on 7 March 2002
This book takes you through every structural detail and aspect of old houses of all periods, each chapter dealing with a different subject: brickwork, roofs, doors, stucco, stonework, windows, flooring, bathrooms, kitchens, etc. Each chapter begins with a brief discussion of the stylistic history of that subject (the book mostly deals with c18th to early c20th, although there are references to older styles and techniques). The text tells you both the historical variations and construction of each area of a house but also how to restore much of it - for example, how best to repair wooden floors from different periods, how to reinstate cornicing and architraves, what styles of pointing are best for old houses of different dates, how to repair sash windows and shutters. Very helpfully, the authors are clear about which tasks you can do yourself and which really need a professional - and also which may not really be necessary for the time being. The whole thing is beautifully illustrated in the style of a Dorling Kindersley book with coloured diagrams for each stage of a task, and plenty of photos. This is the book I've been looking everywhere for - I suspect it replaces the authors' rare out of print Complete Home Restoration Manual. My only quibble is that it only deals in passing with interior paint colours and types (although there is a great chapter about looking after and replacing old wallpaper types) - otherwise, I think this is the best, most practical interiors book on old houses I've bought. I imagine it would also be very useful to American readers - there are quite a few American houses illustrated, and c19th American construction techniques are discussed alongside British ones.