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The Staggering Numbers Involved in the Buckingham Palace Renovations

Spare a thought for the renovators at Buckingham Palace, doing a ten-year renovation project to bring the palace décor into the 21st century.

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Why does Buckingham Palace need renovating?

Buckingham Palace is over 300 years old, and although it’s been maintained over the years, some aspects of the building are now seriously out-of-date and need a major upgrade. The project will cost around $490,000,000 and run from 2018 to 2027! Most of the royals living there will be moved out to Kensington Palace. However, as the Queen’s bedroom and other private rooms won’t be done until 2025, she and Prince Philip will stay in place until then. So what exactly are the renovators planning to do? Let’s take a look!

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Build temporary accommodation on the grounds

As well as royal residents, the palace is home to 37 staff members, with many more working in the offices during the day. So preparation for the renovations includes building temporary housing and office accommodation for 125 people outside the main building. For another peek inside, here are 12 rare photos inside Buckingham Palace.

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Remove and store thousands of artifacts

There are more than 3,000 artifacts from the Royal Collection in the East wing alone. Some of these are literally priceless and include 40 chandeliers, 100 mirrors, dozens of china pieces (including a seven-tiered porcelain pagoda). This is just a fraction of the whole Royal Collection, which totals 7,000 paintings, 30,000 watercolors, 500,000 prints, and thousands of other artifacts spread over 13 royal residences. All these items from the East Wing need to be removed from the rooms and packed up safely. Around 150 items are being taken to display at Brighton Pavilion, the seaside home of George IV, but most need to be stored. The renovators will be taking great care to pack everything carefully to avoid accidental damage. Furniture will need to be moved too. If you’re renovating your home, make sure you finish these elements before winter. 

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Protect larger items to prevent damage

Of course, some things simply can’t be moved, such as decorative features, moldings, and ornate fireplaces. In some cases, the renovators are planning to cover features with wooden boxes to keep them clean and safe during the work.

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Lift and replace floorboards

Some items that need renovating or upgrading can only be reached by lifting the wooden floorboards, and some old damaged boards may need replacing. Sometimes that can reveal hidden treasure! Buckingham Palace reported that some interesting artifacts had been found under the floorboards, including a scrap of newspaper from the Evening Standard newspaper dated 1889, and some historic cigarette packets, perhaps discarded by royal courtiers. Find out some myths about the royal family that are totally false.

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Renovate the Queen’s private study

The Queen’s private study in the North Wing is where she carries out all her important paperwork. Even at 93 years old, the Queen still deals daily with all kinds of administrative tasks, including reading the contents of the famous red boxes that contain official documents requiring her attention. And this office needs an overhaul to bring it up to scratch. Find out some things Queen Elizabeth II actually has the power to do.

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Replace the electrical wiring

One of the most urgent renovation tasks is to replace old electrical wiring that was installed in the 1940s. It’s considered a major fire risk now, and although not caused by faulty wiring, a fire at Windsor Castle in 1992 caused considerable damage, so no-one wants to risk another disaster. Much of this wiring runs through underground passages, and it’s expected that 6,500 electrical sockets will also be replaced! Find out 50 things you didn’t know about the royal family.

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Update the lighting

Along with upgrading the electrical wiring, it’s estimated that 5,000 light fixtures must be replaced—just imagine how much ladder-climbing will be needed for that!

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Upgrade the plumbing

In a building with nearly 800 rooms, it’s not surprising that there are miles of hot and cold water pipes—over 30 miles of pipe needs replacing. A burst pipe in the palace would not only be inconvenient, but it could also cause damage to those priceless paintings and the current pipework has been in place since the 1950s. Work will begin in the East Wing, where there are seven miles of plumbing pipes.

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Renovate the heating system

It’s not only the water pipes that have been in place for more than 60 years. The heating system is also ancient and deemed to pose a fire risk. With 20 miles of heating pipes to renew, it’s a daunting task. There are also 2,500 radiators to replace, including 12 in the Royal Ballroom alone.

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Replace the furnaces

There’s little point in replacing piping and radiators if you’re still running an old, inefficient furnace. So plans for the renovations include fitting new boilers designed to cut the palace’s carbon footprint by more than 40 percent. Not only will this save money on the energy bills, but it’s also better for the environment.

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Install solar panels

Prince Charles is famous for his passion for living sustainably, and it’s said that he’s had a hand in planning to install solar panels on the roof of the West Wing to cut expenditure on energy bills. He’s already had them fitted at his private home, Highgrove House. Learn some things you never knew about Prince Charles.

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Improve accessibility

As well as being a home for the British royal family, Buckingham Palace has dozens of staff who arrive daily to work. There are also state occasions, foreign dignitaries arriving on royal visits, and of course, the general public who might be attending one of the famous garden parties or an award ceremony. So the palace is determined to improve accessibility to the building by adding two new wheelchair ramps and new elevators to replace the old unsuitable ones already there. Next, find out the secrets behind another royal residence—Windsor Castle.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman

Elizabeth Manneh
Elizabeth is an experienced freelance writer, specializing in health & wellness, education & learning, family life & parenting, and women's issues. She's been published on Huffington Post, and was a regular contributor to Love Live Health and Daily Home Remedy. Elizabeth is a retired primary school principal and education consultant, with a continuing passion for education and learning. She's familiar with writing newsletters, reports to stakeholders, financial reports, business plans and evaluation reports.