You own a Georgian house and you have decided to renovate it. While this can be time-consuming and costly, pouring sweat equity into your home is rarely wasted effort. But please take a few moments before beginning your project to research and plan. This can save a lot of time and expense over the course of your project.
There are several questions you must answer before beginning a restoration project.
- Will you be trying to maintain an authentic look or modernizing everything?
- Do you have a set budget? How flexible is it for unexpected surprises?
- Will you be doing the work on your own or hiring contractors?
- Are you familiar with local building codes and permitting requirements?
- Are you intending to register your home as a historical landmark?
Although there are more points to consider, those will get you started. If you know about your home and its background, you can incorporate some of the past into your restoration.
This magnificent video shows the details of the Georgian architectural style:
A Brief History of the Georgian House
The style of the Georgian house dates back to England from 1714 to 1830, during the continuous reigns of all the Georges – George I, George II, George III, and George IV. It experienced a resurgence in the United States during the late 1800s. Georgian architecture is more commonly known as Colonial Revival architecture. The Westover Plantation is a beautiful example of Georgian architecture.
Georgian houses are noted for their blocky, symmetrical appearance. Georgian architecture was a very practical design with equally-spaced windows and matching embellishments. Many municipal buildings in America bear the remnants of the Georgian architectural style. The City Hall building in Auburn, New York is a stunning building.
The best features of a Georgian house.
Do you line up the pencils on your desk? Is there a place for everything and everything in its place? Are there other quirks that require symmetry in your life? If you answered yes, then the Georgian house would be a perfect fit for you. This architectural style is noted for the orderliness and simplicity in design. The overall style is a well-balanced image of perfection.
The clear rectangular shape and perfect distribution of windows, doors, and detailed eaves, pillars, and porches of most Georgian houses make them natural showplaces. If your home is looking a little run-down, there are very quick and easy ways to rejuvenate it.
Architect Alex Oliver describes the classic symmetry of Georgian architecture in this video:
This video details some of the great things about Georgian architecture:
When to Modernize and When to Go With Authentic Fixtures
It is generally recommended to upgrade and modernize heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical in older homes. This brings them up to current building codes, adds to the resale value, and makes the occupants more comfortable. Most “modern convenience” renovations can be made without destroying the authentic “feel” of your house.
You can also completely modernize your house, using updated fixtures, and not lose any of the architectural beauty of the structure. The solid lines of Georgian-style homes work equally well with new and modernized features, or refurbished antique fixtures.
You can completely upgrade the electrical to meet current building codes, but install antique fixtures, or reproductions from the era, to create the ambiance of the original structure. If you intend to register your house as an historical landmark, you will need to check with the local authority on specific regulations and requirements for registration.
Nightmares to avoid when you restore a Georgian house.
Plumbing and electrical upgrades have crushed the spirit of many home restoration novices. Know your limits. If you do your own plumbing, but find every single pipe you touch basically implodes on you — call in a pro. If you are doing the electrical work and aren’t familiar with current code requirements — call in a pro. The money spent consulting with a professional or paying them to perform specific tasks in your renovation process will save you money in the long run. Preparation will help you avoid restoration nightmares.
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Tracking your materials and costs and staying on budget.
Unless you’ve won the lottery and have no budget constraints, it is important to keep track of expenditures during your renovation project. Some of the larger expense items, such as heating units, might qualify for a tax rebate at the end of the year. Keeping a spiral notebook or small binder with an envelope for receipts and a running list of expenditures is an excellent way to track everything.
Don’t forget the cost of permits and inspections in your budget. These will generally be included in contractor estimates unless you are doing the work yourself. If you are doing your own work, check with your local building department to make sure that your repairs and upgrades conform to current building codes. Some municipalities require licensed contractors to perform certain jobs. Knowing that at the beginning of your project is a must for proper budgeting.
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Finding authentic fixtures.
Online outlets like the House of Antique Hardware carry a variety of light fixtures, general hardware, door knobs, and other authentic fixtures for your restoration. The internet offers an unlimited choice of sources for all your needs. Some outlets only deal with refurbished and upgraded original fixtures. Others offer new reproductions of popular fixtures and hardware. Still others offer a combination.
The Brass Knob Architectural Antiques sells a variety of everything. Their Frequently Asked Questions section details a lot of information you’ll need to know about what they sell, some of their refurbishment process, and how it meets building codes. The internet can save time, effort, and allow you to quickly research and find specific items, or browse catalogs to let you see an item before purchasing it.
Unless you are restoring your home to historical society specifications and must use antique fixtures, there is no shame in using reproductions. The quality of workmanship and decorative value is as authentic-looking as the real antique fixtures, usually at a lower cost. You also get the added benefit of compliance with current building codes.
This Charleston house is an excellent example of the simple lines of a Georgian-style home:
Wrapping it all up and Putting a Bow on It
Georgian-style homes are some of the most popular home designs in the United States. Their classic symmetry, coupled with their practicality, make them beautiful inside and out. If your home has all the ornate raised stucco design detail, or the simple wood paneled wainscoting, it can be a showplace.
Whether you are restoring your home to historical guidelines, or completely modernizing it, your end result will be phenomenal. Here is a quick review of the steps you should take when renovating, upgrading, or modernizing your Georgian house:
- 1Decide what you want to do — restore authentically or completely modernize
- 2Set a budget for your project and track your expenditures
- 3Research building codes for your area
- 4Determine what work you will do and what you will hire contractors to perform
- 5If you intend to register your home as a historical landmark, research what requirements you will need to meet and make sure that any upgrades conform to those specifications
Proper planning before beginning your project will make the entire process more successful.
Featured image CC by CC BY-SA 3.0 by Wikipelli via Wikimedia Commons