for People with a Passion for Period Property
Ask an Agony Uncle!
Stephen Boniface - Stephen Boniface specialises in building conservation providing multi-disciplinary consulting services. He is Chairman of the Building Surveying Faculty and member of the Residential faculty. He serves on the RICS Building Conservation Forum Board and is the 'Agony Uncle' on the Period Property UK website (www.periodproperty.co.uk).

Ask our Agony Uncles ...

You can write to our panel of experts free of charge on any subject, providing it's got something to do with Period Properties.

Our experts are all specialists in matters directly involved with older properties. So, if you have a problem with an older building - or if you think you might have a problem - ask an Agony Uncle...

 

SUBJECT: Is he or is he not using lime mortar
FROM: Ms A Smart (Northumberland)
A builder has started some repair work on my grade 2 listed building yesterday. He says he is using lime mortar - is there an easy way for me (who knows nothing about building) to tell if it really is lime mortar? (The builder has been chosen by a loss adjuster and I don't have much confidence as when I got home last night they have been working on the wall without propping the roof as specified!)

A Smart

Many builders nowadays call a mortar with lime in it a 'lime mortar' this is not the same as traditional lime mortar. The modern variant is a cement mortar with lime added to give some plasticity. The traditional form has no cement.

The best way for a 'lay person' to tell what is being used is to simply look around the site. Are there bags of cement (cement only comes in bags and is clearly labelled)? Is there a bag or two of lime, or is there a tub of lime putty? Is there much more lime than cement (if any), or simply a small amount.

Without knowing precisely what was specified I cannot be specific, but if it is a traditional lime mortar there should be no cement on site and quite a lot of lime (whether bagged or in tubs).

If the work is not being undertaken in accordance with the specification get the loss adjuster in immediately. Who is administering the job? If not the loss adjuster, get the contract administrator (the professional employed to write the specification and oversee works - usually an architect, surveyor or engineer) to sort it out.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: What should we look for and what issues need we be aware of when buying a 300-year-old property?
FROM: Marjorie Roberts (Worcestershire)
We are looking at purchasing a grade II listed house which is over 300 yrs old. What should we be looking out for? What are the rules and regulations with such properties? What would are restrictions be?

Marjorie Roberts

The first principle to ownership, survey, etc of any property is to UNDERSTAND THE BUILDING.

This means make sure you know what it is built of, how it has been altered, extended, etc. Understand how the building functions and what may have changed between the time of its construction and today. Works undertaken over the years may have had a detrimental impact on the building. Some of these are matters for professionals to advise upon, but some may be matters that you will want or need to find out for yourself.

Regarding your inspection, look to see whether the property has been well maintained - for example are there signs of leaking gutters, etc? Look to see if modern materials (hard cement renders, plasterboard, etc) have been used in recent years - these could be a cause of future problems. Look to see if there are any obviously recent works and if so ask what permissions were obtained.

Do not be afraid to ask questions of the vendor about the history of the house and what they have done to it, or know to have been undertaken in the past.

From the point of view of legislation the grade of listing is irrelevant. The legislation in effect says that any work (whether internal or external) that affects the character of the listed building requires consent. Failure to get appropriate consent is a criminal offence and could lead to fines (or even imprisonment in very serious cases). The implementation of the legislation is down to the local Council through their Conservation Officer (English Heritage get involved in London and elsewhere get involved only where the building is Grade I or II*). How rigorously the law is implemented will depend on the political will of the Council, the attitude of the CO and even the position of the CO within the hierarchy of the Council officers. Some Council's are very rigid and some seem to have no care at all (some - very few nowadays - have no CO!).

Note that the list description has no legal standing in terms of the implementation of the legislation. The law relates to the interior as much as to the exterior. The grade is not an issue in whether the law applies.

The grading may influence how the law is interpreted and the amount of 'alteration' that may be allowed. The intent of the law is NOT to prevent change, after all if these historic buildings are to survive into the future sensitive change has to be allowed to allow for modern day living. The key to any change is 'sensitivity'.

Some buildings are so unique (regardless of grade) that almost any work alters the character and it may be that very little will be permitted by way of future alteration. However, many (even Grade I) are capable of withstanding some alteration, extension, etc provided it is very carefully and sensitively handled and detailed.

I would urge anyone buying a listed building to have a private independent survey beforehand. Although many professions claim to undertake this type of work I would suggest you look for a Chartered Building Surveyor with experience (proven track record) in historic buildings. Do not rely on the mortgage valuation and do not go for a 'Homebuyer' (mid-range) type of report. If you do not want a full building survey ask the surveyor to tailor the report to your specific requirements and concerns.

One you have purchased and are thinking of alteration seek further advice from the surveyor and/or an Architect experienced in dealing with such work to historic buildings. Look for an architect with a proven track record of such work and perhaps someone who has a good working relationship with the Council (i.e. knows their preferences, etc).

As a general rule a good building surveyor is best at defect diagnosis and advice on repairs, etc whereas a good architect is best at advising on sensitive alteration and extension. If a serious structural problem is suspected or identified by the surveyor you may then need the advice of an engineer, again someone experienced in the sensitive structural repair of historic buildings.

You will note from the Discussion Forum that the issue of what is or is not allowed, what type of survey, what professional to use, etc are all regular topics.

I hope that the above is a sufficient but brief overview.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Pebbledashed exterior ruins dream period property
FROM: Kay McCluskey (Greater London)
My husband and I have recently viewed a detached Edwardian property in Hampshire. It incorporated everything that we are seeking except for the fact that the whole of the exterior is pebbledashed. Are we right in thinking that this type of rendering can create a damp problem? Is there any way that it could be removed without causing damage to the brickwork, or is such a measure unnecessary? Alternatively, could it be painted to improve it's appearance or may this too, result in damp problems down the line?

Presumably, pebbledash is just a rendering technique with no beneficial purpose to the structure. I would rather leave well alone if it poses no threat to the building.

Kay McCluskey

Pebbledash is a form of render and variants of this have been used for centuries. However, with many historic buildings a lime render would have been the base render for such. Around the end of the 19th century pebbledash became popular - or more accurately rough-cast. Pebbledash is strictly speaking the application (throwing) of pebbles, etc into a wet render already applied to the wall. Roughcast is the mixing of pebbles in with the render and then it is then thrown onto the wall. The finished appearance is different, but most people tend to confuse the two. Rough cast is sometimes also known as Tyrolean or Harling. During the Arts and Crafts movement (late 19th/early 20th centuries) it was popular to use the rough cast form rendering. In fact rough cast was popular during the early part of the 20th century. Then in the 1920s/30s pebbledash became more popular (particularly on Council housing) and then in the 1960s-1970s became very common. However, its popularity in the 60s and 70s was mainly to cover old defects. Many properties suffered bomb damage in the 1940s and so pebbledash became a quick easy and cheap way of covering old defects. The almost ubiquitous use of pebbledash as a wall finish also coincided with the advent of the 'subsidence problem' in the 1970s and 1980s. Pebbledash is also commonly used to disguise past alterations (e.g. old doorways being infilled, etc). Some people (believe it or not) actually like its appearance. Therefore, the application of pebbledash is not necessarily to hide something, but of course this was its purpose on some houses. I hope this brief guide to the modern history of this material is helpful.

As your property is Edwardian the question is whether you are in fact talking of original rough cast or a subsequent application of pebbledash?

Any form of modern render can result in moisture being trapped behind (whether plain or pebbledashed in some way). This is particularly a problem if the render has been taken down to ground and/or if the building is an older type that is of a 'breathable' structure. The main problem with pebbledash is that it is based on an impermeable cement based render.

The question you must answer is whether there is any visible or other sign of dampness resulting from the pebbledash? If not then I would be inclined to leave it alone.

Yes pebbledash can be painted and this can sometimes prevent loose material falling off and improve e its appearance.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Can you wallpaper over sandstone walls?
FROM: Mike Byrne (Cheshire)

We have been in our 300-year-old sandstone cottage for 5 years and have tied to wallpaper our bedroom. The problem is after about 3 months we have a black fungus appearing. We wash it down with the correct fungi remover but it still comes back, so off with the paper and on with the paint and no problem, my wife has been told you cant wallpaper over sandstone, can you please resolve this debate.

Mike Byrne

Sandstone is a porous stone and is usually quite permeable. The black fungi sounds like a condensation problem. The fact you cannot get wallpaper to stay up also suggests a rather moisture rich substrate. I would advise against anything that prevents the permeability of the wall, because this could lead to longer term problems of moisture trapped in the wall. Ordinary lining paper does not prevent permeability but is difficult to hang on a surface that is moist.

Historically such problems were overcome by dry lining the wall (the Georgians often used timber battens and then a dry lining of panelling or lath and plaster).

I suggest you make do with a limewash finish straight onto the wall, or use a modern dry lining system so that you can create a dry inner face onto which you can then decorate. However, any dry lining must allow for the breathability of the wall structure behind.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Roofer suggests my lead roof is defective due to crystallisation. Is there such a defect?
FROM: Lee Brace (Essex)
I have been told that my lead sheet roof is defective, as the lead has crystallised. I have never heard of this building defect and would appreciate it if you could advise us as to what causes it and if indeed it is a defect.

Lee Brace

Very old lead is of such thickness that this was rarely a problem in the past. Modern lead is thinner and until recent years such problems were not common. However, all lead does deteriorate and some oxidation of the surfaces is inevitable. In the past the first signs of deterioration may be a ripple, blister or split and sometimes the boards would start to show through the lead.

In recent years the problem of underside corrosion has been discovered. This seems to be related to the insertion of insulation, etc and removal of some ventilation. Basically, it usually occurs where condensation is able to form on the underside of the lead.

Yes it is a problem and it sounds like you may need to have the lead renewed. There are now recommended ways of laying lead and dealing with the voids below, etc to help reduce the risk of this happening. I suggest you look up the web site of the Lead Development Association (http://www.ldaint.org) or speak to them about this. They publish a number of books and leaflets that might help you. They can also provide a list of suitable leadworkers in your area.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Advice required following survey on Victorian property reveals penetrative damp.
FROM: A Smith (Greater London)
A condition survey has been carried out on a late Victorian, solid wall, end of terrace, four-storey property. It has revealed long-term damp penetration to the internal surfaces of the rear external wall of the property at each storey level and also damp penetration to the lower parts of all walls in the semi-basement. Please could you: 1) describe the possible causes of damp in these situations 2) recommend remedial action to eradicate the dampness 3) describe other investigations which should be carried out on the structure of the building as a consequence of finding damp penetration.

A Smith

Be wary of any reading that is the result of a hand held moisture meter only. These are sensitive instruments but merely give an indication of whether there might be moisture. They were originally developed for use in timber and are only calibrated for use in plaster, etc. They can be unreliable. That said, to answer your questions: 1) Penetrating damp due to leaking/overflowing gutters, defective pointing, defective joinery, severe weather exposure. Leaks from buried pipes in the wall (e.g. rising main). Condensation, particularly if the wall in question gets most of the prevailing wind and rain. To the basement areas the problem is most likely to be dampness penetrating laterally through the wall where the wall is below ground level and then travelling up through the structure, plaster, etc. The problem in the basement could be exacerbated if a concrete floor has been laid (that is not original), as this could be forcing ground moisture to find another route out, i.e. into and up the walls.

2) Not until the precise cause of the problem is established. Deal with any obvious maintenance matters such as clearing gutters and dealing with leaks. Check the pointing and have patch repair undertaken where necessary. Check joinery and have it repaired where rotten. Have plumbing and heating checked for any leaks. Look at the position of radiators/heaters in the room and consider the heating, ventilation and insulation to see if any of these need altering, updating, improving, etc. These actions could all help to resolve a condensation problem. In the basement there are many possible solutions but if the basement is partly or fully underground and was originally just a store that has been converted to habitable use you may find that no retrospective system is wholly satisfactory. Nonetheless, modern drained/ventilated cavity systems are perhaps better than others. If the walls have been tanked in the past this may have started to break down and may need renewal. In some circumstances I might suggest taking up a concrete floor and laying a breathable floor or a timber floor with ventilated void beneath.

3) Get someone who has no vested interest in the result of their investigations, etc. You should pay for this service rather than accept a 'free survey'. A Chartered Building Surveyor should be able to undertake all appropriate investigations. Rising damp will not be the cause of the problems in the upper floors and therefore most of the so-called high street specialists will be unwilling or unable to advise properly in these areas. If a true rising damp problem is suspected in the basement further specialist investigation might include taking a core sample of the wall and having it properly analysed.

I am sorry if this answer is rather vague, but on the information provided I can only give a rather generalised answer. Nevertheless, I hope this helps.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: How do I remove stone cladding and then finish the walls?.
FROM: Sue Finn (Hampshire)
I have a turn of the (19th) century terraced house, which has stone cladding on half of the front wall. The front of the house also suffers from damp problems. A piece of cladding has recently fallen off, so would it make sense to remove all the cladding and if so, what should I do to the wall once the cladding has been removed?

Sue Finn

Surprise, surprise. The cladding is, I assume, a late 20th century alteration (crazy paving up the wall?). This will often create a condensation problem at the face of the wall with the cladding. This then leads to dampness inside (usually condensation) and sometimes bridging of the DPC if the cladding is all the way down to ground level. If it has started to fall off I would tend to advise complete careful removal (you could perhaps use the cladding for what it was really meant for - paving!). The problem is that the original wall face will probably be damaged. It is unlikely that you will be able to leave the wall as exposed brickwork. I therefore suggest that once the cladding has been removed you consider having the elevations rendered. I would prefer the use of a traditional lime render or perhaps a naturally hydraulic lime render. The Lime Centre at Winchester should be able to advise further on such matters.

The render should stop at DPC level or about 150 mm above ground and there should be a neat bell-mouth type drip edge. This is to avoid bridging the DPC.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Advice required on finishing touches to Victorian property's front garden?
FROM: Ceridwen Maddock Jones (Surrey)
My partner and I are trying to renovate our 1897 detached house and are wondering how the Victorians would have had the brick wall at the front of the property bordering the smallish front garden. We were thinking of using reclaimed stock bricks and some decorative iron grills, we are also intend to tile the pathway to the frontdoor in black and terracotta quarry tiles. Is this in keeping with the original features of the house?

Ceridwen Maddock Jones

I once lived in a house of almost the same date. We had a path of black and white small tiles in a chequered diamond pattern with a black and white straight border. Others on the estate had multi-coloured encaustic tiles laid in various geometric patterns. You will find a wide variety in the use of coloured tiles for paths. Look at your estate and in the area generally for clues. Look in pattern books or 'period style' books to get further ideas. Some were simply plain terracotta tiled pathways.

The wall is again something that can vary widely. In the house I was brought up in the front wall was made from brick kiln leftovers, the burnt bricks that were unusable for building the house. These were randomly laid and made quite an attractive front wall feature. However, other properties would have different wall constructions. Our previous house (with the chequered path) had a simple plain yellow stock brick wall. Iron railings would have been used on higher quality houses.

With all of this, look for clues at other houses on your estate on in your district. Look at other estates in nearby towns that were developed by the same builders, as this can often give clues. As with today, Victorian builders were often tempted by 'job lots' and they would therefore use the same materials, patterns, etc for a large number of properties.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Yes you are mad to remove original marble fireplace and replace it with reclaimed fireplace.
FROM: Joanne Littlewood (Cheshire)
We live in a Victorian terrace dated 1864. 1. In the main living room is a marble fireplace which we believe to be original. We don't like the look of it and would like to replace it with a reclaimed original cast iron surround. Do you think we are mad? 2. In the second sitting room at the rear of the property, a gas fire has been installed. We know that there was once a real fire here, as the stone hearth remains. Is it likely that a cast iron surround has been removed from here, or would it be likely that there was never a cast iron fireplace, just a brick fireplace that we could recover?

Joanne Littlewood

Simple answer - Yes - maybe you are mad!

If the building is listed you will be committing a criminal offence in taking out the fireplace without consent. I doubt if consent would be given.

If the cast iron surround is reclaimed, how can it be original? You probably mean that it is of the same period. However, cast iron surrounds tended to be used for bedrooms, servant's rooms, rooms of lower quality. Marble, slate, etc were used for the best rooms. The marble fireplace probably had a cast iron insert with grate. I assume the new fire surround you refer to is completely cast iron, which is not simply an insert.

I suspect that what has happened is that the marble surround has been left but the original insert removed. I suggest you look at finding a really nice insert of the right period and leaving the surround in place. You can then get the fireplace working again (probably with some specialist input).

If the building is not listed it is up to you what you do. Bear in mind that the fireplace has a value and if you take it out make sure it goes to a good home - where it will be appreciated! From what you describe the room is one of the more important in the house and any fire surround, insert, etc should be of an appropriate quality. I would not regard leaving a brick opening as suitable. Remember that the fireplace is the central feature of a room. More and more purchasers are looking to see original features retained.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Work on Victorian conversion by freeholder causes damage to my flat.
FROM: M Smith (Liverpool)
I live in a Victorian conversion, the ground floor is a commercial property and the two other floors contain two flats. The Freeholder, who has been granted planning permission from the local council, is currently undertaking major work on the ground floor (the shop). We have had dust, noise and bad smells coming through our flat, which is situated above the shop, for the last year and a half. During work, when RSJ was put in, our bedroom floor dropped by an inch and the floor subsided, this has now been corrected. We have now received a letter from a Surveyor, who is writing on behalf of the Freeholder, that the same ceiling now needs further repair to three of its joists. In order for this to go ahead the Freeholder has given us two weeks notice before they are coming in to take the ceiling - OUR BEDROOM FLOOR out. As you might imagine, we are devastated. We are the leaseholders of our flat but it doesn't seem to matter. In our contract it states that the Freeholder can come in and do work but we don't understand why the ceiling, which had the RSJ, needs to be touched again. I have been in contact with the local council but they don't want to know and are just stating that all work is done under the regulations. Could you please advise us what to do or maybe who to contact, do we have any rights? How long time does this kind of work normally take and what does it involve? Will we be able to stay in the flat when the work is being done or are we forced to move out?

M Smith

Your question does not make it clear the length of your leasehold interest.

In any event, provided you have a lease for more than a year the work you describe (both that undertaken and that proposed) would seem to fall under the Party Wall Act (a dividing floor between flats is a party structure under the terms of the Act) and you should have been served with appropriate notices. As such unless the Freeholder has issued you with a proper and valid notice and the procedures properly followed he cannot undertake the work. If he commences without such matters being properly dealt with you can get an injunction to stop him (the costs issue is something to watch out for though). This is all dealt with by the Party Wall Act 1996 (www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk ). For further reference please look at the web site of the Pyramus & Thisbe Club - a strange name, but an organisation of those of us involved in party wall matters - the web site is www.partywalls.org.uk. Without more information I cannot be more specific, but the web site includes a search facility (under the 'consultants' section) so that you can find a local party wall surveyor who can then advise you further. These comments apply to properties in England and I would assume Scotland and other parts of the UK, but I am not sure of this. On the matter of access, it will depend on the precise terms of your lease. It should set out the terms under which the Freeholder/Landlord can gain access and the notice that has to be given. However, even if proper notice has been served under the terms of the lease, the Party Wall Act will still apply and would (I believe) override the lease terms. As with much legislation etc, the term 'reasonableness' will apply. The Freeholder cannot use the terms of the lease to gain access for works that could be undertaken without such access. If the Freeholder's notice relates to unreasonable works or requires unreasonable access I am not sure the Courts would uphold it. Further, the lease will probably provide for suitable compensation if you have to move out because of the work the Freeholder wants to undertake. Regarding these matters you will need to seek legal advice. You should look at your Home Contents Insurance to see if it includes cover for legal costs in the event of a dispute. If so, telephone them and ask for their help and guidance. Otherwise, or as well as, speak to a solicitor at your local Citizens Advisory Bureau. Of course, the Freeholder might argue that the works will benefit you and you could even be facing a bill for a proportion of the cost if this is the case. This then brings in other matters such as the notice required when sums of money are being incurred. If the works are such that the Freeholder can recover some of the cost from you then works over a certain value (the amount is not at my fingertips I am afraid - I think it might be 1,000 or perhaps 250 contribution from each leaseholder) must be the subject of advance notice and you should have sight of two estimates. In any event, you should seek legal advice on these matters.

On the practical issue, you may need assurance of why this work is necessary (apart from any legal requirement regarding reasonableness). If you lack confidence in the Freeholder's surveyor you may have to employ your own to provide you with independent advice.

From what you describe, there are a number of issues that need to be considered. This may turn out to be a complex matter and I strongly advise you to seek legal and professional (surveyor) advice. In the meantime you could simply refuse access in which case the Freeholder would need to get a Court Order. Of course if the Freeholder is successful the costs associated with the Court Order may be recoverable from you.

Apologies for the lengthy reply, but I hope you find some help here.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Can we get grant aid for work on our period properties?
FROM: Steve Clark (Surrey)
We need to a Kitchen which doesn't exist and a new roof on a grade II Farmhouse, what grant aid help is available please?

Steve Clark

FROM: Justine Gee (Cambridgeshire)
We have recently purchased the parish hall in Ely and are going through the process of planning etc. to convert the property into six flats. When complete we wish to rent the properties. We would like to know if there are any grants or funding that could be available to us to help with the conversion.

Justine Gee

There are various grants available for various purposes, some are means tested.

With regard to listed buildings, grants are sometimes available from the Local Council for urgent repairs. These are often very small and usually means tested. Some may be available for repair or reinstatement of specific features. Most local grants would not be available for new owners (the argument being that the price paid should have reflected the repairs/works needed).

English Heritage grants are usually only for Grade I and II* buildings and then rarely given. Most grants relating to the fact the building is listed would be means tested and would often only cover urgent repairs and/or reinstatement of features (that might not otherwise be reinstated or repaired and could therefore be lost forever).

Lottery fund money is not available to private individuals.

If the property requires amenities not yet in the property (bathrooms, WCs, etc) there may be improvement grants available, but again these are means tested. Such grants are not related to whether the building is listed. Some grants may be available if the works are specifically for a disabled person who will occupy the building, i.e. person specific. Again, these are not related to whether the building is listed. Grants are not usually available simply to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act in the more general sense. In any event, the DDA will only apply to buildings where a public service is provided.

The Building Regulations may require certain works, but that is a matter of simple compliance and is not something that might attract a grant.

I know of no grant that would be given to someone where there is no wider benefit than to the owners themselves. If the property is in a town centre, conservation area, or similar and subject to a special improvement scheme (e.g. Heritage Environment Regeneration Scheme) you may find that some money is available to assist.

Justine - I can think of no grant that would be available for what seems to be a purely commercial enterprise. If you have done your sums correctly you should not need a grant. That said, some of the work may qualify for VAT exemption. Once you have your permissions in place (including listed building consent) go and see the local Customs and Excise officer and discuss exemption BEFORE starting any work. If employing a contractor the contractor zero rates certain works, but must then have the documentation available should C&E ever question him/her. Further, if at a later date C&E decide VAT should have been paid after all, the contractor may come back to you to pay the extra.

Steve - I doubt if there would be any grant for the kitchen - improvement grants are for bathrooms and WCs usually. However, if LBC is required you might qualify for VAT exemption on some of the work. The roof repair may attract a small grant, but not if you recently purchased.

For non-commercial schemes but ones that do not purely benefit an individual (i.e. charities), there may be other sources of money. Building Preservation Trusts can be set up for a single building project and could then attract money from other charitable grant making bodies and/or low interest funding (e.g. from Architectural Heritage Fund). However, the BPT needs to be a registered charity itself.

For most private individuals I usually advise that grants are generally not available. For new owners I advise them to ensure they get their sums right and pay a price that properly reflects what is required in terms of repairs, improvement, etc.

VAT exemption may be useful but in some instances it is more hassle and cost in attempting to get it than the amount you save.

I have not mentioned Heritage Lottery Fund because I am not convinced that it would be appropriate for most of those using this site. In any event, an application can take several years to put together and take through the process..

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Extensive work on listed building may be unauthorised.
FROM: B Hutchings (Northern Ireland)
I live next door to a Grade II listed building but major works are being done to it. Can you please tell me if the parking area and garden are also included in the preservation? An old wall that divided the two has been demolished. A hotel was proposed for the original garden and parking area but has been turned down after opposition from residents. Some outbuildings have been converted to a house.

I would appreciate some confidential advice so that I know where I stand when future commercial plans are submitted.

B Hutchings

From your comment I assume the listed building was/is a pub. The wall is almost certainly curtilege to the listed building, as would be the parking area. The wall demolition - unless allowed in a listed building consent - would probably be viewed as unauthorised. I suggest you have a confidential conversation with the local Conservation Officer.

The outbuildings conversion would have required planning permission and listed building consent. Check with the CO whether it was approved. If so, there can be no argument, unless during the work they did not comply with the approved plans and/or conditions.

With regard to future applications, the Council have no duty to inform neighbours of an application. Make sure you and your neighbours keep your eyes open for applications and then make sure you all respond and let the Council know how you feel. That said do not object for the sake of it. If the building is redundant a future use must be found, the problem is getting a sensible balance. It would be best to work with the Council and, if possible, the owners to achieve something that all can live with.

That said, if the owners are already undertaking unauthorised work it may be that blunt objection and opposition is the only way forward.

It could be that the owners are ignorant and believe that only the interior of the building is listed. It might take a formal visit from the CO to convince them of the error of their ways.

On another matter, if the boundary walls are affected by the proposals, etc the Party Wall Act may apply. The Act cannot be used to stop or thwart an approved scheme, but it can influence how the works around the boundaries are undertaken.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Do I require listed building consent for alterations inside a listed property?.
FROM: Christine Hawkins (Northamptonshire)
Is it necessary to get planning permission for alterations inside a grade 2 listed property? For example, we would like to change a study into a second kitchen, and fit another bathroom (or 2). Also, we would like to put a small canopy over the back door, would we also need permission for this? How about changing the colour of the paintwork?

Christine Hawkins

Yes - alterations require listed building consent

The canopy would definitely require an application.

If the internal walls through which pipes, etc pass are modern and/or have modern finishes you may not need a formal application to change the use of rooms. The re-fitting of kitchens and bathrooms can be an awkward issue. Depending upon precisely what works are proposed and the impact they will have on the historic fabric and features of the building, you may need to submit a formal application, or a more informal exchange of letters may suffice. If you are considering several matters it is often worth getting the CO round to wander around the property and chat over your ideas. The CO will give an indication of what may or may not be allowed and for what particular matters a formal application will be needed.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Alternative sort to gutting of interior of property to deal with alleged damp and wood boring insect problems.
FROM: Emma Selway (Lothian)
I have just purchased an end terrace cottage in the Grampian region. The survey came up with a minor damp problem which was considered easy to remedy. However, estimates for removing this problem have uncovered minor wood worm and dry rot and recommended treating the entire house by ripping down all the existing walls, removing electricity and plumbing in the process and spraying the timbers with treatment. This is very expensive and seems extreme for a small house. Is this the only way to deal with this problem? Could you recommend specialists in the area?

Emma Selway

As I am based in the SE I cannot recommend people in your area, but suggest you speak to Historic Scotland and/or the local Conservation Officer, who may know of specialists in your area.

The first issue is the dampness. Without resolving the damp there is a real risk of infestation and rot recurring, regardless of what chemical treatment is undertaken. In fact, I often advise that dealing with the damp will usually also resolve the other problems without necessarily having to undertake treatment.

The other question is whether the infestation and rot are active or historic. If active you must sort out the damp and then perhaps undertake localised treatment and appropriate repairs.

Even back in the 1950s there were reports recognising that the removal of timbers beyond the visible signs of rot, etc was unnecessary and with historic buildings did more harm than good to the historic fabric.

From what you describe the so-called specialists are looking for work.

Deal with the damp (and here look for the actual cause and sort out properly). Remember that the treatments that 'specialists' often recommend only deal with one type of damp - rising. This is the rarest form of damp in properties. Most damp problems are resolved by maintenance and general building works.

Once the damp is dealt with repair timbers that are weakened and where the structural integrity is jeopardised. This does not mean ripping out the interior of the house. If it is likely that timbers will remain in a damp environment they may need treatment and/or isolation from the damp. If necessary increase ventilation around timbers. New timbers should be pre-treated.

I strongly suggest getting further advice - a Chartered Building Surveyor experienced in historic buildings should be able to advise on such matters. In any event, always get at least two and preferably three competitive estimates for the works.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.