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Nesting not Investing

Marianne looking after her houseMarianne Suhr, co-presenter of TV's Restoration series, explains when good maintenance really counts...

For the last decade, I have been building.

When I say building, I do, in fact, mean repairing, conserving, restoring and extending. First a small cottage in Bristol, then a derelict brick and thatch farmhouse in Leicestershire. The last two years have been spent working on a 16th century, timber framed house in Oxfordshire.

First appearances suggested a perfectly habitable building in need of a little ‘TLC', but further investigation revealed a building that had been unmaintained for 40 years.

Actually, I think it was this benign neglect that gave it its charm and helped it escape the artex of the eighties and the replacement windows of the nineties. But all houses, regardless of age, need regular maintenance and left any longer it was clear that my lovely old house would have started to collapse. Quite literally.

Now, after months of effort and back-breaking labour the major work is finished. The house is now a sturdy family home once again - and not before time. Our baby, Max, arrived in April this year and life is beginning to settle down.

Marianne with baby Max But, as with any house, work never really stops. Now the builders, plasterers and painters have moved on, the priority is to ensure that all the hard work and effort that went into bringing this house back to life isn't wasted.

With the arrival of Max and the current uncertainty of the property market, my life has definitely changed. For the immediate future at least I've decided to hang up my builder's overalls and concentrate on looking after what I've got.

Nesting not investing is what it's all about at the moment. For most people, their home is their prime asset, so it makes sense to take good care of it. And, of course, in a difficult property market, a cared for home will retain its optimum value.

Old buildings like mine need constant watching and tending, but even the newest of properties need maintenance.

Many people are a bit daunted when it comes to maintenance, wondering just what they should be looking for and doing. That's why SPAB's annual National Maintenance Week campaign in November is so helpful because it provides homeowners with simple, practical advice that can really make a difference.

Old House Handbook Based on the regular winter maintenance chores I do around my own house, I've put together a simple Ten Minute Home MOT to help people check their properties this autumn.

It's important to remind everyone to act safely and responsibly and not to tackle areas that really need a professional, e.g. high roofs, but I hope this simple checklist will give you the confidence to do a bit of troubleshooting around your own house before a minor problem turns into a major disaster.

Marianne Suhr is the co-author of a glossy new hardback book specially designed to advise owners of period houses. ‘Old House Handbook' is a beautiful and colourfully illustrated guide to the best and most appropriate steps to take when caring for a period home.

Here, for the first time, is a completely authoritative guide on how to look after your old house. The book will be published on October 23rd by Frances Lincoln.