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Edinburgh World Heritage/News/How to get down and dirty behind closed doors this maintenance week

How to get down and dirty behind closed doors this maintenance week


20th November 2020

Rebecca Leary

Maintenance week 2020 is November 20 – 27 and at Edinburgh World Heritage we’re calling on you to take advantage of this extended time at home to take the temperature of the room – literally.

We know that regular maintenance helps to reduce the impact of heavier rainfall, higher winds and more extreme weather – all effects of a changing climate that threaten the condition of our traditional buildings.

At Edinburgh World Heritage, we often get asked questions about aspects of maintenance in traditional buildings, so we’ve gathered together some of the most frequently asked to help you get started. As we continue to live with lockdown restrictions, consider how well your home can care for you by measuring how well you care for your home.

“How do I prevent a leaky roof?”

Did you know that a well-slated roof can last up to 150 years? Regular maintenance is the key to keeping your roof performing well, avoiding stressful emergency repairs.

  • Try to find a safe vantage point to see hidden areas and arrange for a roofer to make an annual inspection.
  • Check the roof regularly for slipped slates which allow water to penetrate to the timbers below. Slates can easily slip down if their fixings have rusted or the slate has broken due to wind uplift or foot traffic over the roof.
  • If the roof is generally sound, the odd slipped slate can simply be re-nailed in place. If it is broken, a replacement slate will be needed which should match in type, texture, size and thickness.

For more, see our guide to caring for historic roofs.

“What colour should I paint my New Town door/window?”

  • In the New Town, doors were usually painted either white/off-white or a dark strong colour or else grained to make them look like expensive hardwoods.
  • Pale, primary or pastel colours are not appropriate and should be avoided.
  • The City of Edinburgh Council recommend that all windows are painted ‘white’ although an ‘off-white’ such as BS 00 E 55 or BS 22 B15 would be acceptable, and give a more pleasing colour than the modern harsh ‘brilliant white’.
  • Cream should be avoided.

For more, see our guide on exterior paintwork.

“How do I clean my Edinburgh sash and case windows?”

The lower sashes of many traditional sash and case windows are fitted with ‘simplex’ hinges. These devices allow both faces of the lower sash to be cleaned more safely from within the building by swinging the lower sash inwards into the room. They also allow the upper sash to be lowered when the inner sash is held on the hinge to enable it to be safely cleaned from the floor level access.

Here’s how to use the hinge mechanism to open and clean your sash window safely.

For more, see the Historic Environment Scotland short guide on sash and case windows.

“Can you help me find a joiner/roofer/builder/glazer?”

As a publicly-funded organisation, we are not able to recommend individual companies. However, here are some key actions you should take when looking for any work to be done.

  • Do your research: search online for the relevant homeowners guide. Both Edinburgh World Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland have guides on various subjects with detailed information on maintenance and repairs.
  • Get to know your neighbours to see if they have had similar work done
  • Ask to see examples of work or testimonies – you can also ask to be put in touch with previous customers
  • Don’t always go for the cheapest quote
  • Depending on the job it might be worth appointing an appropriately qualified lead professional, such as

​The most important thing to remember is that your home is a place of refuge, and carrying out small acts of regular maintenance will keep it in good condition, enabling it to continue to protect you and your family now and in the future.

Join us across our social channels this Maintenance Week as we celebrate what goes on behind closed doors in Edinburgh’s traditional buildings using #maintenanceweek

Twitter @EdinburghWH

Instagram @edinburghworldheritage

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