Many of us lead busy lives and finding time to carry out regular maintenance on our properties is a challenge. If you are self-isolating at home, you may find yourself with time on your hands. Why not use this as an opportunity, particularly as the weather is improving, to give your home some TLC. Here are five simple activities that you could do, which will save you money and protect your property.
Clean your gutters
One of the biggest sources of problems with stone properties is block gutters, water spills out soaking the walls, weakening mortar and seeping into the building fabric. Out of sight, timbers get damp and before you know it you have a rot outbreak. All this can be avoided by regularly clearing your gutters of leaves and moss and any other twigs that bird drop on your roof.
If you are using a ladder, stay safe. Get someone to hold it while you climb and don’t try to reach too far. Don be lazy, climb down, move the ladder then climb up again.
Clean you gullies
Where the rainwater pipes meet the ground, you may have a metal grill that can be lift.
With a decent strong pair of rubber garden gloves (not marigolds which are only good for the dishes), lift the great and reach down. Can you feel the bottom of the drain? Can you feel if it is silted up with grit and sand? If it is, clear the debris by scooping out the grit and sand into a bucket.
Alternatively, try dislodging the debris, by jetting it with a garden hose.
Inspect your Masonry
Whenever you are out in the garden enjoying the sun, cast your eye over the stonework. Follow the lines of masonry, particularly below gutters. Look for signs of dislodged mortar pointing. Make a note of it and arrange for a stonemason skilled in traditional limework (not your regular builder) to come and fix it.
Alternatively, the Scottish Lime Centre in Fife run excellent practical, hands on one day courses that will give you the skills you need to do small repairs yourself. Plus you will learn lots more practical advice about how to look after you property.
If you spot any signs of stone erosion this could indicate a more serious underlying problem. You may have saturated stonework. Somewhere water is getting into the building fabric, or you may have cement pointing which is preventing your wall from breathing. Make a note of it and arrange for a conservation professional to inspect the wall.
Inspect your loft
You will need a good torch. You may not have been up there for a while. Look in all the dark corners. Look for signs of discolouration. If your insulation is at ceiling level, you ought to be able to feel a draft, this is important to keeping your timbers dry, don’t try to block it. If you have stone gable, is there any signs of dampness or discolouration under the roof.
Do some painting
Cracked and flaking paintwork allows the rain to seep into your timber work, whether it is eaves or windows. Once the dampness is in there, the paint coating can prevent the timber from drying out again, before the next rain shower. As the pattern of wetting, not fully drying and wetting again continues, the dampness builds up and your timber is at risk of rot.
Take some time to look at each window or eaves in turn, run your eye along the timber elements and you will quickly spot areas where the paint is weathered.
While it is dry, sand back the timber to remove any loose paint, add a coat of primer and re-paint.
There you have, five simple, low cost tasks that if carried out once a year, will prevent many problems associated with older properties and a major repair bill in the future.
MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland.