How Not to Destroy Your Period Home
Bought a period property and don’t want to ruin its charm? Here’s what to consider before you start renovating
Follow these tips, from maintaining the exterior to refurbishing staircases, fireplaces, windows, floors and radiators, to find out how to start renovating without destroying the character and structure of your beautiful period home.
Once you’ve decided to purchase a period property, ensure you get a survey carried out.
Seek out a RICS-accredited surveyor and expect to pay anything between £300-£1,500, depending on the level of survey you choose – from a basic building survey to a full structural survey – as well as the area, condition of the building and other variables. The report will give an overall picture of the condition of the property, and identify any issues that will need to be dealt with during your renovation.
A CCTV Drain Survey is also important, as many period homes have old drainpipes 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 you can repair and plan ahead for the renovation.
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It’s vital to keep water away from your property in order 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.
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.
The bricks on this late-Victorian property have been cleaned and repointed, and new guttering at the top diverts the water away from the façade.
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.
In this beautiful renovation, the staircase has been integrated into the modern space. The structure is in the traditional style, but by blocking out the stairs in black, the designers have added a contemporary twist.
In some areas, an open fire is against modern safety regulations, but that doesn’t mean your original fireplace has to be thrown away and replaced with a contemporary one.
Consider placing a bioethanol insert into your original fireplace. Here, the architects have kept the original mantelpiece and installed a new bioethanol fire, which integrates beautifully into the space.
To avoid issues, it’s worth investigating eco-friendly bioethanol versions of this style of stove, as well as electric models.
The way we live today is very different to 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 a better circulation around the house and, most importantly, to bring in natural light.
However, you can still maintain the character of the building. In this home, for example, period-style internal doors open up the original wall. This helps to connect the two spaces and brings more natural light into the middle of the house while keeping the spirit of the layout.
More: Should You Install an Air Source Heat Pump?
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.
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.
More: How to Repair and Maintain Sash Windows
Old radiators can be used as a heating source, but it’s important that your contractor or plumber checks them for leaks. If you’re considering underfloor heating as your main heat source, you can still combine your old radiators with a modern heating system.
To revive tired radiators, you can strip off the layers of paint and repaint them for a fresher look.
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.
Almost every period feature in your home can be saved, but unfortunately lath and plaster doesn’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 cornices and ceiling roses are well protected, as 200-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.
Are you renovating a period property? What are you finding most challenging about it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments.