there is no need to purchase land, deal with zoning requirements, demolish the building, connect the utilities, or erect a new building. 

Tips to Consider When Restoring a Building

Be Practical When Adding Modern Features

Before setting your heart on any particular addition you want to be included in your new design, make sure it’s practical, and the building can support it. Older buildings are more fragile, sensitive and complex, so they won’t always be able to accommodate modern designs. When it comes to changing or adding anything, consult with your team thoroughly to ensure it’s possible and won’t impact the structural integrity of the building.

Retain and Repair as Much of the Original Character

Older buildings are unique, have timeless character throughout them and often hold historical value in their community. So when you get the chance to restore it, do so with the intention of retaining as much of its original character as possible. Many older structures are embellished with rich architectural detailing and unique layouts that you just can’t find today. Take some time to learn about the building, what significance it holds, and how you can best preserve its timeless beauty. 

Triple Check Regulations and Building Codes

Older, historic buildings will have extra layers of regulations and building code requirements, which is why it’s imperative that you meet all of these to ensure it is safe and up to code once complete. We recommend beginning this process as early as possible since it can be time-consuming, and you won’t be able to proceed with alterations until you get the green light of approval. Always consult with your team of experts when applying for permits. Code officials, preservation experts, designers, and facility managers will be able to guide you when it comes to potential challenges you may face and how to navigate through them so you can still create something beautiful that is safe and up to code.

Hire a Reputable, Experienced Team

Taking on a restoration project of an older building requires an experienced contractor and team who know what they are doing. Finding the right contractor can help make this process go as smooth as possible since they will be able to assist you with crucial steps such as the estimated cost, timeframe, materials and more. Make sure you research contractors and pay attention to their reviews to get an accurate idea of what their workmanship, customer service, and rates are like in comparison to others. 

Remember That It’s a Commitment

The reality is with most older structures, you may experience hurdles, challenges and setbacks, which is why this type of project requires a solid commitment. And during the process, you may discover that certain features can’t be changed or enhanced as you had hoped for. It’s best to prepare for the irregularities and unpredictable quirks that come with historical building restorations. Just stay committed and be prepared.

If You’re on a Tighter Budget, Start Small

If you don’t have a massive budget, consider starting small or focus on a few sections at a time. Talk to your contractor to map out areas that are a priority so they can focus there first. Then once you have more wiggle room in your budget, continue with the rest. 

 Pay Close Attention to the Foundation, Windows, and the Roof

These are the three most important components of any structure. So before you begin eyeing up the aesthetics, focus on any repairs that are needed to fix the roof, windows, and foundation. This way, you can ensure the building is watertight, so you won’t be caught off guard or have to deal with weak structural integrity.

If your old building needs structural repairs, waterproofing or foundation restoration, contact The Foundation Experts. We’ve been delivering top-quality workmanship and customer service that you can depend on in Ottawa. Get in touch with us today to learn more or to get an estimate.