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Churchwardens and many others do a huge amount of work to keep our beautiful churches well maintained. These resources are intended to support those already doing this valuable work and inform any who might be new to a volunteering role in this area. Documenting existing arrangements can also help with delegating tasks and spreading the load of this important work.

Regular maintenance and minor repairs can prevent larger more costly problems from developing, make a building feel welcoming, and can be a great way to engage your community.  Even if you feel like your church building has more significant problems, keeping on top of regular maintenance can still slow the rate of deterioration giving you time to plan a project for more extensive repair work. 

In order to spot small issues before they turn in to bigger problems it is a really good idea to do a regular building inspection, or document this if it is something you already do.  This is a simple walk round inspection looking out for issues such as blocked drains, plants growing in or around walls or damp patches inside.  It can be done completely from ground level, using binoculars to look at higher levels of the building.  You could even make a habit of doing this with a friend after a service every so often.  The following link gives a template and checklist of what to look out for when carrying out a building inspection.

Building Inspection Template

Click here for a series of short videos produced by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and the National Churches Trust that guide volunteers through each aspect of a regular building/maintenance check.

Both these resources were produced as part of the Taylor Review Pilot Project managed by Historic England.

Having a simple written or photographic record as a result of these inspections can help monitor change in the building and inform the work of your church architect when it comes to your regular detailed Quinquennial Inspection. 

Another option is to produce a maintenance plan.  These can range from very simple to quite complex, depending on your building and your resources.  Below is an example of a simple ‘one page maintenance plan’ which you can download and adapt to suit your needs.

One page maintenance plan

The Taylor Review Pilot Project also developed a more comprehensive maintenance plan template which can be downloaded here.

Maintenance Checklist for places of worship.

These plans can then be used by volunteers or by maintenance contractors.  You can identify which jobs can safely be done by who, and delegate tasks to spread the load.

If you would like help adapting one of these templates or producing a maintenance plan please contact Frances Jackson.  Your plan will draw on information from your QIR and your church architect may also need to be consulted when planning maintenance.


What is maintenance?

Maintenance is carrying out planned work on a regular basis to slow the rate at which a building decays. All building materials decay over time but planned maintenance extends the life of the materials and the building, protecting its historic features. Examples of good regular maintenance include clearing blockages from rainwater goods and drains, removing plants growing up a building or making sure a tower/roof is birdproof before nesting starts.

Repair is work done to restore something that is damaged, faulty or worn back to a good condition. It deals with the decay/damage that can be reduced through good maintenance.

Some repairs are small, some large. Where possible, good maintenance and regular small repairs that preserve as much historic fabric as possible are preferable to larger scale interventions which require major replacement of fabric. They also tend to cost less!

Why is maintenance important?

· It helps preserve as much of the historic material and character of a building as possible by avoiding the need for more dramatic repairs/replacement of materials

· It extends the lifespan of materials or elements of the church

· It contributes to a well-cared for and welcoming church

· It is cost effective: Fixing a leaking gutter is easier and cheaper than repairing the damage to a building structure that can be caused by water ingress. It is also easier to set aside a small amount of money for regular maintenance and small repairs than it is to find funds for a major repair project once a building has already deteriorated.

· It is the first step towards making your church more energy efficient – a well maintained church is more efficient than a damp church with a leaking roof.


Can it be fun?

Yes! Although some work will need to be carried out by a professional contractor, there are a good number of simple maintenance tasks that can be carried out by volunteers. This can be a great way of engaging the church and wider community – especially if you are able to work together, the weather is kind, and plenty of tea and cake are available! Examples of routine tasks that can be undertaken by volunteers might be:

· Carefully removing plant growth from the base of walls and drainage channels

· Removing leaves/other debris from easily accessible rainwater goods, drains and gulleys round the building and checking these are running clearly

· Using a checklist to inspect the interior and exterior of the building and record any findings

Do not carry out any work you cannot do safely, and risk assess if using ladders or working at any height. Leave this work for a suitable contractor – you’ve done an important job just in identifying a task that needs doing and passing it on to the right person.

Ideally parishes should have some money set aside for maintenance and small repairs each year. But if this isn’t the case, or you are faced with some urgent minor repairs you hadn’t budgeted for, where can you look for funds?

Repairs are work done to restore something that is damaged, faulty or worn back to a good condition.  Examples of small repairs you may need to carry out are: replacing slipped tiles, patch repairs to a lead roof or repair of gutters or downpipes.

The following document lists some grant funders that might be suitable for these sorts of small repairs, for example funders who don’t require specific match funding or who give grants towards smaller projects.

Grant Funders for small repairs

To explore a larger range of funders you can also use the search engine Church Grants, which all parishes in the Diocese of Norwich have access to, by following this link – Grants and funds from external organisations.


The need for urgent repairs might be spotted during a regular building inspection by a volunteer, or identified by your architect in your Quinquennial Inspection Report.  For some small repairs you won’t need a specification, or any permissions, but for others you might and if in doubt always check with your architect or with the Church Care and Development Advisor (click the link for contact details).  Always use a reputable contractor who works using traditional methods to carry out repairs on a ‘like for like’ basis.


Links to further resources:

A Stitch in Time – why maintenance and small repairs really matter – handout from a training session which formed part of the Taylor Review Pilot

Church Care Calendar of Care from the Church Buildings Council

The Church Buildings Council Advice and Guidance for church buildings

The SPAB have many good resources relating to the care of historic buildings

Historic England – Maintenance and Repair of Places of Worship