A stitch in time saves more than nine. That’s the mantra to keep in mind when caring for church buildings. It is estimated that deferring maintenance can be up to 30 times more expensive than an early intervention. That is to say that repairing the roof this year might cost £10,000. If you left it for ten years, with continuing wear-and-tear, this could mean that the cost increases to £300,000 (even before inflation is factored in).
Identifying small issues early is the key to preventing them from becoming big, expensive problems. Blooms of green spreading out around a downpipe are a common sight on many churches, especially on the less-visited north side. Often caused by a build-up of leaves in a hopper, if left unchecked this can lead to expensive problems. Rainwater penetrates the wall, damaging the mortar on the outside and then seeps inside, causing unsightly patches which may need re-plastering and re-decorating. Any woodwork in its path starts to decay. The damp in the church makes it a less pleasant environment and more expensive to heat. All this could be prevented by regularly clearing out the guttering.
The Quinquennial Inspection report is a vital tool for maintaining a building. Usually in a list near the end, the report identifies any problems with the building fabric, prioritising them by urgency and it may suggest where improvements could be made.
Fixing minor problems as they occur makes the difference between maintaining and repair. Maintaining is the act enabling a condition or situation to continue, but to repair is to restore something damaged, faulty or warn to a good condition. Prevention is always better than the cure, and William Morris’s advice to “stave off decay by daily care” is as true today as it was in 1877.
To help you decide which elements of daily care should take place and when, we encourage you to use one of the helpful tools provided to keep the habit of maintenance running and make sure that nothing gets overlooked.
To help churches with accessing the assistance of professionals, the National Churches Trust has set up a website called MaintenanceBooker. Through using this service, you can get quotes and book services provided by accredited contractors, including:
- gutters clearance,
- lightning conductor inspections,
- tree surveys and surgery,
- asbestos surveys and removal,
- mortar repointing, and
- routine masonry repairs.
The National Churches Trust also offers Preventative Maintenance Micro-Grants.
Written by Duncan Gregory, Church Buildings Officer