Q&A With Kevin O'Connor

Sep 26, 2017, 16:44 PM

A growing number of Jacksonville residents are rehabbing older homes especially in neighborhoods like Springfield, Riverside and Avondale. Restoring an older home comes with its own quirks and challenges, but Kevin O’Connor is sharing tried-and-true secrets from inside the many seasons of the original PBS series This Old House.  As the popular show’s host (who counts Late Night host Jimmy Fallon among his rabid fan base), Kevin has seen it all when it comes to historic rehab, and he’s bringing North Florida’s audiences the biggest projects and sharing never aired video and photos from the archives (and his private collection) at the Jacksonville Home and Patio Show (running September 28-October 1).

Kevin O'Connor Photo (1)

But before he gets to Jacksonville, he answered a few questions.

Q. What are the most often overlooked challenges people face when embarking on historic home renovation?
The things people don’t think about when renovating a home are the things they can’t see. It’s exciting to preserve a beautiful front door or the original moldings in the house, but it’s not exciting to upgrade the wiring or fix a rotten sill. What’s a sill? Exactly. Old homes are a collection of old systems that have been (or not been) upgraded over time. And no matter how hard you try to avoid the things you can’t see, it’s often impossible to do so. Go ahead and renovate the kitchen but make sure you pay attention to the important stuff like heating and cooling, ventilation and insulation.

Q. What are the top reno projects homeowners should invest in with a historic home?
Kevin: In my opinion preserving the historic exterior of a house is more important and practical than preserving the historic interior of the house.  People love the look of an older home but rarely like the way these older homes are laid out. Cramped kitchens and small, chopped up rooms are not the way we live anymore. It’s perfectly fine to preserve exterior details like original windows, front porches and colorful fretwork while making the interior more livable. To that end kitchen and bathroom renovations are always top on our list of projects, as are the addition of mudrooms and pantries. People just seem to love these spaces.

Q. There are some great historic neighborhoods in Jacksonville, some of them are becoming gentrified now but the homes have been neglected for many years. When looking to buy historic homes, what are the most important things to know before you invest? 
Kevin: The most expensive problems with homes are always the things you can’t see and often don’t care about -- an old roof, a rotten sill, a cracked foundation, antiquated heating and cooling systems, dated electrical or plumbing systems that need upgrades. These things aren’t sexy but they have to be addressed and can cost lots of money, so it’s best to ask tough questions about these things first. Getting the opinion of a reputable general contractor before you buy the home is a good idea.

Q. What are the biggest mistakes people make when renovating a historic home?
Kevin: The mistakes people make renovating a historic home are the same mistakes they make renovating any home: they often opt for the low bid, they care more about the bling and less about the structure and systems, they don’t do their homework and get overwhelmed by too many decisions. My advice is always to work with the best pro you can afford, take your time, and realize your house is a long-term investment so treat it that way – take care of the bones first, deal with the ascetics second.

We can't wait to see you September 28-October 1 at the Jacksonville Home + Patio Show. Kevin appears on the Inspiration Stage on Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30. Join us at the Prime Osborn Convention Center and find everything you need to refresh your space! Get your tickets now! 


SEPTEMBER 28-October 1, 2017.