A stitch in time…Makes good sense and saves money
Home Maintenance Fund
While it pays to maintain and repair your property, there is unavoidably a cost to such work. Insurance policies (which are essential if you live in a building with shared parts) will only cover certain claims and are not a resource for standard maintenance. The ring-fencing of an annual sum towards a maintenance fund is a wise way of ensuring this is never an undue burden. Whether your home is big or small putting aside a relevant amount each year provides a form of insurance – one with no strings attached.
There will always be a need to clear the gutters, to paint the windows, investigate a leak and even if you can do this without specialist help, the right equipment and materials come at a price.
How much is reasonable? An average recommendation for such is to cipher off 1% of the assessed value of your asset to a dedicated fund each year. For a property assessed at £270,000 this means putting £225 aside each month. When need to replace that ladder, or repair that drain, arises you can draw on the fund painlessly and enjoy the confidence all year round that your home can be kept wind and watertight, and will uphold its value in the marketplace.
How to organise repairs
Once you have identified the defects through a careful inspection, list them in order of priority attention and group them according to trades. This will help you determine if you need a general builder, a joiner, or another specialist (for such as stained glass). The priority should be for any water ingress or dampness, followed by any cracks that have been moving since last inspection.
It is worth seeking out the crafts people with the right skills for the job. There is no ‘one-stop shop’ listing builders suitably qualified to carry out sensitive repairs. IHBC manages the Historic Environment Service Provider Recognition register (see HESPR) to help you connect with an appropriate professional in your area. Your local Conservation Officer may be able to help you find a suitable contractor. It can be useful to identify recent work of good quality in your neighbourhood and enquire as to the identity of the contractors involved. A qualified architect or surveyor would be able to write a bespoke repair schedule for the builder to follow and let you know if permissions will be required for the work. If structural repairs are needed it would be wise to talk as early as possible with Building Control in the Local Authority.
You may need to get a round of estimates and then re-assess your priorities. If the project is large, discuss with your professional adviser the possibility of using one of the standard building contracts produced by the joint Contracts Tribunal or Scottish Building Contract Committee (see Further Reading). These are invaluable in confirming arrangements and helping to resolve any disputes should they arise. A reputable builder will embrace the insurance these contracts bring.
All over the UK there are professionals and craftsmen who have devoted their working lives to getting things right. Seek them out and pay them for their advice and skills: it will repay you many times over.
The right way to repair
Using only traditional materials and techniques, tested by time and compatible with your property, is a responsible approach to caring for your home. Leaflets giving helpful guidance on aspects of traditional building repair methods are provided for free by Historic Scotland (the Inform Guide series) and by some local authorities. Some charge a small sum for their guidance, such as SPAB, The Georgian Group, The Victorian Society. You may also have a local amenity society: these sometimes issue guidance on the appropriate repair methods for your area.
Newsagents carry a number of magazines devoted to traditional or period homes and these often have useful articles that will point you in the right direction (while you must beware of articles that are in fact partial adverts in disguise). High quality craftsmen and specialists still exist.
Practical skills for do-it-yourself repairs can be gained by attending one of the hands-on courses run by local IHBC branches, SPAB, National Heritage Training Group, North East Conservation Trust Heritage Skills Initiative, some local authorities (such as Essex Council) and the Weald & Downland Museum.
See Useful Links
New or second hand materials
Salvaged material from buildings other than your own is now discouraged. This is because of an increase in theft of such building resources and inappropriate stripping or demolition of buildings to supply the market with valuable architectural salvage. Newly-made traditional materials are increasingly available as an alternative. Slate of similar colour and durability can now be obtained from China and Spain. This change of materials should be discussed with the local authority, and a sample should be agreed in advance of any works.
Stone roofing slates are particularly sought after and local authority quarries have occasionally been encouraged to open up again to meet the demand. [delete sentence on Herefordshire]
Artificial and synthetic materials, such as concrete roofing ‘slates’, are not a good substitute. Their properties are often at odds with those of the historic building and can cause damage to the fabric (such as overloading the rafters). New natural materials will always weather down in time and blend in with the original in a way that artificial products cannot.
Grants for Repairs
Grant aid is not generally available for routine maintenance. Your local authority may have funds available for renovation or repair of historic building schemes in partnership with the national heritage body and the local conservation officer can advise on this. The national bodies can help with grants for major repairs to property listed in the upper grades (or categories) to help keep your property structurally stable and watertight.
Funds for Historic Buildings provides a guide to sources available in the UK, courtesy of the Architectural Heritage Fund (see http://www.ffhb.org.uk/). This includes a number of statutory a, public and other sources. Most are designed to help charitable and public bodies but a few apply to individual owners of historic buildings.
Summary Do’s and Don’ts
Carry out regular inspection and maintenance
Consider creating a home maintenance fund
Seek advice from suitably qualified professionals
Repair rather than restore or replace
Respect the building’s character and history and make sure new work is sympathetic to it
Avoid unnecessary work
Study the history of the building and how it has changes
Analyse the cause of the defects
Use only traditional materials and proven techniques
Re-use material savaged from your own building
Remedy bad repairs
Adopt correct priorities for repairs
Use only reliable contractors of craftspeople
Obtain necessary planning and legal consents
Allow serious defects to remain
Expect independent advice from someone who has something to sell you
Repair in unsympathetic materials
Attempt to ‘improve’ by altering the original appearance
Clad walls with artificial stone or other modern material
Use unsuitable ‘off-the-peg’ architectural elements
Rely on commercially based claims for any product or technique
Use so-called ‘maintenance free’ products
Waste re-usable materials
Remove of demolish any original element
Replace windows or doors in non-original patterns or materials
Employ anyone without seeking references or inspecting their work
Do any work without the required consent or permissions.