Many of us will choose a house based on those immortal words ‘original features’. Fireplaces, wooden floors, ceiling coving and old pine doors are all things that can raise a house above the pack when it comes to the estate agents details. But more often than not those much-loved features have seen better days – pitted boards, crumbling plaster and peeling baths – fine in theory but those promises to fix them up are often forgotten in among the important task of living day to day in a property.
However, whether you’re fixing up to sell or just want to give your home the love it deserves it’s important to respect original features and restore them extremely carefully – a bodge job won’t see the house through another year, let alone 150. Many professionals advocate using like for like when restoring a Victorian or Edwardian home, making new additions blend in with old, while others suggest respecting the original by making alterations and additions obvious. The benefit to this is not only in adding your own mark to a place but also in realising that a copy is not as desirable as an original.
If you desperately wish to keep an old home in the state it was intended to be your first stop should undoubtedly be the local reclamation yard or handy website www.salvo.co.uk where you can pick up anything from paving slabs to sash windows, plaster mouldings to butler sinks, church pews and even school toilets. You might also wish to build up a network of local builders who will get in contact if they remove something you need from another house or even knock on the doors of homes which are obviously being renovated.
While restoring wooden doors and floors may seem as simple as a sanding and waxing job, often panels or boards may need replacing or woodworm may need to be treated. For the perfect finish hire a professional who will know how to use the unwieldy floor sander and exactly what products to use on your wood. Additionally a carpenter can suggest ways in which warped or ill fitting doors can be improved. Original bathroom fittings can look wonderful but there’s no denying that tens of years of wear and tear can take their toll. With a little attention lavished on them ball and claw baths, butler sinks and even old loos can be given a gleaming new lease of life. Again, rejuvenating a cast iron bath might be best left to a professional although home re-enamaling kits are available. A toilet bowl, even one as old as your Granny, can be cleaned using good old fashioned housewives tips such as bicarbonate of soda or indeed a professional can resurface both bowl and tank for you.
Of course, with the new back-to-basics trend in interiors you may choose to make a feature of crumbling plaster and chipped fire surrounds – there’s never been a better time to work that ‘worn in’ look.