Maintenance and the consumer society

One might think that with the growth of consumerism that we would naturally consume more maintenance products for our homes, but the trend seems to be the opposite.

The rush to be at the front of the queue for the latest gadgets etc does not sit well with the need for the regular and mundane nature of building maintenance. Checking whether you have cracked render, failed silicon around the windows, leaking gutters etc is not as glamorous as a new internet accessing tool.

So I often find that some houses with easily fixable problems (like many damp issues) get to the state where a ‘damp proof expert’ ends up recommending an expensive (and completely inappropriate) solution. These homes are often stuffed to the gunnels with disposable electronic kit, so there is not a lack of money, just a lack of priorities.

The ‘quick fix’ nature associated with modern consumerism doesn’t help here either. Once people see that they have a problem any solution must be quick, cheap, no hassle, immediate, … Unfortunately, due to the delay in acting they have often missed the boat. If maintenance is done regularly then you can use quick fix solutions. For example:

If you see that your silicon has failed around the windows, then it is a quick job to remove the old and replace with new. This will stop any more water getting into the structure. Simple. However, because people don’t do this, the first they will know will be when damp has penetrated through the structure and the plaster inside has failed. This then becomes a job that might involve replastering, redecorating etc.

Exmaple #2: If you see that the ventilation grills on your ground floor are becoming blocked, just clean them up. Simple. If you don’t then your solum (underfloor area between the wooden floor and the earth) won’t work properly and eventually the floor joists will start to rot etc. This then becomes a major job. It will also take a nasty turn, as the builder coming in will fill your mind with having the floor replaced with a concrete one. This will of course be maintenance free!!! Naturally the new concrete floor with cause a range of new damp problems, ……….

So take a break from the computer / curved screen TV / smarter (than 6 months ago) phone and get outside and have a look at your biggest ever investment and give it a few precious minutes of your time. This will save you a lot of heartbreak, money and time resources in the long term. A few basic tools will allow you to do most of the work yourself (or it will be cheap for a good handyperson to fix for you). Houses are not as addictive as modern consumerist stuff, but they can a real drain on your resources if you ignore them for too long.

I would recommend checking the following:

Windows and door seals (esp. those facing the prevailing winds)


Renders / pointing (again esp. those facing the wind and rain)

Drains around the house (to ensure that water is being taken away from the walls)

The roof (to spot any broken or slipped tiles)

Vents and extracts (clear to ensure that they are working properly)

I reckon that a thorough check will take around 5 or 10 mins. 

Then it is a case of keeping your eyes, nose and ears open for any changes. A new drip might be the first sign of a guttering issue. A small damp patch might indicate the need for a check of the seals around the window. A musty smell might alert you to a blocked vent, ….

So when you look at it this way, actually you can fit in all the consumerist stuff that you like and some basic checks on your home. For more guidance on maintenance, especially on older properties have a look at Cadw’s Maintenance Matters website.