How to Remodel a 1940s House to Be Modern

Updated February 21, 2017

Houses built in the 1940s may have been stick-built by carpenters or prefabricated for on-site assembly, but however they were constructed, the houses all have similar attributes. The source of heat may be forced air from a coal furnace, or an oil-fuelled boiler may heat water to pass through radiators. Ceilings and walls are usually plaster, and the walls were often painted deep green, blue or pink. Pink, mint green or a combination of both were popular colours for bathroom fixtures. You may be faced with expensive upgrades when remodelling a 1940s house to give it modern features.

Acquire the services of a home inspector. The results of the inspection can indicate what needs to be replaced or fixed immediately (for function or safety) or fixed or replaced within a set period of time due to deterioration from age or wear.

Check the location and type of electrical sockets. In the 1940s, fewer outlets were needed than modern house, as we now have many electrics such as lights, appliances and computer equipment. In addition to the number of outlets, check for 3-prong adaptability. Assess your needs and contact a licensed electrician to upgrade the circuit box and wiring.

Open all windows, which are most likely made with wood frames, to ensure that they slide easily. Painting wood frames sometimes results in paint seeping and drying between the frame and the window, effectively sealing it shut. A sealed window can be fixed but may require taking the window apart to strip the paint. You may also consider replacing them with new windows, a measure that could result in tax benefits and increased energy efficiency.

Hire a licensed plumber to check the pipes and plumbing fixtures, including the water heater. If the pipes have not been updated since the 1940s, building codes will probably require the pipes are replaced during a renovation, which will also affect the house-to-street connection.

Inspect the heating system. If the heat source is a boiler with radiators, a plumber may be able to assess the condition of the system. Radiators, though old-fashioned, are an excellent way to heat a home, but you may want to convert to forced-air heat with electric or gas fuel. Central air-conditioning can be added or upgraded at the same time.

Examine the floors. Oak floors were popular in the 40s but may have since been covered with linoleum or carpeting. Unearthed oak floors can likely be sanded and refinished to look new.

Review the work flow, size and storage capacity of the kitchen. If the cabinets, countertops and flooring are original or not meeting expectations for design, expect to replace them. Purchase new appliances, lighting, a sink and faucet to fully modernise the kitchen.

Consider removing or relocating walls to create larger living or sleeping spaces. Closets in a 1940s house may be small and in some cases nonexistent (homeowners often used wardrobe closets, a piece of furniture in which clothes can be hung). You may have to sacrifice one room to provide expansion space in other bedrooms or bathrooms.


Do not attempt to do renovation work yourself if you are unqualified, as a lot of repair work can be dangerous (as are improperly installed renovations).

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About the Author

Barbara Raskauskas's favorite pursuits are home improvement, landscape design, organic gardening and blogging. Her Internet writing appears on SASS Magazine, AT&T and various other websites. Raskauskas is active in the small business she and her husband have owned since 2000 and is a former MS Office instructor.