Some tips for period property renovation


Some tips for period property renovation

Here we provide some tips about how to avoid some of the pitfalls that are the downfall of many period property renovation projects, the likes of which make for gripping TV viewing, hence the invention of  the“ups and downs of building projects” TV genre. There are more tips from our customers here in our article "Things I wish I'd known before buying a period house" and you can read our longer guide to period property renovation here.

Renovation of a period property is a challenge that many people underestimate.  What seems like an exciting and creative project in theory is really a matter of a lot of hard work and a bucket full of money with the rewards many months or years down the line (if at all). Here we provide some tips about how to avoid some of the pitfalls that are the downfall of many period property renovation projects, the likes of which make for gripping TV viewing, hence the invention of  the“ups and downs of building projects” TV genre.

Not all of us are going to undertake the likes of a Grand Design – however the same rules apply whether you are renovating a Victorian terrace in Bristol or a disused castle in Scotland.

What do I need to do before I start my period property renovation?

Think before you buy – your purchase price, plus the (realistic estimate of) renovation costs, plus your time and stress, plus your buying and selling fees must add up to less than your potential selling price. Less than a 10% margin would be a crazy purchase with little room for error. Ideally you should aim for a 20-30% margin even if you plan to live in the property afterwards. Do a lot of research and find out what before and after renovation prices differ by in this street or area – not just based on one estate agent’s opinion but on real facts and figures gleaned from recent house sales. You can find these on websites such as

If the period property that you will be restoring is listed, you need to work out how difficult this may make your project. If the changes you are making to the property are general making good and redecoration, plus new kitchen and bathrooms, listing will not cause an issue. However if you are looking to change layouts, add extensions, make any other major changes or modernisations etc, you should definitely speak to the local conservation officer as to the feasibility of these changes and any objections they may have before proceeding with any purchase.

Victorian windows renovation

Make sure you have a thorough survey done unless you are a very experienced renovator. A newly skimmed and repainted interior is often hiding a sinister secret such as cracks in walls. These could be caused by subsidence, a roof issue or something equally serious. If you get a full survey done and later find an issue that your surveyor didn’t flag up as a problem with the property, they are liable for any serious oversights and you purchasing a property that you wouldn’t otherwise have touched with a barge pole.

Don’t buy a period property for renovation in an area that you are not familiar with. If you are considering this, do lots of research and talk to locals before you buy. What seemed like a bargain can turn out to be a liability if you find that you’ve bought in a bad area with a high crime rate, noisy neighbours or a new motorway planned.

Which are the best properties to buy for a period renovation?

The ideal properties ripe for renovation and unlikely to have a hidden secret are those owned by the elderly who have  no choice but to move out into a smaller property or nursing home, or may have passed away. If the inhabitant was very elderly when they lived in this property, it may be offputting to most people in terms of it’s décor and general state of repair, lack modern amenities including heating and sufficient power points.  The garden is likely to be overgrown. Bathrooms and kitchens are likely to be many decades old and little used (or cleaned) in recent years. However the workload involved in updating a 50 year old kitchen is no different to the work involved in updating a 10 year old kitchen. And if you can bear the yuck factor and are able and willing to semi-camp in the house whilst you make it habitable, these are the sorts of projects where larger profits can be made and the result can be amazing and surprising.

How to save money on your renovation

Shop around for absolutely everything. If you are doing a large project, builders merchants will allow you to open a trade account and have access to their trade discounts. Ask for a discount on everything you buy from labour prices for electrics and plumbing to TVs – many people do ask for discounts and it’s surprisingly easy to get them. Even if it’s just free delivery or something extra thrown in, doing this for every purchase can make a real difference to your end costs.

For all labour you buy in, get a minimum of 3 quotes if not 5 or 6 quotes. On a recent project, the cost difference for scaffolding was £3000 for the most expensive quote and £750 for the cheapest one. And even if you have used somebody before, get them to requote for every job you need doing, and also get a comparison quote from somebody else. This will keep your supplier on their toes and give you the leverage to negotiate on a price.


The Victorian Emporium sells all the hard to find items for your period property renovation from bullion glass to period wallpaper to cast iron guttering. The Victorian Emporium also offer a Period Property Renovation project management service for those that need a general helping hand.

Categories: General, Preservation   Tags: period properties, renovation