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 (www.periodproperty.co.uk).

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SUBJECT:
What paint to use on weatherboards?
FROM:
Susan Palmer
(Essex)

My partner and I have recently bought a grade 2* watermill in Essex (seemed a good idea at the time) which needs a lot of repair. It is weatherboarded and needs extensive replacement of featheredge and repainting. We would be grateful for advice regarding paint as we are getting conflicting views on traditional paints. Apparently linseed oil paints takes forever to dry out and I’m unsure as to whether modern paints which claim to be micro porous and low VOC would be acceptable to a conservation officer. Any advice please for affordable paint which would hopefully be approved.

Susan Palmer

Where a building, such as this, is clad with weatherboard there is generally quite good ventilation through the weatherboard itself and the issue of breathability is usually dealt with by the very nature of the cladding rather than by the materials or finishes.  The more important matter is to ensure that the weatherboard is itself protected from deterioration. Most weatherboard is softwood (although it can be of Oak) and if left exposed to sunlight and weathering it can degrade quite quickly.  This is in part due to normal weathering, rain, etc., but also due to UV from sunlight.  To ensure longevity of weatherboard (indeed any external joinery) it is usual to coat it with a paint of some description and this will usually need regular attention (re-painting) to maintain it in good condition. What you don't say in your question is whether the weatherboard is original or later replacement.  When dealing with the weatherboard it is important to try to maintain and retain as much of the original weatherboard as possible and replace only where necessary.  Weatherboard was often finished with oil based paints historically and wherever such a building is finished with a white or coloured paint finish it is quite usual to find that these were oil based.  Such paints generally provide good protection for the timbers to prevent them rotting and deteriorating and to help reduce the impact of sunlight on the timbers.  Where black it is probable that a suitable finish would be black barn paint.

Many buildings with weatherboard have a ‘stain’ finish and whilst this does provide protection it is not usually as good a protective finish as paint.

Linseed oil paint has come into prominence in recent years and can provide a very good finish but it does have some drawbacks as you have found.  In some circumstances such paints would be a suitable choice.  However, the cost and process of application is such that for many people conventional paint should be considered. With weatherboard normally I would not regard the nature of the paint as being of a major concern provided it protects the timbers.  Of course, if there are historic layers of paint on original weatherboard there is the question of how best to conserve and retain this provided it is not deteriorating and can be left in place without detriment to any further paint finishes that might need to be applied over it.

The specific type of paint to use is one for discussion with the conservation officer.  I see no reason why modern paint systems should not be used, after all most paint systems are a temporary finish with the primary aim to protect the timbers below.  Various manufacturers make claims about the paints they produce and there are varying schools of thought about whether to use water or oil based paints.  In my recent experience I have found that oil based paints tend to provide a longer lasting finish.  However, I would stress that whatever paint is chosen a good quality paint should be used - ideally a good quality trade paint; trade paints tend to have a different formulation to those obtained in most DIY stores and will provide a better longer lasting finish.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.

The Whitworth Co-Partnership LLP - Chartered Architects and Surveyors

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SUBJECT:
What roofing materials would I use to replace Asbestos slates?
FROM:
Jason Long
(Devon)

Our house is grade 2 listed any will need a new roof soon. I believe it's asbestos slate, but I may be wrong. I have ordered my deeds which may or may not say. Can you advise what tile the roofer can or cannot use? Also there is a much younger property adjoined to our house which is not listed. Would they be able to knock it down if they planned to develop the land behind their house?

Jason Long

Without knowing the property it is difficult to say for certain, but asbestos slates would usually have been used from the early to mid-part of the 20th century and if the property is much older it is unlikely that these are original roof coverings to the building. Removal of the asbestos slate should be carefully undertaken and it is likely you will need to use an approved contractor.  This is something you will need specialist advice upon and you will need to have the asbestos content checked to establish its true nature. Asbestos slates tend to be quite lightweight and if the roof frame is of slender construction there is a possibility that any replacement covering would require a strengthened roof structure.  You will need to seek advice on this.

If the asbestos slate previously replaced natural slate it is likely that the most suitable replacement roof covering would be natural slate once again.  However, if you find that a different roof covering once existed prior to the asbestos slate, then you should look at reinstating that particular roof covering. There are no hard and fast rules about what tile or slate the roof should or should not use.  It is a matter of researching what existed previously and what is common to the area and this type of building.  Discussions with the conservation officer should help in arriving at an appropriate decision.  In any event listed building consent would be needed for the change. In general terms, you need to think about reinstating a roof covering based on evidence on what previously existed, or something common in the area, or natural slate that is a close match to what exists at present. The modern equivalent to asbestos slate would be a man-made slate, but with a listed building it is unlikely that such would be permitted as a replacement. You mentioned that a later building adjoins the listed house.  Any application to demolish and replace that house would need planning permission and the fact that it is adjoined to a listed building would be a material consideration.  In fact listed building consent would normally be necessary even though that building is not itself listed. If major work is undertaken to the adjoining building, or it is demolished, there may well be party wall issues for consideration and advice on party wall issues should be obtained.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.

The Whitworth Co-Partnership LLP - Chartered Architects and Surveyors

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SUBJECT:
Would moving a door opening really be 'wholly uncharacteristic' for a Regency building?
FROM:
Doris Lockhart
Greater London

I have a situation involving a listed building in Eaton Square. It concerns the change in position of the entry door to a reception room from the entrance hall, so the door opening is centred on a very handsome and original fireplace on the opposite wall. The advisor who visited before the architect I am working with submitted the plans for Listed Building Consent said that such a move would be 'wholly uncharacteristic' and did not think we would get permission to make such a change. At present the entry door is in a corner of the room, which I find uncomfortable. As an expert on Georgian architecture, can you give a judgement on this matter?

Doris Lockhart

Without an inspection it would be inappropriate and impossible to provide definitive advice. The buildings around Eaton Square are part of an estate built from a specific pattern and following the norms of classical Georgian architecture, typical for townhouses built through the Georgian and Regency period.  In fact, Eaton Square was laid out and built sometime between 1826 and 1830 with the area being developed into the 1850s.  It is not a ‘Georgian’ building but would properly be considered Regency or early Victorian.  That said terminology is not particularly important as it is generally of classical style. I have not researched the development of this estate in particular in order to answer this question, but quite often you will find that the external appearance of the building was set out with the others to create a specific vista.  However, the interiors were sometimes laid out differently for each building, according to the original owner.  Without researching the plan form for each building it would be difficult to determine how regular the layouts might be or where they might differ. Although classical architecture incorporates a degree of symmetry it is my experience that it is rare for doors to reception rooms to be centred on fireplaces. With these buildings the principal floor would have been that at first floor.  This is often evidenced by the fact that the first floor is often a taller storey than the others, but even if not taller it is often more elaborate.  Indeed with the façades of Eaton Square it is evident that the first floor is indeed the piano nobile for these buildings.  The ground floor tended to be the reception area where visitors would wait to be received into the principal rooms above. In my experience it is rare for a door into a ground floor reception, off the entrance hall, to be centred on the fireplace.  A corner entrance, such as that you describe, is far more usual. I do not claim to be an expert specifically on Georgian buildings but I do have significant experience of dealing with such.  In my experience it is very rare for the doors to be centred in the way you propose. You mention that you find the present corner entrance to be "uncomfortable", but it is unclear what you mean by this. If the present layout is original to the building I believe you would struggle to convince any conservation officer for a major change to the layout without very good reason and without a full justification.  It will be for your present architect (in conjunction with yourself) to make that justification.

On the face of it, my initial reaction would be much the same as your initial adviser who advised that such a change would be uncharacteristic and unlikely to receive permission. On a more general matter, changes to layout within listed buildings can be proposed and this may be an instance where such a layout change could be argued.  The fact that a building is listed, and indeed the process of obtaining listed building consent, is not intended to prevent change to a building; rather, it is aimed at ensuring that the change is appropriate.  The process therefore provides a control over what can or cannot be done to a listed building. Of course, it may depend on what other changes have already occurred within the building and what other physical damage to the fabric might arise because of the change.  For example, if the room has a particular decorative finish such as panelling or other decorative features and the change damages these, it is going to be far harder to argue for the change then if no such features exist at all. Although my answer does not necessarily provide support to your desired alteration this should not prevent you from taking the matter further and exploring the change; but, my views perhaps highlight the fact that you will probably face an uphill struggle to argue for and justify such an alteration.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.

The Whitworth Co-Partnership LLP - Chartered Architects and Surveyors