Pitfalls and advice
Larchfield Home

When we first moved in we sat in the front room of the house and looked around us and wondered what we had let ourselves in for. Apart from the boxes lying around us perhaps the sheer magnitude of the work struck home.

Those thoughts were soon dismissed as we just simply got stuck in. The first few days we started to visit a few archetectural salvage places within reach to generally see what was on offer but with the main purpose of finding a new front door.

These sorts of places are really the best places to start looking for specific items for old houses as anything new on offer by way of doors is very much going to be a compromise because doors simply aren't made the same generous size they used to be. The only other option is something custom made - but if you do then the best bet is to base it on an original design. We've found that whilst you see things advertised as say Victorian if you look at them there always seems to something not quite right with them - it's a modern designers idea of something Victorian. It has perhaps been constructed in a modern way and does not quite look right, so if a new build is needed find an original design you like, even if it means walking down a road of suitable looking houses, photograph it and say "build me that".

The next good sources of help are the magazines and books dealing with period homes. These genarally have a Directory of useful suppliers and societies and in our case The Victorian Society helped with a number of queries.

When it comes to tradesmen the best method if the period magazines have no one local to you is to go by recomendations. At worst when asking friends or neighbours you'll be told don't use 'so and so' but more often than not you'll be pointed in someones direction with a favourable comment. But do you homework first. Decide precisly what you want doing and when discussing the job make sure you're happy with their 'period' credentials, ie be happy that what they're going to do is in keeping with the house. Once you've found one to do a job and a different skill is needed it's quite likely that the recomendations will keep coming from within that tradesman's circle.

Now what about the pitfalls?

The worst that could beset any old house is Double Glazing!

The reasons? Well first is that double glazing seems to have been designed with at best the 1950s bay windowed Semi in mind and so the style is totally out of keeping with anything older. Look around for the proof. Look at the size (depth) of the frames - there is generally 50% more frame than in traditional wood windows. What about colour - white, white or white. Now pure white is very much a modern phenomina. Prior to that whites only looked white because they were surrounded by dark colours but were in fact very pale or off-white colours. But back to windows I have yet to see double glazing that looks right in a period home and have seen so many houses have their archetectural characater destroyed by their new plastic windows and the windows are as much of the character of the building as any ornimental brickwork or detailed fasias.

Now that's not to say it's out of the question as we've one sash window that we had made with double glazing panels but of the sash type made in wood. There are the odd firm approved for producing windows for period homes but I've not seen their offerings. Again a suitable magazine will have details.

Inexperience with the job in hand will always be a hazard so be prepaired that somethings might not turn out right and might well have to be re-done sooner rather than later. That research is all the more important.