Over the last few years we have seen an increase in renovations of older homes. The approaches and style of the improvements runs the gamut. We have seen some very impressive renovations and some that appear not to be an improvement at all. As older homes outgrow bigger families and new families move in, there is a drive for much-needed space. As a result some homes are expanding in every direction. Again some very impressively and others, well, you decide.

For the most part you can’t go wrong by trying to keep the character of the original building, particularly if you are living in an attached home. Older homes have more charm than newer boxy designs. Often, older homes are more solidly built and have more interesting and quality touches.

Of course finances usually dictate just how far a homeowner can go in restoring or improving their homes. Recently we’ve seen the expansion of attached homes; that previously was just not done. The renovations of these attached homes always impact the neighbors. This must be considered before embarking on expansion projects. We have also seen renovations that are not legal or fit in the zoning regulations. This often spells disaster for the homeowner and often means costly fines and reworking the project.

Your house should be renovated with taste and a sense of the block, surrounding homes and the environment. Don’t just rely on the contractor to give you design ideas. Do your homework or hire a licensed architect. Research is much easier with the internet or the many home improvement shows on cable TV. Your home should fit your block and neighborhood. Keeping the basic style of home is essential especially if you live in an attached or semi-attached home. Of course there are exceptions.

Be a good neighbor, it feels good

Homeowners in attached homes have more responsibility and more incentives in keeping a good relationship with their neighbors. A good relationship with them makes for a much better and safer quality of life and neighborhood. No doubt about that.

For instance, if you live in an attached house, don’t put up a high fence; especially in your front yard. It’s not only against zoning regulations but it blocks your neighbor’s view and of course sends a bad message. If you must install a fence keep it no more than 4 feet high. A high fence is also more dangerous since it makes you more vulnerable to burglaries.

Always communicate with your neighbor before you consider outside renovation. It’s more neighborly and certainly may limit survey and building code challenges down the road. And try to keep your renovations from becoming a work-in-progress. That means try to finish construction as quickly and neatly as possible with limited impact on your neighbor. There’s nothing more annoying than living next to a neighbor whose house is always under reconstruction with noise, dust, lumber and debris everywhere.

Please, think of your neighbors, think of your block and think of your neighborhood BEFORE and during renovations.

For more information please call the Juniper Park Civic Association, 718-651-5865.