Maintenance matters

Published on: 5 September 2022

When the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) was founded, William Morris wrote of the need to “stave off decay by daily care, to prop a perilous wall or mend a leaky roof.”

Regular checks and maintenance tasks – especially in cold or stormy weather – can make a huge difference to a building’s condition, lifespan, and energy efficiency.

When carrying out any maintenance wear protective gloves, and if you’re climbing ladders or accessing high places, make sure that someone is with you.

How do I help to keep a building dry in wet weather?

Clear leaves and debris from gutters and rainwater pipes regularly and check for any storm damage. Frequent attention may be needed if the building is surrounded by trees. Clear away any plant growth from around the base of the walls, in particular from the drainage channel.

Make sure that any airbricks or under floor ventilators are free from obstruction and clean if necessary.

Check the roof for damage. Debris on the ground from broken or missing slates and tiles indicates that there may be a problem.

How can I reduce frost and snow damage to a building?

Clear roofs of moss and keep rainwater fittings clear. If the building has valley gutters, they will need to be cleared of snow to prevent melt water rising above them and causing damp internally.

Ensure that salt is not spread onto the bottoms of walls when paths and roads alongside are gritted. Salt contamination can significantly hasten the decay of mortar joints, brick or stone.

If possible, dry windows in the morning where overnight condensation has formed to prevent moisture damage to paintwork, and timber or metal frames.

How do I protect heating and water pipes from frost?

Avoid localised flooding through pipe or tank bursts by insulating pipes, especially outside and in unheated areas.

When a building is unoccupied for a few days, programme the heating to run continuously at a low level (about 5ºC). Additionally, open the loft hatch fully to keep the roof space above freezing point.

Check stop valves periodically for ease of operation in case of an emergency and consider installing a pipe leak detector with automatic shut-off. Thaw frozen pipes gently using hot cloths or a hot-air gun (not a blowtorch).

Need more information?

Visit the SPAB website for online resources or call our free helpline on weekday mornings 020 7456 0916, which is supported by Historic England.

Parishioners can download loads of free resources about maintaining faith buildings

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