Renovating Historic Buildings

Are you looking to get started on a home renovation project? If you are renovating an old buildings there could be serious health hazards lurking within their ancient walls. Before you begin a renovation project, make sure you understand the dangers involved and how to prevent them from affecting you.


Here are some things to have in mind:


Previously used in pipes and in paint, lead can cause health problems in humans, including neurological disorders and infertility. Lead is most-commonly found in buildings that were built before the 1970s. If your home pre-dates this time, it’s very important to get the property assessed for the presence of lead. If there is lead, have a professional come in and dispose of it in a safe way, as lead can enter the air and also contaminate your water supply.


Asbestos is another extremely dangerous substance often found in older buildings. Made from a fibrous mineral, asbestos was widely used in construction materials up until its ban in the 1980s. Because of its flame-retardant qualities, asbestos was used in a variety of places in homes, including acoustic ceilings, drywall, vinyl floors, roofing tiles, fire blankets, insulation, and the lining of heating ducts.

DIY Tips

Want to add a personal touch to your home? Then get creative to add style that’s one of a kind to your home. Patchwork, knitting and crochet can all be used to add chic soft furnishings and accessories to your home, from cushions to throws and more. If you are new to crafting there’s lots of advice available online including helpful craft tutorials. Also take a make do and mend approach to upcycling existing pieces in your home with paint, decoupage or fabric.


However, during the 1980s, asbestos was linked to lung damage. Because the fibers break off and enter the air, they can be inhaled and damage human lungs. Even just a little asbestos dust can settle in the lungs and cause permanent scarring and irritation, which can lead to a disease called asbestosis. Asbestos has also been linked to cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that grows in the membrane lining the chest cavity, heart and abdomen.


“If you elect to have off-peak (heures creuses) electricity, then EDF will provide you with wiring controlled by their equipment to switch your off-peak system on and off. The EDF off-peak equipment is usually a relay located beside their meter and fusegear. This relay is meant for the control circuit functions of your contactor (contacteur) or off-peak relay (jour/nuit) only. It must not be used to directly control equipment. The EDF relay is timed to operate in the usual manner at the predetermined off-peak times”

Excerpt From: Thomas Malcolm. “Electricity in your French house.” iBooks.


If your home was built before the 1980s, there is a very good chance that asbestos could be there somewhere. Generally, if the material is in good condition, asbestos is not considered a health threat because the particles cannot enter the air. If the material is deteriorating, then you’ll need a professional to remove it. The Health & Safety Executive has a helpful pictorial guide which can help you identify the material in your home.

When to Call In Professionals

It’s always a good idea to get a professional assessment for health hazards like asbestos and lead if you have any reason to think they might be present in your building. Not only will these dangers affect your own health, but also as the owner you can be held liable for any accidents or illnesses that occur to other people. You don’t want to be sued for asbestos compensation by visitors or tenants to your building.

Faulty Construction

If the building you’re working on was built more than fifty years ago, you may have some physical hazards to deal with. Rotting floors, faulty wiring, and decrepit foundation can all pose significant risks. Some problems may require complete replacement with new materials and construction, and what may have started as a little DIY renovation may require months of labor and possibly professional assistance.

If you think you might come across these issues consider getting a professional in to inspect the building and give you an idea of the size of the job and then you can decide if to use a professional or attempt it yourself.


Quick tip

Paint effects

Try out different paint effects to give your home a new look, try rag rolling, stippling or marbling. If you’re handy with a paint brush and eager to let your inner artist out, then consider painting a trompe l’oeil effect on a wall. Remember you could simply project an image onto a wall and paint around it – you don’t need to be a great artist to have a go at this. So get your paint brushes out and get creative.


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Electrical Tip

“Although at first glance lighting, sockets and off-peak heating in France may all appear familiar, closer investigation will reveal that the installation methods are different to those employed in the UK”

Excerpt From: Thomas Malcolm. “Electricity in your French house.” iBooks.


We are a new website, we are still growing our content, we want everyone that is renovating in France to help us feature what we all wanted to know when we all started, contact us with all your experience and tips, we live just south of Celles Sur Belle, in Deux Servre, 79, and are just about to start out on our next renovation, every job we start on, every problem, product or skill we need to learn about i will try and find some useful information on the internet and share it with you, yes I could do this by sharing it on facebook, but the problem is it just helps facebook and disappears down the timeline, here links and articles will be searchable and here permanently for you to book mark and refer to, so watch this space … and if you have links and articles that have helped you let us know !!1

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