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I'm buying my first house. It's an old early 1900's Edwardian-style semi-detached. In its present form, It is "livable" (hvac is new, roof is still good). I have $50,000 to fix everything (hopefully, only for cosmetics!).

I have a few questions:

  1. I'm accustomed to "modern" living as a condo/apartment dweller through the years and liked the "open concept"; no walls to divide the kitchen/living room area. Can I tear down all the dividing floors on the main floor? They are not load bearing of any sort, right?

  2. The exterior stone walls of this house are THICK as an old church's. There's currently an outer and inner window (made of rotten wood and broken glass). I like the functionality of modern-day plastic framed, double glass windows, but won't they look "blasphemous" on a classic house, especially from the outside?

  3. Under the old filthy carpet, the floor (main floor/second floor/attic) are made of wood planks (maybe 3 or 4-inch wide each). They are not perfectly even and are very old. Will I "waste" the real wood if I install laminate wood on top? I love laminate floors, they're too easy to clean and are cheap to buy and install, but will refinishing the wood floor cost similar?

  4. Unfinished basement (crawlspace) headroom is 5'10" without a ceiling. I am 5'8" so I can walk upright down there, but I should forget about excavating the concrete floor or raising the house, even in the future and given more money, because that is a serious hassle, correct?

  • The knocking out wall comment kind of worries me.. before you start tearing stuff down in that house, you need to have someone come check things out. Even if a wall is not load bearing there's a good chance it contains pipes for a boiler system or something else which would need rerouted. – cutrightjm Jun 22 '15 at 17:58
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    "I'm accustomed to "modern" living as a condo/apartment dweller through the years and liked the "open concept"; no walls to divide the kitchen/living room area." ... you bought the wrong house then. – Paulb May 15 '16 at 20:35
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Can I tear down all the dividing floors on the main floor? They are not load bearing of any sort, right?

No. At least half are likely load bearing. You will need to bring in an engineer and likely retrofit by installing beams to carry the load.

I like the functionality of modern-day plastic framed, double glass windows, but won't they look "blasphemous" on a classic house, especially from the outside?

That's a matter of opinion. If this is a popular architectural style in your region, there are likely plenty of vinyl window options that try to mimic elements of the classic windows (likely to varying levels of success).

Will I "waste" the real wood if I install laminate wood on top? I love laminate floors, they're too easy to clean and are cheap to buy and install, but will refinishing the wood floor cost similar?

In terms of future 'value', I think you'd be much better off with finished wood floors. But that's assuming the wood that is currently there of a quality and in a condition to be refinished. You'll want to bring in a floor person to make that call.

should forget about excavating the concrete floor or raising the house, even in the future and given more money, because that is a serious hassle, correct?

Again, matter of opinion. It all depends. We can't say if it's worth it unless we know how long you plan to stay in the house, where it's located, comparable houses on the market, soil conditions, etc, etc. The biggest problem is that you don't have a detached house...there's no way to raise your side of the house without also raising the other side.

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Hard Q to answer because it depends on your personal attributes. Such as:

  • is this just a starter house, or one I plan to hold a very long time
  • Am I a "I want it how I want it guy" or "Flexible"
  • Do I want to preserve architectural heritage of the period, or not.

My recommendation: Live in it for a year and do nothing more than cosmetic during that time. At the end of the year of living there, you'll know the answers.

And I don't say this without conviction. I am doing the same as you. All I'm going to do the first year is paints, flooring and essential mechanicals.

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