Renovation Ideas that will Transform your Old Timber Home

A recently renovated timber home full of renovation ideas to get you started with your own project
A recently renovated timber home full of renovation ideas to get you started with your own project

There are lots of renovation ideas that will transform your old timber home – modernize by replacing original timber doors and windows with aluminum and glass, install new ceilings or give your floors some TLC. This article contains some of our top ideas and renovation pictures to help get you started. Please note that if you’re looking for cheap, quick fix or D.I.Y renovation ideas this is not it! To put these house renovation ideas into action you will need to hire a professional timber frame builder or construction company. 

My experience is that in small coastal towns like Chintsa, a lot of houses were originally built as holiday homes. They were built with the intention of long days on the beach, sun-downers on the deck enjoying the view, and “down time”; minimal time actually inside the house. They were built on the cheap. Put up quickly with little attention to detail because at the time, that’s what we were looking for. Fast forward to now – maybe you’ve retired and are looking to make your holiday home your permanent home, or perhaps you’ve found a bargain buy in the form of someone else’s old holiday home that needs some love and attention to bring it up to date.

Whether the house was originally commissioned by you, to share during holidays with family and friends, or whether you have been lucky enough to find a “cheap buy” in someone else’s old holiday home and you want to modernize it, these renovation ideas will transform any old timber house into the kind of home that you want to spend more time in.

What is a Timber Home?

Timber frame home during construction - the core structure is constructed from timber
Timber frame home during construction – the core structure is constructed from timber

Lets start here – what exactly am I talking about when I say “timber home”? A timber home is a house built using timber rather than brick and mortar. We build homes in timber frame which means that the framework for the walls, floor and roof are all built in timber. The main structure of the house is timber. Timber homes are also sometimes described as log homes; often the outside cladding on the walls looks like small logs which makes the house look like a log cabin.

Renovation Ideas for your Timber Home

Let’s get into the good stuff – what renovation ideas can modernize or transform your old timber home? 

Replace Old Timber Windows with Aluminium and Glass

Older timber homes often have timber windows and doors. The timber frames of the windows does not age particularly well without regular maintenance, it swells in the rain which can make it difficult to open and close the windows and can lead to drafts and leaking. Over time the wooden window frames will become weak and let in drafts and rain. Removing all timber windows and replacing them with aluminium windows will instantly give your house a more modern feel and look. As well a this it will make your home more energy efficient – getting rid of those drafts and possible leaks through the timber.

There are various styles and qualities of aluminium windows available on the market – and they won’t all blow your budget! Remember that you can be creative in your choice of windows – they don’t necessarily have to be the same style and function as the windows you’re replacing. Consider a wide sliding window rather than side opening windows, replace cottage-pane with casement windows.

A modern feature window was added to this timber home in Chintsa to bring more light into the stairway and add character both inside and out.

Front entrance of a timber home recently renovated - new aluminium windows were installed throughout
Front entrance of a timber home recently renovated – new aluminium windows were installed throughout

It is important to take your time and consider your options properly – window replacement can be expensive. Ensure you that you choose an appropriate quality of frame and double glazed glass that will last a long time and require minimal maintenance. Choose a look and style that will suit your renovated home inside and out.

Open Up – Let the Outdoors In!

Almost all of the timber homes that we renovated recently (including our own) have added sliding or stacking doors that open onto decking. This literally opens the home up – in more ways than one. Fitting sliding or stacking doors will allow you to open the house up fully to make the most of the weather on any day of the year. Here in South Africa it will also allow you to find that slight breeze even on the hottest of Summer days!

In our own home we fitted a large sliding door along the front of the house on the first floor. The door leads from our open plan living space onto a large veranda that catches the afternoon sun and overlooks the river. This effectively doubled our living space! We also fitted sliding doors on all of the bedrooms (ground and first floor) which open onto small private decks at the side of the house. As well as feeling like we live in a top class hotel in the comfort of our own home, the bedrooms are now brighter and much more inviting. Having the option to open the house on two sides also provides great cross flow on hot days.

A client of ours took this timber renovation idea one step further by installing stacking doors which fold back completely. They wrapped them around the corner of the house therefore opening up the entire space. The doors were installed in the downstairs entertainment area as well as the first floor master bedroom.

Ground floor entertainment space opened up with stacking doors
Ground floor entertainment space opened up with stacking doors on both walls
Stacking doors open up onto the large deck
Stacking doors along the front and sides of the house open up onto the large deck

Now if this isn’t the perfect spot to enjoy a sun-downer I don’t know what is!

Master bedroom opened up with stacking doors on two walls
The master bedroom opens up with stacking doors on both walls adding a feeling of luxury in the home

Our clients also extended the decks to enlarge the space even more.

“When you get it right, you are more likely to spend your days with the doors open, enjoying lots of daylight and fresh air.”

Says Greg Toon in an article for Real Homes – How to Successfully Link Your Indoor and Outdoor Spaces 

Extend the Deck & Fit Invisible Railings

It just makes sense – if you live in the kind of place that entices you outside, make the most of your outdoor space by maintaining and extending your balcony or veranda. For a really modern look choose a “barely there” railing.

The deck was widened and extended to allow for lots of space to spend time outside
The deck was widened and extended to allow for lots of space to spend time outside
Choose "barely there" railings and balustrades. These chunky wooden hand rails are joined with nautical wire which doesn't obstruct the view
Choose “barely there” railings and balustrades. These chunky wooden hand rails are joined with nautical wire which doesn’t obstruct the view

These chunky wooden balustrades are offset with nautical marine wire. You could also go for glass panels depending on the style of your house.

Before we move inside the house there’s just one more external renovation that will transform your home;

Transform the Front Door and Entrance

First impressions count! So why not invest in an upgrade of your entrance and front door? Our client in Chintsa went the whole-hog and replaced their old timber door with a wide aluminium frame and glass door.

The new glass front door with aluminium frame, as well as the maintained deck make this entrance inviting and modern
This new glass front door with aluminium frame, as well as the maintained deck update entrance

The aluminium and glass statement makes the entrance clean and more appealing. FresHome.com recently wrote an article describing The Latest Front Door Ideas That Add Curb Appeal and said this about glass front doors:

“Glass front doors featuring glass side panels. One of the freshest door trends… this modern front door idea allows more light into the entryway…”

If you don’t want to move away from your existing timber door but are looking for a fresh look, try painting your front door in a bright colour to make it catch the eye and invite guests in.

Create Space by Taking out Internal Walls

Open-plan living is not a new renovation idea and is popular for a whole host of reasons. In particular it’s enjoyable to have your kitchen opening onto your dining and living areas so that the heart of the home is extended from the kitchen, into the whole living space. If there are walls in your house that can be removed or opened up to create space and a better flow of living, consider it. In this timber home that we recently renovated, several internal walls were removed or partially removed. This opened up the living and entertainment space, letting in more light at the same time.

Internal walls were removed in this home to create spacious open plan living and dining areas
Internal walls were removed in this home to create spacious open plan living and dining areas
The wall between the living and entertainment areas was partially removed to create light but maintain structural integrity
The wall between the living and entertainment areas was partially removed to create light but maintain structural integrity

Always consult a qualified engineer if you are considering removing internal walls to ensure that no supporting walls are removed.

Renovate the Timber Floors

With the major structural work dealt with it’s time to tackle some of the less major renovation ideas that will transform your old timber home. Most older timber homes are built with timber floor boards which are varnished with a natural wooden look. If your floors are anything like mine they take a beating everyday! Which can lead them to look scruffy, dirty and dull over time. Give the floors a fresh look by sanding and re-painting.

Depending on the size of the floor area you can give a light sanding by hand, otherwise hire an industrial sander for a more intense renovation. Be prepared for major dust and make sure that you either clear out your house or cover your furniture properly before you start!

Repaint or varnish the timber to protect it and give it a new look. Many of our clients choose a white-wash varnish that compliments the beach cottage style of their homes and wears quite well.

The timber floors throughout this house were renovated by sanding and painting in a white wash colour
The timber floors throughout this house were renovated by sanding and painting in a white wash colour

If you’re not so keen on the mess that comes with sanding and painting the floors consider fitting vinyl. There are a huge range of colours and finishes available in South Africa. Vinyl is also maintenance free and hard wearing. This client chose to use vinyl flooring in all bathrooms and en-suites.

Our clients chose vinyl flooring for all of the bathrooms and en-suites
Our clients chose vinyl flooring for all of the bathrooms and en-suites

And while you’re at it…

Don’t Let your Ceilings Hold you Back!

Your ceilings can handle the same treatment as the floors. If you have timber ceilings give them a sand and paint to brighten up the room. A lot of old timber homes were installed with flat rhino-board ceilings with visible joins as this is the cheapest option. If your ceilings are anything like mine they are a little uneven and you try not to look up too often.

If you’re not scared of the mess and are prepared to spend some money on upgrading your ceilings there are better options that will add value to your home. I found an informative article by Homemakers Online that describes the Different Types of Ceilings available. Beware that this project will involve stripping the existing ceilings and replacing them so think carefully before committing to it. There are water pipes and electrical cables in the ceilings. If you’re on the top floor of the house you may also need to deal with replacing the insulation.

Our client in Chintsa did a total renovation of his timber home replacing all of the old rhino-board ceilings with Iso-Board. Iso-Board provides insulation as well as having a clean, straight finish. Cornices were also fitted around the edges of each room.

New ceilings were installed throughout the house giving it a fresh, clean finish
New ceilings were installed throughout the house giving it a fresh, clean finish

The loft was converted into a bedroom, where our client opted for exposed trusses. As well a being on trend this style also gives the feeling on added space in small rooms. The trusses themselves were painted white. The ceiling is white washed, pulling the grain of the wood out in grey to contrast.

The exposed trusses in the loft room make the room feel larger and more airy with a light white-wash on the ceiling boards
The exposed trusses in the loft room make the room feel larger and more airy with a light white-wash on the ceiling boards

Refresh the Wooden Look with a Fresh Paint Colour

Unless you live in the mountains, the cosy log cabin look is over. If I see one more pine clad interior I might just scream. This may be because I lived in one for roughly ten years before we attacked it with a paint brush. If your timber home is all about the natural wooden look and it’s not working for you, transform with with a lick of paint. That’s floors, doors, door frames, window frames,  skirting boards, ceilings… and the rest!

“A fresh coat of paint is a great way to update your home cost-effectively. Use a darker shade on your trims to accentuate architectural detail, or a lighter shade for a timeless look.”

Says East London based Interior Designer Taryn Fish – you can connect with Taryn on social media: Facebook/ Instagram

The timber trusses were painted in white in the loft room as were skirting, cupboard doors and other natural wood features
The timber trusses were painted in white in the loft room as were skirting, cupboard doors, window frames and other natural wood features
All natural wooden features were painted - transforming this log cabin into a luxury beach house
All natural wooden features were painted transforming this old log cabin into a luxury beach house
All features that were natural wood were painted ti spruce up the style of the beach cottage
All features that were natural wood were painted to spruce up the style of the beach cottage

TIP: Choose a hard wearing paint for your internal doors or darjern wooden features – it can be difficult to cover the timber – especially with a lighter paint colour.

Update your Light Fittings

In our house we call them “Marie Antoinette” – you know the ones – the REALLY outdated light fittings with glass shades and ruffles around the edges. It’s time for them to go. All of them.

A great replacement that will transform your old timber home is down lights. A client in Chintsa replaced almost all of the lights in his home with down lights. They have a clean finish and you can choose what colour light you want, as well as where to place them for maximum effect. You can also fit dimmer switches.

Down-lights were put into all of the new ceilings in this house transforming the look and feel
Down-lights were put into all of the new ceilings in this house transforming the look and feel

To add warmth and character to your home choose some feature lights and lamp shades like this large pendant light woven light shade that drops over the stairway in the entrance hall. Over-sized standing lamps also work in bedrooms and livings rooms.

A large pendant light hangs down the stairway into the entrance
A large pendant light hangs down the stairway into the entrance

Where the ceiling is not suitable for down lights, spotlights can be a great alternative.

Modernize Bathrooms Suites

There’s nothing that screams “out-dated” more than a green bathroom suite. I would always recommend choosing white; you can add character to the bathroom in other ways and a white suite will not age it. When re-designing your bathrooms call in a professional – especially if you’re intending moving the basics around such as the toilet, basin and shower or bath. A professional contractor or plumber will be able to advise you on the existing pipework and recommend a suitable plan.

In terms of adding character to the style of the bathroom here are a few ideas:

  • Feature tiling and mosaics
  • Wall mounted basin and vanity cupboards
  • Free standing baths
  • Custom glass on shower cubicles
This bath is a feature in the en-suite bedroom with coloured mosaic tiling. The wall mounted vanity basin and cupboard give a modern style and look
This bath is a feature in the en-suite bedroom with coloured mosaic tiling. The wall mounted vanity basin and cupboard give a modern style and look. The new shower head and curved glass panel add stylish elements.
The modern style of the cistern in this bathroom transforms the standard bathroom look. There is also a custom glass panel on the shower and feature mosaic wall
The modern style of the cistern in this bathroom transforms the standard bathroom look. There is also a custom glass panel on the shower and feature mosaic wall which stretches around the entire bathroom.

Now I’ve Got Some Great Home Renovation Ideas – What Next?

Hopefully this article has helped to give you some great renovation ideas to get your timber home transformation started. The next step is to reach out and chat to a professional. A professional timber frame building contractor can assist with planning and quoting on the project. They should also be able to recommend other contacts in the field such as architects or draftsmen if your project requires this.

The timber home renovation project featured in this article also appeared in the Daily Dispatch Weekender supplement in July 2018 >

Do you have more great renovation ideas that you think we’ve missed? Leave us a comment below and share them with our readers.

Find out more about our turnkey timber home building projects as well as our timber home renovation services >

2 thoughts on “Renovation Ideas that will Transform your Old Timber Home

    1. Hi Ali!

      It’s great to work together – and there’s another renovation idea that hasn’t specifically been mentioned yet! Replacing old curtains and blinds with new can really spruce up your home. We also love the custom-made shutters that were installed in the loft room!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.