So lets assume you’ve purchased a Victorian property. You’ve decided that you want to put all of the lovely period features back or even better, restore them to their original state. This article is going to look at restoring a Victorian house front garden so lets have a quick run through of the work that is involved and also the cost. It all adds up!
With any house, first impressions count. There is no better place to start than the approach to the house. The front garden of a Victorian home can be a thing of beauty. Now if you are lucky there could well be an original front wall leading to the front garden. Hopefully in good shape. If it is in good shape then it has probably been re-pointed at some stage. If not, then it will most likely need doing. Not a difficult task. Depending on the size of the wall, this is definitely something you could do yourself.
I’ll be totally honest I haven’t done this myself but the short video below does show that this job is not that tricky and can be attempted by a novice. This would be something I would try for myself, especially as it could be done of a weekend and save a considerable amount of money. At the very least removing the old mortar is not difficult. It takes time but the results are well worth the effort.
All you need to get started is something sharp and blunt. Slowly scrape the loose mortar from between the bricks. A hammer and chisel works really well. Chisel off the old loose parts and then use a stiff brush to dust off the loosest pieces. The video below shows you exactly what to do.
You then clean the hole. Mix some mortar and apply with a trowel. Scrape the mortar into the gap and then using a pointing tool, push the mortar between the bricks. Once the work is done and is dry, use the stiff brush again to dust off all of the loose material until the brick work is clean. It isn’t really a huge skill. Just hard work that anyone can do with a few spare hours. It’ll save you about one to two days labour cost. So quite a substantial saving.
If the wall is in a terrible state of repair then you will need a professional to rebuild it. Bricklaying is a skill so I wouldn’t try it myself but I do know people who have. If you are really handy and patient then give it a try. At least with a front wall that is already falling down you can’t really do much damage! Again you would save a lot of money. Unfortunately labour is not cheap! In England, a front wall will probably cost about £500-£1000 ($700-$1300) to get back to its original condition. This depends on size and the state of repair. There may also be bricks missing.
One of the main issues is that the Victorian bricks are imperial sizes (imperial bricks) So completely different from their modern equivalent. They are slightly bigger than modern metric bricks. This makes them more expensive. You can get reclaimed bricks from a number of sources. You can also get colour matched bricks and again there are plenty of companies that still manufacture imperial size bricks as there are still millions of homes still standing from a time when imperial measurements were king! Colour matching is definitely worth pursuing as having add colour bricks isn’t worth any savings you will make. They just look awful.
If the bricks are all there and in great condition but the wall is leaning and needs knocking down and rebuilding, then it is just the labour cost that you will be paying for. Once done the results will be fantastic. Maybe a bit safer too. Nobody wants their front wall to fall on anybody!
Restoring a Victorian house front garden. Fully restored wall with wrought iron railings and gate. Love the red tiles.
Once your front wall is back to it’s best, you could add some wrought iron railings. Or restore whatever is there. Wrought iron railings look really good if all of your neighbours houses have got them. Not so good if your house is the only house in the street that has. In streets where one house is very different from the rest, or worse, that has been altered by new owners to look very different from the rest, local residents could complain. Your name could well be mud! Also Victorian design generally follows fairly strict patterns and the houses look at their very best when symmetrical. Those streets would have been something really special in their day.
Now the actual cost of manufacturing wrought iron railings seems to differ massively form place to place. There are lots of specialist companies that do this. You could measure the sizes you need and get the work done online. There are hundreds of designs to choose from. It’s a bit of a minefield!
It could be well worth seeing what the neighbours have and designing something similar. You can send pictures of your neighbours railings off to various companies and get quotes. As well as online companies you could have a look at a local metal work fabricator. Their work could well be displayed on other properties in your area for you to look at. You will also have a face and a name to liaise with. This is always a good thing. Especially if you want something off the peg so to speak.
I often find face to face meetings eliminate mistakes or misunderstandings. They can easily happen when you are just sending people emails of drawings. You never really know how engaged someone is over the phone!
Wrought iron overdose! This is some of the nicest iron work I’ve ever seen, spectacular!
So your walls looking great but then maybe you don’t have a wall. In the States, Canada and especially Australia, woodwork is much more prevalent. In some ways this is easier to deal with. Its a less skilful job. It can be such hard physical work though. If your lucky enough to live in a house like the one below this paragraph, then you are going to need a sander and about a year of your time! Or a team of professionals! If this type of property was in a bad state of repair then it would be a huge task. The reward is incredible.
To be fair, you wouldn’t purchase a property like this without a comprehensive survey. Older houses made out of wood can be serious money pits. Be careful and make sure you can afford to renovate properly. These house are absolutely spectacular and deserve the very best. Half finished houses are the worst! I love the picket fence on the house below.
Restoring a Victorian house front garden – Beautiful front garden of this Victorian home
In the next post I’m going to look at stripping old paint. Job that is as fun as it sounds. I’m being sarcastic.