SPAB's National Maintenance Week 2016: The Damp Busters

Friday November 18th - Friday November 25th

Damp might sound like a dry subject, but it’s actually something that can drain a household’s resources.  Left untreated it can cause a range of problems from serious structural damage to health concerns. This autumn SPAB’s (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) annual National Maintenance Week, running from Friday November 18th to Friday November 25, will focus on damp and show how householders can save themselves £££s by taking informed steps to fight it.

The practical message of National Maintenance Week is equally relevant to organisations like local authorities and housing associations. It’s for everyone who cares for a property!

Damp is the most common and damaging cause of deterioration affecting buildings of all types and rain penetration is usually the culprit. The experts on SPAB’s free helpline (open from Monday to Friday between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm on 020 7456 0916) report that damp is the most frequent cause for concern raised by callers. As part of National Maintenance Week 2016 we will be offering a free download gathering together the Society’s most practical and up-to date advice.

SPAB’s damp-busting theme is part of a wider campaign to encourage homeowners (and those who care for public buildings such as churches, village halls and local authority properties), to be aware of the easily achievable, economic maintenance tasks they can take at the beginning of winter to stave off costly major faults and damage at a later date. 

“People are constantly interested in property and home design, but maintenance is very much a Cinderella topic.” says SPAB director Matthew Slocombe.  “Along with being daunted by the thought of maintenance, many householders put off this vital work seeing it as uninspiring or perhaps uninteresting.  But people can potentially save hundreds of pounds each year just by tackling a few simple tasks – and, in very real terms, that’s money to spend on more immediately appealing things like interiors and accessories. Really, it’s common sense, maintenance isn’t glamorous, but it is vital.”

Small steps, e.g. clearing a gutter, removing blockages from a drain at ground level or spotting a missing or slipped tile, can make a big difference. Just a few minutes spent removing weeds and debris, or just a few pounds spent on mending a leaky gutter can save property owners from having to spend hundreds, possibly thousands of pounds at a later date!                                       

SPAB is Britain’s oldest conservation body fighting to save old buildings from decay. For the last 15 years it has run National Maintenance Week at the beginning of winter to remind people that it’s time to give their property a basic ‘MOT’.  Water damage is a prime concern. The UK’s recent run of wet, blustery winters underlines the importance of the regular care. Bad weather can leave a legacy of problems that need attention. The annual cleaning of gutters and drains can be much cheaper and less inconvenient than having to cope with a serious outbreak of dry rot in timber roof trusses following years of neglect.  

National Gutters Day (Friday 25 November 2016) is a light-hearted, but timely reminder to homeowners to look out for potential problems and take action where necessary.

On founding SPAB in 1877, William Morris spoke of the need to “stave off decay by daily care, to prop a perilous wall or mend a leaky roof.”  Maintenance is important to buildings of all ages and types and is as vital today as it was in Morris’s time.            

SPAB’s Quick Guide to Damp Busting

Q. What’s the definition of rain penetration?

A. In the context of buildings, rain penetration refers to the rainwater finding a way inside a building above ground – usually through roofs, walls, chimneys and openings such as windows and doors. This includes spillage from gutters and downpipes which might be blocked. It not only damages the fabric but also creates unhealthy conditions for occupants and can contribute to less visible problems like poor thermal performance. Rain penetration is distinct from other forms of dampness, such as condensation and rising damp, which require different solutions.

Q. What practical, simple things can I do?

·         Take a few moments to check the state of your roof for slipped or missing tiles. If you are standing outside a pair of binoculars can be useful to help you spot any faults. Inside, look for gaps or daylight showing through the roof overhead.

·         Outside, look for blocked downpipes (best done during heavy rain to see water coming from any leaky joints – in dry weather look for stained brickwork)

·         Every autumn, clear any plants, leaves and silt from gutters, hopperheads, flat roofs and drainage channels. It’s a good idea to do this in spring too to deal with anything that might have found its way into the wrong place

·         Check ground level gullies and drains to make sure they are clear of debris like leaves, twigs and even things like balls and toys - and have them cleaned out if necessary

·         Remove potentially damaging vegetation from behind downpipes by cutting back or removing the plant altogether

·         Use a hand mirror to look behind rainwater pipes as splits and cracks in old cast iron and aluminium often occur here and are not easily noticed

·         Fit bird/leaf guards to the tops of soil pipes and rainwater outlets to prevent blockages

·         Have gutters refixed if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto the wall

·         If sections are beyond repair, make sure that replacements are made of the same material as the originals (on older houses, this is sometimes lead, but more usually cast iron)

·         Regular painting of cast iron is essential to prevent rust – and keeps your property looking good!

·        And here’s a very important extra tip - remember to take care at all times, wear protective gloves when necessary and never work at heights or use ladders if you are alone. If in doubt always seek help from a professional


Notes to Editors

For more information/images please contact Kate Griffin, SPAB press office, 0207 456 0905 email: / or Alison McClary SPAB press office, 0207 456 0905 email

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) was founded by William Morris 139 years ago to care for and preserve the UK’s architectural heritage.  Since its foundation, SPAB has been committed to maintenance matters, in line with William Morris’ exhortation to: “Stave off decay by daily care.”  Today it is a dynamic organisation, and registered charity (no. 231307), taking building conservation into the future.  To find out more visit  /