England is full of heritage buildings, from tudor black-and-white buildings of Stratford-upon-Avon and Chester to village buildings that often date back hundreds of years. Most listed buildings are Grade II (around 500,000) which means you can make changes, but need permission. A small percentage ar Grade I (of exceptional interest).
This also helps birds, by preserving ancient facades and not replacing them with glass which causes bird strike. Never place plants facing outside from indoor windows. There are plenty of solutions like closing blinds and using task lights, and using ‘bird-friendly glass’ with UV patterns that they can see (and we can’t). Learn more on how to stop birds flying into windows.
Carpenter Mukti Mitchell once built a solar boat and sailed around the British Isles (he also created a free carbon calculator) and co-founded CosyGlazing which uses a lightweight alternative to glass that’s easy to remove so usually approved for use on ancient sash windows, to reduce heat loss by around 70%. It can also reduce noise (one customer who lives on Heathrow Airport’s flight path had it installed).The company uses a method to reduce condensation in Victorian fireplaces that can suck up damp air and replace with fresh clean dry air, for just £50 a year. One privately-owned town in Devon with single-glazed wooden windows was totally insulated using this method, and one resident saw her bills drop by half as a result.
Magneglaze is a more affordable alternative, but you’ll have to check with authorities. The site has info for use on sash windows. Gapseal is also good to reduce draughts in sash windows, which needs no glue and is easy to install using the special application tool. The same company makes Draughtex to seal gaps in floorboards.
Good for all homes is Radflek, an update on ‘foil behind the radiator’ to help reflect heat back into the room, lasting 60 years thanks to a laminate coating. Easy to install, just clean with a damp cloth now and then, and use sticky hooks to fasten in tricky places. Read their faq page for all safety and installation advice. Oil-powered radiators are safer than noisy convector heaters (that can overheat old people and dogs, and present fire hazards).
natural paints for heritage buildings
The e-book Green Restorations is a good place to start. The Organic Natural Paint Co offers tips (heritage buildings are limited by law to colours like white, cream, sage, muted blue, warm reds and browns, plus deep frey and black for ironwork). Linseed paints seep into wood but don’t use near heat and soak everything in water, as it’s highly flammable. Lifetime Wood Treatment (also sold in UK) is a nontoxic alternative to creosote, ideal for painting wood.
‘chocolate box’ thatched roofs
Many listed buildings have thatched roofs, which are pretty and use a highly skilled method that dates back 10,000 years and lasts 40 years with good maintenance (it’s also a good insulator so keeps homes warm in winter and cool in summer). They are pretty safe if you follow fire prevention advice. Do regular chimney checks, mend cracked chimney bricks and follow log-burner fire safety advice. Never light bonfires or release fire lanterns nearby (your local fire service can inspect – read tips to prevent thatched roof fires).
welcome (or unwelcome) old house visitors!
Wildlife often likes to nest or hibernate in old buildings, so leave them be and don’t knock anything down before renovation work (hoglets don’t leave nests until at least 8 weeks after birth, anytime from summer to autumn). It’s also illegal to disturb nests of birds (including gulls) and bats Read more on proteicting wildlife in old buildings at The Barn Owl Trust and Bat Conservation Trust
Many bats like to roost in churches, so contact Bats in Churches for help, if they’ve landed in your parish! There is almost zero risk to your congregation that anyone will catch diseases, and the organisation works with church architects, bat ecologists and heritage professionals to create bespoke solutions to do any work, without harming bat populations. You can also download specialist church cleaning advice to remove bat droppings and urine, without harm to bats.
Mouse Mesh is a metal grille (don’t cover gas vents and keep it clear of leaves). It attaches to deter mice from entering homes, and there is a thicker version to deter rats!