This manual is essential reading for anyone who is considering the purchase of a period home, or already owns one. The period home is perhaps the ultimate antique purchase.
NAME: Period Property Manual, care & repair of old houses
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Ian Alistair Rock
PUBLISHER: Haynes Publishing
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non fiction
DESCRIPTION: This manual is essential reading for anyone who is considering the purchase of a period home, or already owns one. The period home is perhaps the ultimate antique purchase.
Every year thousands of people acquire a period home, the technologies and locations spanning much of the world. The most interesting aspect of the period home is that it has survived much longer than more recent buildings, shows every sign of surviving long into the future, and often includes features that modern homes are just beginning to include.
Of course a period home can be anything from an ancient barn, much in need of repair, and offering the possibilities of conversion into a stunning home, in an idyllic setting. Whether the period home is restored and maintained by a new owner, or worked on by highly skilled craftsmen, this manual provides critical information.
It starts by asking some intelligent questions about the ‘why’ of buying a period home. It then moves on through defining what a period home is and providing guidance for the acquisition. The author then raises the important questions of whether to repair or restore and looks at the planning consent issues and heritage preservation.
This is the point at which the question of integrity has to be faced. In several countries, planning permission now involves a great many politically correct pressures and this marks a major change in the use of period homes. The situation is very different from the past. When a period home was originally constructed it was often located in the countryside and built by the family who intended to live there. Their knowledge of building was relatively primitive and they used local materials that were no more than an easy cart ride away. Once the building was habitable, the family moved in and generations then adapted the building to suit their needs. The objective was to make use of something that was already there and it reduced the need for new materials, site clearance and transportation of building components. New doors and windows were cut or covered up, extensions added or removed, new facilities added that were not previously available. Even grand country and town houses followed a similar pattern. New owners considered only their personal needs.
Today, an army of bureaucrats may become involved and so stifle the options that properties that could continue in use are left to decay and be totally lost. Many properties that are listed on At Risk Registers will remain derelict until they are no longer practical subjects for restoration. This is a terrible waste or resources.
Another new obstacle is the demand for some owners to undertake or fund archaeology before being allowed to restore a building and sometimes the “expert” bureaucrats come up with demands that expose their own serious lack of knowledge. In one case, a Saxon church received a grant on the condition that the ancient tower was rendered. The bureaucrats then admitted that they were wrong and offered another grant to remove the render and restore the tower as it should have been repaired. The people managing the Church refused the new grant on the grounds that the money should be spent in preventing another ancient church from falling down. Similar stories apply to period homes and in some cases have resulted in work halting and the owner becoming bankrupt.
While owners may face obstruction from bureaucrats, others acquire a property in an idyllic setting only to find a high-speed rail link being cut through the bottom of the garden. What keeps the period property going is that most owners are not so extremely affected by external forces and acquire a property that gives them years of enjoyment, before another generation takes on the responsibility of living with heritage.
The manual explains clearly the technologies and materials used in period homes. What has allowed many homes to survive is that they use wood frames and lime to produce a flexible structure that is able to move with the conditions. Modern construction with brick, steel, cement and plastic produces an inherently inflexible structure. If conditions change suddenly, the structure is placed under new stresses that it cannot withstand. Where particular problems apply to period homes is a result of the application of more modern and less flexible materials, or the use of paints that are waterproof and hold moisture inside in addition to preventing moister entering from outside. Understanding all of these issues provides a background on which to build experience in doing work yourself, but it also enables you to understand what a contractor would do if employed and why that would be good or bad.
This really is an excellent and comprehensive review of its subject and the standard of illustration is excellent, adding greatly to the value of the text and aiding understanding.