How To Renovate A Listed Building


We’ve all been there. You’re driving through a historic city or through a beautiful little village. You slow the car down, and on your left is The House. It’s got so much potential. It’s got charm, it’s got stories, it’s got character. You Google it later on in the evening, and… sure enough… it’s a listed building. Hmm.

This would be enough for some people. No way. Listed buildings are a big no-no, right? The drawbacks of buying a listed building are:

Before you buy, we recommend that you do your research and make sure you receive a thorough survey. However, listed buildings are common in the UK. You can receive grants for maintaining a listed building, and renovating an old building can be a great way of preserving local history for future generations. With the right knowledge and renovation specialists, a listed building can become a wonderful home for you.

How to renovate a listed building

Let’s get legal!

In this article, you can read more about other homeowners’ experiences with the legal processes associated with applying for building permissions. We also recommend looking on this Money Saving Expert forum for more anecdotes, useful tips and advice about house renovation. Be sure that your building contractors are experienced with working on listed buildings. Not only will design and materials be different from modern materials, but techniques and building methods will also be specialised. You can see our previous listed building projects here. Not only are Hysmark experienced in the practical side of construction on listed buildings, but we are also knowledgeable about the legal requirements, and are able to sign off on some paperwork to ensure that work has been carried out to the correct standards.

Historic England has some good information about how to get planning and building permission for your listed building. Any action to alter, extend, or demolish a listed property in a way that affects its character as a building of special interest, whether or not planning approval is also required, requires listed building consent from the local planning authority. Because listing status applies to the entire structure, both inside and out, work that requires authorisation could include, for example, window replacement and internal renovations. The local planning authority, (which is usually the local district authority, the unitary authority or London Borough) decides on planning applications and listed building consent applications. Listed building consent applications for part or all of the same works covered by a planning application should be submitted and reviewed simultaneously.

The same heritage conservation principles will be applied in a major part. The National Planning Policy Framework lays out the government’s policy for deciding all such consents and licences in the historic environment. The framework does not differentiate between the types of applications that are being developed. The decision will be based on the importance of the heritage assets and the impact of the proposed work. As part of ‘pre-application’ conversations, local planning authorities are usually available to discuss the requirements of any application in terms of supporting documentation and the merits of any plans. We recommend organising a meeting with them before you begin any applications, to start to build a relationship and understand more about their expectations.

 Familiarise yourself with VAT. Yep. For real.

Only 5% VAT is charged on energy efficiency improvements made as part of a renovation project. It’s always a good idea to double-check before paying any invoices, as there is no way to reclaim VAT once it’s been paid.

What paperwork do I need to make my listed building application?

We recommend reading this publication from Historic England for lots more information. You can also give us a ring to find out more about how we navigate the legalities of building work alongside our clients, as well as doing construction work.

A listed building will come with certain legal responsibilities. You should know them.

Before buying a listed building, be sure that any previous owners’ work has had the proper building approval. You will be held accountable regardless of whether unapproved work was done prior to your ownership. Do your best to stay organised. After the work is finished, keep all approvals and plans; you’ll need them if you ever decide to sell your property.

The limitations of a listed building can inspire creativity and great design

Whilst many of the conditions of listed building permissions can feel restrictive, allow them to inspire your plans! For example, you shouldn’t combine current and old mending procedures. The property will probably be constructed with lime mortar, as cement can cause irreversible damage to ancient structures. Some properties can only be re-roofed with certain slates, such as Delabole or rag slate. However, using older materials and methods can result in a beautiful, rustic look that will stand the test of time. It will also preserve traditional ways of building, which would otherwise be lost. You may not be able to remove or change original architectural elements including doors, ornate stonework, fireplaces, and windows. They are frequently necessary for a building’s listed status. However, you can work around original features, such as fireplaces and stonework, to turn them into focal points. Original features tell the story of your home. Don’t take it for granted that the garden can be messed around with too much either! Walls and trees are frequently protected as well, so don’t demolish boundary walls or remove gates. This might be something to particularly consider if you’re planning an extension or landscaping. Again, these original features can become beautiful focal points and should be considered in the early stages of your planning.

A listed building is a protected building

On the main elevations of the property, don’t paint or render stonework, lower or demolish chimney stacks or pots, or add new piping, flues, or alarm boxes. Once again, employing an experienced construction team will ensure that the listed building is not damaged in any way.

How long does it take to get consent for my listed building?

Local governments have an 8-week deadline if you’re applying for relatively minor work. Keep in mind that this is a goal, and like all government goals, it is subject to changes. The 8-week period includes 21 days of consultation with your neighbours and other interested parties. As we’ve mentioned, a pre-application discussion with a local conservation officer is recommended to ensure the application process runs smoothly and has the highest chance of success. (For this service, some agencies impose a fee.)

Listed buildings can make the most stunning homes

Conserving a listed building preserves traditional and local building methods and materials. A listed building has also already stood the test of time and will go on standing strong with the right care. You will own a piece of history. Listed buildings often look incredible, and are stand-out structures in villages, towns and cities. They are often situated in beautiful surroundings, in lovely areas of the country. We always recommend getting to know your local planning authority and working with expert builders who know how best to look after your listed building.


Additional Information on listed buildings.

All listed buildings will fall into one of three categories.

Grade l: Grade II*: Grade II

“Around 90% of homes are Grade II listed. Grade being reserved for buildings of the highest significance.”

So, What Does That Mean for Construction Work?

Having a listed building require building/construction work to be done that falls in line with what is required by Historic England. Generally, there are a view major thing to be avoided such as

-Using cement mortar instead of lime (or cement render instead of lime render)

-Repainting the house in a different colour

-Alteration to stair cases

-Poor re-pointing of any brickwork.

-Replacing wooden windows with uPVC

-Replacing cast iron guttering with plastic

Each property is case specific. For example some listed building, properties already have plastic guttering etc.

How do I find out if my property is listed?

The list is accessed here, simply enter the postcode and all should be revealed.

Our experience with listed buildings?

Working with listed/conservation buildings is one of our specialities, whether it be using lime plaster, using the appropriate carpentry techniques or using cob blocks we are extensively experienced in all the necessary procedures required by building control.