Safe as houses: 5 tips for exterior maintenance

PUBLISHED: 11:35 02 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:37 02 October 2017

Patching up an old roof can be a false economy - it may be expensive, but a new roof is often advisable [PA Photo/thinkstockphotos]

Patching up an old roof can be a false economy - it may be expensive, but a new roof is often advisable [PA Photo/thinkstockphotos]


Spend some time, money and effort now to make sure your home is ready for the rigours of winter weather. From leaks to leaves, Julia Gray addresses the most likely issues...

Blocked gutters are a common problem at this time of year [PA Photo/thinkstockphotos]Blocked gutters are a common problem at this time of year [PA Photo/thinkstockphotos]

1. No one wants a home with a leaky roof, so keep an eye on yours - if you can see some or all of the roof from the ground, you may be able to spot any problems (use binoculars if necessary). Troubleshooting can be easier from inside the loft - being able to see daylight isn’t a good sign! It’s not unusual for roof tiles or slates to have broken, slipped or been blown off, and other parts of the roof can cause leaks and damp, too, including defective flashing, guttering and chimneys - in most cases, you’ll need a roofer to put the problem right.

2. Old roofs often don’t have roofing felt, so they’re more prone to leaks, as there’s no felt to act as a second line of defence. Patching up an old roof can be a false economy - it may be expensive, but a new roof is often advisable, especially with winter on its way. As well as new roof tiles or slates, you’ll get new battens (for them to sit on), roofing felt and insulation (if the current insulation doesn’t comply with building regulations), which should make the loft and rooms below warmer and drier. Different roof tiles or slates (planning restrictions may apply) can also help transform the appearance of your home.

3. Leaves are falling from the trees, which can cause all kinds of problems, including blocking gutters and making patios and paths slippery. Often the problem is caused by trees in neighbouring gardens, but you can cut them back to the boundary, something you’ll also need to do if you’re planning to put up a fence or shed while the weather’s still nice. The new Fiskars PowerGear(TM)X Telescopic Tree Pruner UPX86 (RRP £122.99, is ideal, as it extends up to 6m, and has an adjustable cutting head (up to 230 degrees), so you can cut back tall branches (up to 32mm thick) safely from the ground. For thicker branches, you’ll need a chainsaw - the new Stihl MSA 120 C-BQ chainsaw (RRP £249, is compact, cordless and very user friendly for DIYers.

4. Leaves are one of the main culprits when it comes to blocked gutters, but you can find all kinds of things in them. If you notice water dripping or falling sharply from one place when it’s raining, or is still dripping after the rain’s stopped, this is usually where the blockage - or another problem, such as a faulty seal - is. Use a watering can to fill the gutter with water if you think there’s a problem but it’s not raining. To stop gutters getting blocked, consider fitting gutter guards, which block debris but still allow rainwater through.

5. External woodwork is often a casualty of winter, so act now to protect it. Chipped and flaking paint will eventually lead to wood rot, but even painted wood can be rotten - it may not be obvious until you press on it. Wet rot sounds scary, but it’s usually easy to remedy with the right products - use Ronseal Wet Rot Wood Hardener (£9.99 for 500ml, Screwfix) to harden the soft, rotten wood, and then Ronseal High Performance Wood Filler (£11.39 for 550g, Screwfix), which is brilliant for big repairs and sets really fast. If it’s cold and damp, a water-based exterior wood paint like Dulux Trade Weathershield Quick Dry Exterior Gloss (£45.63 for 2.5ltr, B&Q) should still dry quickly, but an oil-based one like Dulux Trade Weathershield Exterior High Gloss (£34.74 for 2.5ltr, B&Q), although much slower drying, offers tough, long-lasting protection.

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