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
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
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
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
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