The Biggest Challenges in Old Home Renovation and How to Beat Them

House renovation project

There are many old homes in and around Chicagoland featuring old world charm, and homeowners delight in living in them, but there are challenges to inhabiting an old house. If you’ve got an old home and are expecting to take on a remodeling project in the near future, what challenges will you run into and more importantly – how can you beat them?


There is often a familiar smell that old homes share, and it’s not necessarily pleasant. When moisture slowly but steadily becomes an issue, the odor is unmistakable. But it’s not the smell that is the most concerning part of having moisture in the home – it can lead to mold, which can cause illness. It can lead to rot and dry rot, which significantly compromises the structural integrity of a home.

The best way to overcome a moisture issue is to find and repair all leaks and make sure there is proper ventilation throughout the home so that humidity doesn’t become an issue. Dehumidifiers can improve the situation, but often, a contractor needs to be called in make repairs to damaged areas and to come up with a plan to improve ventilation so the house can “breathe.”


Every homeowner can attest to the importance of the foundation when purchasing a home. Unfortunately, many old foundations haven’t stood the test of time. Two significant issues occur with a bad foundation. First, the house will settle, which is noticeable in doors that don’t fully close, or slope in the floor becomes an issue. Furthermore, cracks in walls become increasingly worse. The second significant issue involves cracks in the foundation where water can freely come in, making every rainfall a potential nightmare in the lower levels of the home.

For a home that has settled, contractors will use one or two options, one of which is called slabjacking. They’ll pump grout beneath a beam or slab to force it to its original elevation. In a process called piering or piling, contractors will drive steep pipe pilings into the ground and then use hydraulic jacks to raise the foundation to the original elevation. Once the foundation is back in place, any cracks can be sealed and waterproofed.


If you’ve had any settling issues with your foundation, your plaster walls are likely to have cracked. Because drywall lacks the durability, strength and soundproof abilities of plaster, these surfaces need to be repaired rather than replaced by new drywall.

Fortunately, contractors utilize a number of techniques to bring the original plaster back to its original grandeur.


One of the disadvantages of living in an old home is that they are drafty. This is often due to the old windows, which weren’t designed for energy efficiency back in the “old days.” Old windows can also be the source of leaks that let moisture into your walls.

Count on replacing these old windows and set aside enough money for it in your project budget, because you’ll not only become more energy efficient and stop leaks, you’ll be much more comfortable in your home when you throw out the old and install new, higher-tech windows.


Many old homes feature what is called knob and tube wiring. This was used prevalently from 1880 into the 1930s. The insulation around the wiring has likely gone bad, which can be dangerous. Furthermore, knob and tube systems don’t have a ground wire, which means when a fault occurs, there is no protection, which puts the home at risk of shock or fire. Finally, knob and tube uses 60-amp service, and today’s standard is 100-amp service.

Contractors will want to install proper grounding, replace switches, install 100-amp service, likely in a new breaker box, and update the wiring throughout the home. Today’s homes use many more electrical appliances than what was used in the days when knob and tube was the standard, making this an essential part of any major remodeling job.

Hiring the right contractor

Before you embark on any old house remodeling project, you need to fully vet the contractors in your area. Choose one that offers design and build services, which means the company will have professional designers who know exactly how to deal with the common problems old homes have and find a way to solve that problem. After the designer talks over all the options with you, the plans are passed on to the in-house build team, which should have all the professionals you need to complete the job.

At New Concept 180, our team of designers will work with you to ensure that your old house remodel project includes everything on your wish list. Furthermore, we’ll offer suggestions based on our years of experience, then pass it on to our build team, which includes electricians, carpenters, plumbers and every other type of professional who have years of experience behind them and the knowledge to tackle the most complex and demanding projects. Check out our completed projects page to get an idea of the work we’ve accomplished for homeowners just like you.

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