Top Tips for Maintaining Your Listed Building

According to our research, three-quarters of estate agents agree that a well maintained building in a Conservation Area adds to the value of property in the area.

So although maintenance is routine, humdrum and perhaps even a bit dull, it is essential to minimise costs and maximise the healthy life of your listed building.

Kate Guest, Projects Officer at Historic England, gives us some top tips for carrying out maintenance work on your listed property.

Here are some things to consider when you are planning maintenance or repairs on your historic property.

1. Know your home

IMAGE 7 Cottage constructed from witchert, Long Crendon, Buckinhamshire (c) Historic England
Cottage constructed from witchert, Long Crendon, Buckinhamshire © Historic England

The better you understand your property, the easier it is to anticipate any weak spots or potential problems. Regular inspections are the best way to get to know your building and help to identify which areas are most likely to need maintenance.  While it may not be fun, it is best to carry out your inspections while it’s raining, so you can easily see whether any gutters or rainwater goods are failing.

It is also a good idea to carry out ‘occasional inspections’ after severe weather. For this sort of inspection, it is most important to concentrate on the parts of a building where water could get in easily, or where walls may still be unexpectedly damp.

To help you carry out inspections, Historic England has created a Maintenance Checklist. This provides a starting point for inspecting a building in a logical order, and covers roofs, drainage goods, exterior walls and interior areas.

2. Keep records

IMAGE 1 Brickwork removal at Eltham Palace, Greenwich, London (c) Historic England
Brickwork removal at Eltham Palace, Greenwich, London © Historic England

All inspections and maintenance work should be recorded. This will help you build up a clear picture over time. For example, you could consider creating a log book for your home: make a note when you have done a maintenance check recording what you find and take photographs. You can record what repairs needed doing, when they were done, and who by, particularly if you used a professional.

All this information will be useful not only to you, but also to any professionals who carry out work on your property, and to any future owners should you move on.

3. Create a maintenance plan

IMAGE 9 Mortar decay in brickwork, Toxteth, Liverpool (c) Historic England
Mortar decay in brickwork, Toxteth, Liverpool © Historic England

A maintenance plan is a straightforward, structured way of drawing attention to issues and a good discipline in reminding you when to inspect your property. This may sound complicated, but it is a common sense exercise.

For many listed buildings the Maintenance Checklist referred to above, along with your own records, will form the basis of a maintenance plan.

A maintenance plan should:

  • Take into account how your building is constructed, what changes have been made, and its overall condition.
  • Identify weak points and anticipate where problems might occur.
  • Think of the building as a whole, including its interior structure and electrical/plumbing system and surroundings. This could raise issues like surface water drainage or the proximity of trees.
  • Take into account your home’s position and exposure to the elements.

4. Get appropriate professional help

IMAGE 8 Lime Mortar repairs to a door in Marylebone, London. (c) Historic England
Lime Mortar repairs to a door in Marylebone, London. © Historic England

When you need to hire a professional to help you carry out maintenance, make sure they are qualified to work on a historic building.

Many building professionals only trained in modern methods are less qualified to offer advice on historic buildings. This may unintentionally cause problems as older buildings are often constructed differently to modern ones.

It may seem like a daunting task to find a suitably qualified professional and Historic England, as a public body, cannot make recommendations, but there are many online sources of advice. The best way is often through word of mouth. Using a suitable qualified professional will ensure that they are working to accepted standards.

5. Get permission

*temp*
Smithsons Court, Ripon, North Yorkshire © Historic England

You need consent for work which will affect the building’s special historical or architectural significance.

In general, ‘like-for-like’ replacement or repair will not need Listed Building Consent if it does not affect special interest. However, if you are carrying out further repair work as opposed to regular maintenance you may need Listed Building Consent. In some cases you will also need Planning Permission.

 

Where can I get more information?

Take a look at the Your Home section of the Historic England website. There’s information on taking care of a listed building, from maintenance to getting permission to add an extension or alter windows.

The Institute for Historic Building Conservation has recently launched their Caring for Your Home website.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) also holds the annual National Maintenance Week and runs a Technical Advice Line.

Can I add information to the List?

The National Heritage List for England includes almost 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks.

Our Enriching the List project enables you to share knowledge and upload images of specific buildings or sites – so if you have any great pictures or information about your listed building, please share these with us and help to enhance this amazing record of our national story.

More information for property owners can be found at historicengland.org.uk/advice

Further Reading

4 responses to Top Tips for Maintaining Your Listed Building

  1. Lucy Lincoln says:

    Thank you for such an informative list of tips. I’d also recommend getting a listed.heritage building condition survey if you have just acquired the building or want to make extensive changes. This might seem a bit daunting but it shows that you’re willing to work with local conservation teams and you will build up a good picture of your listed building and how safe it is as well as any recommended repair work!

    Like

  2. Francesca says:

    This is such an informative blog post, and on such an important topic too. The preservation of listed buildings is a subject close to many people’s hearts. Your point about choosing a contractor who is able to work with historic buildings is so important. However it doesn’t always have to be daunting. The key is experience. If a roofing company has years of experience maintaining listed buildings, they are likely to be a safe bet. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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