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Remodeling a Historic Home: What to Know in Old Town Alexandria

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Ever found yourself walking through the charming streets of Old Town Alexandria, marveling at its historic homes, and wondering what it'd be like to own one? But then you think about remodeling a historic home. It's almost like traveling back in time! Navigating old-world charm with modern convenience - an exciting yet daunting task.

If you own a historic property, this information is vital. Additionally, if your historic property is also a rental property, that adds an extra layer of challenge. Why? Well, it is imperative that you have a maintenance plan in place and provide thorough details to your residents about their role in maintaining the integrity of a historic property. In other words, they have to be extremely mindful to not damage the property and understand that it's a significant cost should any damage occur.

what to know about remodeling a historic home in old town alexandria

You won't be the first to explore this route; many have come before you. And here we are! Ready to share our insights on what to know about remodeling a historic home in Old Town Alexandria. The primary starting point basically begins with getting a grip on the regulations that keep Alexandria special, figuring out your home’s current state, and bringing in energy-saving changes. So, let's dive in to the basics of understanding what it means to remodel or make changes to a historic home in Old Town Alexandria.

Table of Contents:

Understanding the Regulations for Remodeling Historic Homes in Old Town Alexandria

To ensure the preservation of Old Town Alexandria's unique charm, it is essential to adhere to the city regulations set by the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) when remodeling a historic home. These guidelines help preserve the unique charm that makes this northern Virginia town so special.

In Old Town, two distinct historic districts are recognized - The Old and Historic Alexandria District and Parker-Gray Historic District. Any property owners within these zones need approval from BAR before starting their renovation project.

Navigating through the Approval Process

The process begins with obtaining a Certificate of Appropriateness. This document is needed for new construction or exterior alterations within a historic district.

To get your certificate, you'll present your proposed development plans to BAR for evaluation. If approved, renovations can start under their watchful eye to ensure historical preservation standards are met.

Maintaining an area's architectural integrity isn't just about aesthetics—it also adds value to properties themselves while bolstering community pride amongst residents who appreciate living amidst such rich history.

The Importance of Preserving Historic Homes in Old Town Alexandria

Old Town Alexandria is not just a neighborhood, but also an iconic historical site. The area boasts countless historic properties that echo the past and add to the unique charm of this national register historic district. It’s no surprise then, that maintaining these architectural gems is vital for preserving the character of Old Town.

Remodeling such homes isn't merely about modernizing interiors or enhancing curb appeal—it's also about safeguarding our shared history. Each window restoration project, each carefully selected piece of butcher block used in renovations, contributes to keeping alive the soulful ambiance of Old Town Alexandria.

The National Register Historic Districts, like Del Ray and Fairfax County which are home to many significant structures from bygone eras including stucco bungalows and row houses requiring preservation efforts as well.

Paying Tribute To Our Shared Heritage

Acknowledging our heritage through mindful remodeling gives us an opportunity not only to honor the past but also enriches present-day living spaces with timeless elegance. Maintaining elements like window muntins or tackling wainscoting projects may seem daunting at first glance, however they offer an unmatched aesthetic value once restored meticulously.

An Investment Worth Making

Beyond its historical significance, preserving old homes can be a smart investment too. Well-preserved historic places tend to hold their real estate values better over time—yet another reason why taking on something like plaster restoration next steps part 1 could turn your ugly duckling house into a swan-like masterpiece.

what to know about remodeling a historic home in old town alexandria

Assessing Your Home's Condition Before Remodeling

Embarking on a remodeling journey of your historic home in Old Town Alexandria requires an initial step - assessing the current condition. The age and unique characteristics can make this process more complex than for modern homes.

Identifying Common Issues in Older Homes

The first hurdle to tackle is identifying common issues found in older homes, which are often masked by their charm. Outdated features such as rim locks or wood treads might need replacing or restoring to meet safety standards and improve functionality.

In some cases, you may encounter problems with crawl spaces due to sink holes, necessitating the use of vapor barriers like foil tape to prevent moisture damage. It's not uncommon for sash cords within windows needing replacement during renovation either.

A Historic Preservation Map viewer can help homeowners get an overview of any potential historical significance that certain architectural elements may hold before making changes.

An essential part of these renovations involves updating water systems within the house while ensuring they don't compromise its historical integrity. A proper assessment will help uncover these underlying issues ahead of time, allowing you plan accordingly both financially and timeline-wise.

The idea isn't about turning your old row house into a show top category property overnight but transforming it over time through careful planning and preservation. In doing so, we maintain the original charm that makes Old Town Alexandria a coveted location among countless historic districts worldwide.

Note: This process can be daunting but remember that every unreal before picture had its own set of challenges; yours won't be different.

Tips for Remodeling Historic Homes in Old Town Alexandria

Remodeling a historic home is an adventure filled with excitement and challenges. In Old Town Alexandria, it's important to respect the charm of our historic districts, like Del Ray or Butcher Block, while infusing modern conveniences.

Enhancing Energy Efficiency

Maintaining energy efficiency during renovation without compromising your home's historical character can seem daunting. Yet, adopting certain measures such as insulation behind wainscoting projects and vapor/moisture barriers can help strike this balance.

what to know about remodeling a historic home in old town alexandria

An unreal before-and-after transformation could be your stucco bungalow turning into an energy-efficient marvel while preserving its unique curb appeal.

Window Restoration Classes

The anatomy of a window might not be something you've thought about much until now. But when it comes to restoring old windows instead of replacing them, sandwich muntins become critical components. It preserves that charming "old row house" feel so cherished in places like Fairfax County.

To master this aspect of restoration consider attending some window restoration classes. This knowledge will go beyond just your own DIY project; it'll let you appreciate countless historic properties around you differently.

Note: According to BAR guidelines (Board Architectural Review), preserving original materials and matching the original design for roofing, windows are vital aspects during remodeling works.

Working with Contractors for Remodeling Historic Homes in Old Town Alexandria

Choosing the right contractor is crucial when it comes to remodeling a historic home. Finding the perfect contractor is imperative when restoring a house of historic importance; someone who has an appreciation for its past, as well as the expertise to guarantee that everything will be completed satisfactorily.

Selecting a Contractor

Selecting a contractor isn't just as easy as flipping through the phone book or performing an instant web search. When dealing with historic properties, you need someone who knows how to navigate through unique challenges that these older homes present.

what to know about remodeling a historic home in old town alexandria

The ideal candidate should have experience working on similar projects within historic districts like Old Town Alexandria or Del Ray. They should be familiar with specific elements such as sandwich muntins and wainscoting project details which are common features in these old houses.

In addition, consider their ability to work within existing guidelines set by local authorities such as Fairfax County's Board of Architectural Review (BAR). Your chosen professional needs not only knowledge about construction practices but also understanding of regulations surrounding preservation of historic places.

You can ask prospective contractors about previous jobs they've done, specifically if they’ve worked on registered historical sites before. Be bold; request photos or even arrange visits if possible so you get an idea what kind of work they do.

"The success of your renovation project largely depends on your contractor's skill level and qualifications."

Finding an experienced pro may take some time, but remember: patience pays off. A competent partner will ensure that once all’s said and done – from master bedroom refurbishment down to stucco bungalow exterior touch-ups - your house retains its charm and historical authenticity, all while offering modern conveniences.

Budgeting for Your Historic Home Remodeling Project

When planning to remodel a historic home in Old Town Alexandria, understanding the financial implications is crucial. It's not just about enhancing your property’s curb appeal or creating that dream master bedroom; it's also about smart budgeting.

A thorough project breakdown can help you estimate costs accurately. Start by assessing each aspect of the renovation - from window restoration to adding energy-efficient features.

Funding Your Remodel

To fund this undertaking, consider options beyond traditional savings. An alternative to saving for the project could be refinancing your mortgage or obtaining a HELOC. If your house is listed on national register historic places, grants and tax incentives could be available as well. National Park Service has resources that may help with financing renovations of registered homes.

Critical Cost Considerations

In addition to standard remodeling expenses like materials and labor, unique aspects such as preserving existing historic elements add more complexity. Restoring original sandwich muntins on windows or replicating wainscoting projects can incur additional costs due to specialist skills required.

The Unexpected Costs: Preparing for Surprises

You've probably heard horror stories about unreal before-and-after scenarios where budgets ballooned out of control because of unexpected issues uncovered during renovation works in older properties - think vapor/moisture barriers gone wrong. To protect yourself against these surprises, include a contingency allowance within your budget—usually 10-20% extra should suffice.

Remember – investing in proper planning upfront saves both time and money down the road.

what to know about remodeling a historic home in old town alexandria

FAQs in Relation to What to Know about Remodeling a Historic Home in Old Town Alexandria

What is the oldest house in Old Town Alexandria?

The Carlyle House, built back in 1752, stands as the oldest residence within Old Town Alexandria.

What is a certificate of appropriateness in Alexandria VA?

A Certificate of Appropriateness certifies that changes to properties within historic districts align with city preservation standards.

What is the Board of Architectural Review in Alexandria VA?

The Board of Architectural Review oversees proposed development plans ensuring they preserve and enhance historical districts' charm.

What is the historical significance of Alexandria Virginia?

Alexandria boasts a rich history from its founding year (1749) till now. It has been home to numerous significant events and notable figures throughout American history.


Embarking on the journey of remodeling a historic home in Old Town Alexandria, you've gathered vital insights. You now understand the importance of navigating through approval processes and adhering to preservation regulations. The unique charm of Alexandria's old-world structures is worth every effort.

You've also learned about assessing your home’s condition before starting renovations - identifying common issues and planning how to address them effectively.

A major takeaway? The need for energy efficiency while preserving historical authenticity – think window restoration over replacement!

Selecting an experienced contractor plays a key role in success, as does careful budget planning. Remember these lessons as you dive into this exciting project.

With careful budget planning and the selection of an experienced contractor, you are now ready to begin turning your dreams into reality in Old Town Alexandria!

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