Period Property Maintenance and Renovation: Dos & Don’ts

Period Property Maintenance and Renovation: Dos & Don’ts

If you need to update a period property or fully refurbish a listed building, the process may be more involved than for a modern home with a less sensitive structure.

There are many ways to renovate a unique older residence with sympathy towards the traditional materials used and achieve a striking result that blends heritage with convenience.

Here we draw on our years of expertise in listed and period property maintenance and renovation to share some of our tips to help you get started.

The Challenges of Period Property Maintenance

The charm of an older building is undeniable – but many require a great deal of maintenance, if not a wider renovation, to deal with the dampness and draughts common in period homes.

With some skill and knowledge, this doesn’t have to drain your resources. By enhancing the existing character, you can preserve and refurbish rather than trying to replace each element, one brick at a time. Some of the biggest issues can be that older homes are simply bigger than the buildings we construct today.

Therefore, rather than spending your budget on outbuildings, landscaping or parts of the property that aren’t crucial, we’d suggest you begin with key spaces, such as the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. A systematic approach will ensure you prioritise those more important projects first. You will often find it far easier to finance ongoing works if you have already made improvements to the fundamental rooms within the property.

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

First – don’t discard any materials or flooring that don’t appear to be in immaculate condition. Heritage homes and listed buildings can be full of valuable materials and quality hardwoods that, even if they require maintenance or replacement, can easily be used elsewhere without buying anything new.

It can be tempting to start tearing down walls or ripping off old paper, but it is better to explore the available resources and live in the home for a short while to assess how you will use the space. Refurbishing what you already have might take longer than replacing each fitting, but original features add significant value and interest to the character of a period home. Think renovated floorboards, reconditioned balustrades, ceiling roses, light switches, stairways, glazing – all of these fixtures that you simply cannot replace like-for-like.

For example, you might need to rewire old electrics, but if you can retain those lighting points, switches and handles, your finished renovation will be all the better.

Explore Traditional Materials and Techniques

Older homes were built slowly, carefully, and with selected materials chosen for their performance properties and longevity. You’ll find many period properties still with horsehair plaster and oak beams that would be prohibitively expensive today.

Traditional materials such as lime mortar may be harder to come by at your local DIY store. Still, an experienced local professional often has years of knowledge to share. If you can replicate these crafts, you can often restore or improve existing walls and installations rather than trying to tear back elements of the property that have stood for generations.

Once you learn about the history of your building, you might also consider how it was built and maintained and look into using contractors who understand those approaches, often passed down as a family trade. Although a set of power tools might seem more efficient for some tasks, they could be detrimental and too harsh or powerful for the delicacy of an older building.

Choose a Contractor With Period Property Expertise

Looking after an older home isn’t a job that all modern contractors can undertake because the materials, applications, techniques and considerations are very different from a newer property.

Renovation is about much more than aesthetics and involves:

  • Specialist knowledge about working with certain materials.
  • Sourcing unusual fixtures or traditional building components.
  • Applying the correct techniques to augment the property’s character.
  • Protecting the structural integrity of the building.

Plastering, for example, would traditionally have been done with lime plaster and roofing with stone slate.

If you commission a local expert who has worked on similar period properties, they will be able to source those materials and apply them to prolong the building’s life and avoid replacing entire walls or ceilings unnecessarily.

Apply for the Correct Planning Permission

Generally, any property built before 1914 is considered a period home. Although planning permission rules vary between areas, you are more likely to need consent to alter or adapt a residence of this age.

If you have a listed building, you will certainly need formal permission to make changes to the structure and may be bound by rules about which materials you can use.

Some of the other factors to think about are:

  • Permitted development vs planning permission – even if your maintenance project appears to fall within the scope of permitted development, you should always confirm this with the local authority before work begins.
  • Conservation areas – homes that are not listed but are within protected conservation areas, or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will require additional permission, normally following a site visit and presentation of detailed drawings.
  • Listed buildings – Listed Building Consent is additional to planning permission. Unless your list entry says otherwise, the protection applies to the whole property, inside and out, fixtures and other nearby structures.

Ensuring you have permission and the support of the local authority is essential to avoid fines, legal challenges or even criminal charges if you have failed to apply for mandatory consent.

The Highs and Lows of Period Property Maintenance and Renovation

Listed or period homes command care and attention from their present-day custodians. Although they sometimes feel like a labour of love, it is well worth the experience of living in a distinctive older property with a wealth of history.

Pinnacle Works are a full-service West Sussex building firm and are privileged to have worked on some very special local properties – if you need any support with your renovation or maintenance, please get in touch at your convenience. Our skilled contractors can support you at each stage, whether you are planning a full-scale renovation of a newly acquired period home or need professional advice to prepare for ongoing maintenance requirements.


The Benefits of a Professional Plastering Contractor for your Interiors

The Benefits of a Professional Plastering Contractor for your Interiors

There are many home maintenance and decoration tasks you can do yourself, and DIY can be a great way to express your creativity and learn new skills. However, DIY plastering often ends in disaster and is far more skilled and intricate than many other general jobs.

At Pinnacle Works we offer a complete plastering service, whether you require a razor-sharp, smooth edge or a more detailed plaster effect to restore a period property feature.

In this article we share some guidance to explain the importance of using an accomplished plastering contractor and some of the common pitfalls we see following a DIY plaster disaster!

What is Plastering?

You’ll likely find plaster throughout your home, on the walls and ceilings. In essence, this finish protects your interior and provides a smooth surface to paint or hang wallpaper.

Typical plasters are blended from gypsum, cement or lime, which come in a dry powder and are mixed carefully with an accurate water measurement to develop a paste ready for application.

The Plastering Process

Let’s run through a basic explanation of what’s involved:

1. Surface Preparation

First, we assess the condition of the surface and prepare it for plastering. You must address any issues with damp, mould, rust or other deterioration before plastering takes place.

2. Plaster Mixing

Next, our plastering team prepares the plaster. There are multiple different application types, and heritage properties may require a specific blend of materials to comply with Listed Building requirements.

3. Plaster Application

Watching a skilled plasterer can be mesmerising. The process involves using firm upward strokes with an angled trowel and flattening the tool at the end of each motion to perfectly smooth the plaster.

4. Drying Time

Finally, your plaster needs to dry, and then your selected decoration is applied. Correctly applied plaster will dry relatively quickly and can be primed ready for painting.

Getting the blend and the application right is vital for appearance and ensuring the surface maintains fire-proof qualities for household safety.

Skimming vs Plastering Explained

The exact work you require will depend on the nature of your project. Skimming and plastering are often interchanged, but to a contractor are two different tasks.

Skimming, or skim plastering, means that a thin coat of plaster is applied to an existing wall on top of the current layer. This work is usually necessary when the surface area isn’t smooth and can be a restorative task for period properties to ensure the walls can be painted and kept in good condition.

A skimming project may sound simpler than plastering a bare wall. Still, it’s often a more difficult job, whereby the finish must be precise, absolutely smooth, and provide a perfect surface that you can paint or decorate.

Why Is Quality Plastering Important?

Pinnacle Works plasterers have years of training and vast experience in achieving outstanding finishes in a minimal application time.

The quality of your plastering work will have a significant impact on the aesthetic of your completed room and on the overall cost you need to budget for:

  • Poor plastering will crack or produce lumps and unsightly bubbles.
  • Inconsistent finishes make it very tricky to hang wallpaper and will be highlighted when applying paint.
  • Improper technique means that tight corners and edges will usually crumble or show gaps and uneven edges.
  • The wrong type of plaster can be catastrophic! Interior plaster used outdoors, for example, can fall away from the wall or collapse entirely.
  • A badly plastered wall will need to be removed and replaced from scratch, costing considerably more than a capable plastering contractor.
  • Substandard interiors will often impact the saleable value of your property.
  • Too much or too little plaster applied unequally will mean an uneven, wobbly wall.

While many DIY videos make plastering look effortless, don’t be mistaken in that it’s easy to get right without training.

One of the most severe issues is that any task involving wet materials, ladders and potentially handling live wiring requires a competent contractor to ensure all the work is compliant with health and safety regulations.

DIY Plastering or Professional Plastering Contractor?

Before you’re tempted to give plastering a go, we’d advise taking a look at some of the frequent mistakes we come across.

One of the common problems with DIY plaster is that the type of plaster isn’t appropriate. There isn’t one universal plaster mix suited for indoor and outdoor sites or rooms with higher damp concentrations, so the wrong plaster mix will inevitably need to be replaced.

Home improvements can be an exciting opportunity to get hands-on, but the exacting nature of plastering and the delicate blend to achieve an optimal plaster mix isn’t usually something you can achieve without practice.

Benefits of Using a Plastering Contractor

As we’ve explained, it’s highly advisable you use a qualified plastering contractor to ensure you get the quality and look you’re after.

There are many benefits to using an experienced professional:

  • Detail is crucial. Plastering with gaps and bubbles is impossible to disguise, so attention to the finish is vital.
  • Skilled plastering contractors work fast. Our teams are efficient and provide all the necessary equipment to complete your job from start to end – meaning you can move on to the next phase promptly.
  • Properly applied plaster is durable and will last for decades. Poorly applied plaster, conversely, will often require replacement in just a few short months.

Plaster might be a rigid material, but mistakes at the application stage can be costly and cause irreparable damage to your walls. Particularly when looking at plaster coving, ceiling roses or cornices, the level of detail is impossible to achieve without using a contractor with ample experience in similarly complex projects.

Pinnacle Works is a full-service building contractor working with clients across Sussex and beyond. We hope this brief guide to plastering helps identify the right way to achieve the quality and appearance you expect! If you need any assistance with a plastering project or a plastering problem, please get in touch for friendly advice from the plastering professionals.