Turning an Old Church into a Luxury Home

February 26, 2023

The most challenging and rewarding projects in construction and renovation involve taking an older building and breathing new life into it. Church attendance has been dwindling over decades, and staying on top of renovations has put a strain on parish finances across the country.

This has meant that many of these esteemed buildings have found their way onto the market. And many of them have got fantastic potential. They’re large, impressive, and often come with a unique aesthetic that will lend charm to any property. After all, few new-build properties come with an apse.

If you’ve bought yourself a church, or you’ve spotted one on the market, then it’s worth thinking about some of the practical problems you might encounter on the way to transforming it into your dream home.

What does the law say?

In the UK, older buildings are protected by a fairly complex system of laws and regulations. This goes especially for places of worship. As such, any modifications you make will likely need to be approved by the relevant planning authorities.

You may need conservation area consent, if your building falls within one of the ten thousand conservation areas in the UK. On top of that, there’s listed building consent, which will restrict your options when it comes to the way that the church looks from the outside. Finally, some features on the church grounds might be registered as ‘scheduled monuments’ – think freestanding crosses, statues and plaques. You’ll need permission to remove these, too.

Start with an assessment

Your restoration project will need to kick off with a professional assessment of the building as it is. That means looking at the foundations, floor, plumbing, and electricity. Once you’ve got an idea of what you have to work with, you can make plans for your changes. At this juncture, it’s worth looking at restoration insurance, to cover your risk while the works are ongoing.

Hire a team

This is likely going to be a complex project, one that will prove beyond the skills of even an experienced DIYer. For these reasons, you may wish to explore the services of an architect, as well as trained egineers and skilled builders, especially if they have experience in restoring historic buildings.

However, if this is new terriotory for you, make sure you do your research to avoid getting caught out with unexpected expenses and surprises. Some helpful questions to bare in mind when on the market for archietics, for example, include:

  • Is there a charge for an initial consultation?
  • Is your architect registered and how much do they charge?
  • What type of services do they offer?
  • Do they have a portfolio or other evidence of their track record?
  • How / in what way do they charge? (e.g. fixed price sum, lump sums at intervals, or hourly / daily rates).

Asking such questions will allow you to assess your financial position, alongside gaging the duration of project and being able to predict whether it will be completed on schedule and in time. Remember, any delays may incure further costs!

Create a design plan

At the design stage, everything is on the table. Make a list of all of the features you’d like to include, and scour the internet for inspirational photographs. Once you’ve gotten past this stage, you can start to narrow your options – ideally with the help of a professional designer.

Historical features

If you’re going to buy a church, then it makes sense to keep all of the features that make it feel like a church. Stained glass windows, period woodwork, and massive vaulted ceilings can all be integrated into your dream vision and make your project feel different from any other home on the market.

Another key element you may wish to incorporate into your design plan is any original paintwork. This will involve assessing the condition of the walls and will require a piant investigation, a process that analyses layers of paint that have since been convered over, and which can reveal the decorative schemes and colours of surfaces from years gone by.

You can couple all of this with a mockup, a process often used in the restoring of older and historical buildings. A mockup essentially offers you a visiaul insight into the final design, and can take various forms (ranging from a three-dimensional model, a sculptural form, examples of wood finishes, or a digital projection). This can allow you to track the trajectory of your project, and enable you to assses whether you are pleased with the current integration of the church’s historical features into your designs.


I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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