Philadelphia takes pride in being a historic city. The city embraces its place in history as the foundation of American democracy. People living in Philly have the unique opportunity to own a piece of that history by buying and renovating a row house. If you currently own or plan on buying one of these homes, here are some things you'll need to know before you start renovations.
Water is not your friend
One of the most charming features of row homes is their brick exteriors. The biggest challenge renovators face is protecting the brick from exposure to water.
Never paint the bricks with a non-breathable material. Water has to be able to escape the wall and evaporate, or low temperatures will freeze the water and cause cracks.
Avoid putting a hole in the exterior wall at all cost. Holes allow moisture to get into the brick, causing decay. Exhaust fans should vent through the roof or back of the home.
You should also make sure air-conditioning units don't leak water onto bricks. The erosion caused by this destroys walls over time.
Don't overlook the roof
One of the best ways to fight water damage is taking care of the roof.
Modified bitumen is low cost and low maintenance. Using this on your row house roof makes it easy to detect leaks, protecting your home from water damage.
The sun will damage your roof over time, but there are easy ways to minimize the damage. Putting a white coating on the bitumen deflects the sun's rays and keeps the upper floor and attic cooler.
Green roofing is another option, but one that will require professional help. Going green requires placing light vegetation and soil on your roof. The plants protect the roof from exposure to the sun and add a layer of protection against water.
A contractor can tell you if the soil and plants are too heavy for the roof. Hiring a specialist will cost more now but save you money in the long run.
Know the codes before renovating a row house
Adding to an existing building requires a permit. These permits do not renew and are only for a specific addition.
Different areas of the city have various regulations, along with the general city-wide rules.
Any alterations costing $10,000 or more require the homeowner or contractor to have plans drawn out. A licensed architect or engineer must approve these plans.
These codes might seem like a nuisance, but they maintain history, provide a high standard of living, and save lives.
Never try to circumvent the codes. It would be illegal and unethical to do so.