Unveiling the Art of Restoration: Renovating Properties in the Heart of New Orleans

Renovating and restoring properties in New Orleans is more than just a construction endeavor; it’s a journey through time and culture. The city’s rich history and diverse architectural styles present both opportunities and challenges for investors seeking to revive its treasures. In this article, we delve into the practical tips and insights that guide successful property renovation and restoration in New Orleans. From navigating permits and historical preservation guidelines to overcoming common challenges, we uncover the art of breathing new life into the city’s architectural gems.

Permits and Regulations: Navigating the Path

Historic Preservation Guidelines: New Orleans takes pride in preserving its architectural heritage. Familiarize yourself with local historic preservation guidelines and zoning regulations to ensure that your renovation plans align with the neighborhood’s character and history. There are a number of sources where you can research the history of neighborhoods and even properties themselves. They provide a wealth of knowledge to help us understand the past and be better prepared to preserve its integrity moving forward.

Permit Acquisition: Obtaining the necessary permits is a crucial step in the renovation process. Reach out to the city’s permitting offices to understand the requirements for your project. Working with professionals who are well-versed in local regulations can streamline the process. If your property falls in a designated historic area, be prepared to have your renovation plans reviewed by the city as well as the HDLC, or historic District Landmarks Commission. The HDLC is a city agency that is designed solely to ensure that any proposed work on the exterior of a property that lies in a historic area complies with the historical design and characteristics. An experienced architect is vital to get you through this process.

Historical Preservation Considerations: Balancing Old and New

Architectural Authenticity: Properties in New Orleans often boast unique architectural features that contribute to the city’s charm. When renovating, strive to maintain the property’s authentic character, such as ornate ironwork, decorative moldings, and historic windows. The HDLC standards will require most of these standards to be met but there are many areas in the city that do not fall under HDLC control and therefore do not require their approval. That lack of control makes it all the more important for renovators to strive to maintain the historic characteristics

Materials and Craftsmanship: Opt for materials and craftsmanship that align with the property’s era. Salvaged materials can add a touch of authenticity to the renovation, while skilled artisans can replicate intricate details of historical designs. There are a few stores around town that deal with historic material. Think of them like thrift stores. People will donate or sell old pieces of historic housing material and buyers can come in and browse for things that may fit their property. The Bank is one of the more prominent of these stores. There are also many mill shops that are experienced in recreating historic materials. New Orleans Millworks is a popular spot Uptown and can recreate just about anything pertaining to historic homes. The thrift shops are great but you can’t always find what you need and at that point you’ll need to turn to a mill shop for a recreation.

Common Challenges: Navigating the Pitfalls

Structural Issues: Due to the city’s age, many properties may have structural concerns that need addressing. Most properties that lie in the older neighborhoods are at least 100 years old and are built on piers. It is very common for these raised houses to have some degree of structural work that needs attention. The good thing with the raised houses is the structural work is not astronomical and can almost always be fixed. The newer neighborhoods in the New Orleans area pose a bigger challenge. Many of the lakefront properties were built on slabs and slab foundations problems are much more expensive and much more difficult to fix. Much of the lakefront in Orleans and Jefferson Parish used be swamp land. In order to develop it levee’s were built and everything was filled in with dirt. That makes the ground very soft which leads to subsidence and potential structural issues. Either way, consult with a structural engineer to assess the integrity of the building’s foundation, walls, and roof.

Mold and Moisture: New Orleans’ humid climate can lead to mold growth and moisture-related issues. This was a very big issue post Katrina when so much of the city flooded. Mold was everywhere and houses needed to be fully gutted to the studs in order to dry out and get rid of the mold. Dark, damp places are where mold thrives. Proper ventilation and moisture-proofing strategies are essential to safeguard against these challenges.

Cost-Effective Strategies: Maximizing Value

Preservation vs. Restoration: Determine whether your goal is preservation (retaining historical features) or restoration (returning the property to its original state). Usually the answer is somewhere in between. Historic renovations are expensive. Depending on how high end you want to go repair budgets and shoot up quickly. Depending on your goal, allocate your budget accordingly.

Strategic Prioritization: Identify areas of the property that require immediate attention. Prioritize renovations that add value, enhance curb appeal, or address safety concerns.

Creative Budgeting: Maximizing Resources

Salvaged Materials: Salvaged materials from local architectural salvage yards can add character and history to your renovation project. Antique doors, reclaimed wood, and vintage fixtures can elevate the property’s aesthetic. Sometimes these materials are still at the property and just need to be refurbished. Oftentimes these materials have walked off over the years. Deterioration is certainly a main factor but theft has been an issue as well. Pocket doors, corbels and other very Unique architectural materials area mark because they can be sold at local salvage shops like the ones mentioned earlier. Over the years these shops have scrutinized sellers more and more in order to deter theft.

Repurpose and Reimagine: Repurposing existing elements can save costs while adding unique touches. For instance, converting an unused attic into a cozy loft space. Many of these historic homes have additional space that can be converted. Be mindful though, converting an unused space is one thing but changing a fireplace is totally different. Make sure that any existing piece is refurbished to its original state.

Collaboration and Professional Expertise

Architects and Contractors: Collaborate with architects and contractors experienced in historic property restoration. Their expertise can help you strike the balance between modern functionality and historical preservation.

Local Knowledge: Engage with professionals who have a deep understanding of New Orleans’ architectural history and local regulations. They can provide valuable insights into the neighborhood’s character and guide your restoration decisions.


Renovating and restoring properties in New Orleans is an intricate dance between the past and the present, a harmonious blending of history and innovation. As an investor, you have the privilege of preserving the city’s essence while breathing new life into its architectural wonders. By navigating permits, understanding historical preservation considerations, and employing cost-effective strategies, you can embark on a journey that not only enhances property value but contributes to the preservation of New Orleans’ cultural fabric. As you embark on this endeavor, may your renovation projects stand as a testament to your appreciation for the city’s history and your commitment to its vibrant future.

Questions about historic renovations or just anything real estate in general? Give us a call at 504 264 1407 or go to our website www.nolabuyshouses.com.

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