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Renovating an older home – What to keep in mind

Are you planning to renovate an older home? Read on and find out how to the navigate the pitfalls that DIY workmen often face.

Renovating your older house | PIRNAR

Planning and documentation

Before starting the renovation of an older house, a detailed plan ought to be drawn up. First, you need to determine what you want to achieve with your project, the timeline and financial capacity as well as the scope of work of the renovation. Before beginning work, find out if your renovation project might perhaps require you to obtain a building permit. It’s clear that a building permit is required for complex projects. However, you might also need one for simpler projects such as major apartment building renovations where the fundamental construction of the house is altered, including the construction of extensions.

During the planning phase, the principles of construction physics should be adhered to. Energy efficiency should be optimized in an environmentally friendly manner, providing for the air tightness of a building and eliminating any and all possible thermal bridges. Sound planning can help lower building investment costs so consulting architects and builders makes perfect sense. This is the only way to make your renovation project financially feasible, or else you might want to consider constructing an entirely new building.

Static adequacy

When mapping out the possible renovation project, the first thing to do is to examine the building’s static adequacy to make sure that the building is safe and to prevent possible unexpected future costs. Because of poor workmanship, dilapidation, poor floor load bearing capacity or change of a building’s designated use, static rehabilitation might be required. This is the first step in a renovation that involves the following:

  • Static foundation rehabilitation, including subconcrete work, filing with concrete and foundation injections
  • Static load-bearing wall rehabilitation, where walls are braced using reinforcements or grout
  • Static interfloor construction rehabilitation, which most often comprises the replacement of the interfloor construction and the construction of concrete slabs in load-bearing walls

Environmentally friendly renovation

Modern trends in building dictate the use of environmentally friendly materials that provide for the best possible acoustic and thermal insulations to make your building as cost-efficient as possible and support environmental performance. We often use and install too many synthetic materials the production of which puts a strain on the environment. At the same time, such synthetic materials are a burden to dispose of after demolishing a building. The environmentally friendly rehabilitation of energy efficiency is, as a rule, more expensive compared to when exclusively using synthetic materials, however, in the long run, it’s more preferable for our health as well as our planet.

Roof and framing

In order to prevent further deterioration, roof covering should be replaced. We start by removing the old roof covering. Next, we examine the roof framing for possible pests, rot or physical damage to timber structures. It’s easiest to get rid of pests using chemical agents. Next, the timber is protected from reinfestation using a protective coating. You also need to check the anchoring of the roof framing to the base. If it’s poorly anchored, strong winds could sweep away the entire roof structure. After inspection, you will need to decide whether to replace either the entire structure or only individual elements. As a rule, the roof framing needs to be refurbished when up to approx. 20 percent of the timber exhibits damage. In case of a higher percentage, we recommend constructing an entirely new roof framing.

Usually, older buildings don’t have aninsulated roof framing or ventilation ducts that prevent the formation of condensation between the roof covering and insulation, which is another aspect of renovation to consider. The final job is to meticulously place new roof covering. The overhaul of the entire roof can take from one and up to two weeks, so check the weather forecast before starting work.

Another facet to consider is safety. When re-roofing, remember to install safety netting while workers should use personal protective equipment. However, if you also intend to renovate the rendering, it’s worth to consider putting up complete scaffolding.

Wall insulation and rendering

Most often we’ll decide to restore the rendering when the finishing layer is worn, has lost its colour or is damaged or when we decide to undertake an energy renovation since uninsulated walls will dissipate loads of precious heat. The minimum standard specifies that a building needs to be insulated to a thermal transmittance of U<0.28W/(m2K) which equals for the most solid wall thicknesses approx.15cm of thermal insulation. This also includes waterproofing foundations. This involves digging around them and re-applying waterproofing.


Modern and well-designed windows and doors will drastically improve the appearance of a house. Nowadays, we are aware the joinery elements are extremely important in the context of thermal losses in (lack of) acoustic insulation, so it’s vital to select windows and doors that will keep heat inside and protect us from unfavourable weather. Regardless of whether you’re renovating an antique estate, post-war period blue-collar home or an urban villa, Pirnar can help you find the right external door. We offer doors in various styles, each of them special thanks to their distinct features, yet serving the same purpose. With every door, we guarantee state-of-the-art construction that provides for excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, security and aesthetic design.

Floor plan

In older houses, floor plans are much different compared to their modern counterparts. To make apartments and houses more functional and modern, during renovation, you might want to merge individual rooms, construction additional partition walls and relocate doors and windows. Before tackling the job, static adequacy testing should be completed and the building supported or reinforced if necessary in order to facilitate the changes in load. Suitable for demolition are partition walls. This includes walls up to 15cm in total thickness or 10cm without plaster. Load-bearing walls are the walls that are systematically arranged in the floor plan and are interconnected from the foundation up to the top of the building. Their purpose is to bear the weight of the building in order to maintain its stability.


Often, in old buildings, electrical wiring might need to be replaced in case the wires and switches are worn or damaged. Have a trained electrician assess the condition of the building’s wiring. Even if electrical wiring may appear intact, possible damage may be determined via measurement. Measurements should be carried out before connecting the building to the power network. Make the necessary arrangements to properly install the wiring and avoid possible issues with extension cords and dangling lines, which are neither safe nor pleasant to look at. The fittings should be properly protected i.e. grounded while taking into account the power supply and the number of connected devices. If a specific part of the electrical wiring supplies energy to a disproportionate number of devices, this might result in the overheating of sockets and lines, which can ultimately lead to a fire. The best thing to do is to clearly determine the locations of sockets and switches as well as electricity-powered devices. This way, a competent technician will be able to draw up a suitable wiring plan that is both safe and in line with your wishes are demands.

Water and wastewater treatment system

By now, the condition of the lead piping that was once used for plumbing and water supply has certainly deteriorated. Even if they’re still watertight, we now know that it’s detrimental to our health, which is why they ought to be replaced. Before undertaking such a project, again, a plan ought to be drawn up and the locations of fittings and drains, as well as the position of the dishwasher and laundry machine determined. Don’t forget to close the building’s main water shutoff valve! In a single-family home, that shouldn’t be a problem. However, in an apartment building, it might mean interrupting the water supply to other residents. The building manager should be notified in advance of your intent to shut off water in order to make the necessary arrangements. Also let your neighbours know of the interrupted water supply and apologize for the noise of the renovation in advance.

Stand-alone houses that aren’t connected to the sewerage system require you to install a domestic wastewater treatment system. Opt for a classic wastewater treatment system or a biological system that treats water with the help of plants and microorganisms.

Walls and floors

The walls of older buildings require appropriate care. The first step is to mend them in case you’ve been moving water lines and electrical wiring. Next, you need to make certain that the walls providesufficient insulation and that they aren’t growing mould. The floors require the same level of attention. When taking up flooring replacement, it often becomes apparent that a complete overhaul is required. Occasionally, only finishing (e.g. insulation, screed) will need to be restored , while wood ceilings might require you to also replace the load-bearing treadable construction.

The thorough renovation of a house is a complex project that might be even more expensive and time consuming that erecting a new home. If you’re attached to your home and don’t want to tear it down, don’t hesitate renovating it and giving it a new breath life. Once your home is restored to its former beauty, instead of a tiara, fit it with the most beautiful and highest quality entrance door.

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