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


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Heritage Minor Works

Maintenance and repair works are encouraged for heritage items and properties in heritage conservation areas and generally do not require development consent from Council if, in the opinion of Council, they are of a minor nature and would not adversely affect the heritage significance of the item or heritage conservation area.

Randwick Local Environmental Plan clause 5.10(3) states that development consent is not required if:

“the applicant has notified the consent authority of the proposed development and the consent authority has advised the applicant in writing before any work is carried out that it is satisfied that the proposed development:

(i) is of a minor nature or is for the maintenance of the heritage item, Aboriginal object, Aboriginal place of heritage significance or archaeological site or a building, work, relic, tree or place within the heritage conservation area, and

(ii) would not adversely affect the heritage significance of the heritage item, Aboriginal object, Aboriginal place, archaeological site or heritage conservation area, …”

Written confirmation that the works do not require development consent under clause 5.10 of Randwick LEP 2012 does not provide exemption from another type of consent, approval or permit required from the Council or another authority.  For example, minor works and maintenance to heritage items which are also listed on the State Heritage Register, may require consent under the Heritage Act 1977.

You will need to provide details of the proposed development so that Council can be satisfied the works are maintenance or minor in nature and will not adversely impact on the heritage significance of the heritage conservation area or heritage item. Applications for Heritage Works without consent must be made through Council's Online Services Portal (NB: first time users of this portal will need to first register for access).

Your submission should include a description of the proposed works, plans showing location and extent of works, photographs identifying the existing condition and the location of the works, and product samples/specifications.

Maintenance and repairs can include non-structural external works such as:

  • Replacing broken windows, fly screens etc
  • Minor repairs to roofing, brickwork, timberwork and metal work
  • Replacing rusty gutters and downpipes to match original details.
  • Repointing of brick or sandstone walls using traditional techniques.
  • Repainting surfaces which are already painted (Council may be able to assist with suggesting sympathetic colour schemes) including timberwork and metalwork.

Maintenance and repairs can also include non-structural internal works such as:

  • Patching, painting and decoration to the interior to the house and installation of joinery items
  • Repairing timber floors
  • Plumbing and gas fitting work
  • Electrical work and communications cabling
  • Installation of insulation

The following will not be considered:

  • Development that has already been carried out
  • Development that is currently the subject of a Development Application or a notice order under various Acts, especially the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the Local Government Act 1993.
  • Development that is contravening a DA or CDC condition
  • Complete demolition of significant built elements that can be repaired
  • Construction of carports, driveways or hardstands
  • Construction of swimming pools or tennis courts

Please note that:

  • A fee of $100.00 covers the assessment of the application and a written response.
  • Council Officer may need to inspect the site (this will be arranged with the applicant if necessary).
  • Council will provide a written response advising whether or not it is satisfied the proposed development is of a minor nature or is for the purpose of maintenance and will not have an adverse impact on the heritage significance of the heritage conservation area or heritage item.

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.

Last Updated: 25 October 2022
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