What’s the damage? Spring checks for your home
The first signs of spring can reveal the damage that winter’s done to your home. From render and roofs to pointing and pipes, remedying problems now could save you a bigger bill later on.
There are few things so uplifting as seeing the first signs of spring: little snowdrops pushing through the earth, the sun peeping out from behind winter clouds, birds returning from their winter sojourn.
Unfortunately, brighter days can also throw a spotlight on any problems with your home. We look at the essential checks you should be carrying out this spring.
Inspecting your roof
Winter can take its toll on a roof, particularly on older properties where tiles may have become porous. Cold temperatures and damp conditions may cause cracks, moss growth can unseat tiles and winter storms may have loosened or even removed some tiles. It’s important to identify any cracks or areas of concern, as well as checking any chimney stacks and surrounding flashings.
Viewing from street level will usually be enough to detect any damage, and, if concerned, call in a specialist. When it comes to minor roof damage, the good news is, if you act quickly, a roofer should be able to replace individual damaged tiles before the damage worsens and a larger repair is needed.
Cracks can appear over time in brickwork or render. While these may cause concern, there could be an easy fix.
- Render: external cracks in render can look alarming, but the problem may only be minor. “Damaged render is usually signified by cracking,” says Martin Fosbrook, director of damp-control contractor Biocraft. “If you tap the render and it sounds hollow, this means it has debonded from the brickwork underneath. Usually this means you need to take off the detached render and do a patch repair. If the problem is just cracking, it can be repaired using a suitable filler. The good news is, if you keep on top of it, you can prevent the problem from becoming a much bigger issue.”
- Brickwork: When it comes to cracks in brickwork, an important factor is whether the problem is worsening or whether the crack remains static. If you notice a crack that continues to worsen, it’s time to call an expert, as this could indicate a serious problem such as subsidence. However, minor cracks can usually be repaired with ease: “If the crack is minor and not worsening or if the crack is due to ‘spalling’ – where bricks become very soft and porous – then repairing the damage can be quite straightforward,” says Fosbrook. “Often, the best solution is to cut out the damaged brick and replace with a new or reclaimed brick that is in keeping with the building.”
If you notice that mortar or pointing is wearing away between your bricks, it’s important to get this rectified before the problem gets worse and your wall is affected. While refreshing mortar or pointing is a job you may wish to undertake yourself, you’ll still need to identify the right material to use before you start.
“It’s important to get expert advice as to the type of mortar to use,” advises Fosbrook. “If it’s an older house, then the repointing needs to be done with lime mortar; if it’s newer, it may need a cement-based mortar. Using cement on lime can cause long-term problems, so make sure before you act.”
Freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on exterior pipes, causing cracks to appear. If one of your pipes burst over the winter, most likely you would have picked this up almost immediately, as a large amount of water would have been discharged. Smaller cracks, however, may not be so obvious – but it’s important to check for small leaks before any problems worsen.
Leaking pipes – including gutter downpipes – located against your exterior walls may cause water penetration and internal damp. Checking for and repairing small problems may well mean avoiding a much bigger issue further down the line – as well as saving money on your water bill!
Gutters and drains
Autumn leaves and winter debris can easily clog up gutters and drains, leading to inefficiency and blockage. And while this may seem a minor problem, if you don’t deal with it, it could have a major impact. “If guttering is damaged or gets blocked over the winter and you don’t do anything about it, it can lead to problems with damp ingress, which can then affect the interior of the property,” says Fosbrook. “This could also lead to problems with timber decay.
“The best time to check guttering is during heavy rain, as if it’s blocked or leaking it will be easily identifiable,” he continues. “Staining or green patches on brickwork near to guttering can also indicate that water is escaping from the gutter and causing damp.”
If you’re unable to clear the gutter blockage, or a drain has become clogged, it’s a good idea to call in a specialist as soon as possible. This will ensure that the problem is dealt with before it causes more costly damage to your property.
“Those who live near heavily treed areas may wish to invest in a product such as a ‘gutter hedgehog’, which helps keep gutters clear,” adds Fosbrook.
Windows and doors
Sealant around windows and doors should be checked for any damage, which may lead to drafts or breakages in the future. “Doors and windows are usually fitted with a weatherproof seal,” says Fosbrook. “If this begins to debond, it’s a very simple job just to remove and reseal.”
Whether your driveway is concreted, tarmacked or paved, the cold, damp weather may have taken its toll. Small cracks and areas of damage should be dealt with as soon as possible, as these can fill with water and continue to worsen if left – potentially resulting in the need for a larger repair.
Decking and patio areas need to be cleaned to prevent a build-up of moss – easily done with a pressure washer or (if you’re not averse to a bit of elbow grease) a bucket of soapy water and a broom.
Trees and fences
Storm damage may have rendered once stable trees hazardous, so if you’re a tree owner, it’s a good idea to check and seek advice where necessary. “If a tree has cracks or cavities, fungi, sparse leaf cover compared to other trees, or hanging branches, it’s likely to need attention,” explains David Treanor, director of Tree Wise Tree Surgeons. “Birds and bats make their nests in trees, and both are protected by law,” he continues. “It’s best to get someone in to make it safe while ensuring the safeguarding of protected species.”
Tree owners do have a legal duty of care to have their trees checked periodically, perhaps every three to five years or after any storm damage.
Fences, too, may become damaged by wind and adverse weather conditions. Make sure you take a walk around and check for any affected areas, as falling fences may injure passing pedestrians or damage property in or outside your garden.