Period home renovation tips


Home renovation of any kind can be daunting. But when it comes to period properties it can be more so!

Even if you have renovated one or more modern houses, it is a totally different experience when it comes to older buildings.

Whether it’s forgetting to check whether it’s a listed property or you use the wrong materials, not getting it right can cost you in the long run.

And, worst of all, you could end up with an unsalable house. Also, failing to get the correct permissions can also lead to prosecutions in some cases.

Here, we highlight what we consider are the three most important tips when renovating a period property.


  1. Proper permissions

As with any renovations, the work you carry out may need permissions. As well as the usual planning permission and permitted development rules, there are others that apply to period properties.

If your house is listed or in a Conservation Area, you need to be prepared for the extra applications and paperwork that will be needed.

Listed Building Consent might be needed on top of usual planning permission. The entire structure internally and externally could be covered if it is given listed status, including objects fixed to it. So you need to be aware before making any plans.

Houses in Conservation Areas [] may be subject to further delays. As well as planning permission other authorities, such as your local conservation committee, will need to be consulted about your plans.

In Newcastle, areas such as Gosforth and Leazes and Saltwell in Gateshead are among the Conservation Areas in the North East.

In these areas you may not be able to simply change the windows or front door without getting consent first, especially if they alter the character of a street in a particular way.

A Conservation Area is different to a listed building status. In these areas, the house isn’t listed, but it will need to be renovated using original materials.

It usually applies to a whole street or collection of streets and is used to protect the character of a particular area.


  1. Don’t use incorrect materials

If your home is in a Conservation Area or listed, you can’t just swap old, rotting windows and doors with UPVC or composite versions.

For those in such an area, the local conservation committee may not allow certain things, such as double glazing because it can affect the look your street.

And even if your period home isn’t protected, you may decide that keeping its period feel is right. It certainly adds value if you retain the character of an older house.

Traditional wooden windows and doors are often, therefore, the only option. You can’t buy these items off the shelf, which is why you’ll need to speak to experts.

Our sister company, H&C Joinery, have a lot of experience in replacing, repairing and reinstalling the likes of sash windows. The experienced craftsmen are even able to recreate feature windows that cannot be made using aluminium or UPVC. []

We could (and we will) write a whole blog on period windows, especially the importance of getting sash windows right. No modern solution can match the traditional wooden version, so make sure you do your research.

Period doors with intricate designs also are another traditional feature that cannot be recreated using modern materials.

Traditional timber can stand the test of time, but you need to look after it properly. It is why you need to make sure you use quality paints once when the time comes for them to be freshened up.

Likewise, using modern paint for walls of a period home can lead to problems. That’s because old buildings usually have shallow foundations that are affected by ground movement.

As a result, cracks in the cement mean rain can penetrate and modern paint traps the damp. This can lead to frost damage. They will also need to use lime-based mortar rather than modern cement.

Getting it wrong, or cutting corners, will cost in the long-term, which is why you need a builder with experience if you are going to renovate a period property.


  1. Keep period detail

As we’ve already mentioned, not all period properties are in a Conservation Area. That means many period properties outside such an area may have been ‘modernised’.

Those details that add character and value could end up making your house worth a lot less.

How many times have you visited a period house and discovered that in the 70s it was ripped apart and converted into flats and features, such as fireplaces, were ripped out?

Suddenly, that original kerb appeal is lost as dull square rooms with plastered walls and poor remodelling leave you cold.

So if you are buying a period house, don’t remove the features that add character. We’re not just talking doors and windows, but plaster mouldings; fireplaces and floorboards.

Even changing the paint to modern colours can make a Victorian townhouse look like a student house! If you’re just buying your period property, choose paint in colours from the correct era, and with those period features, you’ll wow your guests.

If you’re unsure, why not choose something like Period Living [] magazine. It is always packed with detail about sourcing paint colours and features that preserve the little bit of history you’re now privileged to be part of.

If you need advice about your period home, especially replacing traditional wooden items, don’t hesitate to contact us for a chat.