Converting a Residence into a Commercial Property

Construction plans

A successful residential-to-commercial property starts with proper planning. As an experienced Washington D.C. general contractor, we can help.

Converting older residential buildings into commercial properties is a trend throughout many historic Washington D.C. neighborhoods. As our communities evolve, former residential buildings are sometimes perfectly situated for use as retail spaces, cafes, or office spaces. 

However, successfully converting a home into a place of business isn’t as easy as simply going in and performing a quick renovation. There’s paperwork, structural design, and of course financing to consider. 

Over our 25 years of general contracting in the Washington D.C. area, we have gained experience and learned a lot over the years. Here are three key considerations for any residential to commercial conversion project:

Permitting, zoning, and paperwork

Every construction project comes with its share of paperwork. But a residential to commercial conversion may also require re-zoning and special permitting, depending on the location and property details. If it’s a historic building or located within a designated historic district, there may also be special permissions required before work can begin. 

You’ll want to work with an experienced general contractor who knows how to navigate through the entitlement process. Knowing what’s required and who to talk with to get approvals is key to getting your project off on the right foot.

Extent of structural and design work

Residential spaces differ considerably from work spaces. The layout and structural components of your building may need to be addressed in the planning phase in order to serve it’s new intended function. In many cases, new electrical and plumbing will need to be installed with more stringent requirements as well as fire alarm, sprinkler and building accessibility. 

On the other hand, historical charm in features like a brick fireplace or a grand staircase can lend your new commercial space true character. We love working with clients and our design team to strike the right balance of what to keep and what to change in commercial conversions.

Financing and budgeting

Of course, financing forms the foundation of any construction project. Finding the right financial institution to back your project is key–they’ll be your partner in getting the job done right and on time. Ideally, you’ll want to work with a lender experienced in historic restorations and/or residential-to-commercial conversions. 

Give us a call and we’ll gladly guide you to banks and financial institutions in our area that may be the right fit for your next building project.

Historic Window Installation

How Long Does a Historic Building Restoration Take?

Restoring a historic home or commercial building takes time, money, and usually specialized skills possessed by experienced trade workers. The balance between time and money spent on a historic restoration aren’t necessarily as inversely related as they are in a typical renovation or construction project.

Some historic building restorations can be completed in 6 months or less. Other times, it may take more than a year to finish your restoration to your specifications. In this blog, we’ll discuss factors that can affect how long your historic restoration takes.

Specialized labor and materials

Building methods, materials used, and design tastes naturally evolve. Structural and finish materials in a historic building often differ from those used today. Finding direct replacements and qualified labor can be a challenge depending on the time of year and the area you’re in. 

In a city like Washington D.C. where many historic restorations take place each year, specialized labor and materials can be easier to find than in a more rural setting. One of the first things your general contractor will want to discuss with you before starting a restoration will be how much of the original appearance you’ll want to restore or maintain. 

Necessary upgrades, repairs, or new infrastructure

It’s normal for older buildings to need significant repairs or safety upgrades. This is especially true for buildings that have been neglected for some time. Structural beams or foundations may be failing, lead pipes may need to be replaced throughout the building, or you may have to work with the city to repair a damaged sewer connection. 


Historic add a lot of charm to our D.C. neighborhoods. It’s easy to see why local organizations exist to protect them.

Often these kinds of repairs will have to be completed before the structure is safe enough for other restoration work to begin. To spot potential hang-ups, you’ll want to review your inspection report with your general contractor.

Special permit or permission requirements

Here in the Washington D.C. area, we love our historic buildings. And not just those around the National Mall–our historic neighborhoods get a lot of their charm from the beautiful historic homes and buildings that line the streets. For this reason, organizations and rules exist to protect historic structures and ensure they remain a part of our city. 


Some buildings are in the National Register of Historic Places. Others may have a local historic designation or fall within historic district boundaries. Navigating varying levels of restrictions is something your local general contractor can help with. Through our 25 years, we’ve learned the many ins and outs of pulling permits for historic restorations in the D.C. neighborhoods.

The fastest way to complete your historic restoration is by calling us today

The bottom line is that the sooner you begin, the sooner your historic restoration will be complete. Start by giving us a call today to discuss what you have in mind. We can help you get your bearings and lay out next steps toward beginning work. 

Let’s talk! 

kitchen reno

4 Tips for a Successful Renovation or Remodel

Beginning a renovation or remodel project can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. With the right partners, however, you’ll have the support to navigate your way to a successful result. Tapping into the experience of your general contractor is key to finding answers and avoiding common pitfalls. In fact, some of the most important decisions you’ll make with your contractor will happen before the first hammer swings. 

In this beautiful kitchen renovation, our team brought the customer’s vision to life.

To get started on the right foot, you’ll want to keep these following 4 tips in mind. This will help you plan your project with your general contractor, stay engaged and confident while work is being done, and find yourself at the end of the project with the results you expected–or possibly even better!

Tip #1

Honestly consider and discuss your budget.

Your general contractor’s goal should always be to deliver the work you expect, on time and within your budget. To do that, you need to have an honest discussion about your budget for the project up front. Your builder needs to know up front what they’re working with before making plans, ordering supplies, or hiring labor. Changing the budget after work begins can cause major disruptions in the project. So have an honest conversation, your contractor can help you understand realistic renovation cost expectations and timing based on the resources available.

Tip #2

Check your contractor’s license and reputation.

Before beginning a major renovation or remodel, you’ll want to know exactly who you’re working with. Don’t be afraid to ask for your contractor’s license information. And definitely ask for references. Do a little digging yourself, too. A reputable, fair-dealing contractor won’t have anything to hide from you.

Tip #3

Discuss timing, and remain reasonably flexible during the project.

An experienced contractor will tell you delays happen. That’s normal. There are a lot of moving parts in a renovation or remodel, and often your contractor depends on vendors to deliver quality products on time. Your contractor should, however, be able to give you realistic estimate of how long a renovation or remodel will take, while also alerting you to potential issues ahead of time. If you get a call that work will be delayed, ask questions and remain understanding. As long as you keep an open, honest dialogue with your contractor, you can trust that you’re getting the truth about delays and that they’re doing their best to navigate issues and keep the project on time.

Tip #4

Stay open to your contractor’s ideas.

Experience plays a big role in successfully completing any construction project. Your contractor should always work to achieve your goals, but stay open to any ideas they may have. They might know how to save money, time, or better achieve your ultimate vision. For example, they may suggest a more inexpensive, but just as attractive and durable, alternative to the hardwood flooring or granite countertops you initially asked for. They may also know how to save a little time or money in one part of a project, freeing up resources to make major upgrades elsewhere.

Every detail count. This bathroom renovation was completed to the customer’s specifications–on time and within budget.

Work with your contractor to achieve amazing results

It all comes down to having the right partner throughout your project. Your general contractor brings the know-how and the experience to make your project happen. You supply the vision. Together, you’ll likely get to the desired result on time and within your budget.

3 Ways to Manage the Cost of a Building Renovation or Restoration

Every construction project is a balancing act between cost, quality, and time. Changes to one of these aspects affects the other two. Of course, everyone wants the best outcome given the resources available. Delivering finished work on time and under budget is always the goal. However, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by cost at the start of a project when aligning plans with your budget. 

An experienced, trustworthy general contractor will help you get the most for the time, budget, and materials available. Honestly discussing budget and expectations upfront sets the project out on the right foot. Often, a contractor who has a long history of building in your area will be able to leverage their experience and business network to make your budget go further with labor, materials, and equipment. 

Here are three ways an experienced contractor can help you manage costs:

  • Planning your project at the right time of year

The climate of your area is a significant factor in completing construction projects. Depending on the nature of your renovation or restoration, this can make one season a financially wiser choice over another. Your experienced general contractor can help you choose the right time of year based on what your project entails, whether it’s extensive outdoor concrete work or a meticulous interior historic restoration. 

  • Choosing cost-effective materials and design elements

Materials and artisan labor can make historic restorations an expensive proposition. Restoring an old mahogany floor, for example, could prove much more costly than replacing it with stained oak, hickory, or cherry designed to last many years with minimal maintenance. Your contractor can help you save costs while retaining the building’s historic charm by saving sections of undamaged floor or even repurposing salvaged pieces as decor. This can help you achieve a balance between cost and results.

  • Doing work right the first time

Doing the job right can save you a ton of money. Having a project completed on the cheap only to be forced to make repairs or redo portions of the projects within a year or two can hit your budget hard. Experienced contractors earn their reputation from results. Always ask them to share a list of completed projects, and speak with their past clients if possible. If they’re happy with the work the contractor did, you can go into your project confident you’ll spend your budget to get the job done right the first time, giving you many years of use of enjoyment.

Considering the cost of your next renovation or construction project? Let’s chat about your options. We’ll help you strike the right balance between cost, quality, and time so you’re completely satisfied with the results.

What’s the Difference Between a Historic Building Renovation and Remodeling?

This week we’re looking at the difference between a historic building renovation and a remodel. Like last week’s description of restoration vs. renovation, this blog should help you understand whether a renovation or remodel is right for the project you have in mind.


Although “renovation” and “remodel” are often used interchangeably in conversation, the two terms differ greatly when planning a refresh of your historic building. The real difference is in your intended use of the building after the work is complete. Will the building serve the same purpose as it did before, or will you be converting it to a new use? The answer can determine whether you’ll be undertaking a renovation or a remodel.


What is a historic building renovation?


Think of a renovation as making a building feel new again. An aging office building becomes a new office building. A historic church becomes a newer, modernized church. Elements of historic charm may be retained, but overall the usable space inside the building will feel and function like a new building.


A renovation is a great way to extend the life of a historic building. Updating fixtures and finish can make a commercial building easier and more cost-effective to maintain, and new wiring and plumbing can improve safety and convenience. The best part is that you don’t have to say goodbye to a favorite stained glass window or an intricate tile mosaic. In some cases, restoration of specific features like these are part of a renovation.


What is a historic building remodel?


When you think of remodeling, think: repurposing. A building remodel refers to updating the building and converting its use to a new purpose. In our historic Washington D.C. neighborhoods, building remodels have given new life to whole blocks.


Older residences converted into workspaces and shops have helped some streets evolve with our growing and changing city. Rather than tear down and rebuild, many of the buildings that give our city its architectural character have been saved through remodeling.


Which is right for you?


With decades of experience renovating and remodeling buildings in the Washington D.C. area, we can help you plan the right project for your building. From the start, decisions about what to keep and what to change in a building with a long history can be difficult. We can help you decide whether the old fireplace stays or becomes something new and different, and we can make sure restored features get the expert attention they deserve.


Ready to give your building new life? Let’s talk!


(301) 705-9814