Maintain your property in Spring to be snug next Winter!

Experienced surveyor, Robert Hamilton, gives tips on maintaining your home through the warmer months so it's fit for the cold snaps later in the year

"I have just bought an old cottage and wonder what essential maintenance I should do over the spring and summer months?"

One of the best ways of surviving the winter in an old property is to use the (hopefully) dry months to maintain the external fabric of the house, so:

Get your chimney(s) swept before you need to light a fire again

Well-maintained flues mean that fuel burns more efficiently and provides more heat, not just the benefit of avoiding chimney fire!

Get your stone-tiled roofs overhauled by a craftsman roofer

Preferably the overhaul should take place twice a year; in the spring to remove the debris of the previous winter and identify or repair any damage caused by heavy snowfall or frost action, but also again to clear leaf fall and other tree debris after autumn but before the heavy frosts of winter.

Overhaul gutters and downpipes and install ‘hedgehogs’ or gutter-guards for easier maintenance

Blocked and leaking gutter or downpipes, or those missing their end-stops, will cause problems to the fabric of the stonework if water is allowed to saturate the natural porous stone of the construction, hence causing severe dampness problems.

Check, too, that the gutters are long enough

These should protrude by 4 inches/10cms to catch all the wind driven rain to avoid water cascading down the corners, verges and eves of buildings, which can cause wet rot decay of rafter ends and gutter boards and as walls become saturated, mortar decay and frost action will damage the surfaces of stone or brickwork, too.

Ensure the downpipes lead to a drain / infrastructure

All too often these just discharge onto the surface, forming pools and puddles that then seep into the foundations causing all the problems above and, if very severe, subsidence. Something as simple as a ‘directional shoe’ can ensure that rainwater discharges away from the wall into the drainage system, or a downhill channel.

Cut back overgrowth surrounding the building, both at ground level and overhead

Vegetation can harbour extreme dampness as can cold wet earth against the walls, whilst recent tree growth could make wires and cables susceptible to damage. A ‘French drain’ is cheap and easy; dig away loose soil and backfill the trench with gravel to prevent water ponding at the base of the walls. 

Scrape out and re-point any areas of flaking or decaying mortar

Just make sure you are using a correct mixture; lime mortar is usually the most appropriate for limestone masonry and early brickwork; later construction will use different mortars. Also, do try to match the existing type to ensure colour coordination and an overall pleasing aesthetic.

Make sure that painted goods, especially timber, are regularly prepared and repainted

Depending on the climate and finish, this should be every three to five years. Exposed rafter ends and unpainted wood should also be given treatment with wood preservative.

Central Surveying has offices in the Cotswolds and Knightsbridge, specialising in independent professional surveying and property consultancy services for commercial and residential clients in the Cotswolds, South West and London. Robert Hamilton works from Naunton in the heart of the North Cotswolds. To contact Robert, telephone 01285 640 840 or visit www.centralsurveying.co.uk.

 

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