Ultimate Guide to a Terraced House Renovation
Do you have your sights set on a Terraced House renovation? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Terraced houses are among the most popular period properties here in the UK and it’s no wonder why. They’re packed with renovation potential, many hold gorgeous period design features and they can usually be snapped up for less than detached properties. With all the possibilities for turning your new purchase into the home of your dreams (with some clever planning and perhaps an extension or conversion), a terraced house makes for the perfect canvas to start on your renovation journey.
We’re here to give you the low down on everything you need to know about terraced houses, through each stage of the renovation from what to look for, to planning and budgeting and finally how to get the job done right. If this sounds like a bit of you then make sure to also check out free resources, online courses and expert interior design advice from Fi.
Renovating a terraced house – a brief history
Terraced houses are very common across the UK and even further afield in Europe and America but their history is far more interesting than most people realise.
Although construction of terraced homes proliferated after the Great Fire of London in 1666 as a way to rebuild the city on a mass scale in a small timeframe, they actually go back to the early Georgian Era. Most commonly constructed in suburban city areas, early terraced houses were filled a niche for upper-class people who wanted to own their own dwelling but couldn’t afford a mansion or larger detached property.
As they became more commonplace in the construction of new homes, quality of materials turned to use of local stone (like bath stone as we see in Bath) or fired clay for ease of supply and some famous architects are responsible for designs in major cities, too. For some while, terraced houses were associated with housing for working-class people, but these days, gentrification in suburban areas means they are highly desirable and hold a wealth of potential for savvy renovators.
Are terraced houses a good renovation investment?
Yes, of course! Like any other kind of property found in the UK, you’ll need to be careful in paying attention to the potential specific to each individual property. But for the most part, they make great renovation projects due to the potential for extension and conversion which in turn means a higher sale price.
In recent years, many areas filled with lines of terraced homes have seen demand and therefore prices shoot up thanks to gentrification and rising costs of suburban living so investing in a terraced house now might be seriously rewarding in future if you pick the right area.
Renovating a terraced house – what to look out for
As with all renovation projects, choosing to renovate a terraced house comes with both pros and cons. Regardless of the era, most terraced houses hold great opportunities for extension and conversion and, thanks to adjoining walls on both sides, most terraced properties will incur lower energy bills than those which are detached. However, there are a few key things to look out for when finding the terraced house you want to renovate.
Make sure you find out from the agent the rough age of the terraced property as they vary hugely in build quality depending on the era in which it was built. As a general rule of thumb, build quality is better in older properties as more time and attention was given to materials and craftsmanship than the mass-produced era of terraces when they were built with speed and quantity in mind.
Signs of damp
Homes in a terrace can often suffer from issues with party walls and adjoining walls such as damp which is fairly common in an older property but becomes tricky to deal with when it comes to pinpointing the source and who is responsible. Poorer quality in terraced home construction can also mean the property might be lacking a damp course altogether which can be hugely expensive so make sure you keep an eye out for any signs of damp or damp repair and ensure it’s part of your survey, too.
Fine cracks in brick or plaster
Again, due to the nature of sharing adjoining walls and the sometimes sub-standard foundation, subsidence (or at least excessive movement) can be an issue with terraced houses so look out for fine cracks in external brickwork or internal plastered walls which would indicate some structural shift. Some fine cracks may be nothing to worry about but it’s worth investigating to save yourself massive stress and work later on.
Be careful of neighbours
As you’ll be sharing a party wall with your new neighbours, make sure you ask questions or knock and introduce yourself before you make a solid investment. Consider potential noise levels, if you’ll be able to communicate on issues with shared responsibility and the condition of their property, too.
Thanks to the varying ages of terraced houses, you can likely find a property with original architectural and design features which will both inspire your future design and also add value to the price (when restored). Look for original fireplaces, ornate gable trim and bay windows. If any of these features have been removed in previous renovations then you may need to consider how drastic that renovation was and if the property would benefit from restoring them.
Conservation area or a preservation order
Although your terraced property might not be grade listed, it’s fairly common for older properties to fall in a conservation area or have a preservation order apply. Rules regarding changes won’t be as strict as with Grade I and Grade II listed properties but you might well be restricted to aesthetic changes so make sure your budget and layout ideas won’t be scuppered by this before you buy.
How to renovate a terraced house – where to start?
Understanding where to start in a renovation can be the most daunting and confusing step of the journey. But spending a little time understanding the various stages will provide invaluable when it comes to facing each step. Renovating a terraced house isn’t too different to renovating any other kind of house in terms of the basic steps, but we’ve got some specific tips and insights to share with you to make sure you avoid the common problems and make the most of your property.
If you’d like a helping hand through your renovation, then check out our FREE Survivor’s Guide to Renovating to tell you all the basics you’ll need to know before you start.
If there’s one piece of advice we could give you about your terraced house renovation journey, it’s smart budgeting. Without a well-planned budget, your renovation can become totally unrealistic and you could have to halt work halfway through if the funds run out. We can help you out with learning how to budget properly in our FREE email course, but this will also need to work in tandem with quotes from contractors and include significant allowances for additional costs and surprises.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to dedicate the largest parts of your budget to any major work (extensions, conversions etc) and also to any work that is flagged on your survey as they’re likely to be the most costly and the most important. Check out our post on the costs of renovating a house to get yourself started with budgeting.
Figuring out your ideal layout is a key part of the renovation process, from picturing it when viewing the property, right through to how it will change the house when it comes to living in (and enjoying) it. Although terraced houses tend to be a little more limited than detached Edwardian, Victorian or Georgian homes, with a little crafty planning you can usually achieve a layout that works for you and your needs.
Most of us recognise terraced houses as the usual two up, two down kind of layout, many with a bathroom on the ground floor and a kitchen in an old rear extension. Whilst this set-up isn’t ideal, moving the main bathroom upstairs and extending the kitchen out into the garden can make the world of difference. As they tend to mirror the same layout throughout, look to your neighbours for advice and inspiration when it comes to planning an extension or conversion as roughly the same planning rules would apply. Consider a rear or side extension (we can help with inspo) or a loft or basement conversion depending on the specific parameters of your chosen property.
Remember to prioritise natural light as it can be rather limited in terraced properties so an open plan configuration can often work best and enlarged windows or skylights are key.
Lastly, try to get an idea of the layout of the houses on either side as you want to consider noise levels from neighbours when choosing which room will go where.
When it comes to design, terraced houses tend to span a number of eras and styles so it’s hard to advise sticking to the period features as inspiration for your design as they could from any time within a few hundred years. If you know the age of your specific terraced home then highlighting this in your design plans is a beautiful way to honour the heritage of a period property and to make the most of the existing features.
As corny as it may sound, vision boards and collaging images can be seriously handy in narrowing down your own individual style and how that works in the building you’ve got. Pinterest and Instagram can be super valuable in finding inspiration that rings true with your style and as there are so many stunning terrace renovations out there, you’re sure to find something that can be applied to your own home, too.
Terraced house owners need to prioritise natural light so keep that in mind when picking your colour schemes and decor style. Finally, remember your space constraints as you might well be working with a smaller property compared to something detached so making each room feel bigger should be key in your design phase.
The single most important step in a terraced house renovation is making sure you’re abiding by the rules for party walls (the adjoining wall shared with the next-door properties). This can be a little tricky to navigate if you’re new to it so we’d definitely recommend appointing a party wall surveyor. Luckily, we’ve compiled a quick guide to party wall surveyors to help you understand if you need one and why.
Next up in planning for your terraced house renovation is setting realistic goals for it all to come to life. Work with your contractors to schedule in realistic dates and try not to get ahead of yourself with your timeline, it’s better to allow more time for major work as contractors may need longer than expected.
Ensuring you’ve got a solid plan with realistic dates and reliable contractors is crucial in your terraced house renovation. You can’t spend too much time on this stage, just remember it’s all worth it when it pays off with a smooth reno job.
Most home renovators think that the shopping stage is the fun part, and it is, but boy does it take a lot of hard work to get it right. Finding the right companies, brands and suppliers to fit in with your renovation vision and budget can feel like a lot of wasted time but it makes a huge difference in the overall outcome.
Keep in mind that many suppliers specialise in certain eras of property in the UK so if you’re completely fresh on the shopping journey, it’s also worth asking around similar homeowners to see who they’ve used, particularly if there’s a specialist in the local area.
The day that the building phase of your renovation begins can feel like a lifetime away until it finally comes and you can start seeing your vision come to life. Sure, it’s tough balancing budgets and contractors and timelines and all the dust that goes with it but if you’ve planned well enough and are prepared for some minor setbacks, this stage is definitely the most rewarding.
Make sure you have contingency plans for things not going as expected. If we could offer one single most useful piece of advice, it’s to get as much help as possible, even if you have to fork out a little extra for professionals in the budget and call in some favours from friends for help.
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