Common problems

Explore solutions to the common problems that can affect old buildings. Topics include condensation, wood-boring insects and timber decay.

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Inappropriate cement pointing

The type of mortar that someone proposes for repointing joints in the walls of an old building is a good test of whether they should be working on such buildings at all. Douglas Kent, the SPAB Technical and Research Director, explains why - and what you do if an inappropriate cement mortar has been used.

Masonry bees

They’re small, furry and firmly part of traditional British fauna. The masonry bee is an opportunist loner with a taste for old walls.

Upgrading timber windows

Inappropriate replacement windows blight old buildings. They are the home ‘improvement’ likely to cause most harm to a property’s value. However, it is a common misconception that old timber windows are incapable of being upgraded.


A good choice of paint is about more than just colour.

Energy efficiency in old buildings

SPAB believes that if approaches aren't based on the right figures to begin with, then we could be doing untold, invasive damage.

Breathability and old buildings

In the context of building materials, and with particular reference to old and historic buildings, the generic term ‘breathable’ is used to describe an important property of building fabric: the extent to which building materials are able to transmit moisture.


The SPAB receives many enquiries about what constitutes good practice when it comes to repointing old masonry. This article sheds some light on the main issues.

Rainwater fittings

This article looks at those humble, often forgotten but all-important links between rain and drain - gutters and downpipes.

Inappropriate cement renders

Much of the guidance given by the SPAB over our Technical Advice Line concerns the 'undoing' of well-intentioned but ill-conceived work carried out from the mid-20th century to historic buildings. Such work has frequently involved the replacement of lime renders on external walls with highly unsuitable modern cement coverings – a serious time bomb.