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Top Tips for Maintaining Older Buildings

In central Scotland we are lucky to have a range of building types creating interesting streetscapes in our villages, towns and cities.  While I am interested in most building types I must admit to a particular fondness for older stone-built properties with slated roofs.

For the most part, stone buildings were built for people of status and their styling was designed, often using rules of classical proportion and style to send an aspirational message to potential owners or tenants.

The downside for owners of these properties is that they come at a cost.  The very detailing that makes the buildings interesting and attractive also creates many hidden ‘nooks and crannies’ which left unattended can result in dampness and timber decay.

My top three tips for owners of traditional stone-built properties are as follows:

Tip No.1 –  Look after your timber windows.  Original painted timber windows are an integral part of the character of period buildings.  In my opinion individuals who fit PVCu windows as a replacement for timber sliding sash windows are doing their building and the public a great dis-service.  People like myself who own older properties are the custodians of those properties and we should always treat them with respect.  Repairing and preserving original window styles is one example of this respect.  Regular decoration, renewal of cracked putty and minor timber repairs carried out regularly will usually avoid the need to replace timber windows.  Specialist companies offer draught proofing products and window hardware that allows sash windows to be less draughty and more easily cleaned.  They will not meet performance standards of new double-glazed PVC windows, but life is about trade-offs.

Tip No.2 – Have a regular maintenance regime for gutters, rainwater pipes and flat roofs.  The interesting roof detailing that is a central feature of that attractiveness of older buildings is also one of their drawbacks.  Regular inspection and maintenance is needed, particularly in the Autumn to keep rainwater systems in working order.  Moss on slated roofs can be a problem all year round when it is disturbed by birds and heavy rainfall.

Tip No.3 –  Take care of your stone walls.  Traditionally stone properties were constructed from natural stone and lime-based mortar.  Lime mortars are more specialist than cement-based mortars and care is required to protect new lime work against premature drying and frost action.  Because they take longer to cure than cement mortars this can add to works costs.  That said, it is important to note that cement mortars can result in seriously decayed stonework which in some cases can result in partial rebuilding.  If you see stonework that is in poor condition with grey mortar apparently standing proud of the surface of the stone, the cement mortar has caused this.  Lime mortar pointing is sacrificial to stonework and will erode over time without damaging the stone.  Cement pointing has the opposite characteristics.

Whenever repairs are needed to period properties it is essential to use consultants and contractors with a sound knowledge of their construction and maintenance.  My interest in older buildings has resulted in my attending training courses for stonework repairs, slating, leadwork detailing and structural repairs to historic buildings (to name but a few).  Knowledge gained from the experts offering these courses, combined with thirty-plus years of experience and a passion and respect for these properties makes me a useful professional resource for potential clients.

If you are looking to carry out sympathetic works to older properties, please complete the contact form for a no-obligation chat about how we can help you.

Kevin Sergeant

1 May 2018