Martins Blog — Putting Back Period Features — Martin Roberts — Making Money From Property

Martin’s Blog — Putting Back Period Features

One of the joys of owning a period home is the beautiful period features that it has to offer. Whether it be exposed wooden ceiling beams, dainty etched glass panels in doors, ornate cornicing or grand fireplaces, very often it is the trove of period treasures that gives a property its distinct character.

Speaking to owners of Victorian, Georgian, Tudor or other period homes, it is usually the presence of these features that drew them to the house. But its not always the case and sadly in many restoration projects that I visit, these characterful details have been pulled out or replaced.

Thankfully, there are plenty of enthusiastic property renovators who take great pride in restoring period properties to their former glory and strive to put back in features that are close to what would have been originally there. And, if you can do it sensibly, there is a strong financial case too — especially if the property is in a Conservation Area. An English Heritage survey of estate agents found that 82% felt that original features tend to add financial value to properties and 78% thought that they help a property to sell more quickly

Restoring period features

Firstly, do some research before diving in. Many old properties will have been adapted and expanded over time — as families grew, very often so did the house. You can find features dating back to different eras in a single home — high ceilings, bay windows and ornate cornicing in one part and then sash windows and smaller rooms in another. The best thing is to explore the era that it was originally built in — along with subsequent periods that may have had an influence.

Be prepared to run up some expense. Returning a period house to its former glory can be an expensive exercise and the purist renovator can see his time and hard earned cash disappear into a seemingly black hole.

If you’re renovating for an investment and therefore have budget and time considerations, opt for authentic features that have maximum visual impact and that you will be aware of on a daily basis. Features such as doors, windows and shutters, floors, fireplaces, bathroom and kitchen fittings are part of daily life for the home’s occupants and will be seen and used regularly, so its better to spend your time restoring these well than worrying about the minute details. Restoring cornices, ceiling roses, dado rails, skirting and staircase details are all well and good but won’t transform a property on their own, unless the more obvious features haven’t been sorted out.

If finding authentic pieces isn’t possible, there are many good quality reproductions on the market. Try to seek out craftsman-made items over mass-produced wherever possible.

Period features to consider re-instating

Fireplaces All too often walled in during the 60s and 70s. A period fireplace can have a dramatic impact on a room — but make sure you choose a style that is appropriate for the building, like a Victorian fireplace in a Victorian terrace.

Ceilings Think cornices, ceiling roses, dado and picture rails. Re-creating these in plaster can be pricey, but there are modern day replicas, which look good.

Staircases Many were boxed in during the 1960s or replaced by modern banisters. To re-instate the period look, go for original newel posts and banisters.

Windows There are specialist companies that can restore sash windows. Large bay windows are typical of certain eras as well as small paned windows in cottages.

Doors — Many period houses had beautiful stained glass in interior doors which, if re-instated can look incredible. Wood paneled doors can also be striped of paint which may have been used in later times.

Floors and doors Check for original floorboards, which may be sanded and varnished. Lift the carpets and you may discover parquet floors or original tiling which just need some TLC to come up sparkling.

Before you start

1. Understand the fabric of your period house. A builder or surveyor will be able to tell you what your house is made from, and then suggest what you can or cant do in terms of extending or adding fixtures and fittings.

2. Have a large contingency fund to fall back on. Scratching the surface of period property may reveal a number of unwelcome surprises, so keep this in mind before you even start your project.

3. Decide if youre doing a renovation or a restoration. The former is about making the house what you want regardless of existing style and architecture. The latter is all about character and style, essentially taking it back to or close to its original state.

4. Set aside more budget than you would do for a modern home as standard fixtures and fittings may not work, and bespoke items inevitably can cost more.

5. Visit your local salvage yard when it comes to replacing or mending interior features.

Martin’s Tips

1. Be aware of regional characteristics of a property such as Minton tiles in the potteries areas of northern England. These were used extensively in the Victorian era, in these regions. However, property built during the same period in London, for example, may have boasted different fittings and styles.

2. Make sure you allow plenty of budget if you want to repair or restore ornate plasterwork. Even recreating a small part of original ornate coving in a room could cost you more than replacing the whole lot with a modern day equivalent. It is a specialist job and trades people can charge literally hundreds of pounds per meter.

3. Don’t ignore the garden and outdoor areas. Recreating features sympathetic to the age of the property itself, will produce a space in keeping with the rest of the home and will add value to the property.

4. Keep as much original wood as possible. Even if its in a poor state, restoring wooden windows frames, doors, skirting boards etc will be better than replacing them. Older properties benefit from hard word, unlike the modern day houses which usually have soft woods. You can get specialist sprays and paints to help restore old wood in situ.

5. Don’t ditch doors either. If they’ve accumulated layers of paint over the years, remove them and take them to a local salvage yard to have them dip stripped. This doesn’t cost the earth and you’ll end up with a lovely wooden door, thats authentic and will fit the door frame!

For more information on this topic, please visit the site store to order your SIGNED copy of Martin’s book, ‘Teach Yourself: Making Money From Property’ available for just 9.99 plus P+P.

Alternatively join me and my team on one of my Special 3 day Property Training Weekends. when we’ll teach you what you need to know to become successful as a property investor or developer — and help you avoid costly mistakes.

This article is written in good faith. Martin Roberts nor Making Money From Property cannot guarantee the accuracy of the content and cannot be held responsible for any losses (directly or indirectly) resulting from using the information given.

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