The Value of Maintenance

Research collaboration with Historic England into the impact of ‘stitch in time’ repairs on listed churches across England

Historic England
  • Lead researcher and author
APEC Architects collaborated with Historic England and Greenwood Projects to undertake a research project that seeks to evaluate the estimated repair liability of a sample of 30 listed church buildings across England that are on the Heritage at Risk Record. This included investigating the impact of ‘stitch in time’ repairs on the condition of the building fabric and the cost impact of delaying repair work and maintenance.
View the full report here

Three questions our research sought to answer


What is the current estimated repair cost for necessary capital works on these historic places of worship?


What would have been the cost of timely maintenance and minor ‘stitch in time’ type repairs if they had been done when identified as being necessary?


Would prompt attention to maintenance and repair issues have prevented or slowed down the development of major repair needs, or are some of these the result of material, structural or design failures and could not have been managed or averted by maintenance?

Our key conclusions from the research

The total cost if all the Churches rectified defects when they were first identified
Total estimated cost associated with delaying repair
Actual total cost of all the repairs across the Churches

Poor maintenance and repair results in increased cost liability prone to rapid escalation

When repair and maintenance is delayed, the deterioration of the defects escalate and they have an impact on other parts of the building, leading to far greater costs are for Churches. This makes it harder to budget for necessary work.

Defects still occur in well-maintained churches, but regular repair keeps these at a stable rate. This enables budgeting for work to be far more consistent and predictable. Churches that undertake regular maintenance spend less in the long-term.

Once churches reach a critical point of deterioration, the costs increase rapidly ,and even relatively high and regular expenditure cannot bring the building back to a stable condition. In such cases, only major schemes of work can address the issues faced. Churches that undertake regular maintenance spend less in the long-term.

Delaying repair results in a significantly increased cost liability for Churches

As the condition of a building deteriorates, it requires more work as time progresses. One defect over time can leads to several others. When we broke down the sample of churches into 'regularly maintained' and 'minimally maintained', it was clear that the Churches that carried out regular repairs and maintenance had far less cost associated with delayed repair or increased number of defects.

Roofs and rainwater goods/drainage are the primary cause of defects and consequential decay

We assessed the rate of deterioration of different building elements, including masonry, roofs, structural stability, drainage, interior, windows and services. We found that defects to roofs and rainwater goods deteriorated rapidly and resulted in a more rapid increase in cost liability.

Not only are these elements costly to repair in themselves, but they were also found to be the principal cause of defects in masonry and interiors. These consequential defects can also escalate rapidly, so the importance of regular maintenance and repair to roofs and rainwater goods is clear. Where not affected by saturation, masonry and interior defects were found to deteriorate far slower, allowing the Church to resolve issues in a more programmed manner.

Different ages of church buildings experience similar issues

We assessed Medieval, Victorian and Pre-WWI churches, and identified that most of them faced the same issues in relation to typical defects and the cost of repair. Whilst the age of the building did not appear to be a defining factor, the size and complexity of the building were.