Covent Garden

Guidance for Building Owners

Routine Maintenance

This section of the Handbook includes a series of specifications for the treatment of key elements of the buildings in the Conservation Area, such as brickwork, shop fronts, door and window joinery, signs and paintwork. The treatment of quite small details of this type can have a serious effect on the appearance of the building elevations and streets which make up the Conservation Area, and great care is needed to achieve historically accurate results.

Introduction to Routine Maintenance
It is not enough to ‘protect’ an historic building from demolition or unsuitable alteration; what is needed is a sustained programme of continuous care.

The principal rule in maintaining an old building is to tackle problems at the beginning before they cause serious (and expensive) damage: for instance, it is easier and cheaper to mend a broken downpipe than to remedy an outbreak of dry rot. Regular examination of a building for defects is strongly recommended. In a damp country like England the prime concern should be to keep a building weather-proof.

Roofs and Rainwater Disposal
Gutters and downpipes keep a building in good condition by taking rainwater away safely. If they become blocked or broken, damage to the building can occur quickly.

It is vital that gutters are checked and cleaned every six months, preferably after the autumn leaves have fallen and in the early summer. Drainage channels and flat roofs also need to be kept clear. A routine arrangement with a local builder is a good idea. While clearing gutters, a check should be made of the roof tiles or slates to ensure that none have slipped, and to replace those that have.

Take note of any areas of pointing which need attention. In old buildings, repointing should be done with a lime/sand or lime/sand and cement mix and not with cement/sand mortar which is too hard and can damage the brickwork. Brickwork repairs and pointing are definitely not a job for a ‘handyman’. Proper professional builders should be used. It is cheaper in the long run (see Brickwork Section).

Doors and Windows
A detailed inspection for defects should ideally be made annually, or at least as often as re-decoration. External joinery should be regularly repainted, to prevent rot and decay. This should be done at the very least every five years, but with modern paints every three years is a more desirable programme. Minor joinery repairs and replacement of loose putty in the windows should be done at the same time. Iron rainwater pipes and gutters or metal grilles will also require regular painting to prevent rust.

Covent Garden Area Trust
42 Earlham St, The 7 Dials Club, London WC2H 9LA
Tel: 020 7497 9245 |
Registered Charity No: 299874. Registered at Companies House, Cardiff. Registered No: 02280893.

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