13 top tips for maintaining your own "stately" home

Paul Wankiewicz, Building Surveyor Paul Wankiewicz Building Surveyor
Cherry picker at Brockhampton

Each spring our team of Building Surveyors carry out routine checks to make sure the historic buildings in our care are in top condition.
Our Senior Building Surveyor, Paul Wankiewicz, shares his top tips on how you can keep your own ‘manor’ maintained this spring.

1. Look for debris within gutters and remove anything you find.

The last thing you need is your gutters overflowing, they help to protect your roof, walls and foundations of your home. Clearing you gutters in the spring can help prevent costly repairs in the future.

Have you cleared your guttering yet?
building surveyor Paul cleaning leaves from guttering at Hardwick Hall
Have you cleared your guttering yet?

2. Make a visual inspection of the chimneys from the ground, using binoculars if necessary.

Check chimney pots, flashings, chimney flaunching and if any aerials are fitted look at the condition, the last thing you want is a leaky roof.

Not always easy to access but binoculars help
Checking the chimneys new and old
Not always easy to access but binoculars help

3. Look for blocked downpipes.

This is best done during heavy rain to see water coming from any leaky joints. Put your weatherproof coat on and get an umbrella. In dry weather look for stained brickwork/stonework vegetation growing from wall.

A wall greener than your lawn is a warning sign.
Wall behind a down pipe with plants growing from it
A wall greener than your lawn is a warning sign.

4. If the ground is paved with hard material check for staining

 If you start to notice damp patches or algae on your hardstaning areas or boggy bits in you lawn close to you home it might just be worth looking up at the guttering. You may find they correspond to leaking gutter joints, unfortunately the best time to look is when it's rainy.

Damp patches on flagstones are not a good look.
Flagstone with damp patch highlighted in red
Damp patches on flagstones are not a good look.

5. Use a hand mirror to look behind rainwater pipes

Splits and cracks ibeind pipes are very difficult to access once fixed to the wall, rather than pulling your guttering off the house you can use a small mirror to check condition in behind.

Check behind pipes for leaks and damage
Building Surveyor checking for damage on downpipes
Check behind pipes for leaks and damage

6. Rainwater hoppers should not be used as planters.

Plants always seem to thrive where they're not meant to, rainwater hoppers being a firm favourite. They may look nice but they don't do your gutters any favours.

Keep your greenery for the garden.
Rainwater hopper on wall with plants growing from it
Keep your greenery for the garden.

7. On paved areas such as patios or drives check the joints between the paving.

Rake out and repoint as necessary. Its also a good practice to clean the surfaces to remove algae, it not only makes it look better but algae can be slippy stuff. 

Keep your paving in top condition
Paved path at Moseley Old Hall
Keep your paving in top condition

8. Check ground level gullies and drains.

The wild winter weather can easily block drains and open gullies with leaves, twigs and dirt. Make sure they are clear of debris and have them cleaned out if necessary.

Make sure all drains and drainage channels are clear
Drain cover at Hardwick
Make sure all drains and drainage channels are clear

9. Fit bird and leaf guards to the tops of soil pipes and rainwater outlets to prevent blockages.

Come spring birds are looking for the perfect place to build nests, chimneys seem to be a top candidate. This can be a real saftely issue as they block the free flow of gases such as Carbon Monoxide. 

The ladders just are long enough for some of our chimneys!
Repairing Brockhampton's chimneys
The ladders just are long enough for some of our chimneys!

10. Have gutters re aligned if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto the wall.

If it’s a cast gutter paint the inside of the as well as the outside, this protects the metal from rusting which in turn prevents those troublesome leaks. Plastic guttering joints can come loose in the winter wind so check where it may have moved away or started sloping the wrong way.

Look out for twists and leaky joints
Leaky guttering at Woolsthorpe Manor
Look out for twists and leaky joints

11. Check boundary fences and walls.

Realign or replace defective fence panels and undertake point work to copings. Both wooden and metal fencing need maintenance, paint or wood preservation can vastly extend the life of your fences or railings. 

You thought painting your garden gate was a pain...
Maintenance working painting the gates at Shugborough
You thought painting your garden gate was a pain...

12. Lift manhole access covers and flush a toilet to view that drains are flowing.

This is one of Pauls favourite tasks, but for some of our places we've found sneaky ways to camouflage them to be inkeeping with the historic surroundings. The water hydrant covers at the front of Hardwick Hall have specially masoned paving slabs to identify them rather than standard metal covers.

A bit of man hole camouflage at Hardwick Hall
Man hole cover at Hardwick Hall
A bit of man hole camouflage at Hardwick Hall

13. Assess the external joinery doors, windows, facias and barge boards.

See if external joinery needs repainting or treating, look out for peeling paint and bubbles that water could potentially get behind. Dry summer is the best time to do this work, so make a note and plan ahead.

Care for external wood to prevent rotting
Checking for peeling paint
Care for external wood to prevent rotting

Remember

Don’t undertake routine maintenance work at high level unless you are accompanied and have suitable equipment. If in doubt always seek help from a professional.

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