The City Council’s Conservation Officer was asked about products for repairing
Collins Houses which are no longer available. A shortened version of her reply
follows.

Thank you for your letter regarding the non-availability of certain building
items. I understand that it is a problem for many people these days but new
buyers must go into a house purchase with their eyes open with regard to the
cost implications of maintaining a protected building and living in a
conservation area. As always, regular and correct maintenance and repair is
always the best answer and reduces the need for new items.

Where architectural items are no longer available new, I usually recommend that
owners search through the architectural salvage yards for suitable similar
materials, as weathered items are often a much better match than new ones for
small amounts of work. One has to be very careful with salvage yards as
unfortunately some are not very ethical in their dealings and these give the
others a bad name. I therefore recommend that people use yards that belong to
SALVO which is a professional organisation for dealers of this type.

For larger projects that require a greater number of say, bricks or tiles for an
extension, then I recommend that people contact the specialist manufacturers
that make modern replicas of imperial dimensions. The more that owners and
developers use these companies, the more they will produce and the cheaper the
items will become in relation to standard metric products.

With regard to metal windows, there is a little more of a problem as there are a
number of different designs of window in the Ethelburt Avenue Conservation Area,
some of which are no longer made. There are still a number of metal window
manufacturers in business today and some companies that will repair metal
windows. It would be worth contacting the Steel Window Association and the
Twentieth Century Society, both of whom have websites.

One of the best sources of information on specialist items for historic
buildings is a book called ‘The Conservation Directory’. All the information is
available on a website: www.buildingconservation.com, along with an archive of
articles that have appeared in previous editions of the Directory. It contains a
lot of very useful information and the names of many useful companies.

A couple of other points worth mentioning. Firstly, when designing an extension
that forms a continuation of the side wall of a property it is worth setting the
new part back at least half a brick or more from the existing wall. You then do
not notice quite so much that the new bricks are not a complete match to the old
ones. Secondly, when carrying out re-roofing, if you do not have enough tiles
for the whole project, then the front and side elevations of the roof should be
done in the original tiles and the rear in a mixture of old and new, if this is
practicable.

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