A stitch in time…Makes good sense and saves money

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© Louis Hellman 2016
‘One day, Son, all this will be yours!’

Introduction

A modern apartment and a historic, old or traditional house, no matter what size, listed or not, is not only your home but requires maintenance.

This guide is intended to explain why maintenance is so worthwhile and help owners to look after their homes. Modest amounts of inspection, maintenance and repair carried out on a regular basis can safe guard the condition of a building, while failure to identify problems early enough can lead to major faults developing. These can quickly become extremely expensive to put right. Just as we must have our cars inspected at regular intervals, we need to take regular care of our buildings if we are to keep our home, the place we treasure, safe and secure.

The subject of building maintenance is vast and this guide can only offer a series of essential pointers to steer you in the right direction. Buildings come in a huge variety of styles, building materials and construction. The basics of maintenance are the same for a small cottage or a large mansion. Living in the house on a day to day basis, we don’t always notice the little things that change. However, if we take a few minutes to stop and look, then we will notice these small changes, which can often prevent bigger and more expensive problems developing.

The most important thing to remember when looking at old buildings, especially vernacular buildings, is that they were constructed by local people, using local materials, and therefore, the construction methods may be very simple.

Construction methods changed between the World Wars, from what is now called traditional construction to modern construction methods. Traditional construction covers a vast array of building methods from solid stone, timber-frame, cob (earth) to solid brick, with modern construction moving towards brick or masonry cavity-wall construction.

Before we start undertaking any works or inspections, it is important to remember that we sometimes share our homes with bats, or other protected species. Disturbing these animals is a criminal offence and therefore consideration must be given to them. Further guidance on this is available in the section on Natural Environment Considerations.

It is also a criminal offence to undertake any works to listed buildings that will affect the character or appearance of the building, ie works that do not qualify as maintenance or like-for-like repairs. This can sometimes be seen as a grey area, so it is worth speaking to the conservation officer at your local authority. They are there to work with you and help ensure that your home is here for generations to come.

Lastly, only undertake work with which you feel happy and comfortable. If you are not happy climbing a ladder, don’t do it – your own safety is critical!