Specialist surveys of Listed Buildings

Peter and Richard are both specialists in Building Conservation.  They know and understand the legislation which forms the basis of the Listing system.  Peter has undertaken literally hundreds of Listed Building Surveys all over the country.  

Click here to visit our sister site - Heritage Consulting Ltd and book a survey.

Both Pete and Richard live in old listed homes.  We not only live in them, we maintain them with traditional materials, we are used to writing Listed Building Consent applications and Heritage Statements.  We have taken Listed buildings apart and rebuilt them.  We know them inside out, and back to front.  We understand the materials they are built with, how to repair them, and the costs.  We also know how to make them warm and dry!

One of the most critical aspects of any Listed Building Survey is its legal status.  Peter is expert at finding breaches of Listed Building Consent.  You must remember that you inherit legal responsibility for any changes to the building which are not authorised.  A good example of this - and one we often see - is people putting UPVC windows into a Listed Building.  The house is sold, and the new owner then inherits responsibility.  A knock on the door from the local Conservation Officer may well spell a VERY expensive experience.  One Grade 2 Listed building in Birmingham that Peter has worked on has UPVC windows throughout.  The owner was told to remove them and reinstate oak windows - nearly £100,000 later the building was given the all-clear by the local Conservation Officer.  

Every listed building consent will have a set of related documents which are archived by the local planning department.  These will include plans and elevations of the building, which show the work to be done, and specifications.  With this will be a Design and Access statement, and more recently a Heritage Statement - which should detail history of the building, materials to be used, and a number of other relevant issues.  By looking at all of these documents relating to the application, Peter can build a picture of what has been done to the building, and whether it is legal.  Unfortunately, once the application is approved, Conservation Officers rarely visit the building and inspect the works - we frequently find that specifications are not adhered to. A recent Listed Building Survey had application documents that clearly stated that no foam fillers were to be used.  Every single window was fitted into the frame using foam filler.  All of these will now have to be removed and re-fitted properly.  In the same application, timber frame repairs were to be sealed with lime mortar.  Cement was used, and again will have to be removed. 

Surveys of Listed Buildings are a pleasure - it is always a privilege to walk around such a wealth of history - trying to understand what has been done to the houses over the ages. The biggest problem with old buildings is people using modern materials.  Damp problems start to occur when gypsum plaster is used to repair lime plaster for example.  It traps moisture and causes all the symptoms of 'rising damp' which apart from not even existing, is a description of a symptom - not an actual problem or cause.  Timber frames, discussed elsewhere on the site, are frequently abused over the years and we spend a lot of time working on framing problems.  Surveys of timber framed buildings, whether or not they are listed, are difficult.  If our client owns the building, we can be more destructive - opening up sections, removing rotted timber and so on.  If we are doing a pre-purchase survey, it is often not possible to do any destructive work - so we depend on using thermal imaging cameras, thermo hygrometers, and other probes which may help indicate if there are areas of rot. Often just thick layers of paint tell us there are going to be problems.  Sounding the timber with a good hammer will indicate whether it is in good condition - a happy 'ring' or a dull 'thunk' is what we listen for.

Peter always prefers to have clients with him for the Listed Building Survey.  It makes so much more sense that you can see and feel the Listed Building we are surveying, and look at, and understand the problems we see.  It is so much easier to discuss a badly pointed brick wall for example, and to show you the cement pointing and angle grinder marks where wally builder has damaged the bricks.  We discuss options, materials, specifications and costs - sometimes we can find a good local 'man' to come and quote on minor works to put right.  Don't forget that repairs to Listed Buildings don't need consent, so long as they do not  materially affect the fabric - in other words they are like for like, and not a change.  

Oh, by the way - Repairs to Listed Buildings are NOT VAT EXEMPT any more!!!   Blame wally Cameron for that - they took away the zero rating for alterations to Listed Buildings about three years ago - so don't get any ideas that your work will be VAT exempt.  It won't be.   Wally Cameron refuses to grant the 5% repairs rate that has been approved by the EU for any home repairs - so write to your local MP and complain - and don't vote for Cameron - he has done a huge amount to undermine support for heritage since coming to power.  Loads of Conservation Officers have lost their job as a result of Cameron's cuts - your local Conservation Officer is your best friend when you have a Listed Building.

Recent surveys we've done were in Hereford (magnificent Grade 2 listed timber frame) , Shropshire (Grade 2* town house - timber framed), London (Kensington Palace Gardens - very nice!), Manchester (a barn conversion owned by a real footballer's wife - oh dear what a mess, with the identical 'his and hers' black range rovers out front!) , Oxford (An Admiral's house), Stratford, Devon and Cornwall (an old Mine Captain's house - beautiful, but falling down).  Pete also does a lot of work down in Suffolk and has worked in Ely, Cambridge, Woodbridge and Ipswich - he likes the pubs down there! More recent surveys in Buckinghamshire (a Victorian cottage turned out to have been built around a medieval core that nobody knew was there), Wickham, near Southampton, Salisbury (Grade 2 - thick with modern materials causing damp - still ongoing), Marlborough - a beautiful mill, Leicestershire - old farmhouse..

Recent News
RICS prove they don't understand damp

I've just seen this staggeringly incompetent blog on the RICS website.  This is the kind of mis-information that is being fed to homeowners all over the country - and...

Pete's on BBC Radio 4 now!

Pete recently did an interview on BBC Radio 4 - You and Yours - which investigated a case history of failed cavity wall insulation.

An Irish client and his magnificent restoration blog

Our client, John, wanted help with this restoration - it led to this great blog.

It's Condensation Season!

The phone is running off the hook with calls about condensation. Find out how to solve your issues.

The Haynes Manual for Period Property

Ian Rock has written another of his great books.  This one is even better - We've helped Ian with this one and there's loads of photos of our guys doing timber frame work.  A great book, with lots of practical information you need if you have an old home.  Treat yourself and buy this - you won't regret it!

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