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Renovating an Older Property


Renovating an older home or property can bring with it a specific set of challenges. However, once the renovation is complete, the experience will have been a rewarding one, allowing you to move into your dream home at a fraction of the price you might have paid for a newer property. Read on to learn more about what to look out for when you decide to renovate an older home.

Why Renovate?

Taking on an older home as a renovation property can have numerous advantages. The first of these is that the purchase price of the property will be significantly less than you would have paid for it had the property been in good condition to begin with. This means in turn that you will have more money available to spend on the renovation itself. While a renovation project of course represents time and work, it offers the benefit of knowing the final condition of the property once you have finished will not only be like new, but perfectly suited to your taste, style and the needs of your family. This can mean a more comfortable, long-term family home, or a large return on your investment if you have renovated the property to sell on. An older home is also likely to have a number of charming, period features, which will give the property a high degree of whimsical, old-fashioned character. This can include features such as fireplaces (which you can even restore to working condition), sash windows and chimneys. Consider the overall condition of the property and what your goals are: an interior renovation will end up costing significantly less than renovating the entirety of the property. 

Before You Buy a Property to Renovate

When purchasing an older house to renovate, there are a number of aspects to take into consideration, and you will have to be careful in order to avoid ending up with any unexpected expenses. First of all, make sure that the property you’re purchasing is structurally sound - this is by far the most important thing about the property. Other things can be fixed without breaking the bank, but if the property is in danger of collapsing this will complicate the project and cost more to repair, not to mention potentially causing your renovation project to take much longer. While it may be worthwhile to take on an older property that requires restoration or structural work, especially for a home with historical value, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into. Have a full survey of the property carried out before you purchase it, which will avoid you having any unpleasant surprises once you own the property. Be especially careful looking out for the presence of asbestos, which is highly likely to be present in properties in the UK constructed before 1999. Lead could also be present in the paint or plumbing. Lead paint isn’t necessarily dangerous on its own, only becoming specifically problematic if it is disturbed and the paint particles breathed in. Lead piping, however, must always be replaced as it can be very dangerous to the health of the property’s inhabitants in all circumstances.

In some cases, you will not be able to actually enter the property due to its state of repair. In this event, don’t necessarily dismiss the property out of hand - if the exterior is in relatively good condition this could be a sign that the damage to the interior is not impractical to repair. Still, be extremely careful in this scenario, and don’t purchase the property unless you have the budget available to deal with the worst-case scenario. You could end up with either of the possible extremes of renovating an old house: either the structural damage will turn out not to be too bad and you will have acquired the property for an even lower price, or the damage will be severe and you will go over budget trying to put it right. Look at the maximum value for properties in the postcode that you are looking at to see how much you could get for your renovated property in an ideal world. If this is more than you are looking to pay for the property and renovation combined, consider investing elsewhere. It is also important to check the property is connected to the gas, water, electricity and sewage networks. It can sometimes be the case that properties that have not been inhabited for a certain period of time will not have these connections, and it can be expensive and time-consuming to have this done. 

How to Renovate Your House

Once you’ve acquired your property, the actual steps to renovating an older house are similar to those that you would follow for any other project. However, there are particular aspects of renovating an older home that can be different. For example, in newer properties you often don’t need to look at the roof unless it is obviously damaged or there is water ingressing into the property. However, old houses may have hidden, structural damage to the roof, that could be expensive to repair. It is often worth biting the bullet and having the roof completely replaced: you can only repair the roof of an old property so much before the time comes to have it fully replaced, so it may be advantageous to do this as part of the renovation process, when there will be disruption in the home anyway. Even if you choose not to go down this route, it can be highly beneficial to look at having the insulation in the roof replaced - in older houses the insulation can be of poor quality and may even be non-existent. 

Heating and Insulation

In the same vein, the heating in older properties can also be substandard, which can be compounded by draughts coming in through older, ill-fitting doors and windows. Look into the possibility of having the boiler replaced in order to make your radiators more efficient, or you could also look into installing underfloor heating to get rid of the radiators and free up more space. This may be more expensive but will make your heating system much more efficient and unobtrusive. Regarding insulation, check carefully with your local council before changing the windows if your property is listed. Regulations regarding what can be changed with your property’s windows and doors can be very stringent (even down to the colour of the paint), so make sure that your potential new fittings comply with these restrictions for a listed home. 

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Renovating an older property also requires careful attention to the property’s electrical systems. This is also something you should have checked before you decide to purchase the house. You can do so by paying for an electrical compliance report, which involves an electrician visiting the property to make sure that all of the wiring and electrical equipment is in good order. Surprisingly, a standard property survey doesn’t include an analysis of the electrics in the house, so having this done separately will give you peace of mind, or lead you to avoid purchasing a property that requiring extensive electrical work. Old, malfunctioning electrics can be at best wasteful and at worst extremely dangerous - they could present a fire or electrocution risk. Look out for buzzing or flickering lights, these are a surefire sign that there is something significant wrong with the property’s wiring. Think carefully about investing in the renovation of a property in this state, as if you end up requiring a full rewire, this could cost as much as £4500. 

Hiring the Right Professionals

Renovating an older property can come with a variety of complications. Whether you need a professional opinion on whether purchasing a property will be a good investment, or need help obtaining consent to renovate a listed building, consulting with the right experts is key to ensuring a successful project. It’s important to find an architect specialised in renovation or historical conservation to help you navigate the process, who will have the necessary skills and experience in working with older buildings to avoid unexpected issues and handle any complications that arise in stride. Your project may also require consultants such as structural engineers and specialised craftsmen and builders, and an experienced renovation architect may already have a reliable network of partners to cover all these areas of expertise.


Need help with your home renovation project? Get in touch with a local expert in renovation or restoration work to walk you through the process!


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