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 – it’s packed with helpful tips!

Image credit: SPAB

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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 pen with a frequency that ensures the eye goes instead to the few innocuous words left in the white spaces in-between.

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“Oh, aggh, help!” was the cry of my friend Linda some months later when her not very high heel punctured one of the floorboards in the hall and became stuck amongst the powdery gnawings of the woodworm.

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