Looking after your heritage house

Maintaining or renovating your heritage house

Any building, new or old, is an asset and should be looked after.  Regular maintenance is a good investment, as it reduces the likelihood of more major and costly works. 

The aim of heritage conservation is to ensure that significance is maintained over time. Conservation is based on a respect for the existing building fabric, and should minimise change to original features. 

There is growing evidence to support the view that a heritage listing has a positive impact on property values. The NSW Heritage Office website has a lot of useful information, including its publication Heritage Listing: Benefits for Owners.  

If a property is a heritage item, you can request a heritage restricted valuation for land tax and local rate purposes from the Valuer General. Heritage restricted valuations ensure that valuations of property are made on an existing development basis rather than on any presumption of future development. The Valuer General's Policy provides further information.

Australian House Styles - Stapleton & Stapleton 

Renovations

Randwick City Council recognises that owners need to adapt properties to meet current lifestyles and living standards, such as renovating bathrooms and kitchens, adding additional bedrooms and providing open planned living areas which relate to garden spaces. The Council considers many heritage development applications (DAs) each year. 

It is important to ensure that these changes do not compromise the heritage significance of the building. The Heritage section of Randwick Development Control Plan 2013 provides detailed guidelines that will assist you in the design process and in addressing the heritage impact of your project. If you are proposing demolition or major alterations, you will require a heritage impact assessment prepared by a professional heritage or conservation architect. For any heritage building, a heritage architect can assist in suggesting sympathetic design options.

While an addition may reflect the stylistic characteristics of the existing building, additions should not attempt to replicate decorative detail of heritage buildings. Good contemporary design which is sensitive to the scale and form of the existing building does not need to cost more.

Council cannot require owners to restore their house to its original state. However, if unsympathetic changes have been made in the past, Council encourages restoration of original wall finishes, roof finishes, verandahs, fences and gardens.  If other alterations are being carried out, the Council can provide specialist advice and guidance on restoration works.

The Council considers that repainting of existing painted surfaces such as timberwork and metalwork is maintenance work and does not require consent from the Council. 

Wall finishes / colours

Each architectural style has a characteristic wall finish. Victorian dwellings generally have painted stucco walls with decorative cement render detail, Federation houses used red face brickwork, sometimes with contrasting brick bands, while Interwar buildings used dark brown bricks, sometimes with unusually shaped or patterned bricks.

The protective layer of stucco render should not be removed from a Victorian building to expose the bricks underneath. Similarly, original face brickwork should not be rendered and painted. This will rob it of its original colour and texture and destroy its period character. Repointing of brickwork joints (replacing lost mortar) is a better solution than rendering and/or painting.

The appropriate heritage colour schemes for buildings dating from Victorian, Edwardian, Interwar and Postwar periods can be viewed below. Please note, Council does not require you to paint your house in certain colours and these suggestions are to assist you only.

Roof finishes

The roof finish is often the most visible part of a building and contributes to its heritage character. When roof replacement is due, consider the use of terracotta tiles, slate or slate substitutes, depending on the characteristics of roofs in the area. Traditional patterns and finishes in terracotta tiles are still available.

Verandahs

Original verandahs make a considerable contribution to the character of a house and the streetscape. Enclosure of a verandah has a big impact on the way a house presents to the street. Conversely, re-instatement of a verandah to a suitable design can do a lot to recapture the original character of a house.

Fences

Front fences are an extremely important streetscape element. Wherever possible, original fences should be retained and repaired. Original fencing would have generally matched the style of the house.

Victorian style houses were characterised by iron palisade or acorn-headed timber picket fences, while Federation style houses provided plainer flat-topped timber picket fences, or sometimes a combination of masonry and wrought iron. Interwar dwellings provided plainer, heavier fencing, generally of brickwork with either decorative brick capping or a metal pipe rail.

Gardens

The front garden provides a setting for the house and also contributes to the streetscape. Traditional front gardens included lawns, garden beds and border planting, with a minimum of hard paving. Many front gardens retain original elements such as edged pathways and garden beds.

Demolition of heritage houses

Buildings which contribute to the character and significance of a conservation area should generally be retained and sympathetically altered. Demolition of these buildings erodes the heritage value of the conservation area. A demolition application needs to be accompanied by a report from a heritage or conservation architect addressing the heritage significance of the building, its physical condition and investigations of options for retention.

If your house does not contribute to the character and significance of the conservation area, then it may be possible to demolish and replace it with a new dwelling which is sensitive to the surrounding character.

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