A stitch in time… Makes good sense and saves money

Know your home

Understanding your building’s past is worthwhile and most people who live in old houses do so because they like old buildings and want to know its story. This means that most owners of traditional homes are predisposed to care better for their historic building. Understanding how your building developed might help to identify potential trouble spots, which allows you to pre-empt problems and plan effective maintenance.

It is particularly useful to know not just when your home was first constructed but how it has developed and been altered over time. Some alterations may be the cause of problems and deterioration in the building, so comparing it with similar buildings in your area could be useful.

There are two main approaches to researching the history of your house. The first is to use the physical evidence of the house itself, such as its layout and architectural details. The second is to use documentary sources such as maps, drawings and written records.

Start by collecting all the information you have on your home, and then draw a simple floor plan showing the layout of each floor. The plan, or floor layout, of a building maybe a good indicator of approximate age. Early buildings, for example, were just a single room deep.

Floorplans are especially useful for houses where features such as windows and fireplaces may have been substantially altered at a later date; for example, a mediaeval house that was re-fronted in the Georgian period might retain its cross passage plan, providing a vital clue to its early origin.

The materials, or the building fabric, and the finishes applied, can also provide vital clues and are worth noting on a plan. There is a huge quantity of resources that can be used to identify these items and give guidance to estimating the age of the original building and subsequent works. The roofs of most provincial houses before the 1830s, for instance, were gabled rather than hipped.

Understanding how your home developed may make it easier to understand recent changes and problems. Also understanding how your home is currently used is important in identifying problems. You live in your home on a daily basis and it is often easy to ‘miss’ the little things. Regular inspections will help you notice these things. For example, you may notice that a damp patch gets worst in heavy rain or at a particular time of day. These pieces of information can help identify the causes of problems.

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