Our guide to buying an old house in Northern Ireland
- Posted by Ryan Hood
- On 2 November 2016
- 0 Comments
- Architect, Buying House Northern Ireland, Damp, House Design, Insulation, Listed Buildings, Northern Ireland, Old Building, Survey
Thinking about buying an old house in Northern Ireland? Here are some key things we would advise you to consider when looking for old properties.
Old properties can be an attractive option when buying a new home. They can offer period features, loads of character and are often set within well matured sites. However, they can turn out to be a very costly investment and not taking the time to fully understand the pitfalls can turn your dream into a nightmare.
How well insulated is the house?
A large percentage of old properties will have been constructed with no additional insulation added to the primary building elements. The walls will more than likely be solid with no cavity. Quite often the floor will be a suspended timber floor with no insulation, much like the roof-space above.
What does this mean for you? A poorly insulated house will take longer to heat and any heat you put into the house will be lost through poorly insulated walls, floors and the roof. Thus, your heating bills will be higher.
It is possible to add insulation to older buildings. Walls can be drylined and insulated, floors can be lifted and insulated and the roof can be insulated, but this can be expensive and quite disruptive. It is also important that when doing this careful consideration is given to how various parts of the building are ventilated to prevent condensation and mould issues.
Related: HBK Architects guide on green alternatives to heat my home
How resistant is the property to damp?
Old properties can be very vulnerable to issues with damp. Modern buildings are all designed and constructed to strict guidelines set out in British Standards and the local Building Regulations.
This modern detailing prevents the ingress of moisture into our homes and buildings. In the past this detailing may not have been as robust. It might also be the case that traditional methods used to keep moisture out have now broken down or failed due to wear and tear on the building.
E.g. Exterior Walls.
- The brickwork may need repointed.
- External render may need stripped back and re-rendered.
- Large cracks may have appeared over time and may need filled.
- Lead flashings may have broken down and may need replaced.
- The wall might not have had a Damp Proof Course; the walls may need injected with silicone to prevent rising damp.
How old are key elements of the house?
If the house is old there is a pretty good chance that some of the key elements of the building will also be old and potentially coming close to the end of their lifespan.
Examples of this could include the electrics, plumbing and underground drainage, the central heating system, window frames and roofing materials.
These are critical building elements and if faulty, damaged or outdated could prove costly to replace.
Is the building listed and will this affect future alterations?
Buildings of special architectural or historic interest are often ‘listed’ to preserve the best of Northern Ireland’s architectural heritage.
I would see this as a positive but be aware. Major alterations to the listed façade or interior may be restricted. The modern, open plan interior you may be dreaming of might not be possible due to certain important elements of the building being protected.
Are there any historic problems with the surrounding area?
You may be considering a property that was built over 100 years ago. Things in the area may have changed since then. And not for the better.
Additional development may have caused a strain on the storm drains within the area.
Personally, I have had a bad experience with an old property I own. Since the house was originally built in the late 50’s many more houses, commercial buildings and recreational grounds (3G Soccer pitch) have been added to the area. During a sustained period of rain the drainage infrastructure failed and the entire ground floor of my house was flooded.
As I said at the start, old properties can be an attractive option when buying a new home. They can offer period features, loads of character and are often set within well matured sites.
But buy smart. A home is the most expensive purchase most people ever make. As an owner you will benefit from expert advice on the condition of your property – whether you plan to live in it, rent it out or sell it.
You wouldn’t buy a second-hand car without a full-service history which is why I wouldn’t recommend you buy an old house without getting a Home Buyer Report carried out by a RCIS registered building surveyor. I would also recommend you get an Architect to advise you on any alterations you may have in mind and any planning implications they may have.
If you are planning on buying an old house in Northern Ireland or beyond and would like us to look at one with you, don’t hesitate in getting in touch here.