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12 Unexpected Old Home Features You’ll Be Glad You Restored

If you have any of these old home features, you should restore them!

Today, The American House is unveiling a treasure trove of character and charm hidden within the walls of older homes. In regards to home restoration, discovering the allure of timeless architecture is a journey worth embarking upon.

These hidden gems, often outranked by modern trends, hold the secret to creating a remarkable living space that seamlessly combines the past’s elegance with the present’s comforts.

Join us in unraveling the mystique of a different time as we look into the art of preserving and reviving these old home features.

Get ready to be inspired by the beauty beneath the surface, proving that sometimes, the most remarkable aspects of a home are the ones you never knew were there. So, let’s marvel at the craftsmanship of yesteryears. Here are 12 old home features you shouldn’t get rid of!

Old Home Feature
Photo by OlegDoroshin at Shutterstock


Now, we recognize that this first old home feature isn’t exactly exciting! But trust us. Plumbing replacement highly depends on safety and whether or not it needs to comply with modern building codes. So, it’s rather important.

Older copper pipes are the best and hold up very well. Modern polybutylene pipes installed in the 80s should be replaced immediately if found. Older cast-iron waste lines can also rust over time and lose capacity.

And, of course, look out for anything with lead and replace those, as well. In houses that are empty during cold climates, you can also run into surprises within the walls, like burst pipes from freezing.


A dumbwaiter is essentially an ancestor to the modern elevator. Conceived initially to carry unwieldy loads like groceries or firewood from one floor to the next, this old home feature was an invaluable mechanism before the refrigerator was invented.

Milk, vegetables, butter, and other perishable items could be lowered down to the basement and stored where it was much cooler. There’s a cleat that ties off the rope on manual versions to keep this old home feature from falling.


Elaborate door and window moldings are hallmarks of many old houses. If you have something like this in your home, experts recommend leaving them in place and working around them when replacing your windows and doors.

And if you absolutely HAVE to remove this old home feature, you should know that they’ll likely come apart in sections that you can ultimately reassemble.

Windows and doors

And since we’re already on this subject, historic doors and windows are worth renovating whenever possible. They’re generally more solid and durable than their modern substitutes. Also, they were specifically designed to be taken apart, repaired, and put back together again.

Even though historic windows get a bad rap, it’s mainly because window manufacturers have been marketing it that way for decades. And most contractors nowadays don’t understand how to work on them.

But historic windows function very well. Typically, it would take many years of energy savings to earn back the cost of ripping out these types of old home features.

Rumford fireplace

Rumford fireplaces have survived well into the 21st century. Their design was developed in the 1790s when a physicist found a way to get more heat into a room and keep more of the smoke out.

And well, the physics behind this man’s design’s characteristic shallow, V-shaped wall still holds true today. So, if you have an original Rumford fireplace in your home, you have a real treasure on your hands.

If you do happen to have one of these old home features in your home, be sure to clean it regularly. Try this amazing Quick N Brite Fireplace Cleaning Kit from Amazon!

Walls with plaster

If you have plaster in your home, check if it’s flat and in its original plane, then sound it out with your hand to decide if it’s still clinging to the lath behind it. Many years of gravity often mean you’ll find the most severe plaster failure in ceilings.

But, unless most of a wall or ceiling has failed, re-plastering the damaged areas is best. This old home feature offers better fireproofing, soundproofing, and weatherproofing than drywall does.

Plaster cornice work can be difficult to repair and almost always requires a skilled artisan. But it’s well worth it, experts say because it’s usually the most visually attractive aspect of a historic room.

Old Home Feature
Photo by Chad Robertson Media at Shutterstock

Phone niche

It’s rather obvious what a phone niche was used for, right? Back when landlines were the standard of telecommunications, phones were so big and chunky that they needed a table or a special recess in the wall to support them.

This old home feature started to be more and more popular in the 30s. And by the 50s, most households across the United States had a landline.

Generally, you’ll find these niches in homes that were built in the 20s and 30s, when builder catalogs and mail-order companies sold complete wall niche units.

Butler’s pantry

Now, here’s something we can say has definitely stood the test of time! This old home feature was a common element of estates during the Edwardian and Victorian periods and housed a family’s silver and fine China.

This is where the butler would spend much of his time, prepping platters of delicious foods and guarding the precious cutlery and stemware. Nowadays, they’re still around.

But they bear little resemblance to their stark, functional predecessors. Today, the storage cabinets may be equally or more glamorous than the implements stored there.

Laundry chute

Many people wonder why the popularity of laundry chutes in homes hasn’t been able to keep pace with the ever-increasing size of laundry rooms today.

You’ll still see these old home features integrated into homes, old and new. But there’s a reason they stopped being a staple amenity in homes across America.

In 1961, a horrible fire at a hospital led to more rigid fire codes for chutes after an investigation indicated that smoldering cigarette ashes in a laundry chute caused the fire that scaled the building through the vent quickly.

The fire department will still allow laundry chutes to be constructed, but they must adhere to stringent design guidelines.


If you can patch up and repair a hardwood floor, experts say it’s usually well worth keeping. Historic hardwood floors are a defining visual characteristic of historic homes. They’re usually the first thing people notice and respond to when they walk into your house.

The most common floor damage comes from wear and tear and moisture. This means that selective replacement and repair is a good way to go unless the floor has been sanded way too many times or the tongues pop.

In that case, you’ll probably need to replace this old home feature unless you get lucky and can flip over the boards to reuse them.

Root cellar

Though wine cellars are pretty popular today, if you were to take a trip back in time for an architectural tour of New England, you’d find a great number of root cellars.

These old home features have long been popular for canning vegetables and fruits and preserving perishables through the winter months.

Now that local and homegrown foods are retaking root, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some wine racks cleared out to make some room for yams!

Old Home Feature
Photo by Susan Law Cain at Shutterstock

Pocket shutters

These old home features were an elegant adaptation to two architectural realities. Before the 20th century, indoor shutters were standard, and brick homes had extremely thick exterior walls.

This extra depth, which was often a foot or even more, permitted shutters to be glided into special pockets, dubbed embrasures, built into the wide jambs. So, the shutters were out of sight when not in use rather than swinging out into living spaces.

We don’t see too much of these anymore because exterior walls aren’t built as thick. But they would work well in certain types of ecological structures, like rammed-earth or straw-bale constructions.

Do you have any of these old home features in YOUR living spaces? Share your experiences with them in the comments section below!

And if you liked this article, be sure to also check out: 7 Expensive Renovations Homeowners ALWAYS Regret


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