Ultimate Guide to a 1960s House Renovation
Are you in the process of investigating a 1960s house renovation? Welcome to the Fifi McGee community, we’re here to answer all of your questions.
1960s houses are a goldmine for renovation projects whichever way you look at it. From the potential to extend, to the current market value leaving room for a tasty profit, even how popular mid-century style is becoming, they deserve their time to shine.
In years gone by, 1960s houses didn’t hold the same appeal as Georgian, Edwardian, Victorian or Terraced houses as most buyers felt they weren’t old enough to hold period design features but no longer looked ‘in style’ so, lucky for you, the tide is turning and both the style from the decade as well as the houses it produced are seriously up and coming.
Renovating a 1960s house – a brief history
1960s houses have a designed and recognisable style, now often called ‘midcentury’, which stemmed from a post-war world of renewed public morale and experimentation with new shapes, designs and layouts and interiors. Compared to darker, more austere houses in the Victorian era, 1960s homes usually featured wide windows for added light and a front garden or garage, not compromising on space.
Although Britain was experiencing a housing crisis in the 1960s, the style of build usually required cheaper materials and so could be constructed quickly and easily so the style quickly proliferated.
Are 1960s houses a good renovation investment?
Yes, 1960s houses usually tend to make for a great investment purchase for two main reasons. First of all, the style of building has been less favoured in previous decades as mentioned before, but mid-century decor and even exterior architecture are the next big thing, so ride the trend while you can. Secondly, most prospective home renovators tend to go for the old period homes, so prices have shot up and left 1960s houses still reasonably affordable. Plus, as these dwellings tend to require less work in order to bring them up to speed, you can make a nice saving on renovation costs, too.
If you’re new to the world of home renovation, take a look at our Survivor’s Guide to Renovating for everything you need to know, before you learn the hard way!
Renovating a 1960s house – what to look out for
Although many 1960s houses have been designed by reputable architects or even feature ground-breaking (at the time) designs, some have substandard build quality as the housing crisis meant many were built in record time and with cheaper materials. So it pays to be extra careful when you’re looking for the right property for you and to keep an eye out for the key factors which you should keep in mind.
They could either mean you’re investing in a design icon or you might end up pouring money into something that needs a fair bit of major work.
Whilst 1960s houses are considered by many to almost be new builds as they were constructed in the fairly recent past, there was a wide range in build quality at the time as that decade saw a housing crisis and therefore the need to build lots of new home quickly to resolve it. Most houses from this era are solid quality and well-constructed but make sure you double-check and ask around the local neighbourhood to see what others with similar homes have experienced as it could make all the difference between a smooth reno job and a nightmare.
The materials your 1960s house is made of are an important factor in understanding your build, future renovation and also potential hidden costs. Cement was often used in 1960s builds as a foundation or as a building material as it was cheap and easy to use, as were cement roof tiles. Whilst cement isn’t all bad, it’s worth taking the time to look at what your house is actually made of so you won’t stumble upon any nasty surprises or even structural issues later on.
The A-word that sends alarm bells sounding. Unfortunately, there are a number of 1960s properties which have already exposed asbestos during a renovation so it may well be in the property you’re working on too. But it shouldn’t be too much of an issue so long as you’re aware it might be there and you know how to handle it. Know what you’re looking for and make sure all your builders and tradespeople do, too.
In that joyous post-war era, many architects experimented with styles that were out of the ordinary or daring for their time. This is both a good and a bad thing. It might mean you’re sitting on a design-forward property from a renowned architect which could mean that many were build with only two load-bearing walls, or an odd layout, or even structural issues from unusual designs.
How to renovate a 1960s house – where to start?
When it comes to starting your 1960s house renovation journey, spending time getting to know your property could be the single most important step of your reno process.
As many 1960s designs experimented with new or unusual layouts or different materials, each house is likely to be unique. Go over your survey to prioritise any specific work that requires immediate attention and spend time understanding your unique house features as they may well need more work or hopefully may add value to your finished home.
It can also be really helpful to ask around neighbours or local tradesmen to see what they know about your estate or housing development as there may be common issues or unique features you might not see yourself.
Oh that all important topic, the cost of renovating of a house.
Smart budgeting can be crucial when it comes to your 1960s doer-upper, as it is with any reno project.
1960s houses in particular have a sneaky reputation for using cheaper building materials and some unusual layouts which can cause structural issues (if they’re the quick, mass-produced type) so be sure to dedicate a significant portion of your budget.
After that, the most costly thing you’ll probably want to spend on is an extension which we’ll discuss below but make sure you’ve got the budget to really fulfil all the potential of your future home. At the end of the day, it’s way better to overbudget and do so super carefully than to get caught short as this is one of the most crucial mistakes any home renovator can make.
Although 1960s homes can feature some unique, experimental layouts, they’re usually pretty sound. Some may feature smaller, cramped kitchens so you might want to switch rooms around but you won’t run into the kinds of layout issues that are so common with older properties.
As most 1960s homes have spacious front gardens, garages and space at the side of the dwelling, you’ll likely want to expand the current layout with an extension or garage conversion which will make a huge difference to your floor space without detracting from your outdoor space too much.
Bear in mind that any huge changes of layout like relocating staircases (a common choice with 1960s house renovators) will need a much bigger portion of your budget than just sprucing up so keep this in mind when you’re looking.
Lucky for you, 1960s houses are where it’s at in terms of design these days. We would encourage honouring the original style of the house by channelling a mid-century look and focusing on well-designed pieces inspired by that era.
Look for inspiration online as we’re at a great stage to ride the mid-century trend and it’s also so timeless that you can afford to invest in key pieces as you won’t be needing to update them constantly with this look. Pinterest boards and collages are a great way to tie your ideas together into something cohesive if you’re struggling to pinpoint how to make the style work for you.
1960s houses can often hide stunning parquet flooring underneath the old carpets so make sure you make the most of any original features like this. If others have been removed over time, then restoring them with second-hand finds is a great way to get the full look.
This is the part that you really need to coordinate with your tradespeople on as communication is the key to success.
If timelines and planning isn’t quite your strong point (or even if it’s just overwhelming on such a big scale) then we can give you a helping hand by doing the hard work for you with our How to Renovate a House online course.
Our best advice for the planning stage is to hire reliable contractors and tradespeople as they’ll be better at sticking to budgets (or estimates) and they’ll also be more competent when it comes to following schedules so you won’t be wasting time or money getting things done in the wrong order. The course mentioned above can help you with understanding how to hire contractors if you’re a first-timer, too.
Shopping for a 1960s house can be a real treat for two main reasons. First, midcentury modern is emerging as the coolest design trend and it fits in perfectly with this era of housing design so you won’t struggle to find what you need to fit and style your new property.
Second, if you’re staying true to the original design style, charity shops and auction houses tend to be great for finding 1960s furniture and fittings so shop ’til your heart’s content and look for the best bargains. Plus, as they were built in the fairly recent past, you shouldn’t have to go to any great lengths to find suppliers that can match what you’ve already got.
Lastly, it’s well worth signing up to How to Renovate a House to get access to exclusive discounts if you’re going to be shopping around. Every penny counts!
Hopefully, this stage will be less dramatic than with an older period property as probably just less that needs doing in your project.
The usual tips apply such as clever ways to keep on top of dust and keeping track of progress so you don’t go over budget.
Whilst this stage can feel like the most stressful one, it’s also the most rewarding as you watch all of your planning come to life and all the hard work in prior stages pays off.
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