SALLY COULTHARD’S RESTORATION TIPS
Get into the right mind-set. Restoration is not the same thing as refurbishment; a flatpack kitchen and a lick of paint are not going to suffice. You’ll need time, money and expertise.
Know what’s out there. There’s an almost endless variety of period properties to choose from, but Victorian and Edwardian houses are always a solid and reasonably priced choice. Farmhouses and Georgian properties tend to be in the highest demand and command a significant premium. Barns and chapels are also getting harder to find so it’s also worth considering unusual buildings such as workshops or cinemas.
Build a budget. Taking into account purchase price, professional fees, repairs and a healthy contingency fund (at least 15 per cent for a period property). If you plan to keep the property, you’ll also need to calculate the ongoing maintenance costs.
Get a proper survey. Period properties are full of idiosyncrasies. A normal building survey – especially one commissioned by a mortgage company – may not take into account the special nature of old buildings and recommend inappropriate repairs. Find a surveyor at www. buildingconservation.com
Employ experts. Some of the jobs on a restoration project, such as thatching or stonemasonry, should be left to the experts. Learn when to DIY and when to call in the professionals.
Do your homework. Immerse yourself in books about architectural history and traditional building construction. You might not want to do any of the hands-on restoration yourself, but you should be knowledgeable about the subject and fully involved in decisions.
Learn what to leave alone. More damage can be done in over-restoring a property than under-restoring it. If an architectural feature is broken or damaged, always try to repair it rather than replace it.
Use authentic materials. Modern building materials are often incompatible with the needs of old buildings. Instead of using cement, use lime render which lets your building breathe, absorbs condensation and allows damp to evaporate. And as lime is a relatively soft material, it can accommodate the slight movements that buildings often experience.
Love your local planner. Whether the property is Listed or not, it’s important to keep up a good relationship with planning and conservation officers. They can make or break your plans.
Set up a contacts book. Specialist builds need specialist help. There are hundreds of organisations out there. These include The Listed Property Owners’ Club (www.lpoc.co.uk), the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (ww.spab.org), Period Property UK (www.periodproperty.co.uk), and the Conservation Register (www.conservationregister.com)