How to start restoring an old house?

You have an old house, you have inherited it or you have bought it with all the love in the world to live in a magical and different place that will give you a peace of mind that you won’t find elsewhere and now come the questions… How do I start restoring my old house? Will it be too complicated? Will they ask me for more paperwork than if it had been another type of house?

restauración de casas antiguas

It is one of the questions that worries you most because the belief that it is going to be complicated runs through your head. And even more so when combined with the fact that complicated is interpreted as expensive.

As in any other project related to architecture (house, flat, villa…), whether it is a complete renovation, change of roof, change of distribution, change of use… for this we must refer to the town planning regulations of the locality in which the property in question is located.

I will always recommend a professional who understands this field, as it can be a real challenge to find it on our own and, above all, to interpret it. In addition, a professional in the sector will save us time and money and above all headaches or misunderstandings that can cause us to be afraid and not want to continue with the project.

Steps to follow

I am going to detail the different steps to follow. It is going to seem very strange but I can tell you that it is simpler than it seems or what many owners have in mind (beliefs without any argument) and it is very similar to any other property project.

I could summarise it in the following steps:

  1. Before carrying out the project we should consult the town planning regulations (PGOU) of the locality where the house in question is located. These can be found on the town councils’ websites in the town planning section.
  2. These regulations will confirm whether our house is listed or not. In them there will be a section that is usually called the protection catalogue (this may vary depending on who and when it was drawn up). In this catalogue we find cards with the different properties of the town that have some kind of historical and patrimonial importance, such as the town hall, church, hermitage… and the oldest houses, where they are usually referenced by the name of the family that lived there or the street where they are located (house Sánchez or house C/Mayor 23).
  3. If your house is in the catalogue, the file will specify what level of protection it has (Level I, Level II or Level III) and what type of intervention we can carry out on it, such as not modifying the façade or roof, modifying the layout… This will determine the type of project we can carry out.
  4. If it is not protected, you will have more freedom of design.
  5. And the last step would be to carry out the project, which is what you must present to the town hall so that they can give you the go-ahead (as with any other intervention) and grant the building permits.

Special cases

There are more special cases. This is when the town planning department itself, on seeing the project and verifying that it is an old house, requires you to present it to the Heritage Department of the autonomous community in which the property is located so that they can review it.

This case has only happened to us a couple of times when the technician had not been confronted with a situation like this and referred us to Patrimonio. When we took the project to Patrimonio we had elaborated a project completely in accordance with the rules of that town hall, in that case it was not to modify the façade or the roof and to conserve all the characteristic elements of the history and aesthetics of that house.

First you make an appointment and on the day in question you go there and show it to them and “defend” it in the form of a meeting. They didn’t give us any problems because the house was logically old and we were going to respect it in our project. They informed us that it is only usual to go there when the property itself that we are going to intervene in has an important historical and artistic importance, such as a hermitage, but in the end it was just a formality because it was something that the town council technician demanded in order to give us the permits.

Therefore, just keep in mind that it is an intervention like any other in which the project has to be adapted to the urban planning regulations (which seems complicated but it is not) and nothing more.

For your peace of mind I will give you an example of an urban planning regulation. In our case the old houses are located in the centre of the town which is usually called the old town. In the old town they usually do not allow to build more than two storeys, for example, because it would break with the aesthetics of the streets. So if we wanted to build more than two storeys we would not be able to.

I always recommend working with a professional and when I refer to a professional, logically it is that person who is trained in their field and will solve all your needs. But if what we are looking for is to restore our old house and I imagine that if you have it and you are going to do it, it is because you are a person who is sensitive to history and who is looking to live a different lifestyle. That is why you must add something essential to the qualified professional, who transmits confidence and who values and respects every detail that will be found in your old house.

Don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done. You can always find a way, and if a project is complicated because the rules are very strict, that professional should make it as simple and easy as possible. Make you feel at ease even when you are not there. To give back the soul to your house and above all to make it habitable and in accordance with the current needs of the times in which we live.

Seek balance and harmony, starting with you and your loved ones, and do the same with the renovation of your old house. Feeling calm in the place where you live should be a priority. Transform your life and renovate your space into a unique and safe place.

Many people seek us out for this reason. If you don’t know how to manage an old house, don’t worry about anything, we will advise you and accompany you through the whole process to make your vision come true and renovate the old house of your dreams for you and your family’s future.