What could be better than a period property? Older buildings have a unique character and charm, and have been constructed using old fashioned workmanship that has stood the test of time. All this is true, but period homes also come with their own set of potential problems that can turn the dream into a nightmare for the unwary.
If you are considering an older property, either as your new home or for a renovation or investment project, here are our top tips for areas where you need to pay special attention.
Let’s start at ground level. Most old homes will have floors that are constructed of either solid wood or flagstones. A stone floor is great in that it is solid and there is nothing much to go wrong with it, but bear in mind that it can be incredibly cold in the winter, and is unforgiving if precious items, or indeed precious children, fall on it from a great height. Old stone floors are not always the most level either, which can mean a challenge when it comes to standing furniture up straight without wobbling.
A solid wood floor, on the other hand, is more forgiving and warmer, while also being extremely hard wearing. It is often presented as a great selling point for an older property. This is fine, as long as it is really as solid as it looks. Get it properly inspected to make sure the wood is sound.
The good news is that even if there are problems with the old wood flooring, or you are not comfortable living with flagstones, a new solid wood floor is not prohibitively expensive. Take a look here to see what is available, from simple laminate to premium oak and walnut. Even better, these can be laid over a stone floor relatively easily, meaning all options are open to you.
Having sorted out the floors, our next port of call is the roof. Old architectural methods have plenty going for them, but energy efficiency is not one of them. Be prepared for the possibility that insulation will be either non-existent or woefully inadequate by modern standards.
Have a look in the loft and see what, if anything, is up there. The current recommendation is for at least 250mm thickness, so if there is anything less, be prepared to spend an afternoon with gloves and a dust mask laying some fresh insulation.
Before you open the loft hatch, though, be prepared: In a period home, you might not be alone. Check carefully for droppings – a few mice or even the occasional rat go with the territory and are easy to deal with, but if you see anything in the loft that looks like elongated mouse droppings, you probably have bats in residence.
As a protected species, you cannot simply remove or destroy bats. However, in most cases, they do no damage, keep themselves to themselves and coexist happily with humans. The real problem arises when you need to perform any repair works in the loft space. The Bat Conservation Trust can offer a variety of advice and support, so do contact them for help if bats are unexpectedly in residence in your property.