Heritage Home Renovations: Top 3 Modern Upgrades for Historic Houses in Toronto

Upgrades for Heritage Homes

Restoring or renovating Toronto heritage homes is incredibly rewarding. Before getting started with a renovation project, homeowners should know that the Ontario Heritage Act imposes rules to preserve the qualities that make heritage homes so attractive in the first place. Generally, renovations cannot involve significant changes to the historic home's exterior, but there are still many other ways to bring a historic Toronto home into the 21st Century.

Replacing old utilities with energy-efficient alternatives, adding accents that draw the eye to historic features, and introducing invisible modern comforts such as heated floors can help update the home without compromising its historic character. Ready to bring your Ontario heritage home up-to-date? Keep reading to learn about the best home improvements to modernize a historic home in Toronto.

Use Energy-Efficient Alternatives in Your Historic Home

One of the best ways to update a Toronto historic home is by replacing older utilities like electricity, insulation, and plumbing with energy-efficient upgrades with a high ROI. Doing so can help lower utility bills and make damaging incidents like leaks and electrical fires less likely.

There are several pros and cons to historic properties. For instance, because of their age, many historic homes have few electrical outlets, and few of them have an electrical setup equipped to handle all the amenities of modern life. Renovators can upgrade the home's electrical panel and increase its amperage from 150 to 200 amps. Additionally, they can add new outlets in convenient locations. Replacing older light bulbs with LED bulbs can also help drive down energy costs.

Improving a historic home's insulation can also increase its energy efficiency by preventing heat loss. Replacing drafty windows and doors in a historic home can be a tricky task because these often contribute to the home's historic appeal. In some cases, it may be necessary to repair rather than replace them. Luckily, contractors can often fit double- and triple-paned glass to existing frames. Recaulking around doors and windows can also help improve insulation. Additionally, adding insulation to the home's attic can be an invisible improvement.

Updating a historic home's plumbing can help reduce water use and prevent costly leaks. Newer toilets often use considerably less water than older ones, which can result in lower water bills. Replacing a historic home's pipes can also save money in the long run. Unlike galvanized pipes, which were commonplace in homes built before the 1960s, PEX or copper pipes don't suffer from corrosion, rust, or leaks. Additionally, the City of Toronto offers a subsidy to help pay for sewer system upgrades that help prevent flooding.

Many improvements to a historic home's utilities are invisible, but they can make a big difference to its efficiency and safety while maintaining compliance with the Ontario Heritage Act.

Ready to buy a historic home? View all Toronto heritage homes for sale.

Accentuate Historic Home Features With Modern Upgrades

Accenting historic features like ceiling medallions, ornate plasterwork moulding, and period fireplaces can help make them the focal point of a room while blending traditional and modern styles. Using lighting, paint and wood finishes, and accent details can help create eye-catching accents for historical features, thus allowing for a contemporary style that appreciates the historic home's unique character.

Lighting can make a big difference to the atmosphere of a room. Many contemporary lights, especially those that cast interesting shadows on the ceiling, can help draw the eye upward. Fitting a ceiling medallion with an eye-catching contemporary-style light fixture can help make it the centrepiece of a room. Meanwhile, long, loose linen curtains or Roman blinds can highlight traditional sash windows without blocking too much light.

Paint and wood finishes can help in accenting historic features. Ornate plasterwork moulding, including the kind found on some ceiling medallions or roses, is a mainstay in many 19th-century homes. Using bold and dark shades near it and other historic features can create a contrast to draw the eye.

Other accent details can help draw attention to other historic features such as fireplaces and staircases. For example, hanging a contemporary painting above a period fireplace's empty mantelpiece can create an intriguing contrast between the traditional and modern while highlighting both.

Historic features are one of the biggest draws of historic homes, and sometimes just preserving them is not enough. Using lighting, paint and wood finishes, and other accent details to highlight historic features can help bring the home up to date while drawing attention to what makes it unique and worth preserving.

Don't Be Afraid to Modernize Your Historic Home

Upcycling Historic FurnitureThere are plenty of ways to modernize a Toronto historic home without compromising its unique historic features and character, including by adding invisible improvements or by selecting decor and appliances fashioned in the same style as the historic home. Taking advantage of the construction surrounding utility replacement can help cut down on the costs of adding in more of these modern amenities.

Invisible improvements to a historic home can help provide many of today's creature comforts that older houses just weren't built to accommodate. These can include luxuries like heated floors to more practical concerns such as additional outlets and insulation. Adding these invisible improvements while other renovations are ongoing can help save time and money.

It's also possible to replace many older appliances with contemporary ones in the same style as the historic home. These products can offer the convenience of modernity while preserving the historic home's more traditional aesthetic. Additionally, it's possible to source authentic Victorian furniture and upcycle it by stripping it back, painting it, or giving it new knobs or handles. Pieces like these can help provide a room with a more contemporary feel while still incorporating more traditional elements.

While it's always desirable to preserve a historic home's historical features, there are many ways to modernize it without compromising those features.

Successfully Updating a Toronto Historic Home

While historic homes have various restrictions to preserve their historical features, there are still plenty of ways to bring them up to date. Renovating Toronto homes with historic roots can be rewarding, but undertaking the task should be done with utmost care. By sticking to these home improvement projects, you can enjoy the best of modern comfort and convenience while upholding the timeless authenticity of your historic home.

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