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10 common mistakes people make with their Victorian homes

Amy Buxton Amy Buxton
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With so many Victorian terrace houses in the UK, it's little wonder that a lot of people get onto the property ladder by buying one, but in inexperienced hands, these charming, traditional homes can be at risk of bad decisions and lose a lot of value!

While most of these houses won't have listed status, meaning that, within reason, the owners can do as they see fit with them, architects are often horrified by the corner cutting and errors being made! 

We don't want you to fall prey to any of the potential pitfalls of renovating a Victorian terrace home inappropriately, so come and take a look at the top 10 mistakes that homeowners make!

1. Swapping out windows for modern versions.

  by homify

We know hat old fashioned sash windows are usually single-glazed and when you're sitting in your living room, the last thing you want is a cricked neck from a draught, but please, please don't swap pout period correct windows for unapologetically new styles. If you want to up your energy efficiency, do so, but in an in-keeping style!

2. Using cement render, not lime.

Lifestyle:  Living room by Dwell

A lot of terrace houses need a decent damp course carrying out in them and that's a great preventative measure, but fixing internal wall holes with the wrong render is not! Always repair lime render with lime and not the modern concrete mixes that, yes, are cheaper, but not the proper choice.

3. Preventing good floor ventilation with high flower beds.

Your floors need to have a good circulation of air, which is why you'll find air bricks on lower floors of Victorian terrace houses, but if you block them with high-level flower beds or thick garden foliage, all the benefit could be lost, resulting in potential rot of wooden elements. Don't do it!

4. Removing chimneys without adequate support.

We never understand why some people seek to remove the traditional chimney pots from their Victorian terrace homes, but if it is a necessity, always do so via a professional, who can install proper structural support, inside the roof. You'd be shocked at how many people don't do this and end up with caved-in roofs!

5. Ignoring repointing.

 Is repointing a tedious job? Absolutely, but if you don't get it seen to, you are effectively allowing damp to creep in and destroy your home, slowly but surely. If you can't bring yourself to book a professional for any other reason than aesthetics, crumbling pointing also looks terrible!

6. Repointing with the wrong materials.

Just like with those interior wall repairs, make sure that you are having your home repointed with the right kind of mortar! It needs to be breathable, to offer good air circulation and whatever you do, don't be tempted by modern styling or fancy finishes. Just stick to what was there before!

7. Trying quick flashing techniques.

The modern predilection for convenience and cost-effectiveness isn't always a bad thing, but in terms of your roof flashing, we don't think you want to scrimp! Try to have like for like repairs, as that way, you'll know that all the materials that live next to each other will actually work well and not need replacing again in 12 months.

8. Not strengthening the roof before adding heavier tiles.

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If your terrace needs re-roofing and you plan to replace old, broken slate tiles with heavier, more steadfast clay or concrete versions, you absolutely need to reinforce your roof joists. It would also be worth checking for signs of wood rot as well, just to be doubly sure that you'll avoid disaster. 

9. Failing to line and cap chimneys.

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Victorian terrace houses always have chimneys, as open fires were the only source of heating, so if you plan to recommission yours and get them working again, don't forget to take some modern precautions! You'll need to have the chimney swept and the lining checked, before you light anything, and always install a chimney cap too, to prevent animals falling in or rain putting out your fires!

10. Weakening floor joists for modern installations.

Rear Extension: modern Living room by Oakman

We know that Victorian terrace houses can be draughty old things that feel a bit chilly, but that's no excuse for irreversibly weakening floor joists by cutting into them to fit things like underfloor heating! They are a structural element, not an optional extra!

To see a successful terrace transformation, take a look at this Ideabook: Great New Backside for a Victorian Terraced Home.

Have you bought a home that has fallen prey to any of these mistakes?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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