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Adapting for the future

By adapting, maintaining and conserving our church buildings, we ensure that they can be used by many generations to come. Here, you can find pointers and top tips for ensuring your building remains in good condition, saving both the building and any money that might otherwise have been spent on major building works down the line.

Opening a building to welcome visitors and the local community is an essential part of a church's ministry, and working alongside partners offers an opportunity to deliver high-quality and loving service to the community. 

In order to achieve this, it may be necessary to undertake some re-ordering to bring the church building up to more contemporary standards. This could be improving heating and lighting, replacing seating to make the space more flexible or major intervention to the fabric of the building e.g. creating space for toilets, disabled access, kitchen, small multi-function rooms, etc.  

Things to consider when planning for adaptations:

  • what the change will achieve
  • how it will fit with the mission of the church
  • what the financial impacts will be, for example, running costs, additional income, environmental sustainability
  • how the need has been identified - this might be through carrying out community consultation or a parish audit
  • what other options have been considered
  • why the preferred option is the one chosen.

Funding may be available to help finance the project. You can find further details of funding options on our Grants page.

Professional input should used to assist in developing proposals. In the case of a listed church building, a conservation-accredited architect is required. An excellent toolkit, Crossing the Threshold, contains case studies and advice to help you plan a successful church-building project.

Whatever the project might be, it is often a good idea to liaise with other churches that have undertaken something similar in their church building. This can provide insight into your own proposals and what the process might look like.


Lack of maintenance leads to the deterioration of church building fabric, so carrying out routine maintenance tasks can help to avoid or at least postpone expensive and disruptive major repairs.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) estimates that £1 spent on maintenance today will save £20 on future repairs.

Maintenance must be carried out in a way that will not damage historic fabric, and so the appropriate professionals must be used. More basic maintenance tasks may be carried out by volunteers, as long as they are competently trained.

At its simplest, maintenance involves considering the needs of the building and then deciding the best course of action. Critically looking at your church building on a regular basis will help you better understand it and quickly identify any changes or problems. A systematic internal and external inspection should be undertaken yearly, starting at a high level and working down the building, recording observations for action and future reference.

Tools to assist with the inspection

  • Binoculars to see problems at high levels.
  • Pocket mirror to view behind downpipes.
  • Torch for looking into voids/underside of ceilings or eaves.
  • Digital camera to make a photographic record.
  • Screwdriver to probe gently into any timber to check its condition (very soft timber may indicate decay).

Top tips for keeping your church building in good condition

  • Inspect gutters and downpipes for blockages and leaks - this is best done during heavy rain.
  • Look for slipped / missing tiles. Keep a record of where tiles have slipped as clusters may indicate a bigger problem.
  • Check junction defects in metal flashing, as this can allow water ingress.
  • Inspect walls and check mortar joints. Repairs need to be done with appropriate materials e.g lime-based materials for historic buildings.
  • Avoid soil build-up to the base of walls. This will trap moisture and cause decay.
  • Keep ventilation grills/bricks clear and open windows on dry days to let moisture escape.
  • Clear gullies of debris.
  • Keep planting away from the building to avoid damaging walls, and blocking gutters and drains.
  • Check plumbing for leaks and attend to them quickly. Ensure pipes are lagged.
  • Undertake regular service of electrical and gas installations by appropriately qualified tradespeople.
  • Devise a maintenance plan, a schedule of the building's elements, and their maintenance requirements. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) produced a template and maintenance calendar to assist with this.

Carrying out these basic tasks should not require a faculty, but further information on faculty jurisdiction can be found in this section.

Adherence to health and safety is paramount when carrying out inspections and maintenance tasks. A health and safety policy should be in place and risk assessment undertaken before doing any work. Working at a high level should be avoided, and generally contracted out to qualified contractors (Ecclesiastical Insurance provides guidance on this).

Quinquennial Inspection

Every five years the church building will have a Quinquennial Inspection by an appointed inspecting architect. The report will detail the condition of the fabric of the building inside and outside, check the gas, electric and fire appliances and ensure the certificates are up to date.

The report is sent to the Church with a copy to Diocese and the Archdeacon. It will highlight any work that is required, what it might cost and the approximate time it should be completed by.

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