Using the Right Materials to Repair Your Older Home
In order to choose the right materials it is important to understand how your house was built.
Why use traditional materials?
Buildings of traditional construction were made with natural materials that manage moisture by absorbing and releasing it slowly. Some of these have solid walls made of brick, stone, or earth. Even older buildings may be timber framed.
If you use modern materials to repair a house built using traditional construction methods and materials, you may cause more damage by trapping moisture and reducing permeability.
When selecting new materials for like-for-like repairs, match the original materials as closely as possible. They need to match not only in appearance but also in physical properties so that they age in the same way over time.
Identical materials used for repair can initially present a stark new contrast against the existing building fabric but they will weather in sympathetically given time.
It’s better to not try and match the weathering by using salvaged materials. The stripping of disused buildings to supply a demand for salvaged materials should not be encouraged.
If it is not possible to source identical materials then you should try to use the most similar available. Failing this you could approach the repair in a different way.
When to use modern materials
The use of modern materials can sometimes be a solution if it means ultimately retaining more original historic material. For instance, the use of some stainless steel in repairing a historic roof might allow you to keep more of the original timber than a traditional repair.
There are now a wide variety of suppliers of many different types of material for traditional construction, such as: lime for mortars or clay roofing tiles. Details can be found in specialist directories such as the Building Conservation Directory.
Your local conservation officer may be able to help in sourcing a material that is particular to your area, such as a type of brick that was produced locally, or a particular type of stone. You may also find our technical advice helpful on: