Spring is the ideal time to take stock, to get out and check the condition of your listed building, and identify any maintenance that is required. The exterior of your building may have taken a battering from the winter wind and rain, however better weather and lighter evenings make it possible to identify any faults so that repairs and routine maintenance can be planned for the summer months.
More than anything else, listed buildings rely on regular inspection and maintenance to keep them in good repair and to prevent more serious problems developing. Spotting potential problems is not difficult and is well within the scope of most listed property owners.
Here, The Listed Property Owners’ Club share their step by step guide to giving your listed home a spring health check:
Step 1: Check the roof
Most roofs are visible from ground level and can be visually inspected to see if any slates or tiles are broken or slipped. Pay particular attention to ridge tiles which sometimes come loose and need to be re-bedded. It may help to use binoculars to look for any damage to lead flashings or mortar fillets at the junction of the roof with walls, parapets or chimney stacks.
If you have access to the loft space look to see if there is any evidence of leaks or gaps in the roof covering which could let in water. Look for damp around any chimney stacks which might indicate that flashings have been dislodged or that pointing on the chimney stack requires attention.
Step 2: Check the chimney stacks
Chimney stacks and parapets are particularly exposed and vulnerable so look out for open joints where mortar joints may be letting water in. If mortar joints are recessed by more than 10mm it’s probably worth taking further advice.
Check that birdcages guards are fitted to chimney pots to prevent entry by nesting birds and that television aerials are not dislodged. Any chimney pots should normally be securely bedded in cement flaunching.
Step 3: Check the gutters and downpipes
Getting rainwater effectively from the roof into the surface water drains is important, so check that gutters are not blocked by leaves, that they fall effectively towards the downpipes, and that the joints are not leaking. Unfortunately this is one check that is best carried out in a downpour when any faults are likely to be more apparent!
Look for cracks or rust on cast iron rainwater goods. It is often the rear of downpipes that gets ignored during the painting cycle and decays first. Cracks can occur if ice freezes as a result of a blocked downpipe outlet.
Finally check that the fixing brackets look sound and that decoration is in order.
Step 4: Check the drains
Check that the rainwater gullies are not blocked by leaves and debris and that the traps are free flowing. Flushing them through with a bucket of water or a high pressure hose should remove any sludgy deposits which tend to build up over time. Gullies that serve kitchen sink wastes tend to attract grease so more rigorous cleaning may be required.
French drains are renowned for blocking with silt so if there are rodding points it is worth flushing them through with a hose once a year.
Step 5: Check the walls
It is unlikely that the walls or the pointing will have deteriorated over the winter but a quick visual check might reveal cracks or areas where damp is presenting a problem. Cement-based mortars or renders may be trapping moisture in the wall or causing the masonry to deteriorate. Green patches or mossy growths are normally a sign that something is not right.
Check that any airbricks are not blocked and that soil or debris is not piled up against the wall. Also look for any overhanging branches that could cause physical damage.
Keep an eye on climbing plants and particularly ivy which can damage masonry.
Step 6: Check the joinery
Cracked, flaking or blistering paintwork is a sure sign that decoration is required. Open all the doors and windows and oil hinges and locks where necessary. Look out for cracks in putty, for rot in the window cills and for defective draft proofing.
Step 7: Make a plan of action
Having completed the inspection you can plan for any maintenance items during the coming months. Bear in mind that most problems in traditional buildings are caused by excessive moisture so prioritise items like slipped slates or broken gutters which might have more serious consequences.
If you are concerned about any more serious defects consult a competent conservation builder, a conservation engineer or a conservation surveyor. The Listed Property Owners’ Club can help you find someone local to you.
Step 8: Check your home insurance policy
Despite your best efforts to maintain and conserve your listed home, there are some eventualities that can’t be prepared for. Should the worst happen, would your insurance policy provide adequate cover? A quick chat with the LPOC Insurance team will help reveal any hidden nasties in your current policy, and make sure that you and your listed home are fully protected.