Listed Building Maintenance
Understanding how to manage and maintain a listed property is at the heart of heritage protection and conservation.
The Listed Property Owners’ Club is dedicated to protecting listed buildings and providing the best quality advice and guidance on repairs and maintenance. Our specialist advice service offers owners and potential owners of listed buildings impartial and expert advice on the whole range of building maintenance and management issues. We have the knowledge, support and specialist contacts to help owners maintain their property to the appropriate standard.
Our Club members have access to historic building maintenance advice through our expert telephone helpline, the LPOC Owner’s Logbook, our specialist bi-monthly Listed Heritage magazine and our Technical Guides and Step-by-Step Guides. From damp to double-glazing, light fittings to lime mortar, we can provide guidance and essential information. Within the magazine we also regularly feature case studies, product tests, members’ letters, new innovations and reviews – all designed to keep your knowledge up-to-date. Click here to view a sample issue.
Before any repair or maintenance work is carried out, it is best to check whether Listed Building Consent is required.
Minor repairs which are properly executed can normally be carried out without consent but some more extensive repairs such as replacement gutters or extensive re-pointing may require consent from the local planning authority. Do bear this in mind when planning any maintenance work, and remember, members can access our experts to clarify what should and should not require consent.
Maintaining interior features & managing common issues
Nearly every listed building retains at least some original interior features and finishes, such as fireplaces and plaster work. These are integral to the historic interest and character of the building, and should, therefore, be retained.
Traditional wooden floorboards, staircases, wall panelings, and original decorative features such as cornices, are all protected by listing. If cornices are damaged, or floorboards in need of replacement, the work should be carried out in a sensitive manner, preserving as much of the original fabric as possible and replacing with like-for-like materials only where the original is beyond repair.
Damp is one of the most common problems encountered in historic buildings but it is rarely a problem that can’t be remedied. Owners should check the obvious causes such as faulty overflows, blocked or broken gutters and downpipes if they find damp patches. We would also advise property owners to check that external ground levels are not too high or sloping towards the building. The more developed your knowledge of heritage property construction, the more prepared you will be to negotiate with inexperienced surveyors who may misdiagnose causes of ‘rising damp’.
Modern buildings are constructed with a waterproof membrane over the complete site. They use cement mortar and two skins of brickwork to create a cavity across which water cannot pass. Most older buildings are built of solid walls using lime mortar. Unlike modern building materials, which are hard and impervious, traditional building materials are soft and porous; they allow moisture to enter which then evaporates into the atmosphere.
This is referred to as ‘breathing’ or ‘breathable construction’. Many cases of damp can be directly attributed to post-war alterations carried out using inappropriate materials which reduce the building’s ability to ‘breathe so moisture gets trapped within the walls’. The problem is often caused by cement repointing, gypsum plasters or even by the use external masonry paints or modern vinyl paints which cause moisture to build up within walls. It is fair to say that most listed buildings have suffered from inappropriate interventions in the past and even more worrying that it still goes on today
It is really important when addressing any damp issues, that any company, contractor or surveyor that you employ understands listed buildings otherwise they could cause harm to the building by introducing inappropriate solutions. Our Suppliers Directory lists a range of damp specialists all with extensive knowledge and experience of dealing with damp in listed buildings.
Double glazing in listed buildings
Windows do much to establish the character of a house. In a listed property, they are also often part of the historic fabric of the building and efforts should therefore be made to preserve them.
The introduction of double glazing into historically significant windows is fraught with difficulty. Even ‘slim’ double-glazed units may require the loss of historic glass and will not fit within the narrow glazing bars of many traditional windows. Because it potentially changes the character of the building listed building consent will be required. Most local planning authorities will resist double glazing in historically significant windows but may be more relaxed if the windows in question are less significant such as may be the case in modern replacement windows.
Secondary glazing, that is new glazing fixed to the inside of the original frame, is often preferred as it has little or no effect on the historic window frame. This is the method often recommended by Historic England. LPOC can put you in touch with a number of specialist window restoration and glazing suppliers via our Suppliers Directory, and our team of experts are happy to advise in relation to your specific window requirements.
Listed property exteriors: Maintenance & management advice
Roofs & chimneys
Roofs are important because they keep the weather out but they are also an expression of local vernacular materials, geographical location and architectural style. Whether thatched, clay tiled, or slate, the roof of your listed property is important to keep your home in good order.
When repairs become necessary, the key to success is often sourcing the best tiles or slates to accurately match the size colour and texture of the original roofing material. Good roofing contractors will often be able to help as they often hold stockpiles of local roofing materials. The choice of whether to use reclaimed or new slates/tiles will require careful consideration.
Important choices often need to be made about whether to repair a roof or to strip it and re-cover the whole roof. With listed buildings it is always best to repair rather than replace if it is practical to do so.
For owners of thatched properties, maintenance plans are different. Due to the process of natural degradation, thatched roofs require more regular maintenance and repair. Ridges in particular need to be replaced periodically and the roof expert advice should be taken on when more radical repair is required.
Chimneys are often significant features of listed buildings but they are exposed to the extremes of the weather as well as to deterioration from flue gases from inside. They should be checked periodically for structural soundness and for the condition of their pointing, flashings and flaunching. Flues that are still actively used may need to be checked internally or lined in some circumstances.
Guttering & drainpipes
Original lead and cast iron rainwater items survive on many listed buildings and often include decorative items such as dated rainwater hoppers. They can be both decorative and functional and need to be maintained in sound condition in order to prevent rapid deterioration and decay.
The maintenance of properly functioning rainwater goods is essential to the overall maintenance of your heritage property. Unless rainwater is carried away efficiently by guttering, it will eventually saturate solid walls which can give rise to serious structural problems.
If you want to find out more about how to look after the unique character and heritage of your listed building, get in touch with LPOC. Our expert team will be able to offer advice and support on a vast range of historic building maintenance queries plus we’ll keep your knowledge up to date with the Owner’s Logbook, bi-monthly Listed Heritage Magazine and Technical Guides.
Nationwide specialists for the care, repair, restoration and conservation of listed buildings can also be found in our Suppliers Directory.