Maintenance and Repair of Historic Places of Worship
According to Historic England, Maintenance can be defined as “routine work necessary to keep the fabric of a place in good order” (Conservation Principles 2008).
The main objective of maintenance is to limit deterioration. Inspections carried out at regular intervals, coupled with prompt action to pre-empt or remedy problems, are the basis of effective maintenance. Maintenance is cost-effective and ensures the health and safety of building users and the general public. Although it is often seen as mundane, maintenance forms a cornerstone of building conservation.
New Maintenance Resources Following National Maintenance week, SPAB has produced new guidance including new videos produced by Historic England, SPAB and National Churches Trust. Read here about the Nayler Awards for excellence in church maintenance
Links to the individual videos can be found here:
Repair is work carried out to put right defects caused by decay, damage and use. In contrast to reactive maintenance, repair implies work to return a property to a good condition on a long-term basis. Some repairs can be considered to be alterations requiring permission, such as re-pointing in an inappropriate mortar or repainting in a different colour. The use of the wrong materials can cause considerable damage, such as this brickwork damage caused by the use of cement instead of lime for localised re-pointing:
Copyright Douglas Kent, SPAB.
The basic principle is that repairs should be carried out on a like for like basis in terms of both materials and techniques. Before undertaking any works of repair, a specification should be sent to the Conservation Officer who can confirm the appropriateness of the repairs and the need for any permissions. This is to ensure that the significance of the fabric is not damaged or lost.
There are many good sources of advice with regard to repairs on historic buildings, we have included links to this advice:
- Repointing Brick and Stone Walls: Guidelines for Best Practice (Historic England)
- Sash and Case Windows (Historic Environment Scotland)
- Patching Old Floorboards: This guidance explains how to patch old floorboards (SPAB)
- The Need for Old Buildings to 'Breathe': This Technical Advice Note explains how old buildings must be allowed to 'breathe' to avoid dampness and decay (SPAB)
- Control of Dampness: Most forms of dampness that affect old buildings in the United Kingdom are attributable to the presence of excess moisture (SPAB).
Technical Conservation Guidance Brochure (Historic England). Their brochure lists all of their current free-to-download technical conservation guidance and research reports. It also includes information on their series of Practical Building Conservation books and guides on building stone types. This brochure will help you find publications and web pages on topics such as:
- Repairing timber and metal windows
- Repointing brick and stone walls
- Inspecting and maintaining fibrous plaster ceilings
- Finding suitable replacement stone for building repairs
- Preparing for and recovering from flooding
- Conserving war memorials
Building materials (Historic Environment Scotland): Gain insights into the use of traditional building materials, and find out how to work with and care for them.
- Sandstone, Lime, Iron, Slate, Timber, Brick, Glass, Earth and Paint and Finishes
For a useful introduction to the use of lime please link to this video from Historic Scotland
For articles and advice on the repair of historic fabric please follow the link to Building Consevation.com
A Final Word on Contractors
When carrying out repairs to a listed place of worship we always advise you to find the right professional, contractor or conservator. We appreciate that getting the right advice is not always easy but the Connexional Conservation Officer can assist with this, as can your District Property Secretary. Circuit officers and your Quinquennial Inspecting architect may also know of appropriate people.
We would always encourage you to visit previously completed projects and to take up any references. You should also ensure you have a full understanding of the services being offered and matters such as timetabling and payment. The following may be useful in the decision-making process:
- Does your chosen professional or craftsperson have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience?
- Does your chosen professional or craftsperson belong to the appropriate professional bodies?
- Is your chosen professional or craftsperson accredited if this is necessary for the proposed work?
- Have you taken advice from your denominational body, spoken to colleagues and followed up references?
- Have you visited recently completed projects to see their work for yourself?