Top tips to improve your Victorian home on a budget

Kiran Singh

Are you feeling less than inspired by your period home? Whether you live in a Victorian terrace, a mansion flat or a period conversion, the décor may feel outdated and in need of updating. Or perhaps you’ve fallen out of love with the architectural features of the period, half wishing you lived somewhere more modern?

Luckily, making improvements to your home doesn’t need to cost a fortune. If you’re thinking of refreshing your Victorian home but you’re on a budget, there are plenty of affordable fixes to give your period property a new lease of life. You never know, you might learn to love it all over again.

But before we get started, let’s take a quick look at the type of ownership you have because this can materially affect the kind of works you’ll be able to carry out. If you’re a house owner, you own the freehold of the building and the land it stands on – and with that come valuable permitted development rights that allow you to make many alterations without even needing planning consent (though you will of course still have to comply with building regs).

By contrast, a leasehold property – typically flats and maisonettes – has no such rights. What’s more, since you don’t actually own the building elements, the Lease usually stipulates that structural home improvements can only be made with prior written permission from the landlord, and often there are other permissions you need to obtain before you can start your project.

The above notwithstanding, let’s dive straight in and see how you can bring your period property up to date without spending too much.

Top tips to improve your Victorian home on a budget

Reinstate the fireplace as a decorative feature

Does your property have one or more original Victorian fireplaces? Or perhaps a chimney breast bare of a fireplace where one used to be before a previous modernisation project removed it?

The best way to add a charming focal point to your living room is to reintroduce a feature fireplace. Better than a TV as the main focal point, a fireplace could be all that’s needed to bring back the period character warmth your home has been missing.

Shop around for a wooden or cast-iron surround at reasonable prices – you should be able to find something suitable for less than £500. Add to that the cost of installation – if there’s an existing hole ready to be filled, budget around £300 (double if there’s an old fireplace to be removed first) and the whole project should come in at less than £1,000. All you need now is to add some candles into the hearth, and voila – instant home comforts.

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Refurbish your timber sash windows

Sliding sash windows are a key building feature in any Victorian home and if yours are still in situ, be very grateful indeed. If you are the freeholder and not subject to any planning restrictions such as the building being listed or in a conservation area, you can of course replace them with uPVC windows instead, but you’ll be losing a central element of what makes your home special and unique.

A much better (and cheaper) solution is to have your original windows refurbished and draught proofed by a specialist company, including sealing to put an end to rattling, draughts and heat loss, new cords and weights, and new locks for better security. Costing in the region of £500, depending on the size of the window, you will have achieved the holy grail of better performance (and by that we mean lower heating bills!) and attractive looks. No plastic windows needed!

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Restore original Victorian floor tiles

Beautiful Victorian encaustic tiles are often found on pathways and in hallways – have you lifted up your carpets to check? The distinctive geometric patterns may have a layer of old polish, wax or grime on them, so their one-time beauty may well be obscured. Of course, it is also possible that some may have got broken or worked loose over the years. No matter – all this can be fixed.

For around £1,000, a professional cleaning service can restore your average hallway floor (6-8 square metres) to its former glory, cleaning the surface, repairing and replacing any loose or damaged tiles and resealing the floor with an appropriate product. They say first impressions count, and here’s a sure-fire way to give your property the wow factor!

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Shop around for preloved gems

Finally, living in a period property with a limited budget gives you the perfect excuse to venture beyond the high street and shop for preloved and antique furniture, furnishings and even architectural building elements, often at very reasonable prices. Try online resources such as Ebay, Etsy, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace, and local offline resources including charity shops, flea markets, antique fairs and house auctions. For architectural salvage, visit LASSCO and Salvo.

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Refurbishing and upcycling are big home trends, and preloved pieces may work perfectly in interiors schemes of period homes, in addition to being easier on the wallet than buying brand new. By sanding, painting and polishing furniture, reupholstering vintage chairs or sofas in your favourite fabrics, you can create quirky, modern interiors that bring a new lease of life to your Victorian property.

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