Repairing fire damage and changing lives in the process at Victoria House

We have just handed over a finished first floor at Victoria House in Middlesbrough. Built in 1880, the building is now a care home catering to society’s most vulnerable mental health patients, which was severely damaged by an arson attack last year. Following several successful projects with us, and given that time was of the essence, Building Surveyors Ltd immediately asked us to act as main contractor so that we could start the repairs and make the building safe soon as possible.

When our lads first arrived on site, the ground floor of the affected wing was flooded with contaminated water. The fire, started on the ground floor, had damaged ceilings and therefore the floor structure of the first floor, making it even more difficult to safely strip out the whole area. This was backbreaking, arduous work. Once finally cleared, works began to renew the structure of the building.

As they are partitioned rooms, it’s hard to see the large scale of this job from the photos – the whole wing comprising nine ground floor and six first floor bedrooms, plus several ancillary rooms, had to be completely gutted and refitted. Professional asbestos removal was required in several areas, and a great quantity of damaged floors, ceilings, walls, doors, windows, electrics and plumbing all entirely ripped out and reinstalled. The rooms having originally been large, airy wards, all ceilings are almost double height, which increased the workload enormously in terms of boarding, skimming and finishing.

Throughout all our works, this Victorian Grade II listed building still had to operate safely as a functioning refuge for patients being treated in rooms just metres from our site setup. At first, having taken the intervening floors out, access from the ground to the first floor was provided by temporary scaffold staircases within the rooms so access from the first floor corridor was completely blocked off. However as the job progressed and floors and ceilings were reinstalled, this became impossible, so full height hoardings were built in the corridors meaning a longer route for our team but full security for the care home residents.

The age and architectural significance of the building threw up its own problems – on the one hand we was bound to preserve the character of the building according to Victoria House’s listed status but Building Surveyors Ltd also rightly required us to upgrade the fire safety of the building to a far higher standard than had previously been present, and these sometimes contradictory aims resulted in a few quirky features within the rooms.

As a health facility, all fixtures have to be anti-ligature including ceiling lights and door handles. Fire safety lighting and a new intercom service is now installed connecting the room occupants with the nurse’s desks. Each room has a privacy screen and washbasin and practical vinyl has been laid to the floors. The first floor is newly complete to a high and consistent standard and patients have now reoccupied the rooms, with only the ground floor of the wing still to receive decoration and finishes. A huge and complicated job – well done to @GarySingleton and the team.