• Case Study: Refurbishment, Crown St

  • Built in 1837, this building was formally a Temperance Hall.  Located opposite the well known North Star public house, the building shows two storeys to the front, but to the rear (due to the slope of the hill), it has four storeys.

    The clients purchased the property in 2014, with the intention of turning it into a residential dwelling.  Local architects Kenneth Reed & Associates were instructed and a set of plans was presented to our company, at an early stage, to see if we could provide a price for this ambitious project.

    Upon seeing the building, our first input, was to suggest that the loft space be converted in part, and to provide vaulted ceilings to the first-floor living space.

  • Before the plans were redrawn, LBR proposed that we completed a strip out to expose the structure.  This really helped with designing the space, for all involved.  The structural engineers (Derek Lofty & Associates) were brought on board at this stage and the architect, the client and LBR had round-table meetings, to push the design as far as we could. 

  • This collaborative approach is very beneficial early in the process, as a good builder will bring practical and physical experience to the table and can assist in cutting down on wasted professional fees, by ruling out costly or impractical schemes at the design stage.

  • The final scheme was to remove as many walls as possible, to allow for the reconfiguring of the internal layout, digging out the front half of the basement, to extend the half basement from the back of the house to the front, and create an open-plan first floor, with a mezzanine floor over.

  • The views from the rear first floor gaze over the green slopes and rooftops of Harrow on the Hill.

  • Almost immediately after starting the build, we discovered an issue during the commencement of digging the basement.  A sewer pipe, unmarked on any map and measuring nearly 400mm in diameter, was found passing through the front wall, under the pavement.  In terms of the basement accommodation, this would have meant a sewer pipe, at approximately waist height in the finished project.  Definitely not acceptable! 

  • This discovery obviously stopped works, whilst negotiations with various authorities commenced, to try and find out who owned the sewer, and to see if it could get relocated.  What then followed was six months of delays whilst work ground to a halt.  Our client expended huge energy sorting the problem out.  Eventually an agreement was reached and we were able to cut the sewer at the front wall, and relocate it underneath the new basement floor, much lower down.  This work was done live with the sewer in full use and required great coordination (and strong stomachs) for all of LBR's team, as they made the epic changeover!

    With the sewer problem solved, work sped ahead; we cleared out all of the structural floors and walls, corrected hidden structural defects and fitted over 40 steels into the interior.  You can see the YouTube video of the concrete floor being laid here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRigvgzQGEA

  • Our clients are very discerning and have great interest in Victorian architectural pieces.  Many items are recycled architectural antiques,that they have rescued or purchased over the years.  We are proud that we have been able to fit items as diverse as; 18th century wooden doors from Tuscany, Victorian walnut panel doors, an original cast iron garden gate, for which we designed the hinges and a steel door (of unknown use), which now forms an entrance to the wine store.

  • During the dig, an original insurance fire-mark was found and this will be placed on the front of the building, at the end of the job. At various stages during the build, the client turned up with odd items, such as half a ton of marble columns, three cast iron pillars, a Victorian cast-iron window frame, (to go over the kitchen door, after we had already finished building the wall!), a Victorian hotel night bell, a Georgian window railing with a broken top (that we had to fix), Parisian street-lights dating from 1850 (unwired, that we had to rewire ourselves for modern use), reclaimed Elm floorboards, two early Victorian fireplaces and replica Victorian panelled window shutters!

  • There was a great deal of brickwork renewed, however, the brief from the clients was to make it look like we had done no work at all. Considering most of the rear was rebuilt, including all of the arches and sills, this was very difficult to achieve. Our craftsmen have done a great job of locating the right reclaimed bricks, matching pointing and using various techniques to age the new brickwork. 

  • To the front, we have replaced the 1970s concrete plinth with brick slips, which were all cut on site by hand, and are fixed to the front elevation using lime.  This is a technique we have developed ourselves, and as far as we are aware, we are the only people in the country to use lime to fix brick slips to a building.

    Just as we were finishing the brickwork, our clients advised us that they had found four 19th century Yorkstone thresholds, and that they wanted to incorporate these under the doors.  The doors at this stage had not arrived, and so the sills were fitted precisely, so that when the door sets turned up, we were able to slot them straight in.  It is a matter of great pride, to both the client and LBR, that the centre bar of the door on the left, lines up perfectly with the splits in the Yorkstone threshold, even though the two items were fitted months apart.  Yes we are that fanatical!

    In every way, this is a landmark project of great importance on the Hill. Drawings and structural engineering are, of course, vital to any build. However, it is the eye of the builder that will achieve the desired result; overcoming obstacle after obstacle, remaining calm and methodical and maintaining standards, when all around him are tiring of the scale of this sort of work.  London Building Renovation are rightly proud of their impact on this project, and the client agrees, that there are very few companies who could have taken such care, trouble and some might say devotion, to this project.

    From the earliest days, when it was nothing more than four brick walls, an un-tiled roof and a muddy basement, until where we are now with marble tiling, fibrous plaster, exposed lime brickwork and wood panelling, the team at LBR have fussed over every detail.  From the new state-of-the-art basement with drainage system, through to the incorporation of all the architectural antiques, complex steelwork, ultramodern sound/fireproof floors and ceilings, bespoke joinery, traditional cast-iron guttering, slate roofing, rebuilt chimneys and reclaimed chimney pots, every inch of this building has been lovingly cared for, by a team of over 30 people, at various times.  Our clients have never wavered in their support and encouragement in this attention to detail, and very much been part of the whole process.  At the time of writing (May 2016), the final details are being completed. In 9 months of solid work a lot has been achieved!

    This is a unique project in a one-off setting.  We will never do anything quite like this again and we are very grateful that we have played an enormous part, in preserving this building, and ensuring that it lasts for many generations to come.