Winter Proofing Your Listed Property
I am endlessly amazed at how many owners of old and listed properties I come across who don’t have a clue about basic maintenance. At the risk of offending those who know perfectly well what to do here are a few suggestions:
Ensure Rainwater Disposal
When you consider what to do to protect your listed or historic property the first priority has to be the roof coverings and rainwater disposal. Go and stand outside your property in the next heavy rain under an umbrella and observe what is happening. Are any gutters or rainwater pipes overflowing or leaking at joints? Damp patches on masonry can quickly lead to Dry Rot.
Have your roof checked over by a roofer to clean out gutters and downpipes, replace any slipped or missing slates, point open joints in stone or brickwork and repair cracked or displaced leadwork. Lead gutters are vulnerable to heavy snowfall. They can leak if you don’t get the snow out quickly. Think through what your contingency plan is for this. Trace heating tape controlled by a manual switch could save you a lot trouble if you have particularly vulnerable lead valley gutters.
Give some attention to the drains that carry rainwater away from the building. Sometimes what looks like a blocked rainwater pipe is actually a blocked drain. Go round and clean out all your gullies.
Control Internal Temperature
Inside the house, building fabric is best preserved if the temperature is not allowed to drop below 14 deg C. Try to keep the humidity levels steady not getting too high or too low. Get some digital temperature and humidity sensors and key an eye on them. They are inexpensive. Low humidities will crack your furniture and woodwork. High humidities will encourage condensation, mould and fungal growth. Raising the temperature will generally reduce the humidity. Use natural ventilation too. On a sunny winter’s day throw open the windows and let the air blow through the house.
Block up disused fireplace flues with inflatable flue stoppers to stop wasting heat up disused chimneys.
Insulate outside taps with closed cell insulation that will still perform when it gets wet and secure it firmly in place ideally boxing it in with timber.
Check the lagging on tanks in roofspaces. Often it becomes displaced and useless over time. Also check the insulation on pipes in voids.
Leaving Your Property Unattended
If you must leave your house unattended consider draining down all tanks and pipes but ideally leave the heating running so don’t drain down the heating header tank if you have one and don’t shut off the mains supply to it. For unattended properties a company appropriately called “Leaksafe” make a useful range of automatic leak detectors, shut off valves and wireless remote control systems see www.leaksafesolutions.com
If you have LPG or oil fired central heating make sure your tanks are topped up, especially if snow or ice are liable to prevent the delivery lorry getting to you and from experience go and check the levels of fuel remaining and don’t rely entirely of telemetry to trigger an automatic delivery.
– David Gibbon, RICS Conservation Accredited Building Surveyor