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
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The Independent Online

ROOF LEAKS

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

GUTTERING

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

BUGS, BATS AND BEES

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

DAMP

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

WINDOWS

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

RADIATORS

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

GARDENS AND PATHS

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

EXTERIOR PAINTWORK

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 www.fmb.org.uk

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