If you’re fortunate enough to own a beautiful period property and have decided to restore it yourself, make sure you avoid these costly mistakes that many period property owners make. Not only will they set you back hundreds or thousands of pounds to fix but in some cases you may also find you cause irreparable damage to the property that you can never resolve.
#1 Not carrying out any essential maintenance work
To avoid incurring huge repair bills, as a building owner you should keep gutters clean by getting rid of leaves in autumn, maintaining the flashings, replacing the tiles and roofing slates. To prevent decay, you should also prevent water from entering the building fabric by ensuring that the chimneys are pointed and capped properly. This is important especially if you are keen to protecting a building’s historic fabric.
Condensation usually causes decay. To avert this, ensure that all sub-cavities and cellars are properly ventilated. Weeds on the other hand should be removed from the air bricks and vents. Other sources of water in the building like shower trays, washing machines, pipes and other fixtures should also be inspected for leaks. If leaks are spotted they should be sealed.
#2 Using Cement Instead Of Lime For Mortars
Traditionally constructed brickwork is usually reinforced by soft lime mortar. This makes it very flexible. The face of the brickwork and soft stone can however fail especially when it is bedded in hard cement which will restrict its movement. This is because there is considerable stress on the wall surface bound by the cement. Cement mortars also being impermeable will hardly allow the structure to breathe. This means that any trapped moisture in the brick or stone will be forced to evaporate, an incident that may expose the stone or brick structure to deterioration.
Cements mortars usually have different traits. They vary both in detail and color as well. In addition, they can either be smeared across edges of stones or projected forward from wall surfaces. This change in application is what generally alters the appearance of the entire wall. A house made of timber and then re-rendered with hard cement will eventually undergo extensive decay. This is because rainwater will seep through the walls through the junctions of the panels with timber. And since the hard cements restrict the rain water, this will result to evaporation causing decay.
#3 Painting Or Coating Surfaces Which Were Originally Left Natural
In walls where evaporation is mainly concentrated around salty surrounds, the salty will eventually crystallize resulting to decay. This is a feature that is notable with non-porous modern paints, stone consolidants and cementitious coatings. Such walls do lock moisture in them forcing evaporation to occur. In an inside wall where moisture is forced to evaporate, damp patches will be seen. The increased moisture levels at such areas will then cause certain materials particularly timber, daub, cob and other earth mixtures to rot.
The pattern and color of a brickwork and stone is usually hidden by non-original coatings. Claddings like pebble-dashing and stone cladding however make old buildings appear ordinary and modern. Modern coatings and other cementitious coatings also contribute a lot to making buildings look new. Salt crystallisation around cracks generally leads to localized stone decay. This happens when moisture evaporation from a wall is concentrated around an impermeable coating. Questions are usually raised here especially where color is used to emphasize the drain pipe.
#4 Introducing Mix-And-Match Period Style Detail
Where reproduction features and other items never meant for use anywhere in a building are added, old structures usually appear phoney and cheap. Still when carriage clamps are attached to either side of the front door and external shutters fixed to the walls, they undoubtedly serve no purpose. Even glass panes fixed on old buildings make them seem fake. There are also other features that make a genuinely historic building look absurd. Fancy things such as stuck-on strips imitating leaded lights, fanlights within the door, black rubber seals and press-moulded panel mouldings also make an old structure look strange.
When features of a structure have been restored where they never existed before, it is difficult to clearly define the history of such a building. An example can be given of where the once simple and functional features in the basement, attic room and other rooms are replaced by fine plasters mouldings. All these features which look old-fashioned are used to make a building more modern. The historic element of an 18th century cottage can therefore not be recaptured.
#5 Replacing Original Components Unnecessarily
It is pointless to use replacement windows because decay is usually concentrated on the bottom few inches of the frame. Therefore, when repairs are undertaken new timber windows will also rot and at an even faster rate compared to the original ones. There is also no need to get rid of all timber just because there is visible sign of dry rot. This is usually devastating. Besides, even the reintroduction of ventilated and dry conditions will still hamper its growth.
A replacement of old and original structures is barely necessary. What should be done instead is to repair and stabilize the once distorted buildings. In most cases where plastic windows are used to replace old windows they usually fail to match the exact appearance of the old windows. This is because they have heavier and larger sections compared to timber windows. They also have fine glazing bars that are difficult to incorporate and the black rubber gaskets are visible around the glass. Just like paint plastics are also susceptible to disfiguration and scratches gradually, a feature that does not make them “maintenance free” as previously thought. Therefore, they have to be repainted regularly to preserve their appearance.
#6 Use Cleaning Methods Which Damage Original Surfaces
The most gentle air abrasive cleaning and stone blasting usually distorts the surface of brick or stone. Such methods should not be applied on timber especially when applied by the wrong person. Chemical cleaning agents like alkalis and acids usually react with dirt layers, brick and stone leaving harmful residues behind in the process causing damage.
Even water at low pressure can still affect brickwork causing surface staining and salt crystallisation. In extreme cases, this leads to decay of the brickwork. Glue can also be removed from joints and wood damaged through paint-striping when doors are immersed in caustic baths. Though this the cheapest way of removing paints from doors, it greatly damages joints and timber.
#7 Overloading An Existing Structure
Unless you reinforce the structure, rafters in a building can bow and eventually collapse under considerable weight. This usually happens when slates are replaced with concrete roofing tiles. Loads can also be moved to other parts of the building if part of the structure is underpinned. This will worsen the damage. The roof can also collapse or spread if the horizontal beams running at eye-level across the attic at right angles to the ridge are removed. The final damage will be hastened if the walls, the chimney breasts and other important structural features of the building are removed.