Our Top Tips for Viewing Georgian Properties

Read our tips on viewing Georgian properties - what to look out for and when to consider working on the building.

Tips When Viewing Georgian Properties

David Lewis of Grillo LLP Chartered Surveyors gives his tips on what to look out for when buying a Georgian Property.

Although Georgian Houses are sought after and much-loved by millions of viewers of television adaptations of Jane Austen novels like Emma, relatively few of these buildings in Surrey are genuinely entirely Georgian.

Many High Street buildings and Village Houses that may look to be of Georgian origin, surprisingly date from the 16th century or before. So when viewing apparently Georgian property, you should be careful, says David Lewis of Grillo LLP Chartered Surveyors, as these are some of the features, which could be costly, unless detected.

Parapet walls and gutters - The gutter concealed behind the parapet, originally lined with lead, is often found to be poorly repaired with felt or asphalt.

Danger: Failure in the lining; blocking of gutter outlets resulting in dampness to the brickwork, which in turn affects the roof timbers, are common problems. The owner may not be aware of any issue until a ceiling collapses or there is a major flood, causing extensive damage and considerable expense. Or more sinister, an outbreak of dry rot may have gone undetected for years.

Dry-Lined Walls - External walls were often lined internally with lathe and plaster to provide a smooth surface to support decoration and ornate plasterwork. This also protected decorations from the effects of dampness and condensation.

Danger: Moist conditions behind these linings can manifest themselves in an outbreak of dry rot. To reduce the risk of such conditions occurring, the mortar pointing must be maintained. The walls should be kept as dry as possible by maintaining rainwater fittings and clearing away vegetation as this tends to hold dampness against the surfaces.

Mathematical Tiles – Special shaped clay tiles arranged in a pattern to look like brickwork with mortar joints were a Georgian innovation. They enabled modest timber framed buildings to be given an imposing facade that was lighter and less expensive than a brick facade. But often only a trained professional, says Lewis, can tell that this is not brickwork.

Danger: Corrosion of tile fixings, decay or woodworm affecting concealed timbers and poor insulation are features that may never be suspected unless mathematical tiles are identified.

Windows – the Georgians invented sash windows, but window maintenance is a laborious process with sash cords, pullies and weights to service.

Danger: Unfortunately, windows are seldom afforded the same care and attention as they once were and expensive repairs often prove necessary. Sometimes, it is cost effective to renew a unit rather than commission a refurbishment but of course, the requirements affecting a Listed Building must be met.

Introduction of Softwoods – Traditionally, oak and other hardwoods, available in abundance throughout Surrey and the Sussex Weald had been used in structures and for joinery. The Georgian period saw the introduction of imported softwoods, which were easier to machine but were at greater risk of attack by woodborers.

Danger: In extreme cases, this has lead to failure of the timber or impairment of its load bearing capacity. Modern treatments can arrest infestation and often timbers can be repaired or braced with the approval of the Conservation Officer, if it is a Listed Building rather than replaced, provided you catch infestation in time.

Before considering any work on a building, you must first get advice from a Chartered Surveyor with appropriate knowledge and experience.

With thanks to David Lewis of Grillo LLP – Chartered Surveyors in Godalming