How to get maximum value from your redecoration project
PUBLISHED: 16:20 24 January 2017 | UPDATED: 15:54 03 February 2017
Heritage expert Bruce Clark from built environment consultancy Nash Partnership highlights the problems DIY can cause for an old property and explains how to get the maximum value from a redecoration project
Many people seek historic surroundings because they prefer the sense of permanence and the style of old houses. Yet no matter how well a property has been kept or how good a condition it is in, most new owners seek to redecorate a property to suit their own sense of taste and lifestyle. This raises the conundrum of how to keep the sense of history while updating the property without copying the past. Certainly with listed properties, solicitors increasingly need proof that all alterations were carried out with the proper approvals.
Condition is key
In the past, ‘style’ was the preserve of larger property owners, who employed professional designers and tradesmen to do the work. The largest properties often kept rooms unaltered for decades after the initial expense. A large portion of the population rented property and had neither the time nor the funds to re-decorate.
The period of skills and material shortages after the war saw the start of a DIY revolution in Britain. People repaired and upgraded properties that had suffered years of enforced neglect, often with severe problems arising from the lack of maintenance.
The post-war years also led to the use of new materials that can be harmful to the fabric of historic buildings as well as a loss of the traditional skills base. Decoration and refurbishment done by well-meaning amateurs who intended to improve the property often led to the loss of historic features that people now cherish and/or long-term damage to the main building fabric. This includes, for example, damp as a result of indiscriminate use of cement renders or the removal of fireplace surrounds when central heating was fitted. Yet unattended buildings fall into a spiral of decay and, in time, become un-suitable for living in.
Get value from your investment
As well as updating a property to suit modern lifestyle and tastes, most people decorate as part of a maintenance regime to retain or improve the value of a property both aesthetically and financially, making it more marketable whether for rent or sale.
To get maximum long-term benefits from redecoration, the building must be understood and issues with the substrate should be properly addressed. Otherwise, the benefit will be for the short term only, and the work could be harmful in the long term. If surface conditions or substrate are not sound, the decorating process is compromised and the results can be very short lived. Plasterwork, masonry and timber fillers can fail to harden and unsuitable paint can peel, crack or fail to dry completely. Wallpapers can fail to stick and (water) stains can appear through the paper.
However, decoration and style can add financial as well as aesthetic value to a property if they are well thought out.
The decoration should work with the building, not against it, but this does not mean recreating the past. Indeed, what most people refer to as ‘restoration’ is a modern take on history, viewed through the lens of current expectations. Modern expectations and experience, particularly with regard to light and colour, are very different from historically correct schemes. To modern eyes, these schemes often look either garish in modern lighting, or gloomy with very limited colour palates.
Where one seeks to re-create or restore traditional joinery or plaster, the correct profiles and materials should be used. Many modern copies that appear reasonable in isolation stand out as ‘mean’ or too decorative when directly compared.
Often, less is more. Work done simply and well will enhance the property more than a complex decorative scheme carried out with inappropriate materials or poor workmanship.
Nash Partnership is a built environment consultancy with conservation expertise. We have nearly 30 years’ experience of conserving built heritage for private owners, local authorities, trusts and national companies. We’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in the subject. Please contact Bruce Clark at Nash Partnership on 01225 442424.
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