How to replace or reinstate exterior metalwork in a period home

Make the most of metalwork in a period property with the help of British Spiral & Castings

British Spiral & Castings staircase
(Image credit: British Spiral & Castings)

Exterior metalwork is an essential component of period homes across the country, but is especially common in large cities with period housing stock from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Residents of London, Bristol, and Edinburgh will be particularly familiar with the exquisite iron railings, balustrades, gratings, and metal staircases that frame brick houses built in the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras. 

Exterior metalwork that has been well preserved can be spruced up by repainting; however, this isn’t always possible, depending on the level of weather exposure and neglect that these period features have suffered over the years. New home owners moving into period properties that require exterior work can be faced with the decision to replace exterior metalwork altogether. 

Which style of metalwork do you need? 

If, having assessed the state of your exterior metal work, you have come to the conclusion that a replacement is needed, you will need to proceed carefully. Many properties that include decorative metalwork are grade listed, or sit within conservation areas, or both, and therefore any alteration to the exterior of the property will require planning permission. If granted, the conditions of the planning permission will require you to match the existing metalwork as closely as possible, which is why it’s important to know the age of your property, and the style of metalwork you’ll be looking for. 

As a general rule, the more ornate metalwork usually belongs to the Victorian era, while simpler, more austere styles usually indicate that the building is Georgian. If you are unsure of the period your house belongs to, consult the Land Registry. Moreover, there’s a lot of local variation to how metalwork was manufactured and styled, so it may well be worth taking a walk around your area to get an idea of what exterior metalwork has been installed at similar properties. 

How to find the right metalwork manufacturer

Once you know what type of metalwork you’re looking for, do your research on available manufacturers. Ideally, you’ll want a specialist manufacturer able to produce completely customised metalwork, with a deep understanding for the original materials and manufacturing methods.  

British Spirals & Castings offer a cast iron shop containing a wide variety of railing elements and gratings which can be filtered by design, age and dimensions making it easy to find what you need. They also make completely bespoke cast railing elements – or full cast and wrought iron railings and balustrades using a sample or the evidence from your research.  

What materials will be used to replace my metalwork?

For many conservation properties it will be necessary to use the same materials as the original (typically wrought or cast iron), but in some cases it may be possible to use cast aluminium. This can be particularly beneficial for basement staircases as the material is virtually indistinguishable from cast iron but is around one-third of the weight and has the same strength capabilities. This can remove the need to add new foundations, and can strengthen existing ones. British Spirals & Castings offer a wide range of bespoke spiral staircases and other stair designs and can customise these to the precise dimensions you require – ensuring a perfect finished effect.