I’m renovating my 2 bed Victorian Terrace (1880) in East London and would like to repair and decorate all concrete/stone/plaster(?) areas around the exterior windows including the window-sills and the decorative pillars which are currently in very poor condition:


My builder has recommended we replace the pillars rather than try to repair them as the decorative detail has already been greatly reduced due to past repairs by previous owners.

Is this the right course of actions to take?
Where can we source traditional looking decorative pillars from?
Any other tips whilst undertaking this sort of work… materials and methods our builder should be using etc?


  • Daisy Jeffery

    One of the worst things you can do with any period property is to trash its history (and hence its value), so where period features have seen better days, restoration is definitely the best approach. Builders are generally good at coming up with practical solutions but are not always sympathetic to the desire to retain historic fabric. This is probably down to the fact that repair tends to be a lot more time-consuming and fiddly than just ripping out and replacing it with off-the-shelf components from the local builders’ merchants — no matter how incongruous the end result.
    Where render has cracked or chunks have come loose it should be straightforward to repair using traditional lime-based renders. Victorian sash windows have very prominent projecting stone sills and where these have suffered localised damage they can normally be repaired with filler or lime mortar. More serious erosion is likely to require replacement with new cut stone slabs which should be fairly easy for a stone mason to cut to size and match. Although it’s possible to mould sills from concrete poured in-situ into temporary timber shuttering, unless this is done with great care it tends to look obviously cheap and fake. Whichever method you choose, it’s important that there’s a thin groove under the outer edge for rainwater to drip from so it doesn’t track back and soak into the walls.
    Stone columns to bay windows were previously mass produced in huge numbers, so where they’re very badly eroded, with a bit of luck it should be possible to obtain a matching (or very similar) set by trawling through local architectural salvage yards’ websites. If all else fails, specialists can make moulds taken from detailing on neighbouring houses (with the owners’ permission) and reproduce them.

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