Victorian House Renovation

Some of the most iconic Victorian buildings in the UK were built under Queen Victoria’s rule. They are always much in demand thanks to their ornate appearance and delicate decorations, so that they are a great property investment, in all sizes and locations.

As all delicate structures, Victorian buildings require specific competence and great attention when planning alterations.

What type of Victorian property do you have?

The most common types of Victorian homes:

Gothic Revival
Inspired by medieval churches and castles, this style became fashionable after the design of the Houses of Parliament. Typically you can recognise them by steeply-pitched roofs, pointed arches and front-facing gables.

Italianate
Inspired by Italian villas and in contrast to other Victorian styles, these houses typically have only two floors. They are characterised by low roofs and wide eaves, often with a huge front porch, Corynthian columns and arched windows.

Second Empire
This style became fashionable when American cities started to develop in size and cultural variety. They typically have very tall facades and a mansard style roof. Typically they have a simple rectangular or square base.

Stick-Eastlake
These houses are primarily made of wood. They are recognisable by their decorative trussworks and angles wooden framing. Pitched shingled roof and simple gables are other distinguishable elements.

Folk Victorian
A combination of romantic Victorian and American homestead style, this style of houses is rarely found in urban areas. Plans are much simpler, but still they keep their Victorian roots, in the decorations along porches and roofs.

Queen Anne
It’s the most common of Victorian and features heavy ornamentation, porches with gables and circular towers. The large windows are also typical, with both functional and decorative purposes.

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What changes can you make to a Victorian house

In a Victorian property, you can;

  • Convert the loft
  • Extend the rear and the side
  • Enlarge the kitchen or living room
  • Install a new bathroom or ensuite
  • Convert the basement

Plus, in a Victorian property there are always minor fixes needed.

For both major works and minor fixes, it’s important to carry out the work in the most respectful manner. You want to maintain, strengthen, extend while making sure the original structure and features are not damaged of lost.

1. Repair brickwork and pointing

If your property’s exterior isn’t too badly damaged, you can restore it using breathable lime. Matching bricks from reclaimed yards can be used, in case the damage is more extensive.

For extensive repairs, the best choice is always to appoint specialists in restoring period properties.

2. Look at the plasterwork

Cornicing and plaster ceiling roses were the norm for Victorian houses. Often they can become very ornate, so that they can be more tricky to restore.

To replace damaged plasterwork or recreate part of the decorations, make sure you use the best quality materials.

There are suppliers specialised in recreating matching mouldings, roses and other elements.

It’s always better to employ specialist period decorators for the best results.

3. Restore/Replace sash windows

If original Victorian windows survive,  it’s always better to restore them, especially if they have coloured glass. 

In case they need replacement, remember that planning permission is almost always required for windows replacement, especially if your house is located in a conservation area.

Replacing the windows can mean better energy performance, with the possibility of installing double glaze. Consider sometimes double glazing is not viable, though, when there is a constraint to change the windows like-for-like and the original frame doesn’t allow the space for double glaze.

4. Work on the floor

If you can retain the original floorboards, this will maximise the resale value of your property. It will also add to the feeling of space, giving your open-plan area a modern vibe. Strip back your floorboards or visit salvage yards to find reclaimed ones.

You want to make sure to add insulation to the original flooring. You should be able to lift the existing floorboards without causing damage. It will then be fairly straightforward to drape a membrane into position and fill the space between the joists with insulation, before replacing the boards. It’s always better to appoint a professional to avoid damaging the original joists and boards, and to be able to repair any hidden damage that becomes visible during the work.

5. Repair or replace the roof

You can try to replace your roof slates like for like, or have your old roof repaired instead. If you have only few slates to be replaced, you might be able to recover some original ones from a salvage yard.

Remember roof repairs can have a big impact on the good health of your property. Unless it’s a very straightforward work, make sure you use professional roofers to do the job. 

6. Restore or repair the front path

If you have only few damaged tiles to replace, it is worth starting your search from salvage yards.

If the damage is more extensive or your original path has long gone, take inspiration from your neighbouring properties for the right style.

7. Update your kitchen

You can choose any style for your new kitchen and still highlight the original features in your Victorian home.

Details like connices, alcoves, chimney breasts can be incorporated into your new kitchen, giving it a unique character.

Choosing a traditional style will work perfectly. But you don’t have to stuck to traditional. Super modern crisp lines and curves will make your kitchen stunning by contrast; together with the original Victorian features, they will give the room balance and character.

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8. Update your bathroom

Advanced in ceramics and iron made the bathroom an increasingly important part of the house in Victorian times. Today, you can use period touches such as roll-top baths and copper ‘slipper’ baths.

Plus, grab the opportunity to update your plumbwork, pipes, boilers and other bathroom fittings, so that future maintenance and durability are guaranteed.

9. Extend your Victorian home

Adding and extension is the best option to improve a dark kitchen or create more living space in your Victorian house.

If your property is not located in a conservation area and is not listed, there is a lot you can achieve without applying for a planning permission.

For a more cost effective solution, you could opt for a double storey extension, to acquire more space for a lower cost per square metre.

You can check our house extension page for more details on the process and the costs of your Victorian house extension.

10. Add space with a rear extension

Quite sizeable rear extensions are possible under permitted development in most cases, if you have a detached or semi-detached house.

A side return extension will allow more space gain, using the side dead space. 

If your property is listed or you live in a conservation area, regulations for extensions are stricter, and you would need a planning permission for the works.

11. Loft conversion

Victorian properties were generally built with spacious lofts, which means they are ideal for loft extensions. The steeper the pitch of the roof, the more head height you will find.

Check our loft conversion page for more details on what you can achieve with loft conversions in your Victorian house.

12. Convert the basement

Basement conversions have a limited impact on the exterior appearance and are easier to get planning permission for.

Converting an existing basement space is relatively straightforward, and with modern techniques you will achieve perfect waterproofing and spacious airy rooms.

See our basement conversion page for all the info on the process, the options and the average costs.

13. Interior decoration

When it comes to decoration, you have more choices than you think.

If you like the traditional style, you can redecorate with bathroom fittings, tiles, flooring, windows, coving etc that are reminiscent of the period yet all modern in materials and function.

If you want a completely new feel to your home, you can go for ultra modern and crisp fittings. The contrast can enhance the original features, increasing the character and highlighting the uniqueness of the details.

It’s always a good option to speak to a professional for decoration ideas.

14. Structure and alterations

When you’re planning building works, major or minor, in your Victorian house, remember that old buildings can be delicate. Alterations are safer and end up costing less if they are performed by specialists. To ensure that your property will last several centuries more, make sure the work is carried out with competence and respect for the original building.

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How much does it cost to renovate a Victorian house?

The cost of a Victorian renovation will depend on the specifications and the finishes, especially joinery, flooring and other fittings.

Details that are specific to Victorian renovations can increase the cost compared to a standard renovation. Character bricks, Welsh slates, special coving and other plasterwork decorations add to the average prices.

Depending on the location of the property, extensions will be between £1,500 and £2,500 per square metre, loft conversions between £1,000 and £2,000.

In houseUP we specialise in renovations of Victorian buildings, especially where structural alterations are needed.

Get in touch for a free site visit and a free estimation for your Victorian renovation project