A stitch in time…Makes good sense and saves money

Regular Inspections

Carrying out the Inspection – what to look for

There is a difference between a casual inspection, and a planned periodic inspection. The formal periodic inspection should be undertaken at least once a year, ideally in rainy weather – there is nothing like a down pour for identifying roof defects or blocked gutters. However, the most important thing is to be logical and methodical. You know your home better than anyone.


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© Louis Hellman 2016

In the section on Individual Elements, we have provided a sample template on which to note your findings, and remind you what to look for. It maybe worthwhile forming a file in which to keep all the information together – a log book for your home. This will not only help you in future inspections, but can assist a professional or subsequent owner.

It is sensible to wear old, comfortable clothes as attic spaces (don’t forget, if you have bats in the attic, do not enter the space) can be dusty, and gutters will contain muck. The following items are useful:

  • Note book or paper, with several pencils (you always drop one)
  • Torch
  • Binoculars
  • Pocket knife
  • Small mirror
  • Magnet – for identifying iron or steel
  • Camera

It is usual to start a survey outside. Begin at the top of the building with the roof, and work your way down, picking up each element. Use binoculars to pick up high level details, look at the roof covering and chimneys. Look for any ‘odd’ shapes; things that are missing – such as tiles, sections of render; and any cracks, etc. Remember health and safety and if you don’t feel comfortable, then you are at risk of damaging yourself and your home. Look for missing sections of rainwater goods (gutters, down pipes, etc.) or broken joints. Check the windows for rot or flaky paint.

Then move inside. Again, start with the top of the house, and work down, ensuring that you open all built-in cupboard doors, nosing in the dark corners, and hidden spaces.

When in the loft space, remember to take care where you put your feet, a stray foot slipping off a board may result in a hole in the ceiling. Remember to always check before you move through the loft to see how secure things are before venturing further.

Check all pipe work for leaks, poke the knife into any timber that looks soft, and where there is evidence of saw dust or cracked or crazed paint. Keep all senses working, dry rot can sometimes be found by a smell of mushrooms or onions.

Record the condition of things – the paint work, any damp or mould for example. Ensure that you also note historic damp stains or timber infection, though not important now, may help in the future. This can all be simply done on a copy of the floor plan. Do not be despondent – it would be unusual not to find these things in an old building. The challenge is to determine whether the defects are historic and of no consequence, of a minor nature and something to keep an eye on, or something that warrants further investigation. This is where carrying out regular inspections over time helps.

The IHBC and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) offer courses and training in aspects of conservation work. See the IHBC Event Calendar  Some local authorities and other organisations offer day courses on traditional building techniques, such as lime mortars and pointing. See the IHBC list of CPD Providers.