What to Do (And What to Avoid) When Renovating an Historic Property


Buying an historic home can be an exciting adventure. There is something very special about connecting with history through the architecture and design of your own property. But all that history requires both responsibility and commitment from a homeowner.

Historic homes often come with their own challenges. Age, in addition to adding character, can also damage or deteriorate a structure and its foundations. And historic features require specialized knowledge and, sometimes, equipment, to maintain and repair. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, therefore, that maintaining or restoring an historic home shouldn’t be placed in the hands of just any construction company.

At GDC construction, we have close to 100 years of experience building, renovating, maintaining and upgrading some of La Jolla’s finest historic homes. We’ve built a wealth of specialized knowledge about the Jewel’s unique character and architecture, and we’ve spent five generations getting to know how to best preserve our regional history.

Are you thinking of buying an historic home in La Jolla?

Or are you searching for the right team of specialists to give your property a crucial makeover? Either way, we have some key pointers for you:

  • Make a plan (with expert help) and stick to it: Whether you’re investing in a new property in the area or upgrading or modernizing elements of your current home, you need a solid plan from the get-go. Renovation projects are very different to full-scale restoration projects. So, schedule some time to sit down with an expert to talk over your options. Then set a plan in motion. After all, once you’re in the thick of a renovation project, it’s easy to lose sight of all the minor changes and add-ons.
  • Be realistic: Experts like the engineers and designers at GDC can help you ascertain whether your historic property will support big changes or additions, and whether the character of the home will be maintained by the project you’re envisioning. And we’ll help you understand the shortcomings and capacities of your home’s existing HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems.
  • Work with construction experts who have done this work before: Working on an historic home is not always a walk in the park. There could be all sorts of hidden challenges and problems that inexperienced builders might fail to see. So, bring in a team with plenty of experience working on historic properties from the first day. You won’t regret it.
  • Hire an expert architect: You also want to ensure your chosen architect understands your vision, but also has respect for the historic value of the home. A great architect should be able to make recommendations and add to your vision for your home. GDC regularly works with some of the most well respected architects in the region.
  • Maintain, maintain, maintain: If you own an older home, you must always be vigilant for wear-and-tear. Historic homes typical require more maintenance and regular upgrades to repair and replace outdated, faulty or damaged infrastructure.
  • Look out for leaks: Older properties are especially prone to leaky pipes, which can cause mold. Mold can obviously be hazardous to your health, and can undermine the overall structure of the house, making the property dangerous.
  • Check for sagging: Sagging walls or floors could be a sign of water damage or a weakened foundation, which will need to be repaired as soon as possible.
  • Amp it up: Check your home’s electrical panel for the amperage rating. If the house is older than 40 years and hasn’t undergone a major renovation before, chances are good that you won’t have enough amperage to accommodate your modern appliances, and you’ll need an upgrade.
  • Follow the Rules: Renovation and renewal of an historic home is always an option, but you must always be aware of, and follow, the regulations of the local historic landmarks commission. Some historic properties require special permits for any construction work and the project may need to be supervised. Unapproved renovations not meeting with the guidelines may be subject to steep fines. Again, GDC has decades of experience dealing with historical bureaucracy in La Jolla.

Don’t forget that owning a historic property means that maintenance and upkeep are ongoing.

Renovation is meant to get a home back into shape, but historic properties need constant love to stay in good condition. Sometimes this could be as simple as regularly checking gutters and drainpipes for blocks, or making sure the plumbing and electrical systems are functioning properly.

Restoring or renovating historic properties is about more than just providing you a nice place to live. By renewing and lovingly restoring these old structures, you’re helping to improve the neighborhood and preserve La Jolla’s original character. In a way, you’re helping to keep the past alive and well.

For more information on preservation in the La Jolla community, or if you want more information on restoring or rehabilitating an historic home, visit us at www.gdcconstruction, or come see us at GDC Construction, 1031 Silverado Street, La Jolla, CA 92037 858-551-5222.