Filled with charm and character, heritage-listed homes in Melbourne’s suburbs provide a beautiful glimpse into a bygone era. With ornate decoration and timeless elegance, these properties are certainly worth preservation, however heritage-listed homes come with a string of government rules that dictate what can and can’t be to the property when renovating. If you are lucky enough to own a slice of Australian history, but you want to update it with a twenty-first century renovation or extension, don’t despair. At Duncan Thompson Extensions, we are Melbourne’s leading home renovation company, specialising in period and heritage homes. With the right planning, permits and design, your historical home can be restored to its former glory with all of the necessities you need for modern family living.

What is a Heritage Home?

According to the Australian Heritage Council, a heritage-listed home is a property or building recognised to have historical or cultural significance by your state/territory and local government, that is worth preserving for future generations.

A property is formally recognised as a heritage home when it’s listed on:

  • The heritage schedule or register of your local council’s city plan
  • Your State Heritage Register
  • The National Heritage List

Buildings are given a listed status to indicate their historical and architectural interest, and to protect them from damage and inappropriate alterations, therefore preserving their character and historical significance. 

Can I Renovate My Heritage-Listed House?

If you have a heritage-listed home and want to do renovations, there are some things that you will need to find out. While what you can and can’t do will vary between state/territory and local councils, if you remain consistent with its design and follow the appropriate guidelines you will be able to perform certain renovations. Before you start planning your new dream home, find out what kind of modifications you can do to the property. It’s likely you won’t be able make certain changes, like add a second level or remove particular fixtures but there is still a lot that can be done.

What Can I Do to My Heritage Home?

Make it safe and liveable – just because your home is old, doesn’t mean you have to live in the past. You are able to install modern utilities and necessities such as gas, heating and air-conditioning, phones lines, internet connections, fire alarms and upgrade the electrical wiring and plumbing. You will need to hire professionals to ensure the building’s materials are not damaged in the process.

Update fittings and fixtures – as long as the changes don’t detract or damage the original appeal of the home, you may be able to upgrade ceilings and wooden floors, and light fittings. The aim should be to enhance and complement the home’s heritage features, not to alter them. Rotten windows can be replaced with windows from the same era (or made to look like from the same era).

Upgrade the kitchen and bathrooms – you will be allowed to renovate and put in a contemporary kitchen and bathrooms, however they should still complement the original features of the home.

Create open-plan living – most regulations stipulate that heritage-property owners will need to preserve the structure of the front few rooms, as per the listing. However, they can renovate the back rooms of the house to achieve open-plan living with the right planning and permits.

What Can’t I Do?

Change the exteriorthe façade of a heritage home is typically off limits unless you’re undertaking repairs or maintenance. The way the home looks from the street needs to be maintained and anything that is done to the exterior must respect or enhance the original elements. When painting, you will need to stick to the original colour scheme of old Australian houses and use like-for like materials to fix fences, balustrades, and every other visible exterior element. At the back, you have more freedom, you can have a heritage front and go completely contemporary with a low-rise addition at the back, seamlessly blending old with new.

The key to a successful renovation is to appoint a builder who has experience in heritage projects and is highly recommended. Hiring the wrong builder could end up costing you much more, so make sure you choose a licenced, Melbourne builder with a long-standing reputation for high quality work specialising in period and heritage homes.

At Duncan Thompson Extensions, we are passionate about quality workmanship and design and have over 30 years’ experience renovating heritage homes throughout Melbourne. Contact us today to discuss your renovation or extension ideas and let our team guide you through the process.