Coast host Neil Oliver offers home advice

Published : 19th November 2015


Friday, November 20, is the start of national maintenance week and this year the organisers, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), are driving home some timely advice – don't put off maintenance!

Broadcaster, author, historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver is keenly aware of the changes that the passage of time can make to a building, but he knows that whatever the age or condition of a structure, good, regular maintenance can play a role in its future.

Neil, said: "When I travelled round the country for BBC's Coast series, the importance of protecting a building against the ravages of the wind and the weather was very apparent. I could see it was a constant battle. Maintenance makes a difference – never put it off!

As an archaeologist I'm very familiar with the care challenges faced by significant, historic buildings which don't conform to a standard pattern. Planned and regular maintenance is vital to ensure that they have a future as well as a past. That message is equally applicable to buildings of all types and all ages."

He adds: " 'Stave off decay by daily care… prop a perilous wall… mend a leaky roof' It's amazing that what SPAB's founder William Morris wrote nearly 140 years ago is still sound, practical advice. Faulty gutters and blocked drains don't repair themselves – the longer you ignore a problem the more costly and difficult it becomes to put it right, and that's true if the place you care for is an ancient ruined broch, a medieval church in a village, a Victorian terraced house or a modern apartment in a town or city."

Neil is right about maintenance making economic sense. If you turn a blind eye to cracked pipes, faulty drains or broken/missing roof tiles you might as well throw hard earned cash to the winter wind.

In a poll carried out for SPAB by Ipsos Mori more than half of the homeowners surveyed believed that how well their property is maintained (e.g.: the gutters, brickwork, roof, damp prevention etc) is one of the most important factors in determining the value. More people cited good maintenance than factors including number of bedrooms, internal décor, up to date kitchen and bathroom fittings, the existence of a garden, garage or off-street parking. Only the area in which a property is located scored more highly in importance than maintenance – but at 62 percent, only just!

Top ten maintenance tips

Look for blocked downpipes (best done during heavy rain to see water coming from any leaky joints – in dry weather look for stained brickwork)

Check ground level gullies and drains to make sure they are clear of debris like leaves, twigs and even things like balls and toys – and have them cleaned out if necessary

Every autumn, clear any plants, leaves and silt from gutters, hopperheads, flat roofs and drainage channels. It's a good idea to do this in spring too to deal with anything that might have found its way into the wrong place but don't undertake maintenance work at high level unless you are accompanied and have suitable equipment.

Remove potentially damaging vegetation from behind downpipes by cutting back or removing the plant altogether

Use a hand mirror to look behind rainwater pipes as splits and cracks in old cast iron and aluminium often occur here and are not easily noticed

Fit bird/leaf guards to the tops of soil pipes and rainwater outlets to prevent blockages

Have gutters re-fixed if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto the wall

If sections are beyond repair, make sure that replacements are made of the same material as the originals (on older houses, this is sometimes lead, but more usually cast iron)

Regular painting of cast iron is essential to prevent rust – and keeps your property looking good!

And after this week's gusts check the roof for damaged or slipped tiles. Even a relatively small gap can let in damaging amounts of water. It's much easier and cheaper to have a tile fixed than replace trusses rotted through years of neglect. You can check your roof from the inside – looking for chinks of daylight in the attic. Outside, you might find that using a pair of binoculars helps you get a good clear view of potential problem points.

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