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4.5 out of 5 stars63
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 15 December 2008
This is a fab book. It shows you how to maintain an old house and cope with any problems without damaging the patina that builds up over the ages, or being ripped off by one of the many building firms that sell unnecessary treatment products or services that can not only damage old houses, but cost thousands. That's not always because we're being exploited, but because most people don't understand the way old houses are made. Once you get a grasp of that (and this book is an excellent introduction) it's not too difficult, you're in a better position to understand what you really need. When I bought my old house it had a damp cellar. I got a chap in who said he could install a drain system & make the cellar dry for £10,000. A conservation surveyor suggested ways to fix it - for £2,000. 3 years after the cheaper option it's fine. Another builder said I should put a layer of gypsum plaster over my old bumpy lime plaster to make it even - for £1,000. The conservation surveyor said keep with the bumpy lime, it adds to the character of an old building. The same with glass, old is better and easier on the eye because it is slightly irregular. The estate agent said so many old houses are ruined on the inside as people make them look like new builds.
People pay more for all original features and this book shows how to work with an old house and enhance it's originality. It's also beautiful to look at and easy to read, and I have no building experience,I'm just an owner who has never read a book on building before. It's an excellent book and totally recommended. Real eye candy for old house enthusiasts plus sensible advice too!
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on 25 January 2009
The Old House Handbook
A practical guide to Care and Repair
Roger Hunt and Marianne Suhr

When first I looked at this book I wondered. Is it really "a practical guide" or is it for the coffee table? The photographs are brilliant, ancient houses in various stages of wonder and decrepitude - so, good for the coffee table. Then I started to read.

Back in 1977 our house showed many signs of decrepitude. Old leaded lights replaced by modern casements, hardboard tacked over failing plaster, a nailed together replacement staircase, not to mention what we found on the back room floor. We searched for books. Some were very good - I know more about scarf joints than most. But nothing told us the essential problems of old houses. Building Societies demanded injected damp proof courses, and underpinning. This book suggests that these rarely help, and sometimes exacerbate, the problems.

It starts by being very practical to potential purchasers. Are you sure you're up to this? Then it talks about how to get the work done? Choosing builders who know about conservation, how to deal with listing agencies. Then in chapter 3 it goes into top gear. How to deal with that damp? How to make a building breathe? Thereafter there are details of the different uses of lime in preserving and repairing walls and floors (hydraulic, non-hydraulic, hydrated, lime putty, and lime mortars). Then, what to do about structural movement - less than you might think. Underpin only as a last resort. Just about everything is covered - roofs, timber frames, doors, floors, walls, windows, plaster renders, paints and finishes, guttering, drainpipes and drains. If only we'd had it in 1977!

Throughout, the message is, do the minimum to the structure of the house - repair don't restore. The book is sponsored by SPAB (the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) and this has been its theme since William Morris founded it in 1877.

It is also very good at warning about dark interests, timber treatment and damp proofing companies working on commission, builders quoting cheaply for the minimum and then charging heavily for the extras. Every bit of advice it gives gets better and better. It is brilliant in its detail, and the photographs and diagrams add counterpoint to the words. It is definitely a "practical guide", and if you have a period home you should have it by your side and consult it frequently.

One final liberating thought - the daub applied to wattle doesn't require cow dung to be added - but plaster over soot stains does!

Derek Wagon
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on 5 March 2010
The previous reviewers say it all. I purchased this book after reading some of these reviews and am thankful I did. All other books speak of renovation - a terrifyingly expensive venture - which says everything must be ripped out and replaced and recommend materials which actually do more damage than good. This book preaches keep as much as you can of the old and repair and maintain.

Having bought a really old house in France and then being advised ( by our French builders) the roof leaked in at least 6 places, there had been woodworm and Capricorn in the beams and the wall in one bedroom would always be damp if the rain comes in a certain direction - "but none of this is a problem" I was almost suicidal. Reading this book confirmed and reasured me , yes you do have problems, but what do you expect, it is an old house... Now here is how to resolve them. The information is spot on and the materials and methods recommended are accurate and interesting. In fact our French builders have said every British person buying an old property in France should be given a copy on the ferry coming over!

We have saved tens of thousands of euros because of this book. Without it we would not have believed our builders advice that we repair the leaky bits of the roof and do not replace it (2,000 euros instead of 35,000), made our own tinted limewash to produce wonderful wall finishes ( you cannot imagine how far 25kg of lime @ 19 euros goes), made beeswax polish to restore beams and woodwork ( 12euros a kilo) instead of gallons of expensive paint and stain. The book has helped us create a beautiful and unique home without breaking the bank.
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on 25 June 2010
This book is great for ideas when starting a renervation project, but it is not a step by step guide.
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on 21 April 2009
The recent book, intended for homeowners of older properties, promised to be the fix it all for older properties.
Unfortunately it only really touches on the surface, almost an over view, perhaps with the intention of bringing out a sequel! There could have been much more information and illustrations as to the how etc. It is certainly a useful book to have on your shelf for reference but you will probably have to source additional books in order to put together a detail view on repairs etc.
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on 22 October 2010
This is a reasonably well put together book, covering most of the main areas that you would expect of such a text. It is well illustrated with a good selection of colour photos and the text is well explained in a relatively user friendly way. Like most texts that cover this subject, it is short on the actual DIY facts to enable you to carry out many of the jobs yourself, leaning more on the 'call in the experts' approach, so don't expect to go away from this and crack on with the jobs yourself! It rightly promotes traditional building solutions, so you will come away with a good basic knowledge of the 'craft' of traditional building and repairs, which should go some way in influencing a more sympathetic approach to builing/restoration of properties.
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on 30 August 2009
I haven't read this book yet cover to cover, just gone straight to the relevant areas to me at present. As I continue to work my way around my old Victorian House, I shall refer to it like glue as so far it has backed me up on my approach to sympathetically restoring my home and advised beyond my experience which is very helpful. If like me you are in the midst of or about to commence gently restoring (not renovating!)an old building, go straight for this book and not all the other Victorian House books - the latter are full of how Victorian houses were built etc & don't provide practical advice on how to get them back to their former glory using natural resources and hard work. It also makes you think very hard about installing DPC's, double glazing and floor finishes for example as these somewhat automatic assumed works are not always appropriate or necessary.

Highly recommended.
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on 19 March 2009
If you only want one reference source for pretty much every aspect of manitaining old buildings, then this has to be the one.Both practical and very informative, it's the first book I've come across that has managed to convey much of the "technical" side of old house maintenance and repair in plain English. It's written for house owners rather than experts.
It's also got great photography alongside the narrative which brings much of the advice to life.
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on 28 May 2009
This book is essential for anyone doing up their old house. Very well written, researched and great pics make it easy to look through. Brilliant
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on 17 March 2010
I greatly enjoyed this book, not least for the wonderful pictures. Details of wood and stone work, views inside and out of humble homes and grand buildings, men and women at work with hammers, chisels, paintbrushes, and plastering tools. From the comfort of an armchair, I can swoop from the nitty-gritty of one job, the horrific challenges of another, or to some charming, beautiful old building preserved by careful repair and maintenance. I get to peek into and around attics, doorways, windowframes, walls, fireplaces, chimney stacks, slated roofs, tiled roofs. I've worked on all of them in my time, although rarely if ever to the very high standards I see here. The text is good too - sensible, informative, helpful - enough info for many tasks provided you have a bit of confidence and some practical ability. All in all, I was very pleased to have bought it, and I expect I will dip into again for practical guidance, and maybe again sometime for the simple pleasure of seeing good work being done on precious buildings.
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