T Nation

Home Improvement Projects


I just bought a 100 yr old house and have a pile of projects to do. I've already done a few small things.

I'm suprised to see there is not much discussion on Home projects. I think it would be a great chance for some more knowledgable people to give advice.

I'm realizing that nothing goes as planned and even the few "easy" projects Ive done so far actually turned out to be a fair amount more difficult.

I could start with a glass block window taht I put in my basement, and the foundational grading that I am currently doing. And plenty of pics too.

What do you guys think?


I'd be interested.


Why did you buy a project home?


Probably cheap and there is nothing wrong with that. IMO.


100 years old you say? Should go up like dried tinder. Check your fire insurance policy first.

But seriously, what elements in the house are crying out for attention? What can you do that will make the home more liveable? I've done a good amount of hands-on reno work, and what I've learned is that it will take at least twice as long, and cost three times as much, as you originally planned. But, there are few things as satisfying as completing major home improvement projects, especially those that add substantial value to your home.

Get the basic mechanical aspects of the house in proper order, then think about the cosmetic stuff.


Not saying there was, just wondering why?


Are you going to be limited by historical district restrictions?


any home is a project home unless you get something tiny, far out (rural), or spend more money than I could afford.


The 100 year old homes I looked at were more of a project than I was willing to take on, and were still pricey. 300-400k for a house that needed 100k+ up front just to be liveable. Had to pass on that.


Not sure what the pic showed, but there was a fire at my house in 2010....nothing too serious (they were home at the time) but the upper floor was redone (new carpet, walls)

I do understand at this point that it is ALL about prioritizing!!! I try to tell my GF that new basement windows are more important than painting

Also my kitchen was completely REDONE (all new appliances)


Better check them copper pipes...


Lol that's my absolute least favorite remodel I've seen in older houses. The worst is when an owner upgrades all the appliances, but the cabinetry is in poor condition. It makes for a tough remodel if you try to do it right. You have to remove all the expensive appliances, putting them at greater risk for damage, while you fix everything around them. It's a terrible investment, so hopefully your previous owner did the cabinets/countertops at the same time.


That is entirely dependent on where you live.

I have built new
I have bought old
I have bought within 10 years built

An older home is way more of a project, some people like to do the work. Just curious as to why you were taking on this endeavor


I wanted to live in St.Paul (Flexibility for commute for switching jobs in the next couple of yrs)

therefore most houses are old, in my price range.

The bulk of the work has been done (i.e. kitchen, carpet,flooring)

Wahts left were smaller projects that I thougth were perfect for a young guy like me to roll up my sleeves, and learn some things.

My GFs friends bought a model home built in 2006....EEEWW, I hate cookiecutter shit, and even they have a few projects to do.

My house is a big opportunity to invest (i think). It went on the market on a saturday, I looked at it on that sunday. First offer in on monday morning, two other offes came in later on that monday.


How is the plumbing and electrical?

Copper pipes with PVC drain lines?

Modern copper electrical wiring, or that cloth fiber wrapped stuff they used to use?


My GF was taking the first shower in my clawfoot tub...it was raining in my basement! (Leaky shower drain, puddle on bathroom floor, draining by my toilet through the floor)

Her Dad/borther came and fixed my plumbing (thank god I was able to get it fixed for cheap!)

Electrical has been partially updated (100A fuse box) but some outlets arent grounded (I knew this 2 days after my offer was accepted)

I can see the old fiber woven wiring thats been painted over (actually went out to the garage!)


I love fixer-uppers. I bought two houses in Baltimore for under 30K each back in '01. Sunk about 50K into them, did most of the work myself. Now they are each worth more than 300K and give me almost 2K per month net rental income. I've fixed tons of shit in every house I've owned. But I have a construction background, have or have access to just about any tool you can imagine, get discounts on material and enjoy working with my hands.

When I retire, my plan is to take a year or two and build my last home with my own hands.


Makes sense, the house we built was a custom home. There is always work with a home, I know you are just starting out in your career. That was why I was wondering why you would take this on at this point. But sounds like you found a good deal. Good luck sir. I hope the best for you.



you need to upgrade to 200a service and make sure the electrical is done right. it is the most critical system. too small a service will cause problems from overheating wires to breakers tripping out.
if all the wiring hasn't been replaced do it now. the old woven insulation can get wet and the electricity will follow the path of least resistance like a water pipe. I have seen that happen to my friends kids in the tub. they said the water was biting them and when he grabbed the tub spigot to turn the water off he got knocked on his ass. had to shut the breaker to get the kids out.
if you want to save $ you can go with GFI receptacles instead of GFI breakers.
make sure you remove all the old wiring and don't just disconnect it from the service. if you miss a connection under some insulation or in a wall that feeds off a light or receptacle you'll still have a hot circuit. oh yeah, some of that wiring insulation might be asbestos and being that old it is probably fried and will be bad news. in fact any old floor tile and pipe insulation might be asbestos so get it checked. also old paint might be lead based and if so there will be lead dust. they also used lead solder on old copper water lines.


I created some home improvement projects for myself to blow off steam recently. Now I need to learn to fix holes in drywall.