Care and Maintenance of Church Buildings

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The cost of building maintenance and repair can be one of the major expenditures which a Church faces.

Major problems seldom arise quickly and are most likely to be the results of minor problems which have been left undiscovered for some time.  Even worse, and not so unusual, are those problems which have been identified but have not been dealt with.  It is all too easy to become used to a damp patch on a wall or ceiling, without considering further why it is there, what is causing it and, most importantly, what is happening to the adjacent and invisible parts of the structure.

The vast majority of maintenance-related problems are due, in one form or another, to the entry of water.  The causes of this are many, but the end results are similar – damaged floors, peeling paintwork, damaged plaster, crumbling masonry, rotting timber and so forth.

Structural problems are often, but not always, self-evident and require professional advice.


Experience has shown that many of the large repair bills that churches have had to meet have been avoided by having regular surveys of the premises.  Synod agreed in 1986 to the institution of a quinquennial, or five-yearly, inspection programme.  The inspection is carried out by an experienced architect or surveyor, approved by the Synod Property Committee, and includes a thorough inspection and detailed written report on all accessible parts of the buildings, together with recommendations arranged in order of priority.  Copies of the report are sent to the local church, the Area Property Advisor and the Synod Property Officer.

There is a flat rate fee for the inspection itself, plus travel costs, which are met initially by the Synod.  Churches are encouraged to contribute towards this cost according to their means.  All incidental expenses, such as the cost of hiring suitable ladders, etc., are the responsibility of the local church.

The scheme is co-ordinated by the Synod Finance & Property Administrator.


Between these inspections, it is recommended that all property owned or occupied by a church should be regularly inspected.  This should be carried out by the Property Steward, or other persons specifically appointed for the purpose, and should take place at least once a year.  Reports should then be given to the Elders and to Church Meetings.

Ideally, detailed inspections should take place in the late autumn, to ensure that the building is weatherproof and that gutters and drains are clear of leaves etc. before winter arrives, and again in spring, to identify maintenance work which should be carried out in the summer months.

Synod Property Officer

April 2017


Calendar of the most important items of Church Building Maintenance

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 Calendar of the most important items of Church Building Maintenance

January  Visually check gutters, rainwater downpipes, gullies and roofs
February  Visually check roofs.  Clear any concealed valleys in roofs.  Test all smoke detectors.
March Test all portable electrical appliances.
April Remove all ivy and other vegetation from walls.  Spray weedkiller around base of church on paths.
May Check roofs of church for insect attack; check all timber and furniture and treat if necessary.
June Check electrical installation and carry out necessary maintenance
July Remove any weeds that have grown around the base of the church and its walls.
August Check heating and carry out annual maintenance.  Check fire extinguishers and maintain.  Check all smoke detectors.
September Visually check gutters, downpipes and gullies.  Annual check of gas installations and appliances by Gas Safe registered contractor.
October Rod drains.  Inspect roof for leaks.
November Oil all locks and hinges.  Check boundary walls, gates and trees.  Test gutters, rainwater pipes and gullies by flushing with water.
December Visually check all gutters, downpipes and gullies.
Every 2/3 years Clean down all internal decorated surfaces.
Every 5 years Test lightning conductor.  Test electrical installations.  Redecorate external wood and metal work.
Every 7 years Internal decoration.


Church Building Maintenance Checklist

Regular checks of various parts of the building and prompt maintenance can pay dividends in preventing potentially more serious and costly repairs.  The following checklist is not intended to be definitive or fully comprehensive, but is intended to be a simple, easy to follow maintenance guide.


  • Check roof slopes and coverings, for example tiles and slates, for slipped, cracked or badly damaged items, especially after severe weather conditions.
  • Ensure cement pointing at roof edges is kept in good condition.
  • Remove lichen and other moss growth from tiles/slates. Care is required, as old clay tiles can be damaged by shaling.
  • Flat roofs, normally covered in felt or metal, are prone to defects. Felt in particular has a limited life. Check for cracks, splits and distortions. Wherever possible, avoid walking or standing ladders on flat roofs, as the covering can be easily damaged.
  • Make sure that the chippings on flat roofs remain evenly spread. Clear away any heavy moss or lichen growth, as this can retain moisture.
  • Check flashings and valley gutters or hidden gutters for blockages and leaks. Valley gutters are particularly prone to defects and should be cleaned out at regular intervals.
  • Gutters often become blocked with leaves, weeds or debris and should be cleaned out on a regular basis. Replace or repair any missing or defective sections immediately in order to protect the property.
  • Keep chimney pots and cowls in good order and ensure that the brickwork cement joints are in good condition.

Loft / Tower

  • Check for bird ingress and wasp nests. In very rare cases where bats are found, remember that they are a protected species. Obtain specialist advice.
  • Check condition of water storage tanks and pipework and ensure they are properly covered and lagged.


  • Dampness can penetrate through defective mortar or hairline cracks in the rendering. Although very fine surface cracks may appear insignificant, it is always sensible to fill them to be on the safe side.
  • Ensure that the cement mortar around the waste pipes is in good condition.
  • Use a pliable waterproof mastic sealant to close up any gaps around the window or door frames.
  • Never bridge a damp course by building up external paving levels or garden borders. A sensible guide is to keep external levels at two brick courses below damp course level, or inside floor level.
  • Never render walls down to external ground level as this is likely to bridge any damp-proof course. Always finish the rendering in a properly formed bell cast.
  • Water may get behind poor rendering which could lead to dampness. Any cracked or loose areas or rendering should be repaired or replaced.
  • Remove ivy or other climbing plants in particular from walls and gutters. Such plants can damage stone/brickwork and retain moisture in the wall.
  • Do not allow any sub-ground floor air bricks to become blocked. Failure to do so will prevent adequate air flow and could lead to decay.
  • Check water downpipes for splits or leaky joints and treat any rust found on metal pipes and fixings. Fix any loose or missing brackets.

 External Woodwork

  • Paint/re-stain fascia, soffits, window frames, doors and other joinery at regular intervals.
  • Periodically check window and door frames and repair any timbers affected by wet rot. Regular painting will help avoid the timber becoming rot affected.
  • Replace broken or damaged sash cords or window latches.
  • Renew cracked or broken panes of glass and replace missing or loose putties before redecoration. Treat rusting window guards, which are unsightly and can damage surrounding stone or brickwork, and repair or replace damaged guards, which will be ineffective.


  • Check all flooring and repair or replace rotten, split or damaged boards, tiles or floor coverings. Check for trip hazards, such as mats, frayed carpets or lifting sheet flooring.

 Electrics, Heating and Plumbing

  • The electrical installation should be checked by a qualified NICEIC electrician at least every five years as the system can deteriorate with age and regulations are being constantly updated.
  • Take qualified advice before making any alteration to the electrical wiring system.
  • Locate external and internal stop clocks in the event of an emergency.
  • Check the plumbing pipework and waste pipes for joint leaks and from time to time clean out the bath, sink and wash basin taps. Reseal joints around shower bases and other appliances.
  • Clean through overflow pipes from water tanks or cisterns.
  • Arrange for central heating boilers, water heaters and heating appliances to be regularly serviced to maximise efficiency. For gas appliances: must be a Gas Safe registered contractor.
  • Check for blocked soakaways or gulleys, lifting manhole covers where necessary. Blockages in a drainage system may be cleared by rodding or pressure hosing. Replace any missing or damaged grates.
  • All fire extinguishers should be tested annually by a specialist contractor.
  • All smoke detectors should be tested at least twice annually.
  • All portable appliances should be tested annually by a qualified tester.

In the garden

  • Shrubs and trees can be damaging to the fabric of the property and so their growth needs to be restricted. Keep soil, trees and shrubs away from outside walls wherever possible.
  • Cut back any wall climbing plants as they can damage walls and can encourage damp penetration.
  • Sheds and fences should be treated with timber preservative every three to four years.
  • Check for damaged or uneven paths and walkways. Cracked or lifting paving stones can easily become a trip hazard. Remove weeds from paths and regularly trim back vegetation from alongside all walkways.

Energy Conservation

  • The thermal efficiency of your property can often be improved at a relatively modest cost. These measures can often result in an improved internal environment, reduced carbon dioxide emissions and lower fuel bills. Such measure include:
  • Draught exclusion to windows and external doors.
  • Proper insulation of hot water cylinders and lagging of water pipes.
  • Check the loft insulation is thick enough, but make sure that gaps are left at the eaves to allow sufficient ventilation at the roof space and remove from below water storage tanks.
  • Ensure the heating controls are effective, e.g. consider the use of automatic time clock controls, thermostatic radiator valves, thermostatic cylinder controls, etc.
  • Double or secondary glazing of windows. Under latest Building Regulations (April 2002), replacement windows (domestic and commercial) are controlled either by the local authority Building Regulation Department, or under the FENSA scheme as a Replacement Window Registered Member











Frost Precautions Checklist


Maintenance Procedures – Frost Precautions


Damage caused to water systems and consequent damage to building structures and contents by prolonged exposure to low temperatures can be considerable and inconvenient.  Prevention costs very little and the following hints will be of value.


  • Know the position of your mains and other stop taps and label them wherever possible.
  • Do not allow taps to drip, especially if your building has external waste pipes. Have the taps re-washered or replaced.
  • Protect the ends of overflow pipes from draughts.
  • Turn off and drain external water taps. If the building is to be unoccupied for some time, drain down the entire central heating and water supply systems.
  • Insulate any pipework that is external, in roof spaces or mounted on the inside face of external walls. Insulate cold water storage tanks, but make sure that any roof space insulation does not go underneath such tanks.
  • Where it is impractical to insulate such pipes and they do not receive adequate heating, consider using an electrically heated tape controlled by a frost-stat.
  • Keep central heating ticking over if a building is unoccupied. Keep the pump running overnight when the boiler is switched off.
  • Remember that insulation materials cannot guarantee freedom from freezing under all conditions and neither is it possible to completely drain any water system. It is therefore sensible to keep a special watch on a building’s services when a thaw occurs or a system is being refilled.
  • If a burst occurs and a large quantity of water has been released, consult your surveyor, since the damage may go beyond decoration and finishes and may have affected the structural qualities of certain materials (notably man-made timber boards used in flooring).
  • Consider whether an insurance claim would be appropriate. Consult the Synod Property Officer if advice is required.