What to consider when working with a heritage property

Peter Daniel, product innovation director at The Rooflight Company, discusses what to consider when adding rooflights to heritage properties.

There is no binding definition of what makes a property ‘heritage’. Generally, when we think of a heritage property, our minds are drawn to country estates, Georgian townhouses, or maybe even a castle. But even modern properties, like converted warehouses or barn conversions, can be considered heritage if they are in a conservation area or are otherwise a listed property.

Of these two scenarios, listed buildings are the trickier to deal with. Listed buildings are graded according to their significance, with grade one being the most important, followed by grade two* and grade two. These are subject to statutory controls, which means all work requires listed building consent from the local planning authority, as well as normal planning permission. These permissions will severely limit the scope of work that can be done to a property and the products available for use. Even cosmetic changes often require consent.

Buildings in a conservation area still have additional limitations on them. However, they are not as restrictive as they are to listed properties. A conservation area is one deemed to have enough special architectural or historical significance to be preserved. Any changes must meet the requirements of an ‘article-four direction’, which prevents any work that would alter a building’s character. There is no need for specific consent to carry out work to properties within these areas, aside from standard planning permission. However, limitations remain on products approved for use, as the building must remain in keeping with its surroundings. This means many modern, high-spec doors and windows will not get past the conservation officer, who is the gatekeeper to any work.

When it comes to rooflights, many won’t be given the green light by the conservation officer. Our Conservation Rooflight is modelled after the original Victorian cast-iron skylight to create a product that will seamlessly fit into a heritage home and meet the requirements of an article-four direction by maintaining a property’s character. The original made by the Victorians featured a vertical split bar to the centre to keep the glass panes in place, which is no longer necessary due to developments in the fixtures used. This now means that our rooflights are completely frameless on the inside and look seamless on the outside.

Installation is another thing to consider. Although installing modern features to a heritage property, like rooflights, isn’t difficult, it does require the right person and the right product. Again, the conservation officer will have the final say but there are products out there that will combine period looks with modern, high-spec performance, like our Conservation Rooflight, which are perfect for these instances.

When installing rooflights to an old roof, the installer may be working around rafters that are hundreds of years old. They may be warped and were often not built parallel, which can prevent windows from sitting straight. But with experience comes the knowledge to work around these nuances and create a stunning finish.

Working with heritage properties doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It just takes a bit of extra know-how on what products can and can’t be used and working with trusted installers with the skillset and experience required to get perfect results.