The blog

Roger Hunt is an award winning writer and blogger specialising in sustainability, old houses, housebuilding and traditional and modern building materials. He is the co-author of Old House Handbook and the companion volume Old House Eco Handbook.

National Maintenance Week

National Maintenance Week

Maintenance is vital whatever the age of a building. Nonetheless, it’s worth remembering that maintenance should be considered on the drawing board, at the point of conception, when many potential problems can be designed out through careful detailing and the specification of appropriate materials.

Another important point is the very real ‘green’ benefit of maintaining buildings because maintenance saves wasteful replacement. For example, by promptly replacing a missing slate or tile the loss of rafters and ceilings due to damp and rot is prevented. Clearing out or repairing gutters means walls stay dry: wet walls are less thermally efficient than dry ones. Fixing a broken pane of glass keeps heat in and replacing a tap washer will stop water wastage.

For all these reason, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings launched its annual National Maintenance Week which, this year, runs from November 19 – 26. I have to confess a personal interest here. The Week was born out of the SPAB’s 125th anniversary nine years ago, an occasion I played a part in organising. When we thought about ways to promote the SPAB while highlighting the plight of old buildings, maintenance was an obvious peg to hang a campaign on – especially when we considered the exhortation by William Morris, the Society’s founder, to: “Stave off decay by daily care”.

When, back in 2002, Kevin McCloud cleared out the gutters and abseiled down the Tower of London’s White Tower to launch the first SPAB National Maintenance Week, little did I think it was going to be such an annual fixture in the calendar. This year another popular broadcaster, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, is supporting National Maintenance Week. Quite rightly he notes: “Maintenance is too often the Cinderella of the property world. Yet, together with good design, it’s the most important factor affecting the quality of where we live.”

The campaign is relevant to everyone who owns or cares for a property of any sort, whatever its age, and is designed to promote awareness of the straightforward, economic and achievable maintenance steps that can be taken to stave off major and costly damage.

National Maintenance Week culminates in National Gutters Day (Friday November 26) – a lighthearted way to make a serious point. Water damage is a particular concern and the annual cleaning of gutters and drains can be much cheaper and less inconvenient than having to contend with a serious outbreak of dry rot in roof timbers and floorboards following years of neglect. If you’re still not convinced, have a look at the SPAB’s dedicated website www.maintainyourbuilding.org.uk – it’s packed with helpful tips!

Image credit: SPAB

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Listed building allure

Listed building allure

Every year, many of the estimated 450,000 listed buildings in the UK change hands on the property market. In England and Wales these properties are designated Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II having being deemed to be of historical, cultural or architectural interest. All buildings built before 1700

Environmental Pocketbook

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Fire in old buildings

Fire in old buildings

The devastating fire at the Grade I listed, 18th century National Trust mansion at Clandon Park, Surrey, once again highlights the need to do everything we can to protect old buildings. Whatever the size of the building, there are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire, ensure early warning of a…

Adapting old buildings

Adapting old buildings

The need for fresh air and light in buildings is something I’m often talking and writing about because it’s central to creating a good home, but the theme is nothing new. I was reminded of this when I recently visited the King Edward VII Estate, near Midhurst, West Sussex. Here, the former sanatorium is being…

Building lime knowledge

Building lime knowledge

Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

Drain problems

Drain problems

A blocked drain is not a pleasant thing to wake up to. What’s worse is the realisation that it’s something that can generally be avoided by doing what I’m always talking about: maintenance. The drainage system is easily forgotten because much of it is hidden away underground but, as with any element of a building, it…

Building remembrance

Building remembrance

Visiting Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the poppy installation at the Tower of London, reminded me that the built environment frequently plays an important part in both remembrance and memory. Each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies that flood the moat of the Tower depicts a death in the British forces in the First…

Materials testing

Materials testing

New techniques and materials aimed at producing low carbon solutions mean this is an exciting time to be involved with new build and retrofit. There are dangers though, in the rush to innovate there may be failures along the way so it’s vital that there’s scrupulously testing and monitoring at all stages. This is why…

Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station

This weekend there will be over 800 buildings, neighbourhood walks and architects’ talks to enjoy as Open House London once again reveals great architecture for free. Sadly Battersea Power Station, one of the buildings I visited last year, will not be open as the 42 acre site is undergoing redevelopment. Nonetheless its history and its future can…

Renovation tale – Part 1

Renovation tale – Part 1

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… On the table is the surveyor’s report; yellow Post-it notes stick from its pages in such profusion that they no longer have any relevance. Phrases like “needs attention”, “must be thoroughly overhauled” and “a fair amount of dampness” are highlighted by marker…Continue Reading