Renovating a Heritage Building: What You Need to Know

Renovating a heritage building can be a daunting task.

If it is officially a listed building in the UK, there may be additional steps of planning and permission that you need to through. Here’s what you need to know about renovating heritage buildings.

Which buildings are listed?

The list of heritage buildings is actually created by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and can include anything from castles and cathedrals to private homes and small architectural features – it’s not up to the owner whether it is listed or not.

Buildings are listed if they are considered to have a level of architectural of historical interest. Split into three ‘grades’, there are more than 370,000 entries on the list, so it could well be the case that you own a listed property or you’re looking at buying one.

What’s the difference between the grades?

There are three grades of listed heritage buildings;

  • Grade I – buildings of exceptional interest
  • Grade II* – highly important buildings of more than special interest
  • Grade II – buildings of special interest

Functionally, Grade I buildings are considered to be the most important but any listed building is deemed to warrant effort to ensure they are properly preserved. The massive majority of listed buildings are in Grade II, but even so, it means that owners have to take extra special care if they want to carry out renovations or make any changes to the building.

You may need to gain permission to complete works

Carrying out work on a listed building often means that you will require permission from the local council. These can sometimes seem relatively strict – for example, if you are looking to replace windows you will need to gain permission first even if the windows are replaced using exactly the same design and materials as the current unit.

This is true of the majority of the works you can have carried out, the notable exception being the roof covering. It is considered to be fine to complete like-for-like repairs or replacements for roofing.

There’s a difference between restoration and repair

It should be noted that there is a difference between restoration and repair.

In the majority of cases you are permitted to carry out like-for-like repairs on any listed property. Gaining permission only becomes necessary when you are having to wholly replace aspects of the property or you are building an extension or making additions to the property.

However it usually pays to take a cautious approach to everything that you do and apply for permission even if you don’t believe you will need it – this covers you in any event.

Unauthorised works are a bad idea

The reason that you should be as cautious as possible is that otherwise you be implementing unauthorised works.

This is a bad idea for two main reasons. Firstly, because it is actually a criminal offence to carry out works on a listing building without approval, especially if you make any aesthetic changes to the building. You could be forced to pay to have the works changed to restore the property, and additionally you might face a prison sentence and unlimited fines.

The second reason it’s a bad idea is that good quality builders and tradesmen will not begin works on a building without permission. Those that do are unlikely to be reputable and may do a very poor job.

There are specialists in building pathology

Before you consider having any works done on a listed property it’s a great to get in contact with building pathologists. These professionals and scientists use state-of-the-art techniques to understand the problems with a building. That way, they can provide detailed reports into exactly why works need to be carried out.

If you’re looking to have work completed and need to gain permission it can be hugely beneficial to have expert guidance suggesting the works are necessary.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the property industry. For the information in this post, Hutton and Rostron were consulted.

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