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What to do before working on an older house

To help you get started, we have put together some advice on what you should consider before carrying out work on an older property. This page includes tips and useful contacts to point you in the right direction. Call us anytime to discuss finer details.

Do your research

Always make sure to do some research into your house prior to commencing any work. This will enable you to fully understand and appreciate the building’s historical importance and character. You may also be able to avoid unexpected delays if your home is listed or you discover that it’s in a conservation area. Extra planning permission may be needed if you have a listed property.

Make sure any changes are reversible

It’s wise to plan ahead by ensuring that any additions, alterations or repairs you make to your home are reversible. Doing so will minimise the impact your work has on any historic features and retain the original character of the building.

Record your findings

If you are carrying out extensive works which include digging beneath flooring or delving into wall cavities, you may find that you learn some exciting new facts about the history of your property. If you are lucky enough to discover any historic material or interesting features during the course of the works, you should take any opportunity to record your findings.

By providing your findings to local archives, including your Historic Environment Record, future generations will be able to share everything you’ve learned.

Retain the character of your home

The original materials used in the construction of your home are a huge part of the character of your property and its historical significance. Even so, no material ever used in construction will remain in top condition; there will come a time when even the most durable materials will need repairing or replacing.

When it comes to making repairs or altering your home, it is highly recommended that you use traditional materials and methods of construction wherever possible. That said modern techniques can enable you to keep more of the original materials. If this is the case, expert advice is critical in order to ensure compatibility. There are joiners who will be happy to design and craft bespoke sash windows for your property using a suitable wood, roofers who can source stone slates to repair a traditional roof and many specialists out there who share the desire to maintain and restore your property.

Though the use of traditional and specialist materials can be a little more costly than their contemporary alternatives, your home’s character will be preserved. Your property may be listed because it contains historical material and/or objects. If the proposed work is likely to affect these items, you will need to apply for listed building consent.

What permissions do I need? >>

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Useful contacts

If you are planning to make changes to your period or listed property, there are a number of societies which specialise in issues surrounding properties dating back to different periods. You may wish to contact them for guidance through a variety of issues.

The Ancient Monuments Society for advice regarding:

  • ancient monuments
  • historic buildings of all ages and types
  • identified examples of old craftsmanship

The Council for British Archaeology for assistance on:

  • historic buildings
  • subterranean and standing structures

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to discuss buildings dating prior to 1700 and conservation.

The Georgian Group is concerned with architecture from 1700 to 1840.

The Victorian Society is involved in Victorian and Edwardian architecture dating from between 1840 and 1914.

Finally, the Twentieth Century Society specialises in architecture from 1914 onwards.