Looking after historic buildings

Image of a building

Regular repair and maintenance are the key to keeping your historic property in good condition. Keeping on top of routine maintenance can prevent the need for much more expensive work later on. If you inspect your property regularly, e.g. every year, you’ll find all the things that need doing – while they can still be fixed quickly.

Regular maintenance should focus on keeping out water and damp. When maintenance slips, owners are often surprised how quickly a structure can deteriorate. Failure to clear a gutter can cause a blockage, which may lead to damp and damage in a building, so it’s a good idea to inspect roof coverings, gutters, downpipes, gullies and perimeter drains regularly.

Day-to-day maintenance tasks can normally be tackled by the building owner, such as:

  • clearing of leaves and silt from gutters, flat roofs, downpipes, gullies etc
  • careful clearing of snow from valley and parapet gutters, flat roofs etc
  • removal of plant growth
  • checking that ventilators in the body of the building and in roof voids are kept open.

Other issues may best be dealt with by professionals. Please ensure that you carry out any building maintenance safely.

Grant aid is not available for routine maintenance work but it will save money in the long run. The local authority or Cadw may have funds available for renovation or repair of historic buildings.

On top of the annual inspection, we recommend that you have a more in-depth inspection every five years or so. For this you may need a qualified professional who will also check for open joints in masonry and cracked render. This will prevent unnecessary deterioration in a building’s condition.

For independent advice use an architect or building surveyor with experience of historic buildings rather than someone with something to sell. A photographic survey would help to monitor a building’s condition over time.

Although what you actually check as part of an inspection will depend on the features of your property, in the links below you can find a checklist to get you started. Make a list of the condition of all the elements you examine and note any problems you come across.

Prioritise the list of works and decide whether you need a general builder or a specialist for a particular job. Remember, not everything will need to be tackled at once.

Further details of building maintenance and helpful checklists to help you protect your building can be found at www.maintainyourbuilding.org.uk or a useful publication called ‘A Stitch in Time’ is available to download from the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

The main aim of repair is to conserve the building without damaging its historical, architectural or archaeological significance. The repair of historic buildings can be complicated and it’s best carried out by specialists, but this general guidance should help owners to understand the principles of the repair process.

  • All work must respect the character and integrity of the building or structure and its site.
  • Repair schemes should be comprehensive.
  • Use appropriate techniques or methods of construction and high quality traditional materials, normally on a like-for-like basis.
  • Don’t carry out unnecessary works – ‘less is best’.
  • Consider carefully before any previous alterations are removed.
  • Regular monitoring and maintenance minimises costly future repairs and major damage, while safeguarding the well-being and condition of a building.
  • Restoration of lost features should be based on evidence and as a last resort when a simple repair is impossible or inappropriate.
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