Investigation of damage to Victorian and Edwardian style houses in Melbourne

By MFS Engineering Australia

Popular architectural styles in Australia are constantly changing. Australian residences used to be made of inexpensive imported materials before adopting elegant architectural styles from abroad. The British Victorian, European Georgian, and Californian bungalow styles have had the most influence on Australian residential architecture. However, modern Australian homes are constructed with the temperamental climate in mind, rather than a particular architectural style. Today, you’ll find that features such as triple glazed windows, extreme insulation and east and west shade are quite common.

Old Victorian or Edwardian homes experience damages differently compared to modern houses which only experience forensic engineers are able to diagnose.

Victorian, Edwardian or Federation Style?

This architectural approach did not exist a few hundred years ago. The Victorian architectural style, which was popular from 1837 to 1901, was much more intricate and delicate. The early Victorian style boasted symmetry and hipped roofs. Starting in the 1850s, cast-iron lacework was incorporated into the Victorian style. It was around this time that decorations around the home became popular. This was during the mid-Victorian phase, where the houses included veranda roofs, sidelights and terraces. The late Victorian phase put significant emphasis on decoration, which eventually carried over into the Edwardian/Federation Styles.

Victorian style house in Melbourne

construction of old architectural styled houses differs greatly from the modern ones

Today terraced homes of the Victorian and Edwardian styles can usually be found in the inner city. 100 years later, however, these beautifully designed homes are starting to show signs of damage and footing movements. The damage is typically quite serious because these types of structure are very brittle. Particularly, their shallow founded bluestone footings, common lath and plaster finishes and the shared ‘party’ walls have become part of the problem. Unfortunately, engineers today do not have experience with these older designs, which means that they oftentimes struggle to find the cause of damage and offer a solution. At MFS Engineering, we have even experienced this ourselves! We have reviewed solution proposals by design engineers to fix damaged Victorian and Edwardian houses that would have only lead to more significant damage. For example, partial underpinning of these houses which is commonly proposed as a solution by Builders and design engineers could be extremely dangerous for the majority of homes. Design engineers’ lack of expertise in this area is apparent more often than not.

expert forensic engineers are historians!

Forensic Engineers, on the other hand, have ample hands-on experience and knowledge to prevent more damage from being caused to the home. Acting as historians, forensic engineers can research the design standards at the time when the residence was built and can find out when a part of the house was damaged and why. The Forensic Building inspection and investigation of these old Victorian or Edwardian styled houses is no easy task and requires expert knowledge and experience.

Learn more about how forensic structural engineers can help you Part1 , Part2.

If you are lucky enough to have inherited or purchased a Victorian or Edwardian home, be sure to only consult forensic engineers when you notice damage. Expert Forensic Structural Engineers have the knowledge, experience, and training to properly identify the cause of damage to an older home and propose several solutions. If you consult any other engineers or general builders, you’re liable to be given solutions that could cause further damage to your beautiful home. The forensic inspection and investigation of old homes should never be taken lightly. Don’t hesitate to contact MFS Engineering to learn more about how our senior engineers can assist you and your Victorian home.

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