WHEN SHOULD HISTORIC CEILINGS AND PLASTERWORK BE SURVEYED, REPAIRED AND RESTORED?

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The following information is directed at owners, occupiers and operators of a wide range of historic buildings that have ornate plaster ceilings. It explains the construction techniques, some of the associated risks, and a few of the options available to the owner to preserve the materials whilst protecting both people and property from unintended collapse. 

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Owning and occupying any heritage building comes with real responsibility; we are here after all, merely custodians of these fine historic buildings.

The potential costs of not looking after these properly can be colossal, yet many monitoring and preventative techniques can be relatively inexpensive. An awareness of the risks and issues involved coupled with some timely inspection can help preserve the integrity and historic value of the ,material and the safety of your building

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Examples of where ornate plaster ceilings are found:

Theatres

Figure 1 – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Historic Houses

Figure 2 – Stoke Rochford Hall, Lincolnshire

Ballrooms

Figure 3 – The Landmark Hotel, London – Ballroom

Churches

Figure 4 – The Russian Orthodox Church, Knightsbridge, London

^ All of the buildings above were worked on by Stevensons of Norwich.

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Water Damage

This is the biggest risk to a building that has historic ceilings and ornate plasterwork. This is due to water damage being difficult to detect as it is sometimes hard to find out where the water and leakage is coming from.

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Increased Weight

An example of this would be a thin layer of dust and debris building up on top of a large theatre ceiling. This can weigh up to 1 tonne. Therefore, it is vital to commission a regular and thorough cleaning service.

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Damage To Materials

Damage to or deterioration of the material and its supporting structure is also a significant risk. This is also hard to pick up because the structural parts are hidden from the view from below.

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If a plaster ceiling deteriorates and fails the consequences can be significant. Personal injury would be the primary concern, especially if the building has a high occupancy or public access. As a result, the building may have to shut and injury claims submitted which means financial cost or loss of revenue. Owners or occupiers of premises are likely to be liable for any third party losses if maintenance arrangements are found to be inadequate.

Also, the loss of the historic workmanship that was involved in the ornate plaster ceiling is a point of concern. However, this can be addressed through restoration work from Stevensons of Norwich.

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Regular Inspections

Having regular inspections and maintenance of ornate plaster and decorative pieces should help to keep them safe and in good condition. The frequency and extent of the inspection will depend on a range of factors:

The type of construction of the individual ceiling
Its location etc.

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Specialist Reports

These should include the following:

1) Indicate limitations
2) Describe ceiling structure
3) List general recommendations and more urgent requirements
4) Provide photographic evidence
5) Include a programme for future inspections