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Maintenance, repair and conservation

Lack of maintenance leads to the deterioration of church building fabric and so carrying out regular routine maintenance tasks not only helps protect the fabric to save it for future generations but can also 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.

It is important that maintenance is carried out in a way that will not damage historic fabric. Notwithstanding this, many basic maintenance tasks can be carried out by competently trained volunteers.

At its simplest, maintenance involves two activities - looking and then deciding the course of action to take. Developing the habit of critically looking at your church building will help you gain a better understanding of it and identify any changes or problems with it. An annual internal and external inspection should be undertaken in a systematic approach, starting at 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 level
  • 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 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 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 junctions defects in metal flashing can allow water ingress
  • Inspect walls 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, 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 buildings element and their maintenance requirements. SPAB produce 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 undertaking any work. Working at high level should be avoided and generally undertaken by qualified contractors (Ecclesiastical Insurance provides guidance on this).

Quinquennial inspection

Every 5 years the church building will be inspected 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.

The inspecting architect will make arrangements for the visit to take place.

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