How to Assess Condition

This page will give you an introduction on how to assess the condition of historic buildings.

As part of your assessments you will be looking at the condition of individual building elements such as windows and doors, before deciding on the building's
overall condition.

The assessment asks you to look at the condition of the main building elements and assess their condition as good, fair, poor, very bad, not visible or not applicable. Below are some pointers and illustrated examples to help you judge the condition of each element.

Please note that these images should act as a guide by which to judge the building you are assessing against.

Don't worry if you're looking at something other than a building, such as a statue, a phone box, gates or a memorial. Just assess those elements that are relevant and choose not applicable on the assessment form for those that aren't.

If a building element is obscured or missing, then you should choose not visible, you can use the comments section at the end of the assessment form to further explain the problem.

Roofs

When looking at the roof consider the following:

  • Is it straight or does it have any dips in it suggesting buckling of the rafters?
  • If the roof is uneven, has it created gaps between tiles/slates that can let water/ snow in?
  • Are there slipped/missing tiles or slates?
  • Is there slate or tile debris around the perimeter of the building?
  • Are there signs of general failure of flashings or are they missing?
  • Is thatch in good condition or it is damaged, deteriorated, mossy?
  • Are there lots of lead tingles suggesting nail sickness?
  • Is the leadwork cracked or missing?
  • If you have internal access you can look for rot outbreaks, water staining and blistered paintwork on walls

Gutters and downpipes

When looking at the gutters and downpipes consider the following:

  • Does it have any and if it does do the y work?
  • Are they joined up and firmly fixed to the wall?
  • Are they blocked with plants or debris?
  • Are they a good way of getting water away from the building or is water discharging into the walls?
  • If they're not working you'll probably be able to tell because there'll be damp staining on the wall behind, or some algae on the brickwork behind the gutter itself
  • As with the roof, if you have internal access you can look for rot outbreaks, water staining and blistered paintwork on walls

Wall structure

When looking at the wall structure consider the following:

  • Looking at the surface, is there anything obvious going on? Are there any open cracks in the brickwork, are they large?
  • Cracks through the masonry or through lintels and sills rather than down the line of the pointing suggest more serious movement
  • Are any areas bulging or sagging?
  • Remember old buildings do move but we're looking for any ne w movement , so you could look for past repairs or repointing that has cracked again suggesting on-going movement
  • Are bits of render missing?
  • Is the brick eroded?
  • Are bits of pointing missing?
  • It's a good idea to look at the bottom of the walls, a colour change of green or white may suggest that water is getting in, perhaps as a result of leaking gutters or drains.
  • Lots of white dust or crystals on a wall surface (efflorescence) are also an indication of damp

Doors

Looking at the doors:

  • Has the building got any doors?
  • If it has are they secure?
  • Are there any problems with the glasswork?
  • Are there any signs of vandalism such as broken or boarded-up doors?
  • Is the timber rotten or is the paint just flaky?

Windows

Looking at the windows:

  • It's not just about peeling paint, but are there broken panes of glass?
  • How are the frames, are they decayed or are they in generally good condition?
  • Are there any signs of vandalism such as broken or boarded-up windows?

Architectural details

When looking at architectural details consider the following:

  • Are they there and if so, what condition are they in?
  • Look for signs of structural instability, elements that are missing or broken
  • Masonry details can be assessed in a similar way to walls, but might also show a harmful peeling black crust resulting from pollution, or cracks where internal metal fixings have rusted and split the stone
  • Decorative ironwork might be rusting, is it securely fixed?
  • Leadwork might be damaged, missing or pitted with pollution or acidic decay
  • Decorative timber cornices and ornamentation may be rotting or need redecoration

Boundary walls, gates and railings

Old buildings often have additional features such as railings and boundary walls, when looking at these consider the following:

  • Are they there and if they are what condition are they in?
  • Look for signs of structural instability
  • Are any elements missing or broken?
  • Is there flaking or missing paintwork, rusting, rotting wood, as well as eroded/spalling brick or stone work?

Interior

Please only assess the interior of buildings which are open to the public, for example a library or a pub. You should not attempt to access privately owned buildings.

If you can access the interior, look for evidence of leaking /water ingress such as staining or bubbling paintwork as well as any damage to internal fixtures and fittings.

Additional building elements

You may like to highlight the condition of additional building elements not already recorded, for example a chimney stack :

  • Does it seem neglected?
  • How's the pointing /masonry on the chimney? Is it good or are the joints open?
  • Are there any signs of spreading? Is the chimney stack straight?
  • If it has pots are they straight, or are bits falling off ?
  • Is there any sign of soot leaking through the masonry?

Overall condition

Taking into consideration the evidence collected for the individual building elements, you now need to assess the condition of the building as a whole as good, fair, poor or very bad. The condition categories are defined as follows:

Good

Structurally sound; weathertight; no significant repairs needed.

Fair

Structurally sound; in need of minor repair; showing signs of a lack of general maintenance.

Poor

Deteriorating masonry; leaking roof; defective rainwater goods, usually accompanied by rot outbreaks; general deterioration of most elements of the building fabric, including external joinery; or where there has been a fire or other disaster which has affected part of the building.

Very bad

Structural failure or clear signs of structural instability; loss of significant areas of the roof covering, leading to major deterioration of the interior; or where there has been a major fire or other disaster affecting most of the building.

Not visible

Building element not visible

Not applicable

Element is not relevant, for example a statue which does not have a roof

Overall risk assessment

The overall risk assessment for a building is calculated by a combination of condition and occupancy/use. Structures which cannot be occupied/used are assessed on condition alone. The diagram shows how the risk assessment is calculated.

Diagram to show how risk assessment is calculated
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Historic England Condition Survey Team