Personal Survey on Period House

When buying a period house it is worthwhile conducting your own survey. This can be in addition to a survey performed by a professional surveyor, and it can focus on the basics or be more detailed.

In doing your own survey, unless you have significant experience of houses of the same period and construction it is recommended that you involve a surveyor to explain the importance of what you have identified.

This guide is not comprehensive but is intended to get you thinking and looking closely at the house. It does not cover the decorative state of a house; although it is helpful if this is good, remember how little it costs to turn a tatty house into one that impresses!

Some faults will be important or costly to remedy. Others are minor but when considered together may represent a lot of costly work. For example if all the original internal doors have been replaced, this does not threaten the structure of the house but it will be costly to re-instate them with appropriate door furniture.

If the house is listed, you should also contact your local conservation officer to discuss your findings. For example if you wish to undo alterations, will this be permitted?

In an older house, what should you be wary of?

  • cracks of 3mm or more in outside and internal walls and ceilings
  • concrete roof tiles (rather than proper slates)
  • leaning chimneys
  • spalled brickwork
  • excessive modern pointing (ie over-filled cement joints, buttering over bricks)
  • any exterior wall paint or coatings
  • plastic windows and doors
  • general signs of neglect (unless you have the budget)
  • ancient boiler and/or kitchen
  • musty, mushroomy smells in floors - get your nose into corners
  • Artex on ceilings and walls
  • springy floors - bounce up and down
  • active woodworm flight holes (you will need to check under floors if you can and in the loft)
  • blocked or damaged drains

Look particularly for 'cover ups' where render or paint has been applied. Look for dry-lining where plaster board has been tacked over an existing wall. These may be hiding problems which you need to investigate.

If you are in doubt on any legal issue, consider buying a legal policy which, for a one-off fee, may protect you against subsequent problems such as a change which was not given Building Regulations approval.