for People with a Passion for Period Property
Ask an Agony Uncle!
Stephen Boniface - Stephen Boniface specialises in building conservation providing multi-disciplinary consulting services. He is Chairman of the Building Surveying Faculty and member of the Residential faculty. He serves on the RICS Building Conservation Forum Board and is the 'Agony Uncle' on the Period Property UK website (

Ask our Agony Uncles ...

You can write to our panel of experts free of charge on any subject, providing it's got something to do with Period Properties.

Our experts are all specialists in matters directly involved with older properties. So, if you have a problem with an older building - or if you think you might have a problem - ask an Agony Uncle...

o Ancient cellar requires limewashing Joy Heywood (Loughborough)
o Should we inject a dpc in a clay lump house? Nigel Dowden (Norfolk)
o Inglenook repair Elizabeth Hembrey (Pulborough, West Sussex)
o DeathWatch Beetle Rethink Joy Davis (Rishangles, Suffolk)
o Adhesive removal from concrete floor William MacLean (Wick, Highlands and Islands)
o Cleaning Victorian Tiled Floors Sue Craft (Derbyshire)
o Tiles stuck on fireplace with Evo-stick Lisa Jenkins (Potton, Bedfordshire)
o Stripped Pine Cyril Ives (Margate, Kent)
o I do not want to see my brick floor ! Robert Andrews (Arrington, Hertfordshire)
o Exposed Trusses Paul McJury (Crediton, Devon)
o Marble Stripping Tim Johns (Winterton, Lincolnshire)
o Durability of Thatch John Brough (Cambridgeshire)
o Window Salvage Jacqueline Hart Saward
o Cleaning Tiles Jo Coughlan (Ceredigion)
o Period Wallpaper Alice Case (Liverpool)
o Save those Sash Windows Andy May (Staffordshire)
o Copper Roofing Specialist? C Innamany (London)

SUBJECT: Exposed Trusses
FROM: Paul McJury (Crediton, Devon)
I am in the process of buying my first thatched cottage. I would like to expose the roof trusses. What do I have to take into consideration regarding ventilation for the thatch? Does exposing the trusses have any detrimental effect on the property?. At present there is no loft hatch and as far as the current owner is aware it has never been opened up. The cottage is Grade II listed.

Paul McJury

Paul, your first step as a owner of a listed cottage would be to gain the views of your conservation officer concerning your plans because the removal of the ceiling to show the roof collars would require Listed Building Planning consent. Secondly drill a hole in the ceiling and using a hacksaw remove a square of ceiling to create an inspection hatch. This will allow you to inspect the timbers, look at the condition of the collars and with the aid of an experienced builder get a real feel for the amount of work involved. Obviously, a thatched roof is a breathing structure which allows air to flow through the straw ensuring any moisture is quickly evaporated. From a conservation building perspective the area between the roof rafters should be daubed and then lime rendered to maintain the breath-ability although other workable solutions will put forward by experienced builders.


SUBJECT: Marble Stripping
FROM: Tim Johns (Winterton, Lincolnshire)
I have recently bought a Georgian House with Victorian developments. The fire place in the dining room is believed to be white/grey marble but it has been painted with brown gloss paint. What can I do to remove the paint and reveal the original marble please?

Tim Johns

Contact 'Strippers' of Sudbury on Tel. 01787 371 524 who will be able to supply you with a suitable poultice which will breakdown the paint before it is simply removed with the aid of water. This particular technique will prevent any scraping from scratching the marble. Once the paint is removed use a fine emery paper or cuttle fish bone to smooth the surface and finish off with a good quality wax.


SUBJECT: Durability of Thatch
FROM: John Brough (Cambridgeshire)
How often do thatched roofs need replacing?

John Brough

John, the lifespan of a thatched roof depends on a variety of factors such as the material its is made from e.g. long straw, water reed or wheat reed, the pitch of the roof, the property's location and proximity to trees, the quality of the past workmanship, its present state and other factors relating to the weather such as wind. It has also become accepted by many people that water reed is the longer lasting material, but of course this isn't strictly the case as many East Anglian long straw thatchers would testify. I believe your best course of action would be employ the services of a master thatcher to survey the thatched roof in question to provide guidance on when repairs, re-ridging and eventual re-thatching is required. Please ensure whoever you employ to survey the roof actually thatches using the material which the property in question is thatched with. Please also visit the information section on the site where the article 'Living with Thatch' will provide you with the rudiments of living in a thatched property.


SUBJECT: Window Salvage
FROM: Jacqueline Hart Saward
I feel I maybe wandering in the dark with this one, but here goes anyway. We have recently refurbished the outside of our property which meant replacing a rather beautiful window with three separate coloured patterned leaded windows, unfortunately I have no room for them in my renovations, I would really rather not just throw them away could you please advise if there is such an organisation which buys such pieces whom I can contact.

Jacqueline Hart Saward

Jacqueline, my first port of call would be offer the window for sale at an architectual salvage auction or alternatively try to sell it to an architectual salvage yard. Take a look at and contact a few dealers. If the window is scarce or rare potential buyers will always appear as long as it is advertised or displayed in the correct place.


SUBJECT: Cleaning Tiles
FROM: Jo Coughlan
We are in the process of buying a Victorian rectory on Ceredigion. There are original quarry tiles in the kitchen(black/red), scullery (black) and hall (mosaic). The tiles have been sadly neglected, but we want to keep them. Can you direct me to advice on how to renovate the tiles.

Jo Coughlan

There should soon be an item on cleaning and sealing floor tiles on this site - a good cleaner is Lithofin Victorian Tiled Floor Restorer and a good sealer is HG Golvpolish. You should be able to get these from good tile retailers. If the tiles tiles are laid on earth, or on a lime bed on earth, they should not be sealed as they need to breath to avoid damp being trapped. The "original" tile finish was a clear oil and of course this still allows the tile to breath. Try Slate Dressing from a fireplace shop, this is colourless and will give a richness to the tiles.

Period Property UK would like to thank Peter Thompson at Original Features for answering this question. Peter can be contacted on 020 8 348 5155 or


SUBJECT: Period Wallpaper
FROM: Alice Case (Liverpool)
Dear Malcolm, our late georgian townhouse has been wallpapered with lincrusta throughout all four storeys of the property. However over the years what with various changes to the house, pipework, new doors etc bits of the lincrusta are missing or very damaged. We would like to restore this, as more than 90% is fine, but I have not been able to find a similar pattern. Is it possible to match or replace any ?

Alice Case

Alice, before going onto provide you which some potential answers to your problem I feel it is important to give a brief historical outline to the origin of Lincrusta for our thousands of readers.

Lincrusta was developed in 1877 by Frederick Walton to provide an alternative to elegant and expensive plasterwork and extend the durability of Linoleum (lino) to walls. Lincrusta wallpaper was an instant success because its deeply embossed relief pattern allowed the general public the means to recreate the look of intricate plasterwork with a mass produced product. Its popularity for people restoring old properties is still intact because of its ability to hide cracks and uneven plaster walls plus provide a base for the application of colour.

On the restoration front Alice first look for areas of your property where new cuboards or wardrobes have been built. You could possible salvage some of the Lincrusta from behind them for patching in more visable areas of your home. Alternatively, visit who produce a range of Lincrusta papers. They can be contacted by telephone on 01254 870838 and are based in Lancashire.



SUBJECT: Save those Sash Windows
FROM: Andy May (Staffordshire)
We've just bought an 1890s Victorian Semi which is predominantly fitted with sash windows, but these are in a generally poor state of repair and have mostly been painted shut. From the point of view of energy-efficiency and security we are considering replacing them with new wood double-glazed units (no uPVC!!!) but a number of articles we've seen suggest that repair is better than replace. Do you have a view on whether this is feasible or advisable, and if so how do you go about finding someone qualified to do it right.

Andy May

Andy, I'm glad you have paused before taking any further action with your windows. In an age where increasingly things are designed to function for a certain amount of time and then be replaced it isn't surprising that many people think their sash windows are beyond repair. Yet, of course, this is simply not true. One of the most common problem faced is wet rot which is common in sills and glazing bars. This can be solved with fillers for minor decay or surface imperfections where the strength of thre timber is unaffected. If the decay is serious a competent joiner will be able to cut away areas of serious decay and splice new sections if timber on. On the subject of energy efficiency there are numerous companies who specialise in overhauling and draught-proofing sash windows. A selection can be found on under 'windows & doors' in the directory section or visit Alternatively contact English Heritage on 020 7 973 3000 for their free leaflet on window conservation.

Finally, remember your windows are an integral component of your property and can have a dramatic effect if removed and replaced. Indeed, I've read on many occasions how homeowners moving into Victorian properties are having the replacement windows torn out and replaced with sash windows. People appreciate that a fine antique is appreciated for its completeness and imperfections, and windows are no different.


SUBJECT: Copper Roofing Specialist?
FROM: C Innaman (London)
Dear Malcom, we need some on-site repairs done to a small domed copper roof (appx 10ft diameter) in the central area of London. Perhaps your 'little black book' might oblige?

C Innaman

Contact CEL Archtectural Metal Roofing from Peterborough on 01733 206 633 or Salmon Plumbing Ltd from Ottershaw, Surrey on 01932 875 050. Both companies are present in the latest edition of the Building Conservation Directory.