Home Care, Décor, & Home Hacks

Wood Restoration Guide for an Older Home

by Anita Alvarez

restoring wood

Having purchased an older home, wood restoration is a tempting next step. And although visions of newly restored wood are dancing in your head, just know the process takes time and dedication.

The job is well worth it, though. The hand tools used in previous generations of design, for example, offer a vintage look that modern equipment simply can't replicate. If you're wondering how to select the wood elements worth restoring, read on.

Leave It Be

When speaking with The Times-Picayune, Nicole Curtis, host of HGTV's Rehab Addict, suggests "people don't do the wrong thing on purpose. ... They do the wrong thing because they aren't educated." Owners of older homes should restore as much as possible, but they should do their research when working on the original wood elements.

For example, wood staircases, often crafted a century ago, feature a cosmetic quality that doesn't find itself into today's building environment. Due to the high costs needed to build a solid wood stairwell from scratch, however, a staircase with this history merits restoring. You'll need to figure out how to repair railings and posts, of course, but it's not unusual to hire a woodworker to match a few of these elements and preserve its original, beautiful look.

Peripheral woodwork is another element worth restoring. The impactful infrastructure used in older homes ranges from crown molding, to wide casings to baseboards around doors and windows. These and other decorative elements, paneling and built-ins can and should be restored to their former glory.

And unless you're committed to wall-to-wall carpeting, old wood flooring is usually of such high quality that it's hard to reproduce. Enlist the help of an expert to determine if your species of wood is salvageable by way of sanding and moderate refinishing.

Swap It Out

The following elements, albeit charming, can affect your energy bills to a significant degree. Often homeowners choose to replace them with more efficient options. Therefore, feel free to replace:

  • Wood Windows. Although the spirit of older windows can't be replicated, the money you'll lose due to old, inefficient paneling is a valid concern. For many homeowners, restoring wooden windows is one project worth letting go, due to the savings new windows provide in the long run.
  • Wooden Doors. For the same reason windows are often replaced, older doors are inefficient sources of subsequent damage to the surrounding walls and floors, and are worth swapping out. While you do this, consider holding onto the original doors to refinish and repurpose as, say, a kitchen island or desktop.

Ultimately, the best tools should be in hand before you start restoring these wood items. Wood Magazine advises using brushes, rags or spray guns, and thoroughly cleaning and sanding a surface prior to finishing it. Once you complete the wood restoration project, maintain its beautiful look with a natural wood cleaner that's as natural as the material you just saved.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Murphy® Oil Soap. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.