Your Listed Building: How Much To Renovate?


In this blog post, we will cover what a listed building is, how to prepare a budget for a renovation, approximate costs, planning permission advice and where you can find grants to help you pay for any repairs on your listed building.

Here are our suggestions for minimising the construction expenses on your listed building renovation.

So. You’ve just bought a listed building. It’s beautiful. It’s charming. It’s full of character. It’s falling down a bit, sure, but it’s nothing a bit of gaffa tape won’t fix. Right?

Listed buildings (also known as historic buildings, or Grade I or Grade II buildings) have a charm unlike any other kind of home. Stories feel so present in listed buildings. However, renovating a historic house involves many specialised skills and materials, which may be pricey. So with a few pointers from us, you’ll be able to design the home of your dreams without going broke!

  1. Don’t leave repairs too late. Things like damp and mould can spread quickly in old buildings, so get a small job done before it turns into a large problem.
  2. Use local construction companies. As the price of fuel rises, it’s more important than ever to find tradespeople in your area to renovate your listed building.
  3. Sometimes there’s fear around making any changes to listed buildings. Some changes are actually necessary to save you money and preserve the longevity of your home. Check with your local authority to notify them of any changes you intend to make to the building. Sometimes, you’d be surprised what is permitted.
  4. Apply for grants to repair your listed building (see the end of this article).
  5. Get at least three quotes from construction companies for any repair or renovation job to compare an average cost. There are also lots of construction cost calculator software available online, though these often are subscription services, used by professional builders.
  6. Discuss risks to your listed building renovation project with your construction contractor. (When it comes to lime render, for example- a feature of some listed buildings- hot weather may speed up how quickly the render will dry, and this could result in cracking and having to repair the cracks.)  Weather is often a risk for any external work, so also do consider when the best time of year is to undertake any renovation projects. Do also remember that it’s important for your listed building to be properly watertight and insulated during the winter months.
  7. Find a construction contractor who has access to multiple tradespeople and specialisms. Remember that there are administration fees associated with hiring constructionists, so keeping these to a minimum by just hiring one company that can handle everything will save you some money.

What Is A Listed Building?

Listing is a method of identifying and marking outbuildings of exceptional significance. It’s a way of safeguarding and conserving the building’s unique historical and architectural significance for future generations.

The older a structure is, the more likely it is to be listed on The National Heritage List for England. Buildings constructed before 1700 and in good condition, as well as the majority of those constructed between 1700 and 1840, will almost certainly be included. This category includes Georgian and Regency-style period homes. A building must be at least 30 years old to be considered for listing.

Grade I, Grade II*, and Grade II are the three levels of listing. Grade I buildings, such as Buckingham Palace and the Natural History Museum, are of outstanding interest. Grade II* refers to buildings that are very significant. The London department stores Harrods and Peter Jones are both Grade II* listed. Buildings of great interest are designated as Grade II, and every effort should be taken to preserve them. Residential homes are usually Grade II. You can find our list of Grade I buildings in Cornwall here.

How To Begin Budgeting To Renovate a Listed Building

It’s a tricky thing to work out the true costs of renovating a listed building. We have three tips for you to consider as you begin to budget.

  1. Work out what is ‘listed’ in the building; what is unique, historical or of cultural significance. What needs to be preserved? Which features are protected? (You will have all of this information in your house’s most recent structural survey, from your local authority. This information can also be obtained from Historic England.) For example, is one wall a cob wall and must be re-rendered? Do you have an ornamental chimney breast or an original hearth slab that must remain in place? (Chimney breasts are often a structurally integral part of the wall, and shouldn’t be removed without advice from an expert in any home.)
  2. What materials have been used in the construction and maintenance of this building? If you are unsure, look at the most recent structural survey of your house, or contact a surveyor from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to conduct a survey for you. Recent global events have hugely affected the price of materials, such as timber. However, because old buildings are more likely to have used local materials in the past, such as Delabole slate, granite, or local limestone, unpredictable costs can sometimes be avoided!
  3. What must be changed structurally in order to maintain the house? For example, is the roof leaking, and must it be re-roofed completely, or simply repaired in one place? Structural repairs can be more expensive and must be considered with the help of experts.
  4. Who is available to do the work? Are there skilled workers near you, or will you have to call in qualified specialists from further away? (Trades like joinery are on the decline, and it can be hard to find craftsmen trained specifically in the skill you need.)

Approximate Costs For Renovating Your Listed Building

It costs approximately £1500- £2500 per square metre to renovate a listed building.

Though this is a very rough guide, it is a good starting point when you’re thinking about how much of the listed building you wish to renovate. Perhaps there are some rooms that need more attention than others, or there are priorities like the roof, insulation, plumbing or electrics, and these will need to be addressed first. We suggest doing a thorough walk-through in your home, perhaps with a surveyor’s report, and deciding what you would like to tackle first.

Consider as well which rooms do you spend the most time in. Think about your lifestyle, and what you want from your home. Then, using the approximation we have provided, you can give your project a rough approximation. When it comes to getting specific quotes from construction companies, you can use this to compare the estimates. However, it’s important to note that because of the materials and professional labour involved- as well as costs related to designing, calculating planning permission and insurance- a listed building renovation could cost anywhere from 30% to 50% more than this approximation. Be wary of anyone who quotes you for much less.

Planning Permission and Insurance Advice

There are a number of steps that must be followed if you want to extend or renovate your listed property. You’ll need to apply for listed building consent in addition to your ordinary planning permission. This is true for both internal and external labour, all of which could cause your project to be delayed by a few weeks. It is worthwhile to consult an experienced constructionist to assist you with your designs. Yes, you will pay for their skills, but it is this expertise that may save you money in the long run. A late start will quickly deplete your funds.

Hysmark is experienced in applying for planning permission and listed building consents. We can advise you on how to make this process cost-effective and quick. (We can even complete the whole paperwork process for you!)

Ensure as well that your builders have PLI (Public Liability Insurance) and are guaranteed for many years on the work that they carry out.

Period-Appropriate Building Materials

Work on a listed building typically takes longer than work on a non-listed property. This is due to the construction materials used. A modern property may have plasterboard walls, which are a cost-effective and rapid solution, whereas a listed property’s walls are likely to have lime, which takes longer to build and requires specialised artisans. You can see examples of our lime render work in this recent Hysmark project near Bodmin.

When building garden walls or interior features, your local authority may require you to use traditional methods and materials. We know which suppliers can give you period-appropriate building materials. Make sure you use the correct materials in your renovation, or you could get fined. (Or hire experienced listed-building constructionists who use period-appropriate materials.)

Grants Available For Listed Building Renovations

It is in the government and your local authority’s best interest that they preserve the buildings that are significant to British and Cornish history. There are funds available to assist with part of the work involved in upgrading a listed home. It’s also worth doing some digging to see if there are any local trusts or charities interested in preserving an area’s character or specific types of buildings. Visit Historic England to see a list of grant sources in your region.

Click here to apply for Historic England’s Repair Grant Scheme.


To learn more about our specialised skills and what we can do for your listed building renovation, please click here. We also have more maintenance and care tips for your listed building in our previous articles.


Please note, whilst we do update these blog posts regularly, as prices rise so dramatically and so quickly in the UK at the moment, we cannot guarantee that the costs in this blog post will necessarily reflect construction costs in real time. This post was last updated on the 8th of September 2022.