What Should I Renovate First In An Old House?

When it comes to renovating an old house, determining where to start can be a daunting task. With a myriad of potential projects vying for your attention, it is essential to prioritize the renovations that will have the greatest impact. By addressing key areas such as the roof, plumbing, electrical systems, and structural integrity first, you can lay a solid foundation for the rest of your renovation journey. In doing so, you can ensure that your old house not only regains its former glory but also becomes a home that is safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.

What Should I Renovate First In An Old House?

Structure and Foundation

When renovating an old house, it is crucial to start by inspecting the foundation. This is because the foundation serves as the backbone of the entire structure and any issues with it can have serious consequences. A professional inspector should be called in to thoroughly evaluate the foundation and identify any cracks, settlement, or other structural issues that need to be addressed.

Once any issues with the foundation have been identified, it is important to address them promptly. Ignoring foundation problems can lead to further damage to the structure and potentially compromise its safety and stability. Depending on the severity of the issue, repairs may range from simple crack filling to more extensive measures such as underpinning or foundation replacement. It is recommended to consult with a structural engineer or a qualified contractor to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

Lastly, it is essential to ensure that the roof of the old house is in good condition. A worn-out or damaged roof can result in leaks, water damage, and even structural issues if left unattended. Inspecting the roof for any signs of damage, such as missing or damaged shingles, sagging areas, or water stains on ceilings, is necessary. If repairs are needed, they should be completed promptly, as delaying the repair of a damaged roof can lead to more expensive and extensive repairs down the line. In some cases, it may be necessary to replace the entire roof to ensure its longevity and functionality.

Electrical System

The electrical system of an old house also requires thorough assessment and updating to ensure safety and efficiency. Outdated electrical panels, such as fuse boxes or inadequate circuit breaker systems, may need to be replaced with modern panel boards that can handle the increased electrical demands of today’s technology. This can help prevent electrical overloads, tripped breakers, and potential fire hazards.

Additionally, faulty outlets and switches should be identified and replaced as needed to minimize the risk of electrical shocks or fires. It is recommended to hire a licensed electrician to conduct a detailed inspection of the wiring throughout the house to ensure it meets current electrical codes and regulations. This inspection should also include checking for any potential wiring issues that could pose safety hazards, such as exposed wires or outdated wiring materials.

Updating the electrical system in an old house is not only necessary for safety reasons but can also improve energy efficiency. Installing energy-efficient lighting fixtures and appliances, as well as considering the use of smart home technology, can help decrease energy consumption and lower utility bills. It is essential to consult with a qualified electrician to determine the best upgrades and improvements for your specific needs and budget.

Plumbing System

Another critical aspect of renovating an old house is assessing and updating the plumbing system. Checking for leaks and water damage is crucial to prevent further deterioration of the house’s structure and potential mold growth. It is recommended to hire a professional plumber to inspect the plumbing system, including pipes, fixtures, and water supply lines.

Updating old pipes is often necessary in an old house, as they may be made from outdated or corroded materials such as galvanized steel. Replacing these pipes with modern materials like copper or plastic can help prevent leaks and ensure a reliable water supply throughout the house. Additionally, updating the plumbing system can also improve water pressure and optimize the efficiency of toilets, showers, and faucets.

The water heater in an old house should also be inspected and repaired or replaced if necessary. Over time, water heaters can become less efficient and may develop issues such as leaks or a decline in performance. Upgrading to a more energy-efficient water heater can not only provide better functionality but also result in cost savings over the long term.

What Should I Renovate First In An Old House?

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

A properly functioning HVAC system is essential for maintaining a comfortable and healthy living environment in an old house. Inspecting the HVAC system is necessary to identify any issues and ensure that it is operating efficiently. An HVAC professional should be consulted to conduct a detailed inspection, including checking the furnace or boiler, air conditioning system, and ventilation components.

If the furnace or boiler is outdated or constantly requiring repairs, it may be more cost-effective to replace it with a newer, more efficient model. Upgrading to a more energy-efficient unit can not only improve comfort but also reduce energy consumption and lower heating costs.

Similarly, the air conditioning system in an old house should be evaluated to determine if it needs to be serviced or replaced. Older air conditioning units are often less efficient and may struggle to cool the house adequately. Upgrading to a more efficient and properly sized air conditioning system can provide better cooling performance and reduce energy waste.

Windows and Doors

Assessing the condition of windows and doors is vital when renovating an old house. Windows and doors that are old, damaged, or not well insulated can contribute to energy loss and make the house less comfortable. Inspecting the windows and doors for any damage, such as cracked glass, faulty mechanisms, or worn-out weatherstripping, is necessary.

Repairing or replacing damaged windows is crucial to improve energy efficiency and insulation. Inefficient windows can allow drafts and heat transfer, leading to higher heating and cooling costs. Upgrading to energy-efficient windows with double or triple glazing, low-emissivity coatings, and improved insulation properties can significantly reduce energy consumption and enhance comfort throughout the year.

Similarly, old doors that are drafty or not properly sealed should be addressed. Upgrading to energy-efficient doors with proper weatherstripping and insulation features can help maintain a consistent indoor temperature and minimize energy loss. Additionally, replacing outdated doors can also enhance the aesthetic appeal and security of the house.


Proper insulation is essential for maintaining a comfortable and energy-efficient home. An evaluation of the insulation in the walls and attic is necessary to identify any deficiencies or areas where additional insulation is needed. Insufficient insulation can result in energy waste, uneven temperatures, and increased heating and cooling costs.

Adding insulation where needed, such as in the attic or wall cavities, can help improve energy efficiency and reduce heat transfer. Insulation materials such as fiberglass batts, spray foam, or cellulose can be used depending on the specific requirements of the house. Consulting with an insulation contractor or energy auditor can assist in determining the most effective insulation solutions for your old house.

Improving energy efficiency through proper insulation can not only save on energy bills but also contribute to a more comfortable and environmentally friendly home. It can help regulate indoor temperatures, minimize condensation and moisture issues, and reduce the strain on heating and cooling systems.

Interior Walls and Ceilings

When renovating an old house, addressing the condition of interior walls and ceilings can greatly enhance the overall appearance and functionality of the space. Removing wallpaper or outdated wall coverings is often necessary to achieve a clean and fresh look. It can also provide an opportunity to inspect the walls for any cracks, holes, or other damage that needs to be repaired.

Repairing cracks or holes in walls is crucial to ensure a smooth and even surface for painting or applying new finishes. Depending on the severity of the damage, repairs may involve patching with spackle or joint compound and sanding to achieve a seamless finish. It is recommended to hire a professional contractor or handyman for complex or extensive wall repairs.

Once the walls are repaired, repainting or applying new finishes can completely transform the look and feel of the old house’s interior. Choosing the right colors, finishes, and textures can create a fresh and modern atmosphere or maintain the house’s original charm, depending on your preferences.


The condition of the existing flooring in an old house should also be evaluated when planning renovations. Assessing the wear and tear, damage, or outdated appearance of the flooring is essential. Depending on the type of flooring, various repair or replacement options may be considered.

Repairing or refinishing hardwood floors can bring back their natural beauty and durability. This process involves sanding down the existing finish, filling any gaps or cracks, and applying a new stain and protective coating. It is recommended to hire a professional flooring contractor with experience in refinishing hardwood floors to achieve the best results.

Worn-out carpets or damaged tiles may require replacement to improve both the aesthetic appeal and functionality of the space. Selecting durable, low-maintenance flooring materials can provide long-lasting performance and withstand the demands of everyday use. It is advisable to consider factors such as ease of cleaning, durability, and suitability for different areas of the house when choosing new flooring.


The kitchen is often considered the heart of the home, and renovating this space can greatly enhance its functionality and visual appeal. Updating outdated appliances is a common starting point for kitchen renovations in old houses. Newer appliances not only offer advanced features and improved energy efficiency but also provide a fresh and modern look.

Refacing or replacing cabinets is another crucial aspect of kitchen renovations. Outdated cabinets can make the kitchen look drab and worn. Refacing cabinets involves replacing the doors, drawer fronts, and hardware, while keeping the existing cabinet boxes. This can be a cost-effective way to achieve a new look without the need for a complete cabinet replacement. However, if the cabinets are structurally unsound or not suitable for refacing, replacing them entirely might be necessary.

Installing new countertops and backsplash is the final touch to transform the kitchen’s appearance. Choosing durable and easy-to-maintain materials for countertops, such as granite, quartz, or solid-surface options, can provide both aesthetic appeal and functionality. A stylish backsplash can complement the countertops and cabinetry while protecting the walls from kitchen splatters and spills.


Renovating the bathroom in an old house can greatly improve its functionality, aesthetics, and overall value. Replacing old fixtures and faucets can instantly upgrade the bathroom’s appearance and bring it into the modern era. New, efficient fixtures not only enhance the visual appeal but also improve water conservation and reduce utility costs.

Refinishing or replacing the bathtub or shower is another crucial aspect to consider when renovating a bathroom. Older bathtubs or showers may show signs of wear, stains, or even cracks. Refinishing is a process that involves restoring the surface of the bathtub or shower to a like-new condition. However, if the damage is extensive or the style no longer matches the desired aesthetic, replacing the bathtub or shower might be the better option.

Upgrading the plumbing and drainage system is also important in bathroom renovations. Ensuring that the plumbing is up to code and functioning properly can prevent leaks, water damage, and potential mold growth. It is recommended to hire a professional plumber to handle any plumbing upgrades or repairs that may be required during the bathroom renovation process.

In conclusion, renovating an old house involves addressing various aspects of the property to ensure safety, functionality, and aesthetic appeal. Starting with inspecting the foundation, addressing structural issues, and repairing or replacing the roof is crucial for the overall stability and longevity of the house. Assessing and updating the electrical, plumbing, HVAC systems, as well as windows and doors, can improve energy efficiency and comfort. Evaluating insulation, interior walls, ceilings, flooring, kitchen, and bathroom allows for necessary repairs, replacements, and upgrades to transform the old house into a modern and functional home. Remember to consult with professionals during the renovation process to ensure best practices and compliance with local building codes and regulations. With careful planning and execution, renovating an old house can breathe new life into the property and create a space you can enjoy for years to come.