Britain will spend $456 million on the project, which is expected to take 10 years to alleviate “a serious risk of fire, flood and damage.”
LONDON — The boilers are shot, the water pipes sag and the 60-year-old cabling is a fire hazard.
Buckingham Palace, home to Queen Elizabeth II, may not exactly be falling down, but it badly needs refurbishing, the British government said on Friday, citing “a serious risk of fire, flood and damage.” Renovations on the building will start in April and will take a decade to complete, at a cost of £369 million ($456 million).
The announcement adds to the list of prestigious structures in Britain that need work, including the crumbling Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament.
The building that would become Buckingham Palace was built in the early 1700s and became a royal residence when George III bought it in 1761. The queen carries out most of her official ceremonial and diplomatic duties as head of state in the palace. She would not have to move out while the work was in progress, officials said.
She has several other residences, including Windsor Castle, which suffered a major fire in 1992 that raged for nine hours and wrecked large parts of the structure. Officials on Friday mentioned the fire as one motive for upgrading Buckingham Palace. It took more than five years to restore the castle. The British Treasury said in a statement that a similar fire in a single wing of Buckingham Palace might cause £250 million in damage.
At Buckingham Palace, much of the electrical wiring “is in a high-risk category and needs immediate attention to reduce the very real risk of fire and failure,” the statement said, referring to an official report assessing the state of the building. “Some of the electrical (wired) systems are over 60 years old.”
The palace’s boilers date from the early 1980s, and it has become difficult to get spare parts for them, the Treasury said. Keeping the heating system in good working order is important not just for the comfort of the occupants but also to preserve the artwork on display, it said.
Buckingham Palace is large, with 775 rooms, including 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 other bathrooms, so there is a lot of work to do.
About 100 miles of electrical cabling will be replaced, along with 6,500 electrical wall outlets, 5,000 light fixtures and 330 fuse boxes. The plumbers will swap out 2,500 radiators and 500 bathroom fixtures. In all, about 7.4 acres of floorboards will need to be taken up and replaced, palace officials said.
After years of budget cuts in Britain, the decision to spend so much to renovate the palace is not sitting well with everyone.
“It is pretty scandalous,” said Graham Smith, chief executive officer of Republic, a group that lobbies for the abolition of the monarchy. “Questions need to be asked about the queen’s mismanagement of assets and funding that have left the palace in such a state of disrepair.”
Mr. Smith added, “While everyone else is suffering cuts, the palace keeps getting more money from the taxpayer.”
The government says the money is well spent because the palace and the monarchy are popular with visitors; more than half a million people tour the building each summer.
“Tourists are drawn to this country because of our culture, heritage and royal legacy, and when they visit, they spend billions of pounds and support thousands of jobs,” said David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury. “We must ensure that the special architectural and historic nature of some of our greatest buildings are protected for future generations.”