The good repairs guide: tackle old windows, leaky roofs and more

It's time to plan maintenance work for the year ahead. Robin Hood-Leeder runs through a spring checklist to spot problems before they bring down the house


Start at the top. Use a pair of binoculars to inspect winter damage. If the roof is tiled, look for missing or damaged tiles. Winter frost can sometimes cause the bottom of tiles to fracture and slip into the gutter. If it is a slate roof, check for signs of nail erosion, which takes place at a faster rate in winter and causes tiles to slip down. A flat roof is often covered in white stones to deflect sunlight and prevent buildings from overheating. Check they are in place before summer.

Time involved: each tile takes around 20 minutes to replace

Cost: (all prices are for an average three-bedroom semi-detached house) around £40 to £50 to replace the odd roof tile, and scaffolding costs from around £120 a day


When spring arrives, inspect the guttering. Pipes often get blocked or disconnected during the winter. Most commonly, leaves clog up the down pipes. If moss grows on the roof, this can drop off in clumps and cause blockages. It is a common problem, so use a watering can to see if any are blocked. It is not only unsightly to have water overflowing down the outside of a house - itcan also damage the façade and exterior timberwork.

Time involved: around half a day's work

Cost: in the region of £100 to £150 to clear all guttering, depending on the cause of the blockages


After a mild winter, keep an eye open for unwelcome visitors. There are some nasty infestations at this time of year. Take a careful peek into the attic and look behind wooden furniture. If you see anything unusual - wasps buzzing in the eaves or bugs attacking the timber - act swiftly. Call an extermination company in Yellow Pages or contact your local council. Bats, however, are protected, so the best advice is to seek guidance from your council.

Time involved: wasps' nests can be sprayed with insecticide by specialists and removed a few days later

Cost: from around £50


As the weather improves, look out for signs of damp, particularly in brickwork as opposed to cavity walls. Patches of damp are always more noticeable after wet winter weather. Inspect lower brickwork to catch damp as early as possible. If there is a problem, there are various options: one is to use chemical treatments, another is to insert damp-proof courses on the outside.

Time involved: one day

Cost: around £80 per linear metre


Flaking paint leads to rotten window frames. In spring, check that they are in good condition. Any necessary painting work should be carried out in dry months. External timberwork and doorframes should also be checked for decay. This is also a good time to check that all the security locks are working efficiently.

Time involved: up to three hours a day over three days per window frame - prime it on the first day and paint with two layers of top coat on the second and third days

Cost: in the region of £250


Bleed every radiator in the house so that they have more water and less air, and are therefore more energy efficient. At the same time, you should take the opportunity to adjust them to summer settings. In a similar vein, also look out for leaking taps in bathrooms and kitchens - not only is this an environmental issue, it can prove very costly if you are on a water metre.

Time involved: around two hours' work

Cost: around £40 to £50


Sheds are always overlooked. But if you don't look after them, both the shed and its contents will start to rot. If the surface shows signs of decay, repaint it or apply a protective chemical. Another problem is algae on paths and patios. When the ground gets damp, a pale-green slime appears. Mixed with rain, it is extremely slippery, and a potential health-and-safety issue if the postman falls. Wash down paths with an environmentally friendly chemical treatment in a jet-wash spray. Then refill cavities between paving stones with dry sand to prevent it recurring.

Time involved: a day's work to paint the garden shed and another day on the algae

Cost: around £150 for the shed and around £300 for the algae


Go outside and assess the condition of the exterior paintwork - see how well it has coped during the winter months. Now is the time to look at it - the work needs to be carried out in the summer months, and the best painters can be booked up months in advance.

Time involved: around three days

Cost: average costs in region of £1,500

Robin Hood-Leeder is director of membership services at the Federation of Master Builders. For more information, or help in finding a reputable builder, call 020-7242 7583 or visit

A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine