Maintain A Period Home

  • Maintain A Period Home

Keep on top of maintenance and repairs to preserve the heritage of traditional architecture. 

Restoring the decorative details of an old home is just as important as maintaining the structural elements of the building.

Decorative timber, tiling and metalwork help define the style of a home and add character. A lovingly maintained period home will always continue to increase in value.

Timber fretwork is a design element often seen on Federation and Queenslander houses. It usually consists of decorative brackets or panels underneath verandah roofs.

Cleaning and repainting fretwork regularly will ensure it lasts for decades. If the timber begins to rot, the fretwork will need replacing. 

Simple designs can be reproduced with a scroll saw, but if the original is prohibitively intricate, then use a store-bought replacement instead.

Tesselated tile floors

In this tiling method, small squares, blocks or triangles are arranged in chequered or mosaic patterns. 

This technique was first used by Cistercian monks in the 12th century, who made earthenware tiles, and it’s a common feature on Victorian and Federation homes.

The tiles are quite plain on their own, but add vibrant colour when laid out in geometric patterns. 

MATCH new tiles to old tiles by removing the damaged tile and taking it to a supplier.

LAY new tiles in less visible areas. Remove tiles from out-of-the-way spots to replace prominent ones. 

REPLACE a damaged screed base by mixing four parts sand with one part cement, then add water to bind the mix without making it wet. Trowel into the area and level off.

Repairing tiling 

Tessellated tile floors were often laid on a rubble base, which is relatively unstable and can cause tiles to subside, becoming cracked, uneven and loose. 

Step 1. Remove broken tiles 

Remove broken tiles using a cold chisel and mallet, without damaging the base material or other tiles. Remove debris from the sides and corners of tiles with a scraper.

remove broken tiles, handyman, DIY,

Step 2. Roughen the base 

 Roughen the base with a cold chisel, then vacuum out debris and dust. Use an offcut to apply tile adhesive to a narrow space or a notched trowel for a larger area.

step 2, roughen the base, handyman magazine,

Step 3. Lay the new tiles 

Lay the new tiles in position without pressing too hard, gently tapping them with a rubber mallet, if necessary. Wipe away any excess adhesive with a damp cloth.

lay new tiles, handyman magazine


tessellated tiling, handyman magazine,
Repair broken tessellated tiling. Image: Getty Images 

Wrough iron lacework 

Ornate ironwork is a feature found on many older properties, especially those dating from the Victorian era. 

Restoring it can totally transform the look of the house, as well as help protect the metal to prevent rust.

Often, all it takes to improve the condition of ironwork is a good clean. Spider webs, dirt and road grime can all be removed with a stiff-bristled brush and soapy water.

Over time, paint can flake from wrought iron, leaving it looking shabby and devaluing your home.

The best way to restore flaking ironwork is to strip off as much paint as possible, then apply a rust converter and repaint the surface.

wrought iron lacework on period home, handyman magazine,
Painting ornate metalwork instantly enhances the appearance of a house. Image: Getty Images 

Restoring ironwork 

When revamping wrought iron, removing paint from detailed areas is essential. Old metal often has multiple layers of paint that obscure the details and create an uneven surface. Dispose of any paint scrapings carefully, as they may contain lead.

Main image: Getty Images

Step 1. Apply paint stripper

Apply paint stripper, then cover it with a plastic sheet and leave for half an hour. Scrub with a wire brush dipped in water to remove the paint layers. Clean with soapy water.

Step 2. Remove paint

Remove remaining paint and flaky rust with an angle grinder fitted with a wire cup brush. Wipe the surface with methylated spirits to remove residue. TIP Use a flat wire wheel for tight spots.

Step 3. Apply rust

Apply rust converter to the remaining rust, then two coats of rust-proofing primer. Allow to dry, then apply two coats of exterior enamel paint. Leave to dry.

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