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...

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SUBJECT:
Removing sandtex solution
FROM:
Adam Houghton

My Victorian house has been entirely coated with a sandtex solution. (textured paint). I need to know the best way to remove this myself.

Adam Houghton

Whatever you eventually use you should start by selecting an area that is generally out of sight so that you can experiment with different removal methods.

The method will depend as much on the substrate as the paint itself. However, I would generally avoid any abrasive method. High pressure washes may remove it, but I suspect you will need to use a chemical removal system followed by washing down (to remove the chemical).

I suggest you contact Strippers (http://www.stripperspaintremovers.com/) for samples to experiment with and for further advice.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Do I need to get consent?
FROM:
Lucy Van Houten

I have a 200-300 year old thatched half timber cottage. I would like to add plasterboard to a couple of the rooms; I think it is called dry-lining. It would consist of wooden battens screwed to the wall then plasterboard laid on top, then skim plastered. Would this type of work require any kind of permission from the local authority and how does one go about getting it?

Lucy Van Houten

The building is half timber - so, what is the other half? wink

I assume you mean that the building is timber framed with the timber partially or fully exposed to the exterior and/or interior?

If the work of dry lining proposed involves covering the timber frame that is presently exposed the simple answer is yes you will need consent. Whether you will get consent is another matter.

If there is evidence that the frame was once covered and has only be exposed as a result of a modern fashion fad then you may well get permission for covering it. How this is dealt with will need to be discussed both from a technical viewpoint and aesthetics. Generally the use of plasterboard would not be appropriate.

The other question is why do you want to do this? Is it for 'fashion' reasons or for insulation, or something else? You will need to be prepared to justify the reasons for the work to the Conservation Officer.

If you look at the discussion forum of this site there have been recent discussions about insulating historic buildings and not all methods and materials used need involve covering the original frame. Whatever work you do you should ensure that the breathability of the building and its performance technically is not impaired otherwise you risk increasing the rate of degradation to the structure.

As for the process, I suggest that if the Council's Conservation Officer is prepared to spend half and hour or so with you on site to discuss your ideas he/she will give you an immediate guide on whether the works are likely to be acceptable anyway and what, if any, applications need to be made.

For the sort of work you mention Planning Permission is not usually necessary. However, you may well require Listed Building Consent. This is an application that does not involve paying the Council a fee, but the documents you need to provide may include drawings, Schedules of Work, etc and you may need to get a Conservation Surveyor or Conservation Architect involved - hence a cost to you.

Failure to get Consent could land you in a lot of bother - possible prosecution and enforcement procedures. I therefore urge you to speak to the Conservation Officer at an early stage and get a professional involved who has experience with this type and age of property who can provide you with sound advice and guide you in the right direction as to what to do with the building.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Tanking the basement
FROM:
Lesley Flood
(Dumfries and Galloway)

I live in a Victorian terraced property which has a basement. We have had a quote for tanking the basement at 26,000 which seems extremely excessive as there is not much damp. This includes insulation etc. Do you know any professional companies who do basement tanking at a reasonable price? The property is in south Scotland.

Lesley Flood

No.

Any form of damp 'proofing' a basement will be expensive. Tanking (assuming you mean application of a damp proofing render direct to the wall) is perhaps the cheapest method, but also probably the least satisfactory.

A better method is to use a proprietary membrane that is formed with a raised profile so that when attached to the wall it leaves a gap behind that ensure the movement of moisture is not hindered and the wall retains a high degree of its original method of functioning. It is a very effective system, but usually more costly than conventional tanking.

More important is the matter of what damp problem exists that you are trying to rectify? Basements were always damp-ish areas and often act as the damp sump for old buildings. Provided they are well ventilated they do not pose problems.

If the basement is intended to now form habitable areas that is a different matter and I revert to the above in advising that the raised profile membrane (drained cavity) system is perhaps the most appropriate in most situations.

If there is not really a damp problem I would have to question why any work is being undertaken?

If there is a damp problem I suggest that before you embark on what could be very costly work you have the problem independently assessed. There have been a number of threads on this web site discussion forum that you should refer to for further comment and input on this matter.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Matching Hardwood
FROM:
Karen Glasse

We are living in a 2* listed property and are currently renovating a barn which is in the curtilage of our house. We are trying to find a suitable hardwood for the windows and doors that has the colour of old oak, and that we won't need to paint. We know that new oak will crack and move and so our window supplier has suggested an African hardwood called Sapele - but it is too red in colour. We are stumped (!) - do you have any suggestions of what we can do?

Karen Glasse

You should firstly speak to your Conservation Officer as he/she may well have an opinion on what species of wood to use

On this web site discussion forum a regular contributor is Biff Vernon who makes Oak windows, etc and I am sure he would be able to give advice on how to resolve the problem (http://www.biffvernon.freeserve.co.uk/oak_works.htm). My preference would be to use Oak anyway - the colour will tone down and if you get well seasoned timber you should not suffer too much, if any, cracking, etc.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Why is Building Control involved?
FROM:
Alan Williams
(Hertfordshire)

I am renovating and a mid 18th century flint cottage. I want to finish the internal walls in lime plaster to allow the walls to breath as the out side has been painted in masonry paint. Since removing the old finishes, the wall has dried out. However Building control is insisting I dry line the rooms. The rooms are already very small and if I dry line I will end up with window sills 3ft wide in a 9 ft room! Also I do not think dry lining will help maintain the fabric of the wall. Any ideas on an approach to the inspector to get him to relent?

Alan Williams

Why is Building Control involved?

What is their justification for dry lining?

It sounds to me as if the officer has simplistically applied the suggested works under the Approved Documents without proper consideration of the nature of the building involved. That assumes he/she actually has any power to insist on this (depends on the circumstances and nature of the work generally).

If the building is listed you are on stronger grounds than if it is not because listed buildings have to be given special consideration.

On the discussion forum of this site there are several contributors who are BCOs, or at least have dealt with such issues and I suggest you post there to seek views. Unfortunately how BCOs deal with such matters varies considerably from one Authority to another with no consistent approach. Further, a more experienced officer may take a more relaxed/pragmatic view.

Another approach you could consider is using a modified lime plaster - one that has insulating aggregate in it (e.g. vermiculite). Although not necessarily a 'purist' approach it may be an answer to your specific problem.

On a general note bear in mind that most BCOs do not have any realistic clue as to the thermal performance of historic walls/materials and will usually revert to the Approved Documents because it is easier for them. One way of tackling this is to find someone able to properly calculate the thermal performance of the wall and building generally to identify what really does or does not need to be done in terms of upgrading for insulation purposes (if indeed that is the reason for the work being required).

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Lovely house - noisy road
FROM:
Sian Bucknor
(Kent)

We have purchased a timber framed, 17th Century house (Grade 2 listed), in Kent.

As we fell in love with the house we turned a 'blind ear' to the noise coming from a very busy main road. We are set slightly down from the road and have a great but very bare (in winter) beech hedge. In order to reduce the noise we are exploring: 1. erecting a wooden fence, keeping existing hedge and replanting verge side hedge 2. Secondary glazing which is tricky due to a number of gothic windows.

We aren't looking at an either or solution, but do want to be realistic about what level of noise reduction we could achieve. Also should we take on an acoustic surveyor and what sort of costs would this entail? Any bright ideas/words of wisdom?

Sian Bucknor

Not sure about the wisdom bit, but here goes .

Noise problems are complex and often involve a number of solutions to resolve. There is not only airborne sound, but flanking and transmitted sound, etc, etc.

Sound insulation is best achieved by density. However, assuming a wall area if there is a hole representing 10% of the area c. 90% of the sound will come through it. Therefore sound insulation is best if complete and continuous - any break or gap in it reduces its effectiveness significantly. In your situation you may find it best to look at several different possible solutions.

Whilst a tree screen, etc can help there is a high risk that the sound it cuts out will be minimal.

Cutting out any form of gap in the building (including draught gaps at windows, etc) will help cut down some of the noise. Of course secondary glazing is more effective at this, but perhaps very good draught proofing systems (including heavy curtains) would do an acceptable job for a fraction of the cost.

The structure of the walls is another consideration. If the voids between the frame members are not solid filled (e.g. brick infill panels) the risk of transmission through the walls is higher. However, to infill the frame is a major operation.

I do think you should find an acoustic specialist and I am sure there will be several in your area (probably very experienced in having to deal with the Eurostar rail route!). Cost will vary but I suspect you should be looking at no less than 50 per hour and possibly around 100 per hour.

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