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Seasonal chores

15 November 2013

As the first frosts cause me to chase around the garden checking that no tender plants are suffering from the cold, I believe that now is the time for a maintenance reminder. 

THE greatest enemy of church buildings is the weather, and the worst of it is almost upon us. While I hope that all churches have someone to undertake a monthly programme of walking around inside and outside to ensure that all is well, autumn is the key season.

Inside, it is worth having more than one person walk around with the clipboard, as fresh eyes may see new issues. Look for any signs of water coming into the building, and at the same time any sign that unwelcome creatures have taken up residence. Catch the mice, and treat the beetle and woodworm.

Evidence of water will almost always be a sign of an external issue. Bearing in mind that water does not always appear where the external problem has arisen, you should note where it is present, and, if you cannot discover the reason, consult your church architect.

High-level water ingress may be a result of roof and gutter problems; high-level wall damp from problem down-pipes, and rising damp, al-though expected in old buildings, may become an issue when it is evident that the drains that take away water and waste have been blocked.

Book a builder to clear leaves and debris from all high-level gutters and parapets, and at the same time to check that down pipes are running freely. Many churches repeat this task in the spring; but if you only do it once each year, do it now, when the leaves near by have fallen.

Consult your architect - and, if necessary, a tree surgeon - if trees are becoming too overwhelming and need pollarding to prevent roots from invading drains or walls. Check paths, and ensure that you have equipment and supplies to clear leaves and snow.

As our local SPAB volunteer re-minded a group I met recently, do take an additional walk around when the rain is teeming down, as you will then be able to see places where the gutters and downpipes are not coping, or are damaged or blocked. The water may gush down the walls, and its emergence inside is only a matter of time.

Ivy is a mixed blessing; buddleia is a menace. Remove all weeds and growth from the walls and roof, including the moss, as it damages the lead coverings. Algae may not eat into the walls, but it is often evidence of failed hopper-heads that may be too small to cope, or of damaged and blocked down-pipes. The cause should be addressed before the damage spreads internally through the walls, as the costs would escalate astronomically.

You have probably ensured that the boiler is doing its best, but check that it has been serviced, and that the contract is up to date for a call-out if you have a midwinter failure. Ensure that the right people, and enough people, know how to reset the schedule for the winter programming of the underfloor heating system, as there is no possibility of a last-minute boost in temperature.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings produces a DVD on church maintenance, and a calendar giving a monthly list of things to do. Get the DVD, and have the PCC view it; even those who are not central to the maintenance tasks will be able to appreciate more fully what all the fuss is about.

Send your issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.

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