Walk down any street in a city and you will see them. They stand out from the rest of the homes like an outsider who has grudgingly been allowed into the party. They are not as smart or desirable as their neighbours, they don’t have that same classic sense of design and they are almost certainly worth less money.
I speak, of course, of the stone-clad and the pebble-dashed homes that sit among the brick terraces and semi-detached homes in a typical neighbourhood in the UK. The 1960s and 1970s brought a desire to cast off the old and bring in the new. So, out went the fireplaces, the historic glasswork, old doors and decorative features and in came gas fires, drop ceilings and radiators. The exterior of our homes needed that extra something too, so we rendered or painted the brickwork until builders came along with an offer to glue some kind of crazy paving to the front of our homes or simply blast them with gravel.
Image Source: © Iain Aitch
The results were, at the time, very much a love it or hate it affair. But time has not treated either stone-cladding or pebble-dashing kindly. Yes, they stand out and in some cases break up quite a dull, pedestrian piece of architecture, but they are not to everyone’s taste by any means. Even the cast of Coronation Street know that a stone-clad home is not the most classy of design statements.
The good news for the prospective buyer is that these homes tend to be a bit cheaper than their brick-faced neighbours. This is fine if you like stone-clad properties. But if you don’t then you could well be taking a gamble on buying one, or a pebble-dashed home, with the intention of removing the treatment and returning it to its former red brick glory.
The first thing to check is whether your home was originally built with a pebble-dash or cladding exterior. This may seem obvious if it is sitting in a street of beautiful brick buildings, but you never know whether your home was an extra one built with cheaper materials to fill a gap made by World War II bombing or was just an empty plot. In this case you may find that removing the surface simply exposes some cheap bricks or blocks.
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You will also need to check whether your cladding is subject to a listing, local conservation area notices or other red tape that may stop you from removing or altering it.
Even if you know there is brick beneath the clad exterior you have no way of knowing their condition and how well this surface is stuck to them. Giving the exterior a tap should give you some idea, as a hollow sound means that there is a gap between the surfaces, which may make cladding easier to remove.
Removing the cladding is possible to do yourself, so long as you are very careful. But you are best to call out a builder or a specialist to remove the cladding or pebble-dash, as there may be remedial work to undertake as the surface is removed. At the very least there will be some re-pointing, making good and finishing to be done on your newly exposed brickwork.
Removing pebble-dash or cladding is very much a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ job as far as tradesmen are concerned. There are many variables that sit within it, from how long the cladding will take to remove to how good the bricks underneath are and how much pointing or brick repair work will need to be done.
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Taking down cladding is a calculated risk. There is every chance that nothing much will be wrong, but there is an equal chance that a prior owner had the pebble-dash applied to hide painted brickwork, damp problems, crumbling pointing or any other problems. Be sure you have enough contingency to deal with the worst case scenario.
If all goes well you will end up with a beautiful, fresh brick finish that will pay for itself in terms of final value. But first ask yourself if you can live with the surface you have now. You may even grow to love it.