National Maintenance Week 2017

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Why small steps make a big difference

Launching our 'Love your building' Maintenance Calendar

National Maintenance Week in November (17-24) is a gentle reminder to anyone who cares for a property to identify minor problems and potential flash points that might need attention before winter sets in.  The annual campaign is organised by the UK’s oldest conservation body, SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings), but the advice is appropriate to all sorts of buildings, regardless of age or purpose.

The national drive to promote the value of good, regular maintenance always takes place at the end of November. This year:  Friday November 17 – Friday November 24.

The roots of National Maintenance Week go back to 1877 when SPAB was founded by William Morris.  In the Society’s seminal Manifesto, Morris spoke of the need to “stave off decay by daily care, to prop a perilous wall or mend a leaky roof.”  Taking that as a starting point, SPAB recognised that good maintenance is important to buildings of all ages and types and is as vital now as it was in Morris’s time.            

Small steps can make a big difference. Leaky gutters, blocked drains, slipped tiles and mystery patches of damp can present as minor issues and are easy to ignore, but they won’t rectify themselves!  In fact, if you leave a problem it’s likely to get worse and become more costly and intrusive to deal with at a later date. 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.                                      

For the last 16 years SPAB 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.  

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 and very often poor maintenance is the root of the problem.

For 2017 we’ve devised a handy ‘When To’ / ‘How To’ maintenance calendar. Love Your Building is fun fold out with cartoon illustrations designed to encourage anyone who cares for a building whatever its age or purpose, to be aware of the easily achievable, economic maintenance tasks they can undertake throughout the year.  The calendar is perfect for homeowners and also for those who care for public buildings such as churches, village halls and local authority properties. This autumn we’ll be sending out thousands of free copies as a gentle call to maintenance action.

SPAB Director Matthew Slocombe says: “Interest in property and home design is something of a national obsession, but property maintenance is very much a Cinderella topic. 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 small and 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.”

National Gutters Day (Friday 24 November 2017) is SPAB’s light-hearted, but timely reminder to homeowners to look out for potential problems and take action where necessary. If you do nothing else during National Maintenance Week take a few minutes on Friday November 24 to check on the performance of your property’s gutters and down pipes. Look out for cracks, breakages, and blockages from debris including earth, twigs, leaves, bird nests and even lost tennis balls!


 Maintenance made easy:  SPAB’s Top Ten Tips                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

1.      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.

2.      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).

3.      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.

4.      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.

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

6.      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.

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

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

9.      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).

10.  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

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.

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