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Maintenance advice


One of the best ways of looking after your property is to carry out regular maintenance and repair. If you get the basics right and ensure that your building is wind and watertight, your house will look after you. This needn’t be expensive, by using good local firms at the appropriate time, larger problems can often be avoided.

The Guide to Building Maintenance in a Changing Climate

In Summer 2019, Edinburgh World Heritage, along with Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh Adapts, produced the Guide to Building Maintenance in a Changing Climate. This free to access guide reports on the effect of fluctuating weather patterns on the condition of Edinburgh’s buildings, and provides step-by-step advice and guidance on how to identify damage and carry out repairs to keep properties wind and watertight.

You can download it here, or get in touch with us to request your free print copy on 0131 220 7720 or email

Take simple, practical steps

Firstly ensure that the external fabric is sound, that the roof is watertight, that stonework is in good order, and that ironwork and timber are all well maintained and regularly painted. Ensure gutters are clear and downpipes are running freely.

Many of the buildings in the World Heritage Site were designed and are used as residential tenements containing between six and twelve heritable properties. The titles of these properties usually refer to the obligations placed on each owner to contribute to ‘common repairs’.

Risks and maintenance costs can be reduced if you take the following inexpensive precautions:

  • Lag all pipes and tanks in roof spaces or where exposed to frost
  • Remove ivy and plants which can weaken mortar, hold damp, damage stone or conceal decay
  • Remove sources of damp such as soil heaped against the walls. Provide site drainage where necessary around the building
  • Provide easy access and good lighting in roof spaces, as well as permanent roof ladders and, in extreme cases, safety wires and harnesses
  • Keep a constant moderate temperature throughout the building, avoid spasmodic high temperatures near joinery. and never use portable room heaters burning paraffin or bottled gas; they cause excessive condensation because their product of combustion is water
  • Ventilate rooms, roof spaces and ducts, keeping flues clean and open; relative humidity should be at about 50 per cent
  • Protect important fabrics and contents against ultraviolet radiation from strong sunlight and artificial light
  • Improve electrical insulation with earth leakage trip and miniature circuit breakers
  • Ensure that all gas pipes are free from corrosion and are properly jointed, ventilated and insulated to comply with the latest regulations
  • Ensure that all rainwater conductors and drains are clear, that all joints are sound and that all bends can be rodded

The following list is not exhaustive but it is appropriate for the average house in the World Heritage Site…


Autumn and Spring:

  • Inspect roofs
  • Remove leaves and other debris
  • Replace loose, slipped, cracked or missing slates
  • Repair leaking gutters if necessary
  • Check rainwater disposal and drains
  • Inspect external walls for signs of damp, trace the cause and make good the defect
  • Remove vegetation from the building
  • Wipe gloss paintwork with a mixture of water and white spirit in equal quantities with a squirt of liquid soap (not soaps containing acid; consult a conservator before cleaning valuable materials)
  • Spring clean rooms in rotation

Annual inspection:

  • Inspect roofs (slater);
  • Sweep chimney if in regular use (chimney sweep);
  • Inspect/rod drains (plumber);
  • Check heating system, header tank and water circulation, inspect boiler, clean ducts and sweep flue if required (heating engineer);
  • Inspect fire extinguishers (supplier);
  • Repair and repaint south-facing woodwork if necessary (joiner and painter)

Every five years:

  • Clean out roof spaces
  • Inspect and report on condition of building (architect)
  • Prepare schedule of repairs in order of urgency for next five years (architect)
  • Inspect and test electrical installation (electrician)
  • Repaint all external woodwork
  • Inspect all external ironwork and repaint as necessary

As required:

  • Inspect roofs, gutters and rainwater pipes (after every storm)
  • Eliminate vermin

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