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...

o Good deed leads to builder leaving trail of disaster John Hayton (Tyne and Wear)
o Can we cut trees down in conservation area? Hazel Paul (Greater London)
o Are traditional well construction experts all extinct? David Cane (Norfolk)
o Do we require fireproof doors in new loft conversion? Tamara Davis (Greater London)
o Sinking floors in Victorian semi Lynda McAfee (Dorset)
o What mix should I use to render a wall in exposed spot on coast? Michael McAuliffe (East Sussex)
o Woodworm concealed in boards under new laminate floor. Caroline McIntyre (Edinburgh)
o Advice required for ancient glass repair. Lisa Whitehead (Lincolnshire)
o Neighbour complains of strange smells from my chimney Christine Turner (Staffordshire)
o Do we require a FENSA certificate to replace our windows? Mike Taylor (Dorset)
o Is my slate roof porous? Andrew Newton (Yorkshire)
o Did insurer make specification error on repair of flood damage? Jessica Yeung (Wiltshire)
o Should I seal my exposed brickwork? Denise Tinant (Hertfordshire)
o Building inspector suggests we need to replace our flagstone floor with concrete. Geraldine Horner (Derbyshire)
 

SUBJECT: Good deed leads to builder leaving trail of disaster
FROM: John Hayton (Tyne and Wear)
I gave contractor permission to park on my listed property in order to pipe concrete onto an adjacent property. They concluded it was impractical and proceeded without permission to barrow concrete over 5m of block paviours and 5m of York stone some of which is 400 years old.

After treading in up to an inch of spillage over several hours they attempted to clear it up. They succeeded in blocking drains.

With more cleaning up by myself I am now left with large areas of residue staining which cannot be brushed or washed off. How can I proceed with tackling these stains?

John Hayton

There are a number of proprietary stone cleaners on the market such as the lithofin range, "stonecarebydelta", Cyberg etc. Try a small patch first. I would be very surprised if the cleaning was not entirely successful, and even more surprised if the stone was as old as you suggest. This should be the responsibility of the contractor who did the deed.

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 cut trees down in conservation area?
FROM: Hazel Paul (Greater London)
We live in a conservation area in London about 400 yards from the river Thames. There is an old house at the end of the road (still in the CA) which is listed as a Building of Townscape Merit (BTM). It sits on a large plot of land with several trees around it some of which have Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) on them.

The house itself (which belonged to the local builder in the 19c) is actually built onto the road with no front garden but a large rear garden. The ground slopes away steeply to the rear and the gardens of nearby houses (also Victorian) have on occasion flooded when it rains heavily.

There has been a lot of trouble with water in the road outside the Builder's house over the years and the Gas Board did substantial repairs there about 10 years ago (when it was still occupied) to stop the road subsidising and water coming up in a storm.

(My neighbour, who has lived here for over 70 years said they could not build Anderson shelters locally in the war because the water table is too high and it has long been believed there is an underground tributary of the Thames somewhere nearby. )

The corner house and plot has changed hands recently, after being left vacant for 5 years. The buyer has announced his intention to demolish the house and replace it with 5 new houses. He says he can do this because the trees roots have got into the drains and collapsed the sewers and the house is subsiding into them and beyond repair as a result.

This raises several questions for us the neighbours. Firstly, we are not convinced the tree roots are the cause of the problem here, we think it may be the underground stream. What type of specialist should we consult to verify this and if necessary challenge the builder?

Secondly who is responsible for making sure any new building on the site does not make the problem worse? The developer is a "wide boy" type builder who shows a good deal of ignorance of Conservation areas - he is already talking about cutting down some of the trees and seems unaware of the regulations concerning TPOs.

(The local planners say underground water is something the developer is expected to discuss with building control. Building control says it is up to the developer and the water authorities - Thames Water in our area. We doubt he will consult either party).

Finally we all have very large mature trees on our plots which in many cases are very close indeed to our houses. We have been concerned for some time about these causing possible subsidence and damage to our own drains (no one knows where the sewers run in our area as there are no plans).

The council is reluctant to let us do more than light pruning, claiming the whole area is "river terrace gravel" and there not liable to subsidence from trees or anything else. In fact our gardens are very sandy soil.

When we queried this our question went into a queue for answering at some unspecified time in the future: there is apparently a vacancy in the Tree Office position which is not being filled at present due to budget constraints!

What is the legal position about pruning or cutting down to a stump, trees in a Conservation area which are causing subsidence to the houses themselves? Again who should we consult for advice?

Hazel Paul

You raise a number of issues and the situation is complex.

As neighbours of the site in question you can merely notify the Authorities of any actions that the developer takes. If he is working without appropriate consent the Authorities will be the ones to take action. If they decide not to take action, act too slowly, or ignore you, you would need to seek legal advice, but I suspect your recourse would be to the Local Authority Ombudsman. I do not believe that there is anything you can do directly to stop the developer, provided he obtains the appropriate consents.

Your main 'method' of preventing this development is to provide detailed objections to a planning application. You will have to argue on planning grounds and to assist you I suggest you consider obtaining advice from a planning specialist. You may have to provide supporting evidence, especially if you refute the developer's justification for the demolition, etc. You ask what sort of specialist - you may need several. You will need a soil investigation company to advise on the nature of the soil. You will need analysis of tree roots found and an arboriculturalist to advise on the matter of the roots in the soil as found from the soil investigation. You will need a drainage specialist to survey the drains (to establish the damage caused, or otherwise) and to trace the drains.

The supporting evidence may have to include proper sub-soil investigation (taken on your site but close to the boundary). It may include a proper drain survey and tracing the sewer (it is possible - but you may have to pay for this if you cannot persuade the Council or Water Authority to do it).

The planners will not be too bothered about the technical issues. One would normally obtain planning permission for a development first and then apply for other consents and building regulation approval. If on these later applications there have to be changes to the proposals it may be that the matter has to go back to the planners. If the changes required are very substantial in that they result in major changes to the scheme, the planners may want a new application in order to re-consider it afresh. However, arguments regarding technical matters (e.g. problems with the site) do not usually hold too much weight with planners in the first instance.

You ask who is responsible for ensuring that the problem does not worsen - the simple answer is the Council. With regard to technical matters it will be the Building Control Department.

On the matter of pruning, etc trees, if the tree has a TPO you need consent. Failure to get consent could land you/your neighbours in trouble with the Council (perhaps fines, etc). It is not your problem if the Council do not have a suitable officer. If you have or suspect structural damage caused by trees you would normally put the matter in the hands of your insurer. The insurer would appoint a loss adjustor who would then deal with the Council. If trees from a neighbouring site cause damage to your property you have recourse in land for the 'invasion' of the roots (this goes both ways of course, your trees could be invading the neighbours garden). If for whatever reason you do not go through insurers you still have a legal right to take action against the neighbour who owns the trees. If this is the situation you would need to seek legal advice from your solicitor.

If the developer obtains permissions there is then the matter of the Party Wall Act as well.

I hope I have dealt with all of the issues you raise. Given the limited information provided my comments must be taken as general guidance only. In your situation it would seem sensible to employ a professional (my first choice would be a planner) to advise in detail.

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: Are traditional well construction experts all extinct?
FROM: David Cane (Norfolk)
We have uncovered a very deep well in the back garden of our 17th century farmhouse in Norfolk and we are considering making a feature of it. It is about 40 feet deep and the brickwork lining is in excellent condition. There is an original brick domed cap which we might like to remove. This had been overlaid with a concrete slab and, unfortunately, there has been some damage to it whilst exposing the well. There is also an old iron pump-pipe which has been cut off at the top and which we would like to remove (all or part of it).

Do you know of any people who specialise in old wells, who might be able to give us some advice/help on how best to progress this project, please?

David Cane

The animal you are looking for is virtually extinct. If you want somebody to repair the cap on it, any traditional builder ought to be able to help. If the concern is about the water quality, then select a water engineer from Yellow Pages.

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 we require fireproof doors in new loft conversion?
FROM: Tamara Davis (Greater London)

We are planning to do a loft conversion in our Victorian terrace in the next year. We were told by the company doing the conversion that we will need to replace all the doors to habitable rooms with special fireproof doors so as to comply with building regulations. We are loathe to part with our house's lovely old doors. Is there anything we can do to amend our existing doors, and are there any companies that might do this sort of work (we would have at least six doors to deal with)?

Tamara Davis

It is generally true that you will need to create afire protected route from the loft room. There are various ways of dealing with this, one of which is to replace doors. However, it does depend on the precise design of the conversion. If there is a lobby at either the top or bottom of the stairs up to the loft room and a fire escape window (specifically of the appropriate dimensions for use as an escape), you may find that the rest of the house does not need such work.

I suggest that you speak with the Council Building Control Department as they will no doubt have dealt with many such conversions. They will tell you of the various methods they will consider acceptable.

If you do have to address the fire protection offered by the doors, you could consider upgrading the resent doors. This will depend on the style and nature of the door. I have seen some doors upgraded by simply applying an intumescant paint finish. Some panelled doors may need the panels taking out and replacing with a fire-board. There are other methods that are more complex and in a conventional house are probably not cost-effective to consider.

It is possible that upgrading floors will also need to be considered, but this can often take the form of simply laying a board material (usually hardboard) over the existing floor.

Loft conversion companies usually have their own way of dealing with things and can have a rather blinkered view of how to approach some technical matters. I suspect a chat with the Building Control Dept. will help sort this 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: Sinking floors in Victorian semi
FROM: Lynda McAfee (East Sussex)
I have a semi-detached house build circa 1890's. I have noticed recently that there is a gap between the skirting board and the floorboards by the front entrance. The floor seems to have sunk!

Does this mean that the house has subsidence? What could be causing this, and do you think it is serious?

Lynda McAfee

The possible causes could be:

rotting floor (boards and/or joists),

historic settlement (if no evidence of recent movement),

Shrinkage of timbers (if central heating recently installed for example),

Subsidence (but there would normally be other signs, such as cracks in walls), etc, etc, etc.

On the information you provide it is impossible to provide an answer. You need to employ a local building surveyor to inspect and advise you properly. If indeed it seems that there is subsidence you should submit an insurance claim and they will then take up the matter of investigation, etc.

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 mix should I use to render a wall in exposed spot on coast?
FROM: Michael McAuliffe (Gloucestershire)
I need to make repairs to the rendering on a 6ft high brick retaining wall and an adjacent flight of York stone steps both built between 1817 and 1875. The retaining wall has obviously been re-rendered and painted at some time in the distant past but it is now covered in a crazed pattern of cracks and showing evidence that the render has 'blown' from the wall. There is an original cast iron fence sitting on the top of the wall enclosing the higher level paved area. This fence is simply held in place by a very old and cracked concrete capping (no molten lead pouring) and has been leaning over at an angle for many years. I would like to hack off the existing render from the wall, re-render and re-paint the wall and re-set the cast iron fence on the top of the wall.

The adjacent York stone steps are fine but the render on the risers is falling away exposing the brickwork behind. In this case I would like to remove the blown render and replace this with a render similar to the existing which provides a good 'aged' colour to match the York flagstones (a sandy beige/yellow and moss green colour). The property whilst situated in a town is about 700 meters from the sea in a raised and therefore relatively exposed position. Can you suggest the mixes I should use for the above jobs. I am not sure if I should use a cement mix or a hydraulic or non hydraulic lime mix and in what proportions.

Michael McAuliffe

Nothing is better than local advice, but from what you describe, the render might have failed due to the water content of the wall, possibly coming in through the gaps in the capping stones and releasing sulphates from the bricks of which the wall is constructed. Nothing will reliably succeed in this location, but the best you an probably do is to apply a reinforced render using stainless steel eml, and a strong hydrated lime mix (no sea sand), in a 1:2 mix. If the sulphates are a problem, the lime render will fail very quickly!. If there is any probability of the presence of sulphates, then a render composed of sulphate resisting cement may be better. I would always prefer to use a lime based render as this has the capacity to let the moisture in the wall escape without coming to harm itself.

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: Woodworm concealed in boards under new laminate floor.
FROM: Caroline McIntyre (Edinburgh)
We have bought a Victorian terraced cottage which is in pretty bad shape. The previous owners had covered the floor boards in laminate - we have lifted some and found large patches of woodworm (with sawdust underneath the boards so assume they are still active). We can get under the floors to spray the undersides of the boards and the joists, but wondered if we need to lift all the laminate so we can spray both sides of the boards in order to kill all the woodworm, or will it be enough just to do the underside?

Caroline McIntyre

Whilst it should be possible to adequately spray from below, I suggest it would be desirable to lift all of the laminate to check the whole floor in case there is further hidden damage. A laminate is not a floorboard, therefore if the boards themselves have failed the laminate will eventually collapse through loads imposed on it. I would therefore prefer to take up the laminate and repair the floor properly before re-laying the laminate (much of the laminate should be salvageable).

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 for ancient glass repair.
FROM: Lisa Whitehead (Lincolnshire)
We have a grade II listed building in a conservation village. The house was formerly 3 Almshouses, probably dating from about 1740 maybe a little later. To the front of the property we have Iron X windows set in stone mullions. Our problem is we have to restore these windows which are in a poor state, we really don't know where to start and are struggling to find any specialists in our area despite the fact that many houses in the village have a similar design. We understand that we have to re-use the glass whereever possible but how do we replace that which is totally beyond repair? some of the glass can't be seen through as it has oxidised, and some is like looking through varifocal glasses! do we have to re-use this glass if it is not broken?

Lisa Whitehead

You need advice from a specialist glazier. It sounds as if you will need to carefully remove and dismantle the windows and this will include carefully removing the glass. Yes, sound glass should be saved and re-used. The 'defects' you mention are part of the character of the glass and therefore of the windows. It would be a shame to lose this. The work will require listed building consent if substantial repairs and glass replacement is required, as it would probably be deemed an alteration to character. It is likely that an appropriate 'historic' glass will need to be used for replacement anyway. For a local supplier of the glass, try asking Keith Barley in York. He is a specialist glazier, but perhaps too far away from you. He may know somebody closer to hand.

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: Neighbour complains of strange smells from my chimney
FROM: Christine Turner (Staffordshire)
Since having a shared chimney stack partly taken down to replace crumbling bricks, and some repointing, my elderly neighbour is complaining of smoke/fumes/soot smells from my fire coming down her chimneys (upstairs and downstairs). I subsequently have not had a fire, but she still complains of the smells.

Houses are middle two terraces in block of 4, with entry down the centre, c 1900.

I have 4 independent chimneys, an open fire and wood burning stove (the latter has not been used for several months) - 2 bedroom fires were blocked off in the 1980s (I think). There has never been a problem with the draw on the fires, and my neighbour did not smell smoke prior to the work being done.

When work was completed I lit a fire - neighbour complained of smoke and soot coming down her chimneys - ceased having a fire and have been attempting to find a solution since January this year. To date: Builder has put pots on all chimneys (previously unused ones were not vented) quotation for lining my chimney from specialists, 2000 plus Vat Each chimney in both houses smoke tested - no problems All neighbour's gas appliances have been tested by Corgi gas man - advised her to use central heating and gas fires to warm chimneys as they are now cold and possibly damp. This is not being done due to the "smell". Lichfield District Council Environmental Health inspected - they say I am liable even though I have not had any fires, and issued neighbour with a smoke/carbon monoxide alarm. I am waiting for chimney expert to climb on roof and look down chimneys to see if anything untoward (hopefully next week)

Still smells coming down neighbours chimney - Main query - where are smells/fumes coming from? Builder has put pots on all chimneys - should unused chimneys have "Pepper pots"?

Any advice would be welcome, as I do not know what to do next. My neighbour does not believe that I have not had a fire - my central heating outlet has also been blamed. How can I convince her? I would like to sell the property, but am unable to until the problem is sorted.

Christine Turner

From a practical point of view I am not sure there is anything more to suggest. It sounds like you have had various people in to investigate.

Has someone independently verified the smells experienced in the neighbour's property?

Invite the Environmental Health officers to inspect and consider all that has been done and to advise you on what measures they believe necessary.

The most obvious cause (based on your description) is that the whiffs between the flues have failed and are leaking between flues. However, a smoke test should have revealed this. It is possible that the flues will need to be lined to resolve the problem.

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 we require a FENSA certificate to replace our windows?
FROM: Mike Taylor (Dorset)
We are replacing windows in our Edwardian property. The replacements are timber, double glazed units. Do we need a FENSA certificate?

Mike Taylor

Is the company FENSA registered? If so, they will sort it out. If not, you will need to apply for building regulation approval and the building inspector will check for compliance.

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: Is my slate roof porous?
FROM: Andrew Newton (Yorkshire)
When I moved into my old house it seemed that water had been ingressing into the first floor bedroom via the chimney stack. Having tried various solutions with various different builders we finally resorted to replacing the roof as it appeared that many of the old slates may have been 'porous'. Unfortunately, this has not solved the problem and water is still evident in the plaster on the stack in the bedroom. I am concerned that unless I can prevent water getting into the bricks then this problem may never go away. It almost seems as if the bricks are saturated and when it rains they just 'fill up' again and the only route for drying is via the plaster. The pointing is very sound and the bricks are in excellent condition as is the new flashing and the haunching on the top of the stack. Clearly, I am at a loss as to what to do next and I am considering applying some kind of waterproof coating to the external face of the chimney stack. I note from other questions that this may have a detrimental effect on the breathability of the brickwork. Is this a good idea? Can you advise. Will the bricks ever dry out or will this require new plaster?

Andrew Newton

Slates are not porous, at least not in the sense you mean. They may have begun to delaminate.

If water was ingressing through the chimney I cannot see why anyone thought replacing slates would resolve the problem.

Chimney leaks can be very difficult to resolve as water can find its way in and down through the finest of cracks. You do not mention whether the flues/pots are capped in any way. Rain could be penetrating straight down an open flue. You should have the external areas of the chimney checked again in case there are minor cracks causing the problem. You should consider having appropriate caps installed.

Internally, it is possible that the plaster is contaminated with salts, etc and if these are hydroscopic they will absorb water (the smallest amount) and therefore 'wet up' occasionally.

From what you describe I suggest you consider having flues capped (but retain some ventilation) and internal plaster completely removed and the wall in question re-plastered to remove the risk of salt contamination. Depending on the nature of existing plaster you should consider having lime plaster or a salt inhibiting plaster.

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: Did insurer make specification error on repair of flood damage?
FROM: Jessica Yeung (Wiltshire)
In August 2004 my 150 year old stone cottage was flooded on the lower floor with a couple of inches of rainwater. The insurance company removed some of the plaster that had started to come away from the wall and re-decorated. Since then there have been salt crystals forming on a small part of the wall at the bottom by the back door (no other marks/ mould - just salt), and also an A4 sized area on another wall approx 1meter high where the paint has bubbled away from the wall. I've been told that these are causes of damp by the builders who did the work, however I had not seen any of these problems before the flood. I have an injected damp course which is approx 10 years old and I have spoken to these people about the problems. They assure me that the damp course is not an issue and it is probably a result of the walls drying out, as they are so thick they could take several months. Whose advice should I be listening too?

 

Jessica Yeung

I have dealt with a similar problem elsewhere in the country following a flood. The insurance company did not allow sufficient time for full drying out and as a result salt contamination occurred and condensation. In the case I dealt with the render/plaster was hacked off again, the walls left to dry for longer and then a traditional lime plaster used (to allow any further residual damp to escape). I would suggest you go back to the insurance company to ask that they consider that the specification for the work (including the period of drying out and the amount of plaster removed from walls) was insufficient and that further hacking off drying out and re-plastering is still required.

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: Should I seal my exposed brickwork?
FROM: Denise Tinant (Hertfordshire)
I have just used Nitromors to strip off layers of paint and WethAcote wall coating from my Edwardian property. I have decorative brickwork features (panels of roses) that I now feel are quite vulnerable to attack from the elements. Should I apply a protective sealant such as a water sealant before repointing?

Denise Tinant

Paint strippers are 'corrosive' and to neutralise the effects you should apply a suitable neutralising agent (e.g. vinegar). Seek the manufacturer's advice on this.

As for what to do next, no the brickwork should not be sealed. If you search the discussion forum you will find plenty of threads dealing with the need for brickwork to breathe. To seal the bricks could lead to premature failure of the surfaces. Ensure that the pointing is weaker than the brickwork (i.e. lime mortar) so that the pointing acts as the 'lung' of the wall rather than the brick face. This will do much more good and help protect the brickwork than sealing the surfaces.

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: Building inspector suggests we need to replace our flagstone floor with concrete.
FROM: Geraldine Horner (Derbyshire)
My husband and I are about to start the conversion of the basement to our house. The house was originally a butcher's shop and the basement the abattoir and meat store, also a cobbler's workshop. We will be using the rooms as kitchen, dining room and living room. The basement is underground on the north and west sides of the house, but open to the garden on the south and east sides of the house. There is hardstanding all around the side of the house that is underground.

The floor in the basement is constructed with thick flagstones laid directly onto earth. The building inspector has intimated that we should lift the flagstones and install a damp proof membrane. My argument is that if we do this we will introduce damp that is simply not evident and that it will be nigh on impossible to relay the flagstones as they are very tightly abutted to one another. Can I leave the floor in place and is this the best thing to do.

The walls of the house are a solid stone construction and about half a metre thick. A damp meter shows the stone in the walls to be dry but the mortar to be wet. We do not want to tank the walls, but would like to leave the stone exposed. However because of the lack of light we would like to 'paint' the some of the walls white. Would lime washing work? A builder has suggested repointing the stonework with a waterproof render - is this feasible?

Geraldine Horner

I do not think you should rely on a damp meter result to indicate whether the walls are damp or not. If you have used a hand-held moisture meter it was designed primarily for testing timber, not stone, and is inaccurate when used on stone, etc.

However, it seems quite possible that the wall is allowing moisture to pass through it and evaporate naturally. If there is no visible sign of a problem I would suggest that the more you mess around with it the more of a problem you will experience. The same applies to the floor.

If you simply install a kitchen, etc the only thing the building inspector may have some say over is the drainage and then only if a new connection is made. It is only when you start to create a new floor that the inspector may have more of a say. Even then look at the various postings on the discussion forum about limecrete floors (look also at the Old House Store web site). I would suggest you leave the floor alone, or create a limecrete floor without a membrane.

It is possible that if you place timber in direct contact with the floor and walls it will eventually absorb some of the moisture and stain if not rot. I would therefore suggest that you put isolating strips of an isolating membrane between the timber and floor/wall as you install units, etc. Any concealed voids could eventually become areas with moisture trapped in them. It will therefore be essential to ventilate the room properly and to specifically ventilate any concealed voids behind units, etc.

I would not advise re-pointing with anything other than a traditional lime render, so that the walls can continue to breathe.

Yes, I would advise the use of limewash (pigmented if you wish with a suitable colour).

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.