Listed buildings: what you need to know about renovations

Owning a listed property is a privilege that comes with responsibilities, one of which is making sure it’s properly maintained. Here’s how to ensure your renovations and repairs make the grade

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Most listed buildings date from before 1840 and 92 per cent are Grade II listed, often built in brick and timber with lime mortar, wooden window frames and a slate or tile roofs.

Ownership comes with a responsibility to maintain and preserve the house in close-to-original condition, so buying a listed property means abiding by specific rules.

For owners, it’s a small price to pay when they are spellbound by the history, quirks and original features of their home. Enjoying wide old floorboards, flagstones, a wonderful staircase and old sash windows with hand-blown glass is simply worth the trouble.

Make sure you get the appropriate permission and seek expert advice
Historic England, the custodian of this bricks-and-mortar heritage, says: “You will need listed-building consent for all work to a listed building that involves alteration, extension or demolition where it affects its special architectural or historic interest.”

In fact, it can be a criminal offence to alter a listed building without the right consent. That doesn’t mean you can never change anything but it does mean you may need permission first.

There’s lots of advice around. Historic England produces the free Listed Property Owners Guide, an intelligent briefing on what you can and cannot do. Visit to download it. Your local-authority conservation officer will also be happy to advise on what’s allowed, as will any accredited conservation architect.

Use materials and techniques that fit
As a general rule, you can maintain your building using like-for-like materials and traditional techniques without special consents. So a careful repair to your timber sash windows will usually be all right. Kitchens and bathrooms, which often have recent fittings, can generally be refurbished without consent, although if you want to put new pipework into the walls you may need permission.

But those lovely old Victorian fittings? They may be part of the listing. Likewise, modern paint can be refreshed without permission but beware of stripping back historic layers. However, it’s always best to err on the safe side and check before you make any changes.

Check you have the right cover
As part of keeping a listed house in good condition, it’s important to get specialist insurance to look after it. If the worst happens, such as a fire, your historic home will have to be repaired or rebuilt in an appropriate manner and that will cost more than renovating a new building.

But don’t be daunted - protecting your listed property will help you enjoy it for years to come.

This article was brought to you in association with Hiscox Home Insurance. They provide cover for Grade II listed properties plus Renovation and Extension Insurance for your home building works projects. Visit Hiscox Home Insurance today for more information.

For more Hiscox:

Designing the perfect partnership with your architect

What do architects think of home extensions?

A guide to building your dream home


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