Brighton homes are like no others. Between the imposing, bow-fronted townhouses along the seafront and the chirpy rainbow of terraces in Hanover, the city is brimming with architectural character from every decade. The unrivalled variety is part of what makes Brighton such an enchanting place to live, drawing people away from the capital every year to follow their dream of owning a picturesque home by the sea.
Alas, life on the coast still comes at a price. While we enjoy the scenery and reap the health benefits, seaside dwellings are perpetually faced by a barrage of ocean spray and salty winds. This means that the rich tapestry of property design, while cosmetically flawless, is often riddled with structural trouble beneath the surface.
If you’ve fallen in love with Brighton and can’t wait to own a charming period property, make sure you take off the rose-tinted specs at least once. Those quirky features that make a home unique tend to be particularly prone to expensive problems, and there are several reasons why hiring surveyors in Brighton could be the best decision you make.
Obviously, damp is a major problem for many properties in seaside towns. Brighton is no exception, and seafront townhouses are particularly vulnerable to penetrative damp, with wind and rain whipping against their facades all year round. There’s moisture in the air all over the city, and just because you’re buying in Hangleton or Woodingdean doesn’t mean you’re safe.
You can check for damp yourself by keeping an eye out for mould speckles around window frames and in the corners of rooms, but commissioning a HomeBuyer Report will tell you exactly how severe the problem is. Luckily, damp damage (both to your building and your lungs) can be limited, but it will be difficult to eliminate the problem altogether.
Georgian and Regency buildings are not known for their sturdiness. Quite the opposite, they often only have minimal foundations, causing the buildings to gradually subside. This isn’t always a major issue, and many homeowners become quite proud of the “character” cultivated by uneven floors and crooked doorways.
It becomes problematic when the building slumps so far into the earth that the damp proof course is bridged, which is when rising damp moves into the walls. Ultimately this will wreak havoc with the construction materials of your home, and can be costly to put right. If you notice a property seems to be on a Dutch angle, either sober up and look at it again, or hire a professional to tell you how fast it’s sinking.
Talking of construction materials, we should mention Bungaroosh. No, we didn’t just sneeze. Exclusive to Brighton and its neighbours of Hove, Worthing and Lewes, Bungaroosh is a building material from around the mid-18th century. It’s basically a jumble of leftover building materials (like broken bricks, pebbles, sand and wood), combined into a lime mixture and left to set in the shape of walls.
While it has a certain rustic charm, Bungaroosh also has an extremely poor tolerance to water. If it gets too dry, Bungaroosh tends to crumble and break apart; too wet and it will begin to dissolve. Either of these will cause weaker walls to cave in, giving rise to the phrase that half of Brighton “could be demolished with a well-aimed hose”.
Elegant and iconic, bay windows are an envy-inducing feature in any home. They have a certain charm that modern windows can never emulate, and let in a glorious amount of light, even on a dreary day.
Unfortunately, by their very design bay windows are particularly exposed to the elements, and a lack of foundations to support them means that they eventually start succumbing to damp (see above) and subsidence (also see above). Flat roofs over bay windows are also susceptible to drainage trouble, and can cause leaks and rot in neighbouring woodwork. Bay windows should by no means be avoided, but it’s best to get an expert to check them out before committing to a sale.
On the topic of windows, let’s look at the sash. In Georgian times, sash windows were all the rage. It’s easy to see why: they’re understated, timeless and let light simply pour into a room.
They’re prone to rot, warping and getting jammed half-shut, especially if they’ve been left unloved for a number of years. A Condition Report will give you the details of any original sash windows in a property, and consistent maintenance will keep them a boon, not a bane.
Just because the property you’re interested in has period features, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s riddled with trouble. The smallest factors can affect the likelihood of problems occurring, such as which way the property faces, how far up a hill it sits and the exact decade it was constructed. It’s always safest to let an expert with local experience survey the structure, so your seaside dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare.