Published : 27 April 2016

When it comes to choosing a home it really is a case of different strokes for different folks! While the easiest option is clearly to buy an established home, there are those who love to build, those who love to renovate, and those who like something completely unique!

And it doesn't get much more unique than living in a church. Once practically taboo, buying up old, decommissioned churches and transforming them into homes is becoming increasingly popular - until, of course, we run out of churches!

It's easy to see the attraction - not only does a church offer something very unusual, a real talking point, but it also comes with some very desirable features, such as soaring ceilings, huge windows and polished floorboards.

And generally, churches were built to withstand time and nature, offering a very solid base for a lovely home, as well as the attraction of being an historic building.


Check for heritage restrictions

However, before you commit, there are very important factors to take into account, and questions to ask. For example, you must check the zoning on the church, to ensure you can turn it into a home. And because of its age, also check there are no heritage restrictions.

If the church is heritage-listed, it could make the job of renovation all the more difficult - and expensive. However, if you are happy to work within the regulations, and use the existing features, such as stained glass windows and old doors, you should be fine. And seriously, why wouldn't you?

But if you do want to dramatically modernise the building, check everything, and preferable engage a team of experienced heritage architects before touching a thing. The consequences of falling foul of heritage regulations can be very expensive in fines.

Obviously, you will also need to ensure the church has been properly decommissioned, and check whether the property ever included a graveyard. If the latter applies - and the remains have not been relocated - there might be an issue with land usage.


Call in the experts

With all the red tape out the way you can now have a serious look at the building itself. Due to the age and design of churches, it is crucial to have it appraised by a structural engineer, to ensure it can take the strain of renovation and won't come tumbling down around your ears!

Signed, sealed and delivered, you can get on to the re-design itself and, as suggested earlier, this is best done through specialists. Unless you are experienced in similar restorations, it's not really one to do yourself.

There are some basis considerations that require a lot more thought in a church renovation, than a house - things like insulation, heating, lighting, noise and so on. It's very unlikely the church would have insulation, but you're definitely going to need it - especially when you work out the cost of heating or cooling such huge open spaces.

And remember, the church would have had little or no plumbing, so you're essentially starting from scratch when it comes to adding a kitchen and bathrooms.

So we can probably conclude that transforming an old church into a home will take time, money, patience and plenty of expert help. However, to my mind, the results would certainly make up for any inconvenience. You will end up the proud owner of a visually stunning and unique heritage home that will bring you joy for years to come.