Saturday, 30 June 2012 8:25 AM
Converting a heritage building into a home is a project that will take some careful planning, but taking the time and the energy to do so can have a number of advantages both economically and aesthetically.
It is important to realise that renovating an old building will require special attention and you may need a non-standard home insurance policy, as well as certain materials and techniques, to ensure your regeneration goes to plan.
However, once finished you can rest assured in the knowledge that not only will you be contributing to the social revival of towns and cities - boosting conservation efforts and injecting new life into communities in the process - but your home will also have significant resale value due to the higher price of materials used in their construction.
The first thing you will need is confirmation from the council that your project is viable - this is particularly important for listed buildings where going ahead with work without approval can result in an unlimited fine or even up to a year in prison.
However, many councils do run historic building grant schemes, which means you could find yourself eligible for financial support for your planned project.
You should also be very thorough with building surveys and make a realistic assessment of how well the structure can adapt to its proposed use - running costs could rise dramatically if you fail to spot a serious design issue until the renovation begins.
Be flexible. Updating a period building may require some thinking outside of the box, as they won't have been constructed with modern technology in mind, and it is important to create a balance between retaining the features that make it a heritage site and providing comfort for residents.
For example, it is always a good idea to retain traditional timber frames and stone floors - replacing these with contemporary fittings such as aluminium or panelling could result in a drop in value.
Drafting in the right contractors is essential. Hiring unqualified workers could do irreversible damage to the property and leave you severely out of pocket, so a thorough check of references and previous work on period housing is a must.
This is particularly important for thatched properties, where untrained builders may condemn your roof as being flimsy and in need of repair or replacement, when in fact it is common for these houses to have no more than rafter frames and purlins to keep them sturdy.
Once you have hired the right team, it's a good idea to work through a layout of each room with them, making sure every inch of space is covered.
Draw up plans and assess the most important issues, including electrical and plumbing needs - these are often the two main areas in which heritage buildings need updating.
Picking the right materials requires a bit of research, so consult with your contractors and decide on the best-quality options for your renovation and while they may be more costly than in a traditional build it is vital to retain the workmanship of the original house.
Many projects of this kind run over time and budget regardless of planning due to unexpected problems, so allow between 20 and 30 per cent contingency depending on its size and complexity.
But once your home is complete, you can be sure that all the effort will be worth it, allowing you to enjoy your beautiful period home with all the conveniences of modern living.