Making Alterations to Your Historic Home

Maybe you just purchased a historic house, or you have owned one for awhile and you are now ready to make some improvements such as repairing or replacing windows, roof replacement, or rebuilding an existing porch.  Or perhaps you own a modern home in the neighborhood and you are looking to renovate. Updating your home and customizing it to suit your family’s needs are important. If you are planning an addition onto your home, go here.   

  1. Permits & Approvals

  2. Windows

  3. Doors

  4. Porches

  5. Wood Trim

  6. Roofs

Permits & Approvals

If your property is in the locally-designated Curtis Park Historic District, and you are planning work on the exteriors of any buildings or outside on your property (new fence, patio, etc.), your project will likely need BOTH:

  • City permits, and

  • Historic design review approval from Denver Landmark Preservation before beginning work.   

Six Questions To Ask

Navigate the 6 questions below to find out what is needed to complete an alteration project in Curtis Park.  

1. Is my property in the Curtis Park Historic District?  

Check our Historic Designations page or type your address into the Denver Landmark finder to discover whether your property is within the Curtis Park Historic District (a-h).   Design review is required both for contributing (historic) and non-contributing properties (non-historic) in the historic district, although the design review processes may differ.  To find out if your property is contributing or non-contributing to the historic district, contact Denver Landmark Preservation.  

2. What makes my house historic?

If your house is contributing to the Curtis Park Historic District, it is a “historic” home. The vast majority of homes in the district are historic homes. To determine what makes your home “historic,” figure out what are the character-defining features that make your home one-of-a-kind, such as its key building materials and architectural style.  Owners of both historic and non-historic homes should go the Denver Landmark Preservation website and peruse the Character-Defining features for Curtis Park to determine how your home fits into the historic district.  It is important to plan alterations that not only meet project goals, but are also compatible with the historic neighborhood.

3. Are city permits required for my project?   

Many improvement projects will require a city building permit and/or zoning permit. These can include a wide range of interior and exterior projects, including replacement of a front door, removal of interior walls, roof re-sheathing, or stuccoing of exterior walls. Citizen complaints of unpermitted work can result in city inspectors issuing violations, and possible redoing of work so it is best to obtain the necessary reviews and approvals in advance.  For a full list of work that requires a city building permit, go here.

Some exterior work items will trigger permits in the Curtis Park Historic District that would not be required otherwise.   This applies both to historic and non-historic properties. Permits in the Curtis Park Historic District are required for:

4. Is city historic design review required?

Yes. The city’s landmark preservation staff will need to review and approve plans prior to receiving building or zoning permits AND BEFORE WORK BEGINS.  Denver Landmark Preservation staff or the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission will confirm that alterations fit the character of the historic building, if applicable, as well as the surrounding historic district.  To learn more about the city’s historic design review process, click here.   You are more likely to obtain design review approval, if you plan a project that respect’s the character-defining features of your house and the Curtis Park Historic District.  

Projects that propose to rehabilitate historic features of a home may also qualify for historic preservation tax credits. If your project qualifies, you can apply for historic design review approval and a tax credit at the same time. Early consultation with city landmark preservation staff is recommended.

5. How can I ensure my project obtains design review approval?

Contact the knowledgable Curtis Park Neighbors Design Review Committee for advice and ideas. For the best possible results, plan your project to retain character-defining features, and:

  • Be sensitive to historic building materials, such as brick and stone.

  • Retain and repair original features, such as original wooden porch, doors windows, and wooden trim, if possible.

  • Return original character-defining features that are missing or covered up, such as a front arched window that was infilled or wooden trim that was removed.

  • If an exterior item is beyond repair, such as wooden roof brackets or windows, replace in kind using original materials and design.

  • Keep it simple.  If your house is historic, don’t change the architectural style or add decorative features that were not present originally.  For non-historic houses, use a simple design, shapes that are on historic homes, and materials common to the neighborhood, so that your house does not draw attention away from the neighborhood’s historic homes.

6.  Can I do the work myself?

Once you identify a project for the exterior of your house or property, one of your first decisions is to decide who should do the work.   If you have the time, interest and skills to repoint a chimney or repair a wood window then by all means bone up on the appropriate techniques and do the project yourself.  See Resources for more information.  However, if the project is outside of your comfort zone, rather than do a quick fix you might regret later, is it best to call out a professional.   Keep in mind that you will be looking for a professional with expertise working on historic buildings, whether it is a mason, carpenter, or other building trades specialist. Historic Denver, Inc. maintains a list of historic preservation contractors.


Windows, Doors, Roofs, and Porches

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Windows

Historic wood windows are character-defining features of Curtis Park homes, and help convey a building’s age and architectural style.

Windows

Historic wood windows are character-defining features of Curtis Park homes, and help convey a building’s age and architectural style.

  • Historic wood windows – including sashes and frames  – add depth and character to historic homes.

  • Original windows are durable, since they are made from old growth lumber, and can usually be repaired, sanded and repainted.

  • Most windows are simple, with a single pane of glass in the upper and lower sashes.

  • External storm windows can help preserve historic windows while improving energy efficiency.

  • Windows with rounded arches fill the entire window opening, and replacement windows should do the same.

  • Owners who rehabilitate historic windows, and add storm windows and screens, can offset expenses by claiming state historic preservation tax credits.

  • While storm windows are preferred, inserting double-paned glass into your existing wood sashes is another option.

  • For more information on maintenance of wood windows, go here.

Replacing windows:

Window replacements in the Curtis Park Historic District are a type of alteration that require city permits, and historic design review from the Denver Landmark office.  

Window replacements in the Curtis Park Historic District are a type of alteration that require city permits, and historic design review from the Denver Landmark office.  

  • If windows are beyond repair, replace “like with like;” a wood window with one sash above and below should be replaced with a wood window of the same size, configuration and dimensions.

  • Fiberglass or composite windows that have a wood look can be acceptable replacements.

  • If your house has non-historic windows, look at similar houses in the neighborhood for historic cues before deciding on a replacement.

  • Vinyl windows with a multiple glass pane appearance are not in character with the architectural styles and character-defining features of Curtis Park.

  • Replacement windows that are downsized from the original opening size detract from the building’s historic architecture.  

  • Owners with boarded up windows are encouraged to reopen them, and install new windows that fit the building’s architectural style.

  • For more information on window replacements, go here.

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Doors

An original door is a character-defining feature that reflects your home’s historic architectural style.

Italianate Doors

Queen Anne Doors

Doors

If your home has a solid wood-frame door, it is likely original to the house.  An original door is a character-defining feature that reflects your home’s historic architectural style.  Most alterations require city permits, and historic design review from the Denver Landmark office.  

  • If your home has an original solid wood-frame door, it is likely original to your home and worthy of repair.  

  • Choose replacement doors that fit the architectural style of your building.

 
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Porches

Porch alterations, including removals and reconstruction, are a type of alteration that require city permits, and historic design review from the Denver Landmark office.

Porches

Most historic residences in Curtis Park were built with porches to provide relief from hot summer days before air conditioning.  Porches were also the place to display exuberance, typically using milled lumber and turned porch supports and ornamentation made possible by machine lathes.   Porches are character-defining features of your historic house.  Porch alterations, including removals and reconstruction, are a type of alteration that require city permits, and historic design review from the Denver Landmark office.  

  • Historic porches add character to historic homes and help express your home’s architectural style.

  • Original porch components, such as posts and brackets are durable since they are made from old growth lumber, and can usually be repaired, sanded and repainted.

  • Original wooden porches need maintenance, and periodic structural repairs, but are worth it since they add character and value to your historic home.

  • For porch components beyond repair, replace “like with like,” and bring your deteriorated porch elements to a mill or craftsman for replication.

  • If your porch is missing or is not historic (i.e., with metal porch posts or a metal awning), look at houses of the same architectural style in the neighborhood for historic cues before deciding on a replacement and contact the Denver Landmark Preservation staff for assistance.

  • If porch railings are required for safety, match historic railings or choose a simple wood picket design that complements your historic home. Rail height should be no higher than window sills, although the Denver building code may require higher railings.

  • Owners who rehabilitate historic porches, or replicate a missing porch, can offset expenses by claiming state historic preservation tax credits.


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Wood Trim

Most historic residences in Curtis Park have attached wooden decoration, such as roof cornices and gable ends with shingled ornamentation.

Wood Trim

Most historic residences in Curtis Park have attached wooden decoration, such as roof cornices and gable ends with shingled ornamentation, in addition to wooden porches and windows. Most alterations of these features require city permits, and historic design review from the Denver Landmark office.   

  • Wooden features, such as wooden porches, roof cornices, and gable end treatments, are often the most ornate decoration applied to a historic home.

  • Historic wooden trim requires maintenance, such as painting and caulking, to keep it in good repair.

  • For wooden trim that is beyond repair, replace “like with like,” and match the material, profile and design of the original feature.

  • If your roof cornice or gable-end shingles are missing or are not historic (i.e., composite shingles/siding in your gable) look at houses of the same architectural style in the neighborhood for historic cues before deciding on a replacement, and contact the Denver Landmark Preservation staff for assistance.

  • Owners who rehabilitate historic wooden trim, or that replicate a missing wooden roof cornice, can offset expenses by claiming state historic preservation tax credits.

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Roofs

Owners who rehabilitate historic roofs can offset expenses by claiming historic preservation tax credits.

Roofs

Your roof shape and type are character-defining features of your historic house, and help to define the house’s architectural style.  Roof re-sheathing and alterations require city permits, and quick historic design review from the Denver Landmark office.  

  • Roofs with multiple gables, fancy roof cornices, metal cresting and towers, define your house’s architectural style, and warrant preservation.

  • Keep roof systems, including gutters, in good repair to prevent water damage to your historic home.

  • Avoid adding a shed roof at the front roof cornice or removing a historic wooden roof cornice on a flat roof.

  • Owners who replace roofs “in kind” to match existing (or use an appropriate substitute), and that rehabilitate or replicate historic roof features can offset expenses by claiming state historic preservation tax credits.

This web content was added in 2019, and is accurate to the best of our abilities. Contact Denver Landmark Preservation for the most up-to-date and accurate information on the city's design review and permit requirements.