Property problems - Georgian Listed Buildings
This is one article in a series of articles covering different property eras and their typical problems. We have looked at:
Traditional Tudor timber frame
Georgian and Regency
Victorian and Edwardian
Modern timber frame
In this article we are looking at Georgian Listed Buildings and Regency Listed Buildings and their associated problems.
We would advise that the property problems can be very specific to the area and location of the property, or even the direction it is facing, i.e. north, south, east or west elevations can each have their individual problems. The defects and problems also relate to the mixture of building materials used, this can range from small repairs to where alterations and extensions have been carried out, and, of course, the age and general standard of the original construction and any additional maintenance that has taken place on the property. Having said all of that we have given you a general indication of the typical problems that Georgian and Regency properties have, which we hope will be a useful free guide.
This series of free property problems articles unfortunately cannot be conclusive, as there are whole books, theses, PhD's, Doctorate studies thaat have been written on smaller subjects! If we could refer you to some we would recommend:
General books on the era, or period, of property:
Georgian House Style: An Architectural and Interior Design Source Book, by Ingrid Cranfield, Publisher: David & Charles, Devon
Georgian Architectural Designs and Details: The Classic 1757 Style Book by Abraham Swan
Georgian Architecture by James Stevens Curl
The Georgian Group Book of the Georgian House by Steven Parissien
Regency Style by Steven Parissien (which actually looks at Regency style and Adams style). Publisher: Phaidon Press Limited, London
The Regency County House: From the Archives of Country Life, By John Martin Robinson
Regency Redux by Emily Eerdmans
Building surveying from the top down
In this series of problem property articles we have looked at the properties from the top down, much as a surveyor would when carrying out a building survey, or, as it is commonly known, a full structural survey, or an engineers report. You will find different property problems and defects, everything from dampness in the walls to condensation (very difficult to tell the difference between the very different costs in putting right), to articles on cracking, foundations and drains, in the quick link section of the www.1stAssociated.co.uk website.
Georgian and Regency properties
The Georgian era began around the mid 1700's until the early 1800's; the Regency period then ran until the mid-1800's. We think it is much more accurate not to be accurate with regard to the Georgian and Regency era, as unlike the reigning monarchies in question, the style of construction didn't instantly stop on their death or abdication.
Key features of Georgian and Regency properties
Georgian and Regency properties tended to be squarer built with large sliding sash windows, with 6 x 6 or 3 x 3 panes. The panes of glass used to be relatively small, as at the time we were unable to manufacture large ones.
The roof was often hidden, as were the gutters, by parapet walls and this was very much the front of the building, with everything else being hidden to the rear. This style was applied to both the working class cottage style Georgian property and also to the larger, grander Georgian style properties.
The buildings were usually built of a soft red brick with some having render to the first floor level and some stucco detailing. This Stucco was used to imitate stonework. The wealthy property owners, of course, had real stone. Also, there were often decorative features around the windows and at parapet wall level.
Internally the properties tended to have larger rooms to the first floor, which is where the occupants would have lived and spent most of their time. There would also have been small balconettes. Georgian internal doors were usually six panelled doors often with a fan light to give light into the hallway.
The Regency era developed on from the Georgian era, using decorative ironwork to the entrance porches and balconettes.
Typical problems at high level to the chimneys, flashings, roof verges and roof ridges
Problems occurring at high level often means that scaffolding is likely to be required or some form of access platform, albeit a cherry picker or hoist. This can often be where the main costs are incurred when carrying out a project, as health and safety on a building project is of the upmost importance.
Weathering of the pointing to the chimneys and ridge tiles and to the perimeter.
Flashings often replaced with a cement wedge, or a tile on edge. We would always recommend returning this to a lead flashing with a soaker.
Many original roofs were tiled, usually this would be a peg tile, with the pegs being formed in oak. Over the years deterioration will have taken place and various ad hoc repairs will have occurred, such as replacing wooden pegs with nails. We have seen these repairs work quite successfully, except where the nails are not galvanised and start to rust.
Thatched roofs do need regular maintenance, how regular depends upon the type of thatch. Please see our article on thatched roofs.
Roof junction and valley gutter problems
Over the years most Georgian and Regency properties will have been extended and altered. Where new extensions etc. have been added and where the junctions occur, there can be problems in the form of valley gutters.
Bay window roof problems
One of the biggest problems in Georgian properties is where a lintel is rotting adjacent to a bay window roof. This can be caused by a leaking roof and can cause severe structural problems.
Main roof structure problems
For the roof structure cut timber was used. The roofs were designed on site, specifically for that property and based on the knowledge and experience of the people working on the property, this was before Chartered Engineers and Surveyors existed!
Fascias and soffits and box gutter problems
Generally Georgian and Regency properties did not have fascias and soffits boards, but they nearly always had rendered parapet walls, which can cause problems with blocked box gutters.
The walls of Georgian and Regency properties
Georgian and Regency wall problems
Often a soft red brick was used to build these properties. Soft red bricks are not as hard as a modern brick and are susceptible to damage and deterioration from the weather, such as frost attack, particularly if the bricks have been repointed with a cement mortar. Also, you will notice at low level many walls deteriorate badly, this is due to the rain hitting hard surfaces and bouncing back up and literally washing away the mortar.
Georgian and Regency bay problems
Movement to the bays of the property often indicates there is little, or no, foundations under these.
Re-painting and re-pointing problems
Re-painting and re-pointing work may have caused the walls to stop being able to breathe and this can lead to the spalling of the brickwork and the stonework.
Damp proof course
From the 1770's onwards, damp proof courses officially had to be added. In some areas this was taking place before but in some areas this wasn't taking place until much later. Interestingly enough, we are still not certain, although it is only in recent history that damp proof courses were added. There has been much speculation that they were added to stop the sewerage rising up the walls, as the people of the 1770's were literally throwing their sewerage into the street.
Georgian and Regency properties, things to look out for (and things we have found many times over the years)
Timber lintel problems
These properties would have used timber lintels originally. Whilst many have been replaced and repaired, large bay windows are susceptible to rot in the lintels, which can cause structural problems.
Rot to sliding sash windows or replacement with a plastic non-structural window that can lead to movement in the property, leaking glazing beads, rot to the sill of the window, not to mention poor fitting sliding sash windows, badly balanced windows where the wrong weight of glass has been used, where they act more like a guillotine!
Floors, foundations and underground
Little or no foundations are often the case with Georgian and Regency properties, which can become a problem is there are, for example, leaking pipes in the area, or the Georgian and Regency property sits on a clay soil.
Originally, very minimal drainage is likely to have been present. This has been added after. In the older drainage installations you can get problems with leaks to the drains, also, often where extensions have been added, as they inevitably are in older properties, awkward bends can lead to blockages in pipes.
Lath and plaster ceiling problems
Predominantly lath and plaster will have been originally used, there may be some boarding. Today, most modern refurbished sections will have been replaced with plasterboard. The use of these different materials can lead to cracking, though of course it can be much worse if it structural cracking. This needs to be correctly diagnosed.
Regency and/or Georgian, plus some other styles, such as Victorian often seen
Whilst the property may predominantly be one style, usually extensions and alterations have occurred over the years in different styles. This combination of different properties is where the real skill of building surveying comes in, to establish whether they work well together, or, it is probably more correct to say, if they work acceptably together. Many times with older properties we find the original construction is good and sound, assuming it has been well maintained, it is the additions that have been added over the years that are the problem and no doubt we are still making mistakes on properties today.
Georgian and Regency towns we know and love