Historic buildings are a precious part of our heritage and contribute to the character of our landscapes and townscapes. They provide an important connection to our past, as well as offering a distinctive environment for people to live, work and visit.
Proper care and maintenance is important to ensure that historic buildings continue to contribute to our local culture.
If you are the owner of a historic building, make sure you understand how it was constructed as well as the materials and techniques used. This will help inform your maintenance plans and the best approach to repairs.
Why maintaining your building is important
Routine maintenance is one of the most important factors in protecting your historic building.
Without regular maintenance, disruptive and costly defects can occur. The historic features and fabric that give the building its special character can also be lost.
You should take a planned approach to maintenance because:
- regular upkeep enhances a buildings appearance, which can add value and contribute to a sense of pride and place within a community
- detecting problems earlier means more of the original fabric is protected (it also limits the need for new and often costly materials)
- you can budget for maintenance and minor work in advance, saving money overall by avoiding larger, unexpected payments for more significant repairs or replacements
- you have more time to select the best trades-person and materials for the building
By carrying out these simple but essential tasks, you can help maintain the appearance of your property and prolong the life of the building fabric:
Clearing leaves and silt
This applies in particular to valleys, valley gutters, eaves gutters, down pipes, gullies and flat roofs.
It is one of the most important tasks and failure to carry it out can cause major defects such as penetrating damp and rot in structural timbers.
Controlling plant growth
Plant growth on or next to masonry needs to be controlled before it can cause damage.
Roots can quickly take hold, particularly those of creepers such as ivy. The roots can then penetrate walls, damaging the masonry and mortar joints, leading to moisture penetration. Damage can also be caused to roof coverings and gutters.
Keep ventilators open, particularly those under timber ground floors. Make sure to keep airbricks, grilles and louvres free from obstruction too.
Good ventilation is necessary to remove moisture from the construction – preventing condensation and the outbreak of wet and dry rot.
External features are more susceptible to rot and rust if not properly maintained. Paint provides both decoration and protection.
External joinery and ironwork should be regularly repainted to ensure they remain in good condition.
Regularly inspecting your property will allow you to assess its condition and to identify any problems that may need repairing.
An experienced contractor should be employed to carry out works of repair. A qualified professional should normally specify and monitor significant repairs and replacements.
When carrying out an inspection of your property, personal safety should be your main concern.
Always use the correct means of access and safety equipment. Employ an experienced and reputable professional tradesperson if you are in any doubt about the safety of carrying out an inspection or any repair work.
For further advice, contact the Health and Safety Executive (external link).
Repair materials and techniques
Generally, repairs to your historic building should be done on a like for like basis. This means using matching materials and techniques to those originally used. By doing this you make sure that works are compatible in terms of the buildings performance, character and appearance.
The use of modern materials and techniques on historic buildings can often cause more serious problems to the building fabric in the long term.