Materials and components

Explore information to help you better understand the traditional materials used in old buildings.

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Timber windows

The unnecessary replacement of old timber windows is of continuing concern to the SPAB. Such work can diminish both the character and value of an older building. Neighbouring properties could well suffer too.

Soft distemper

Limestone is the raw material not just for lime but for other products that benefit old buildings. In the form of whiting, one of its uses is as an important constituent of soft distemper paint. This article looks at the characteristics of this once common finish.

Clay pantiled roofs

Clay pantiles are one of our great vernacular roofing materials, and a sound understanding of them is essential in ensuring their protection. But while they share characteristics with plain tiles, there are some important differences. 

Metal windows

Old metal-framed windows can be beautiful and form an intrinsic part of many historic buildings. The extent of their unnecessary replacement is still of concern to the SPAB. Even where they are apparently beyond repair, closer inspection can reveal opportunities for conservation. This article deals with problems ranging from draughts and distortion to damp and 'rust jacking'.

Unbaked earth walling

Old earth-walled buildings, now relatively scarce, are a valuable part of our architectural heritage. Consequently, it is important that surviving examples are saved and any necessary repairs undertaken using appropriate materials and techniques. .

True slate roofing

Advice on the repair and maintenance of slate roofs, or rather, true slate roofs.


Doors are important features of historic buildings. Although less widespread than in recent decades, the removal and replacement of old doors remains of concern to the SPAB. This article tackles some myths about their conservation.

Flint walls

The SPAB is frequently asked about flintwork. This article takes the opportunity to review some of the key issues the care and repair of walls constructed from this curious material.

Inappropriate cement renders

Much of the guidance given by the SPAB over our Technical Advice Line concerns the 'undoing' of well-intentioned but ill-conceived work carried out from the mid-20th century to historic buildings. Such work has frequently involved the replacement of lime renders on external walls with highly unsuitable modern cement coverings – a serious time bomb.

Brick walls

The SPAB is often asked about historic brickwork over our Technical Advice Line. Brick can be one of the most durable building materials, as testified by the survival of notable Roman examples. Not infrequently, however, poor repairs, a lack of maintenance and inappropriate alterations lead to trouble.