If you live in an old house and need to undertake renovations due to unsympathetic past treatments, it is tempting to decimate the remaining old features for nice shiny new ones. Isn’t that what everyone does when upgrading their home to meet modern standards? I’ve done it myself – rip out a scruffy old floor and replace it with a fresh new one and then regret it.  Or sand a perfectly sound floor that was never intended to be seen naked, natural and blond. Or stripping painted wood and finding your property looks like it got stuck in the 1970s.

This blog is about how you can work with the grain of an old building, without it necessarily costing an arm and leg, and retaining much more of the patinas and finishes that inspired you to buy it in the first place. A lot depends on the condition of the building, its legal status, the availability of materials and to an extent timing of works and deadlines you are working to. Having spent the last 3 years on a project, I thought at least some of the stuff would be of interest or use to others. 

Here I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t ask your tradesmen for ‘ideas’ about anything (least of all anything to do with design or special finishes).

Forget everything you’ve seen on C4. Like the design team demonstrating which sledge hammer to employ to make 2 perfectly proportioned rooms that are easy to heat into one badly proportioned one, which is impossible to heat.

Keep on the right side of the law, of course. Use professionals when necessary but compare their advice carefully. Don’t defer to the professionals advice, or you’ll get chipboard flooring and fake laminate and mdf skirting/fire surrounds.  And always make sure you restore like for like if you live in a listed home (electrics and plumbing aside!).

But if you are reading this, I am assuming that you have bought an old house because you don’t want it demolished from the inside out!

You’ll certainly balls a few things up, so, make sure you know you are ballsing it up and whatever you do do, make sure it is easy to reverse. This is important.

Saving old buildings and saving money, don’t really go together. But you can save if you avoid unnecessary treatments (modern damproofing can be effective, but isn’t necessarily the right approach) and you aren’t in an unreasonable hurry.

And finally, if you want to live in a house with all the mod cons and hospital temperatures, then why not move to one (a modern house not a hospital)? Don’t ruin an old one just because of transient modern fashions / obsessions!