As we approach the winter months, Church Buildings’ Officer, Mark Carter offers some advice about things to focus on as you care for your church building.

Clear leaves

Autumn means that leaves are falling from trees and gathering in places where they could do damage. It’s important to keep on top of clearing them from gutters, pathways and drains so a build-up of leaves doesn’t result in water getting into the church, cause flooding or they become a slip hazard for those visiting.

However, when clearing leaves, please make sure you are physically able to do it, conduct a safety check on any ladder used and make sure there is a second person to ensure the bottom of the ladder is secure. If you will be spending more than half an hour working at height or you are at all worried about carrying out the job, consider hiring access equipment or ask a contractor to do the job for you.

Visually check masonry

Before the weather turns really cold, it’s important to check over the masonry for new cracks and crumbling stone. If cracks are establishing or the mortar is failing, frost and cold weather will exacerbate the problem.

If the visual check highlights any issues, contact your architect for a second opinion, speak to a stonemason or contact the DAC office who can put you in touch with an expert.

Check winter stocks

With the unpredictability of the British weather, it’s always important to make sure there are snow shovels and grit etc available at church in preparation for Winter.

There’s a common misconception that if paths are left untouched when the snow falls, then property owners won’t be liable. However, this is not true – anyone operating premises needs to make a reasonable effort to ensure people can access safely. Try to clear fresh snow and apply salt or grit to ensure grip, do not use hot water as it will only re-freeze! More information can be found on this government website: https://www.gov.uk/clear-snow-road-path-cycleway

Make sure regular tests are up to date

There are lots of safety checks that need to happen annually – electrical safety, lightening conductors, gas boiler and fire extinguisher services and risk assessment updates to name just a few. Make sure you know what needs to be done each year and put a calendar together with them all listed on – along with reminder dates a couple of months before. This should be passed on if the churchwardens etc change!

The Church Buildings team at the diocesan office is always happy to offer advice on managing church buildings safely and legally. Please contact us if you have any concerns. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) also has a great Faith In Maintenance calendar with advice on what to do at different times of year: https://www.spab.org.uk/sites/default/files/SPAB-FiM-maintenance-calendar.pdf