Starting Your Historic Home Renovation: What To Do & Not Do

There are many historic homes in Westfield, NJ & surrounding townships. Many homes with character, history and value. If you’ve recently decided to restore a home to its glory days, you’re likely to have a lot of questions. After all, undertaking a historic restoration isn’t the same as remodeling the average home.

There’s different factors to consider such as, registering your home as a historic home (if you haven’t already), filling the necessary forms, checking with your local zoning board, hiring the right contractor for the job and more. It can sometimes be overwhelming to get everything in order before the actual work begins.

We understand the headaches involved at the start of this process. We’ve also had many homeowners come to us with questions on how to begin the process and what materials to purchase. After over 30 years specializing in historic home remodeling projects, we’ve compiled the most common questions (and answers to them) as well as do’s and don’ts.

FAQs About Buying a Home That’s a Designated Historic Property

Question: What are the pros and cons of registering a house as a historic property?

If you’ve recently purchased an old home in Westfield, NJ or another surrounding township, you may be eager to research its past and perhaps register it as a historic property. You’ll likely come across photos of the house in archives and become inspired to repair the home to its original condition. While registering the house may have its cons, there are some things to know before you move forward.


If you have a very old house that hasn’t been greatly altered or that was associated with important historical events, you’ll be able to register it as a historic property. You may do so by visiting the Federal National Register, on a state historic commission register, or on a municipal historic register. Registering a historical property typically qualifies it for grant programs, loans, and tax incentives.

Question: Can I remodel or add onto a historic home?

Old homes are great. They transport you back to simpler times — and simpler spaces. The number of rooms and the size of rooms are usually smaller in older homes. Because of this, you may be considering adding onto the historic home through a home addition.


Before any work can be done to a home in a historic district, you’ll need to submit an application and have your property evaluated. There are a number of places you can turn to in order to begin the process. For renovation and remodeling regulations as well as historic home restoration grants, check online. For local zoning bylaws on design standards, visit your town clerk’s office or website. Working with a historic home restoration contractor can help make the process less overwhelming.

Restoring Historic Homes


  • Call your local or state historic preservation office before making any changes to find out if your home is in a historic district and whether you must follow any guidelines.
  • Live with the house a while before getting involved in big projects. When you learn about the house first, there’s a better chance you’ll be happy with the work you have done.
  • Try to maintain the original character of the house. After all, that’s what restoration is all about.
  • Find a contractor who has experience working on historic home restorations by getting recommendations from other historic-home owners, your city’s historic preservation board, homebuilders association or contractor licensing board.
  • Before hiring a contractor, check out his past work and make sure he is licensed and insured.
  • Add 20% to 25% on top of a contractor’s bid for unexpected problems during the renovation and special orders.


  • Don’t pay any old house restoration company for a job before it’s done. Structure the payments so a sizeable amount is due upon satisfactory completion.
  • Don’t assume having features custom-made is more expensive than buying them straight off the shelf at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
  • Don’t assume you’ll have to replace all those drafty old windows with expensive new ones that don’t fit the character of the house. A little caulk can go a long way — and it’s easy to use.
  • Don’t rush to rip off plaster walls if you have to replace a house’s wiring. Electricians can snake wires through the walls instead. By doing this, you’ll avoid a huge mess and help maintain the original character of the house.

If you’re searching for the right contractor to help with restoration services, turn to SEI Construction, Inc. We can help you preserve history by restoring distinguished structures back to their original grandeur and bringing them up to modern standards with careful restoration processes and procedures.