Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Check out That Growing Problem; House Doctor

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Check out That Growing Problem; House Doctor

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Fall of Clear Building Survey

A quick check around your property now could save a lot of time, hassle and money later, warns house doctor Peter Fall.

THE weather of late has not been the most conducive to getting things done outside the house, but there have been some dry and relatively mild days.

When you do venture into the garden, the ground is too wet to walk on and the footpaths slippery with moss and algae growth. So you need to take care.

Despite this, we should take advantage of the normal winter die-back of the plants to inspect our buildings and boundary walls and fences and, if necessary do some simple maintenance.

I'm thinking about the plants we encourage to grow up our walls and fences. Many of these are deciduous and shed their leaves. Now is a good time to look through their bare branches at the walls behind and, if need be, cut them back away from windows, gutters and roofs.

Once the foliage regrows we will have no chance of checking the walls for cracks, bulges or bad pointing. If we take the opportunity now and we find a problem, we can cut back the plant and prepare for a full-blown scheme of repairs in the spring and summer. Leave it a few more weeks and the wall will disappear out of sight for another year.

I'm not a big fan of plants that climb up walls. Some are not too much of a problem, such as cotoneasters, clematis and pyracanthas. The problem ones are those that need to stick themselves to the wall in order to gain support, like climbing hydrangeas, Russian vines and some types of ivy.

The cotoneaster group will support themselves or, at the most, drape themselves over the wall or fence. The climbing hydrangea group, on the other hand, have roots that stick to the brickwork and sometimes work their way into the mortar joints. This type also wheedles their way into the joints between window frames and walls or into hopper heads and waste pipes. I've even found them growing inside a roof space, having sneaked past the gutter and under the tiles.

The roots sticking on to or growing into the walls can cause heavy damage to the pointing of a wall and even to soft stonework or rendering. …

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