8 Tips to Make Your Historical Restoration Project Green

green-restoration-diyRestoring a historical home is a labor of love. But just because you’re taking your home back in time, doesn’t mean you can’t use some modern know-how. In fact, sustainable restoration can actually honor the intent of the original builders. Here are 8 tips for going green when restoring a historic home.

1. Whether your question is how to keep your house warm in the winter or how to keep your home cool in the summer, green insulation is the answer. There are many choices for green insulation materials including recycled newspaper cellulose, old blue jeans and formaldehyde-free fiberglass. Closed cell spray polyurethane foam has among the highest R-values, provides a tight air barrier and is vapor retardant. Properly installed, green insulation can be your single biggest step towards a environmentall-friendly historical home and reduce your power bills by up to 30% to 50%. Keep in mind that different climates are more suitable to different types of insulation, so be sure to speak to a skilled contractor to find out about the best green insulation options for your area.

2. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Whenever possible, reuse the original wood, stone, brick, glass and slate that already exists in your home. Salvaging these original materials from demolition can save you money and it also saves “embodied energy,” the energy cost it takes to grow, harvest or manufacture new materials. If you can’t save the original materials from your home, try to find a reseller that specializes in salvaged materials.

3. Stop the drafts. One of the simplest green tips for any historic home is to stop the drafts from doors, windows and other air leaks. Use fireplace draft dampers, attic door covers and dryer vent seals that open only while in use. Weatherstrip your window and door frames for a good seal that also provides humidity control.

4. When it comes to windows restore don’t replace! Building green is about sustainable practices and you should consider each item’s full life cycle — how much energy does it take to produce a new one, where will it end up if you throw it away (probably a landfill!). Proper insulation will produce more energy savings than installing even the most energy-efficient windows. And, just as important, windows give your house its unique character. By keeping the original windows intact, you preserve your home’s historical look and value.

5. Eco-friendly paint doesn’t have to be green. Paint choice is an important consideration in any historical home restoration project, but it has extra special importance in eco-friendly restoration.

First, be sure to choose a no-voc paint. VOC stands for volatile organic compound and is a major component to harsh indoor air-pollution. Once you’ve taken care of the safety factor, move on to color.

Did you know that your color choice could lead to energy savings? Look for a paint color with a high light reflectance value (LRV). LRV, the measure of how much light is reflected from a surface, can be found on paint chips. Higher LRV means more light bounced off walls and ceilings, which can mean reduced energy needs.

When choosing an outdoor color palette consider your climate. Warmer climates benefit from light colors that reflect sunlight and heat to keep the inside cool.

6. Porches are more than just curb appeal. Restore and maintain porches, awnings and overhangs. Not only is the porch the first thing your guests see when they come to visit they also provide shade and protection from harsh weather particularly along the south and west walls. A restored porch can add historically accurate charm to the front of your home while also giving you the green benefits of natural cooling during the summer heat.

7. Green landscaping, also known as “smart gardening,” can serve many purposes during a restoration project. Use trees as another form of insulation. Get the maximum protection from wind and summer shade by planting evergreen trees on the north and west. Plant leafy deciduous trees on the south and east and in winter the bare branches will allow the sun to naturally warm the house. A smart garden uses native plants to create a eco-friendly environment that often requires less maintenance, meaning you can spend more time enjoying the fruits and less time laboring.

8. Don’t know where to start? Get a green audit. Green audits, where a trained consultant comes in and inspects your home, are becoming more and more popular. Auditors will go top to bottom looking for things like energy leaks from inefficient windows, inadequate insulation, inspecting heating and cooling systems and more. At the end, you’ll get detailed report with suggestions on how to green your space. Most reports will also include cost estimates for upgrades and savings so you can decide which suggestions will give you the best return on investment.

For more tips about living and building green visit www.greenworld365.com.

About Barbara Holbrook

Barbara lives in Southern California where she writes about technology, design and smart ways to go green.


  1. Restoration Estimate says:

    Great tips! Another thing to keep in mind: If you are using a restoration company to help you out with some of the work, make sure that they know about your “green” ideas for the home. Most restoration companies can give you additional tips and tricks that can help save energy and contribute to the overall value of the home.

  2. Green is good. And the increasingly people are asking for it. Others are promoting green home audits, where you might hear about bamboo flooring, recycled glass tiles, organic cotton drapes, and different cleaning products. All fine things. But in homes, the heart of green comes down to the efficiency, safety, and durability of a home. As I like the say, the foundation of green is building science and its sibling energy-efficiency. A green audit must include a thorough look at the homes performance. This short video (http://greenhomesamerica.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/green-home-audit/) describes some of the fundamental things to look at.

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