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Helpful Remodeling Tips

Remodeling your mid-century home in Reston? 7 issues worth watching

By July 26, 2021December 2nd, 2022No Comments
lake view of houses on water

This blog was originally posted in Reston Now.

lake view of houses on water

We love the variety and uniqueness of the mid-century homes in Reston (courtesy of Charlotte Geary Photography)

Ahh, the mid-century home! There are lots of them in Reston, and many homeowners are drawn to them because of their cool architecture, solid construction and unique charm. However, when it comes to remodeling a mid-century home, that charm may also be hiding some underlying issues when it comes time to remodel.

This month, we’re taking a look at some of the more unpleasant surprises that might bust your remodeling project’s budget and/or timeline. But, fear not! We’re also sharing insights into how to plan for and remediate the most common ones.

1. Asbestos. One of the biggest concerns for any homeowner is finding asbestos once demo begins. Be prepared: You or your chosen home remodeling contractor will need to send samples for testing if you find any material that might contain asbestos. If testing shows it does contain asbestos, a specialized abatement company will be needed to remove the material before your remodel can continue. Our advice? Better safe than sorry. Always take action if you uncover any unknown material or substance.

interior of house under construction

When the parquet flooring was removed in this local home, we discovered it had been stuck down with thick, black mastic. Thankfully, testing revealed it did not contain asbestos.

2. Subfloors. When it comes to the subfloor required for today’s tile and hardwood, three-quarters of an inch thick is ideal. Five-eighths of an inch is acceptable. However, most older homes have subfloors that are a half-inch thick, which can be problematic. You may have to install a new subfloor such as tongue-and-groove plywood. This is a thicker product that doesn’t move between joints, which also eliminates those annoying squeaks. Money well spent.

3. Unknown ducts, electrical or plumbing behind walls. The reality TV home make-over shows would have you believe that finding unexpected ducts, electrical or plumbing behind walls in the middle of a remodel is a given. Not so! If you are using a reputable home remodeling company, there should be no surprises once construction starts. At Synergy, we often cut exploratory holes before construction starts and use small, flexible cameras to get a better view of what’s hiding beneath before we get started. If you are doing a DIY home remodel, do your research upfront. If you do find anything unexpected once you demo your kitchen, it will take time and money to resolve. Not fun for anyone.

Matt, Synergy’s Assistant Project Manager, takes a peek at what’s going on behind the walls with a small camera.

4. Questionable wiring. We see it a lot. The older the home, the more likely it is the wiring is not well done or has aged to a point it needs to be repaired or replaced. Older homes typically have fewer outlets, too. The demands of today’s appliances (and the number of them) mean you may need to add a new subpanel and/or install ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets (referred to as GFIs or GFCIs).

5. Inefficient ductwork. Back in the late ’60s and ’70s, it wasn’t required by code that the joints between ducts were sealed. To save you money on your utility bills and maximize your home’s energy efficiency, we highly recommend you seal any ductwork exposed during your remodel with tape or mastic whether it’s running through the floors, ceiling or walls.

6. Lack of insulation. Be prepared: the chances are high that when you take down a wall or ceiling in a mid-century home there will be little — or zero — insulation. We’ve seen decoupaged 1960’s Time Magazines used as insulation, as well as newspaper stuffed behind walls — right next to an outlet! Add insulation when you are home remodeling. You won’t regret it!

walls under construction

During this home’s primary suite remodel, demolition revealed there was no insulation between a closet and exterior wall.

7. Dumped construction debris. This is another classic. We’ve worked on homes and found construction debris dumped into the ground and covered over. Instead of the home builder paying to have it removed, they just buried it. If you are planning an addition or anything that requires new foundations, you can’t build on top of a veritable trash pit.


Ready to work with a home remodeling company in Reston who knows about the area’s mid-century homes — quirks and all? Get in touch! Our consultations are FREE, and there is no obligation. It’s all part of helping you renovate happy.

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