Renovating Period Properties
Period properties have a charm and many stories to tell, but with their history, they can also come with issues that need careful consideration, this makes it important to hire professionals who have experience of dealing with old and period buildings.
These tips are for finding out how to start renovating without destroying the character and structure of your beautiful old home.
A closer look
Once you’ve decided to commit to the purchase of your period property, ensure you get a thorough survey carried out. Opt for either the RICS Building Survey, which starts at £500 or a Full Structural Survey, which starts at £700. These surveys will give an overall picture of the condition of the property, and identify any issues that will need to be addressed during your renovation.
It is also important to consider a CCTV Drain Survey, as many period homes have old drainage pipes below or beside them. The last thing you want to deal with after you’ve completed your home project is a broken drain. The CCTV drainage report can give you the levels, routes and state of your current drainage so that you can repair and plan for the renovation.
Blocked or cracked pipes are easily rectified, but if left can cause potential damage to the structure and fabric of the building. Underground pipes can be repaired or replaced with plastic, but above the ground downpipes and soil pipes, should only be replaced with cast iron to retain the aesthetic and historical context of the building – also they will be more cost effective over their lifetime, where if maintained will offer around 100 years or more.
Maintain the outside
It’s vital to keep water away from your property to prevent deterioration of the house. Always make sure the roof and gutters are in good order and the outlets are directed away from the building.
Early properties of the medieval and Tudor periods would normally have had extended rooflines to lift the rainwater away from the building, with later buildings relying on the development of gutter systems as we know them today.
With the coming of the industrial age cast iron was used to manufacture guttering and downpipes, and today cast iron is a material with environmental, cost and aesthetic benefits that should be considered for use on period and listed buildings.
Also, pay attention to the bricks. If you have an exposed brick elevation, do not neglect the pointing. It depends on the age of the house, but always employ a contractor who has the right knowledge in pointing period buildings.
Keep the spirit and character of the space
The way we live today is very different from the way people lived in the past, but this doesn’t mean you can’t keep the character of your property. Victorian homes had many rooms for a few reasons, one of which was to make heating more efficient: it was easier to heat a smaller room than a large space.
Today, we don’t have this issue, as our heating systems are extremely efficient. So it’s possible to open up the spaces for better circulation around the house and, most importantly, to bring in natural light.
However, you can still maintain the character of the building. To open space in a period home, consider period-style internal doors to open up an original wall. This will help to connect the two spaces and brings more natural light into the middle of the house while keeping the spirit of the layout.
Bring the staircase to life
Original staircases can be a bit wonky at times, but in most cases, they can be refurbished to their original glory.
However, keeping the original staircase doesn’t mean you have to compromise on a contemporary look – you can create a modern space by working with the traditional design.
A beautiful renovation can be made by integrated the staircase into the modern space. The structure is in the traditional style, but by minor changes, the designers can add a contemporary twist.
The fire at the hearth
In some areas of the country, an open fire is against modern safety regulations, but that doesn’t mean you have to discard your original fireplace and replace with a contemporary one.
Consider placing a gas fire or bioethanol insert into your original fireplace which integrates beautifully into the space.
Another option is to make room inside your fireplace surround to install a wood-burning stove, as the owners have done here.
Windows the eyes of the home
We often assume original, single-glazed period windows are partially rotten and draughty and need to be replaced. It’s true that rot and draught are potential issues, but they can be dealt with.
The wood we use today tends to be the young and fast-growing kind, whereas the Victorians and Georgians used mature timber that was denser. So in many cases, this old timber can be treated locally and saved.
If you want to replace the single glazing to prevent heat loss and noise, it’s possible to install slim double-glazed units and keep the original sash window. Remember, however, that the double-glazed panels are heavier than the single ones, so the hidden weights to the side of the windows should be adjusted as well.
Rooflights are also a consideration when renovating a period property, either renovating existing or including new rooflights into conversions and extensions. It is possible to provide unique contemporary solutions, including; pyramids, lanterns and walk-on rooflights into extensions of old buildings, but do consider this carefully! Make sure you consult an experienced professional when renovating your windows, and check the regulations that apply to your particular property, as these can differ from area to area.
Heat is on
Old cast iron radiators can be used as a heating source, but it’s important that your contractor or plumber checks them for leaks. If they are found to be damaged or faulty, new cast iron radiators to match the old style are readily available.
New cast iron radiators are available as school type cast iron column radiators, as well as the more decorative Art Nouveau and Rococo style cast iron radiator.
If you’re considering underfloor heating as your main heat source, you can still combine your old cast iron radiators with a modern heating system.
To restore and revive tired period radiators, you can strip off the layers of paint and repaint them for a fresher look. Pay attention and beware of strong stripping agents around the section joins though – as this can damage the integrity of the seal.
Floored and board
In many cases, it’s perfectly possible to keep the original flooring in your period property. If you’d like to install underfloor heating, though, make sure you get professional advice beforehand, as some systems can affect the stability of old and solid timber flooring.
However, you can carefully set the floorboards aside and install insulation between the existing joists with the relevant draught treatment, then carefully reinstall the original timber.
Lath and plasterwork
It is possible to save almost every period feature in your home, but unfortunately, lath and plaster don’t always pass the test of time. This is especially true where there’s evidence of previous water damage.
If you have loose plaster on your walls or ceiling, it’s best to double check with an experienced professional to see if it’s worth keeping.
During your renovation, make sure any original feature cornices and ceiling roses are well protected, as 300-year-old plasterwork doesn’t always respond well to constant vibrations. Ceiling roses can always be taken away, set aside, then reinstalled.
If the ceiling cornice is damaged or likely to fall, a specialist can make a template to reproduce it, which can then be installed at the final stage of the renovation.
Buy, live, love
Whatever challenges you face purchasing, renovating and living in a period or traditional home will be worth it. You are the custodian of a piece of history, and unlike a modern home, your period house will have and hold many stories.