As anyone who’s lived in an older home will tell you, period properties can be both a joy and a curse! Older homes have often undergone several renovations over the years and can present a multitude of challenges and surprises to the unsuspecting homeowner. Their unique charm, architectural heritage and societal importance are second to none however.
Period properties are some of the most sought-after homes on the market, so it’s well worth investing the time and effort in renovations. As with any major project, proper planning is essential to success.
With this in mind, if you’re getting started with your own period property renovation, make sure to keep these key considerations in mind. From taking things slowly to employing specialist tradespeople, choosing appropriate materials and understanding listed building consent – get your renovation off to the best possible start…
Take things slowly
“Go wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.”
Friar Lawrence’s advice to Shakespeare’s “star-crossed” lovers would be equally applicable to period property owners! If you’re currently searching for a period property to renovate, it pays to take your time.
Make sure to instruct detailed surveys before purchase (making sure these are from fully accredited RICS chartered surveyors) and talk your plans through with a trusted builder to get an idea of potential costs. Additional CCTV drain reports and specialist period property surveys may also be required – so it’s important to factor this into your timings and budget.
Once you’ve got to the stage of discussing plans with an architect, make sure they can conduct on-site visits both during planning and construction phases. Period properties never benefit from a “one-size-fits-all” approach, so making sure that plans are developed gradually is key.
It’s often wise to live in the property for at least a few months before finalising plans. This will help you understand the space, any unique features the property boasts and your goals for the project.
Once building work has started, remember that older properties have many quirks (and are full of surprises!), so timescales may have to be adapted over time. Patience and dedication are the name of the game with period renovations… so enjoy the process. You’re doing a fantastic thing by giving an older building a new lease of life!
Choose materials carefully
Making changes to period properties necessitates careful choices of materials. You can either opt for contrasting aesthetics (for instance smooth glass and metal against old wood and brickwork) or source materials that work with the existing structure. Whatever approach you go for, make sure your materials have been carefully thought through.
Brass, iron, stone, pine and oak (for instance) are all commonly found in period properties – so is there any way of playing with these materials to give a modern spin?
When thinking about the interiors, also remember that walls of period properties need to “breathe”. Older homes are often constructed with lime mortars and washes on the walls, allowing the structure to absorb water which then evaporates. Modern paints and cements can cause water to get trapped (leading to decay and damp) – so make sure any paints and plasters are breathable and maintain the building in its best form!
Use specialist professionals
Whenever possible, hire tradesmen and construction professionals that specialise in particular areas of restoration. They are best placed to deal with the delicacies of period properties, and are further able to advise on materials and solutions if unexpected problems arise.
When selecting your architect, ask about their previous experience renovating period properties – and cover as many of the design decisions as possible before formally putting plans out to tender (or planning). Having thorough tender documents will ensure builders are able to provide realistic quotes. This will further reduce the risk of cost overruns and disagreements down the line.
Don’t forget planning regulations
Even if you’re only embarking on a small renovation project, it’s vital to remember that planning permission may still be required! Especially if your period property is within a conservation area, there are likely to be strict regulations on what you can and can’t do.
This is where specialist professionals (such as an experienced architect!) can help you understand the various regulations. But as well as usual planning permission, permitted development rules and party wall acts, you should also check if your home is within a conservation area or a listed building.
In the latter case, Listed Building Consent must be sought on top of the usual planning permissions. This usually covers the entire building – including the interior and exterior, any objects affixed to the building and often any attached or curtilage structures.
Listed building regulations can be complex, so take the time to understand what’s permitted (and what isn’t!). By focusing on planning regulations at an early stage, your team will be able to produce drawings likely to be approved by planning officials, as well as reducing the risk of carrying out any unauthorised work.
Preserving original features
One of the great joys of living in a period property is the character it offers! With a historic home, you have a duty to protect the structure for future generations – and the small details are a big part of this.
Think about what it was that made you fall in love with the property. Panelled walls? Picture rails? Flagstone floors, cornicing, old fireplaces or sash windows? Restoring or repairing old features doesn’t necessarily have to be a costly exercise – but specialist tradespeople will be able to advise on all these aspects.
When thinking about original features, don’t forget the interior finishes as well! This will ultimately relate to the overall look you’re trying to create, but heritage colours and wallpapers can make a massive difference to the overall feel of a renovation. It’s all about an appropriate mix of old and new, so think about what aspects of modernity you’d like to bring in – whilst respecting and enhancing the historic features of a property.
As a final consideration when renovating your period property – think of the garden as an extension of the house. The style of planting and hard landscaping will all inform the project as a whole, so treat it as a room in itself! Your garden is also a great place to creatively reuse any leftover materials such as bricks and tiles for raised beds and edging.
At Yoop Architects, our expert team can obtain approvals in conservation areas and on listed buildings. Whether it’s getting started with your project, answering planning questions or just wanting an initial chat, book a call to discuss your project today.
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