national maintenance week heading

Top Tips

Laurence Lends a Hand

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen"Get the basics right first - then you can have fun!"

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is readily associated with interior design, bringing his knowledge of historic detail and styling to millions through TV, radio, books and articles, but he is also a passionate advocate of the importance of good maintenance. He supports the SPAB's annual National Maintenance Week Campaign because he knows that, when it comes to property, getting the basics right really counts.

Laurence says: "Maintenance is too often the Cinderella of the property world. Yet together with good design, it is the most important factor affecting the quality of where we live. Many people place maintenance way down their list of property essentials, preferring to spend money on more immediately glamorous items."

"But there's no point in buying a costly, luxurious carpet or rug for your bedroom, if two months later a leak caused by faulty roof tiles means you have to replace it.

There is nothing stylish about damp! Preventive care is the best form of maintenance - it's the least intrusive and, in the end, it's the least expensive. Get the basics right - and then you can have fun!"

Grass growing in a gutterAs Laurence explains: "The great irony is that if most of us spent a little time and money on some simple maintenance, in the long run we'd probably have more to spend on the, admittedly, exciting, creative and imaginative aspects of home ownership."

So here are Laurence's top tips:

  • Look for blocked downpipes. (This is best done during heavy rain to see water coming from any leaky joints. In dry weather look for stained brickwork).
  • Check ground level gullies and drains to make sure they are clear of debris like leaves, twigs and even things like balls and toys - and have them cleaned out if necessary.
  • Every autumn, clear any plants, leaves and silt from gutters, hopperheads, flat roofs and drainage channels. It's a good idea to do this in spring too to deal with anything that might have found its way into the wrong place.
  • Plant growthRemove potentially damaging vegetation from behind downpipes by cutting back or removing the plant altogether.
  • Use a hand mirror to look behind rainwater pipes as splits and cracks in old cast iron and aluminium often occur here and are not easily noticed.
  • Fit bird/leaf guards to the tops of soil pipes and rainwater outlets to prevent blockages.
  • Have gutters refixed if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto the wall.
  • If sections are beyond repair, make sure that replacements are made of the same material as the originals. (On older houses, this is sometimes lead, but more usually cast iron).
  • Regular painting of cast iron is essential to prevent rust - and keeps your property looking good!
  • Don't undertake routine maintenance work at high level unless you are accompanied and have suitable equipment.  If in doubt always seek help from a professional.

And here's a very important extra tip - remember to take care at all times, wear protective gloves when necessary and never work at heights or use ladders if you are alone.

Now why not test your maintenance know-how with Mr Spabby's maintenance quiz!

© SPAB 2010