All church buildings are subject to decay over time. Historic buildings, particularly, have a finite life span, and as such represent heritage assets to their communities. To try to ensure that the fabric of the building survives as long as possible, regular maintenance should be carried out and minor repairs implemented when necessary.
At its simplest, maintenance is a way of slowing down the rate of decay by keeping the fabric of a building in good condition. It can also lessen the need for large-scale, costly work further down the line.
There are some practical tasks which can be carried out by competent and willing volunteers. Maintenance tasks might include:
- clearing gutters and drains
- checking pipework for leaks
- fixing slipped tiles
It is important to understand that maintenance is different from repair, which is work carried out to put right:
- significant decay
Works of repair will usually need to be specified by an architect or building surveyor, and may require permission (see also below).
Please note that the diocese does not have a list of approved contractors for church works. Instead, the PCC should consult its quinquennial inspector, as professional adviser, for advice on procuring and appointing suitable contractors.
The ongoing maintenance and repair needs of church buildings are best informed by the rolling cycle of required annual inspections, parochial visitations and quinquennial inspections (QIs), and specifically the recommendations made by the quinquennial inspector, as professional adviser to the PCC, contained within the respective QI report.
It is also recommended that monthly (or periodic) visual checks are conducted on different aspects of the church building, usually by the churchwardens, which can feed into or inform the annual inspection and related annual fabric report, such as in accordance with:
- Church of England's Calendar of Care
- Historic England's Maintenance Checklist for Places of Worship
- SPAB's Maintaining Church Buildings videos (which support the 5 sections of the above Checklist)
Permissions for maintenance and repair works are governed by the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022, which came into effect on 1st July 2022. The amended Rules include two updated lists, List A and List B, which have been substantially revised and expanded to contain more works that may be undertaken without a faculty (subject to 'specified conditions'), specifically to help churches meet carbon-reduction targets. Where works, including major repairs, are likely to affect the character of a listed building, a faculty is required.
List A incorporates maintenance and minor repair matters, including:
- Works of maintenance, not involving repair or substantial replacement of material, carried out as part of the regular course of care and upkeep of the building
- Works of repair not materially affecting the fabric or any historic material
List A works do not require diocesan consultation or written permission. Such works can be logged through an online record via the Online Faculty System (OFS), but this is not a statutory requirement; they should be entered into the church's log book.
- List A is published in full here – the 'specified conditions' are located in the right-hand column
List B incorporates more major repair matters, including:
- Works of repair affecting the fabric or historic material – on condition that:
- The repair does not introduce material of a type that does not already form part of the fabric or historic material that is to be repaired
- The repair does not involve the substantial replacement of a major part of the fabric or of historic material
- The like-for-like replacement of roof lead or other material covering the roof of a listed building
- List B is published in full (below List A) here – the 'specified conditions' are located in the right-hand column
The following sources of information are recommended to be consulted by PCCs, and specifically by church officers, including churchwardens, with statutory or general responsibilities for the maintenance and repair of church buildings:
Diocese of Lichfield
- Common maintenance issues in churches and churchyards (checked by the Lichfield DAC, May 2021)
ChurchCare (Church Buildings Council)
Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)
- Maintenance matters (including video guides)