The inside might be nice, but homeowners are being warned failing to properly maintain the exterior of their traditional property could spell misery
Homeowners are being warned by experts they could face “serious consequences” if they fail to properly maintain their traditional buildings.
When faced with building maintenance and financial constraint, householders often face the tough decision of where to spend their money. In many cases, the outside of the property is often neglected in favour of internal home improvements such as kitchens and bathrooms. This approach is causing concern for local stonemasonry experts dealing with increasingly urgent cases of building neglect.
Failure to adequately maintain the outside of your home means that although the interior of your home may look up to scratch, outside problems can be mounting. Left unattended, damaged stonework can quickly deteriorate, causing major internal and external damage – in some cases becoming highly dangerous.
The Scottish Housing Condition Survey 2014 stated 72% of Scotland’s traditionally built homes (pre 1919) had disrepair to critical elements: “this refers to disrepair to building elements central to weather-tightness, structural stability and preventing deterioration of the property.”
Additionally, 39% of these buildings had disrepair that required urgent attention.
As such, stonemasons are urging owners of traditional properties to rethink their approach to home maintenance before winter bites and repair bills escalate.
According to one stonemason, the problem is at a peak across areas of Edinburgh and Fife, where high numbers of traditional stone-built properties have been identified as being in need of basic maintenance.
Given the choice of repairing a chimney or having a new kitchen, many people will opt for the kitchen. According to Graeme Frew of expert stonemasons Stone TLC, which specialises in repairing and maintaining older properties, this means that what would be simple repairs have often “escalated to more serious issues” by the time experts are consulted.
“A bit of damage to a chimney or stonework might not seem much of an issue. But if you don’t look after the outside of the property, you can end up facing serious consequences.”
“Ignoring problems on the outside of your building can lead to issues such as damp on the inside of your home, causing damage to that new bathroom or kitchen as water seeps through from outside.”
With climate change leading to increased rainfall, our homes are at greater risk from water damage than ever before. Mr Frew says he’s encountered crumbling stone walls and chimneys which are rotten to the point of being dangerous.
“We see a lot of extremely dangerous masonry particularly at high level. Where mortar has deteriorated, masonry structures become unstable, and we’ve seen cases where chimney stonework simply crumbles when touched. You just need the kind of winds and storms we’ve had over the past few winters, and the entire chimney could come down.”
As well as damage to your home, these issues raise the risk of damage from falling masonry to nearby property and vehicles. Worse still is the risk this poses to people on the ground.
According to the Scottish House Condition Survey around 1.5M properties in Scotland are not entirely wind and weather proof. Buildings which are around 100 years old have the most issues, despite being widely regarded as ‘solid’ and built to last.
Cracks in walls and crumbling mortar are obvious signs that stonework needs attention. However some damage isn’t easy to spot, particularly when it is contained within a chimney.
“Inadequate weatherproofing of chimneys can result in water getting into the structure”, adds Mr Frew. “Chimney flue deposits mixed with rain water can lead to rapid and very serious decay of the stonework, as damaging salts form within the stone.”
Despite the risks of being left with a higher repair bill and the potential impact on the value of their home, research has shown most homeowners take a reactive approach to building maintenance, and only act once damage has occurred.
However being more ‘proactive’ means being able to plan financially for repairs, and save money in the long term by safeguarding other areas of the property.
Mr Frew adds: “Householders often worry about the cost of work, so are understandably drawn to hiring cheaper builders who might not always have the right expertise.
“Builders often use cement mortar for repairs, not realising the damage that this causes to traditional stone buildings. We use traditional lime mortars, selected specifically for your building, as these allow the building to ‘breathe’, preventing the damage caused by water getting trapped in the walls. We are regularly called in to correct failed inappropriate ‘repairs’, meaning the homeowner ends up paying twice, which can be avoided by getting the right work done to begin with. “
He adds: “Maintaining older properties properly and taking on a reputable company with experience and the skills to do the job, is a more economical approach.”
Stone TLC are stonemasonry and lime harling experts specialised in repairing and maintaining traditional and historic buildings. The business uses traditional skills and contemporary approaches to carry out a range of services designed to extend the life of stone built buildings and walls.
For further information, visit www.stonetlc.com