We were recently asked to answer some questions to help advise the users of www.mybuilder.com in regards to seeking a remedial treatment contractor to carry out a damp or timber survey and providing advice.
Here is what we had to say:
- Is there anything that I need to do to prepare for your visit?
There are different reasons why we may be called out to visit a property:
- A full Timber and Damp survey to be carried out prior to purchasing a property
- A specific damp or timber issue that requires an inspection
To allow the surveyor to give the fullest damp report, access is required to all walls, internally and externally to allow moisture readings to be taken and any defects identified. This may mean heavy furniture items are pulled away from the walls, or cupboards against walls to be cleared allowing for them to be checked.
To allow a full inspection of the timbers would mean carpets being pulled back and floorboards being lifted to allow the surveyor to inspect the timbers below. This can be impractical if the property is occupied so the surveyor will make a limited inspection to accessible areas. Loft areas would need to firstly be accessible and need to be cleared of items to allow a full inspection. Again, this is not always possible and the surveyor will inspect as much as is possible in the circumstances.
If the property has had timber or damp remedial works carried out in the last 20 years the certification should be available to show the surveyor so that he/she may clarify if they are current and if any of the works have failed in any way.
- How much mess and/or disruption will there be?
This depends on the works carried out, however if it entails the removal of internal plaster from the walls and replastering of walls then this becomes extremely dusty, and even with dust sheets covering furniture and doors being taped close the dust carries in the air and settles in all the rooms. Even after brushing, sweeping and hovering after a day of works the dust continues to move around the property and settle.
On larger domestic contracts we have arranged for a deep clean to be arranged by a local cleaning company to ensure the property is left in the best order.
Timber treatments can also be disruptive with floorboards being lifted, the timber being brushed down, and sprays being used. We would always suggest the rooms are cleared and not used during and sometimes for a few hours after work to allow the air to clear.
- Should I expect you to be a member of a trade body, and if so which one?
If you are to choose a damp proofing or remedial timber treatment company, we would always recommend that they are a full member of the Property Care Association. By being a member of the Property Care Association, the company has had to pass a stringent set of checks, is regularly audited on their administration, complaints handling, Health & Safety, quality and details of the reports, delivery and content of all training, the validity of any product, professional and employers insurance. The members are required to abide by high standards with trained CSRT surveyors in place.
PCA members can also offer the GPI Limited insurance policy that is taken out with the guarantee. Guarantees are worthless if a company goes out of business, or in many cases, the contractor refuses to return to the property if there is a failure in the works. All PCA members abide by standards regarding re-inspections and offer the insurance policy as extra consumer protection – if they go out of business (which may be the case within 20 years !), then another PCA member will carry out work if the original works have failed.
- Do I need to inform the local authority about any of the work you may do at all?
If the property is listed in any way, then we would always suggest getting the council involved from an early start to ensure that the requirements of the listing are met.
As we are remedying the current structure and not making changes to the building, then the local authority do not need to be notified.
You do need to inform your neighbours’ though! Due to the “PARTY WALL ACT 1996”
If any works involve a party wall, the Party Wall legislative Act 1996 applies.
This requires the property owner to notify his/her neighbours of the proposed works and obtain the neighbours’ or property owners’ consent to the works.
“A neighbour cannot unreasonably withhold consent, but should you require further advice or information, seek advice from a qualified source. When a client accepts a quotation/estimate where works on the party wall are specified within the report, the client is deemed to have obtained the neighbours’ consent to the works affecting the party wall and indemnifies the contractor for any costs or liabilities arising from the owner’s responsibilities under the Part Wall Act 1996.”
- What should I be wary of when using a damp proofing specialist? Any common scams or cowboy behaviour or look out for?
I would always select a specialist who is a member of the Property Care Association – this shows that the contractor is a specialist in this area.
Look for feedback – do an internet search of the contractor and read any feedback that has been written about them.
Be wary if a contractor ONLY has mobiles and 0800 numbers or does not have an office address. Be wary of “post box” addresses in central London or local towns, as these are mail drop addresses. Ask if the contractor has an office you can visit.
Is the firm a Limited company? If yes, then go to the companies house website and search for them.
LINK to companies house – webcheck service
Scarily many companies are set up, closed down and re-established under a similar name. I have come across damp companies who say they are limited; however, upon investigation do not exist!
I would always check that the surveyor you will be meeting is qualified to CSRT – which stands for “Certified Surveyor in Remedial Treatments” this is a qualification that requires extensive knowledge and experience to gain.
- Will I get a guarantee for the work you carry out?
A “guarantee” can be printed by any firm. However, if a company ceases trading, then the guarantee becomes null and void. Therefore, to ensure peace of mind, you should choose a PCA contractor as they can issue for a one-off fee an insurance policy to run alongside the guarantee. This insurance policy means that if the company that carried out the specialist works ceases trading and the works fail, another PCA contractor will carry out the works under the guarantee.
We regularly get called to asses failed damp works to find that the original contractor no longer operates and the guarantee cannot be honoured.
- What is the difference between an estimate and a quote?
We provide a quotation which is a fixed-price offer that cannot be changed once accepted by the customer. This quotation relates back to the report, where it clearly specifies the exact works that are to be carried out along with a sketch plan of the area of work. Variations outside of this quotation would be subject to additional charges.
An estimate is an educated guess at what a job may cost – however, it is not binding. In this case, you may receive several estimates covering various scenarios.
In the damp proofing industry, we generally work on “quotations” and specify the exact works that we would carry out and to which specified area. However, with works that cannot be seen i.e. rot underneath floors that will not be opened up until work has commenced. This will be added to the report as an extra to be reviewed once opening up has been carried out.
Generally, the quotation will have an expiry date.
- Do I need to give the tradesmen any money upfront? What about money for materials?
This depends on the contractor; as a rule of thumb, we ask for a 25-35% deposit upon acceptance of the works. This would allow the contractor to cover some of the initial material costs and book the date into the works diary. In the cases of waterproofing works, this could be thousands of pounds of materials that are required to be pre-ordered and ready for the commencement of works. The deposit also shows commitment from both sides – as on occasion, we have received a call Sunday night at 10 pm to cancel a job we have blocked in our diary and purchased the materials for.
If you hand over any money, you should either have signed an acceptance form detailing the quote you have agreed to or at least receive a receipt detailing the monies paid.
If the contractor is a PCA member, then they can offer the “PCA promise,” which is a scheme that protects the consumer’s deposit and works carried out prior to completion in that if the member goes out of business during works, another contractor will carry out the works at no extra cost to the customer.
- How much tea do damp-proofing specialists drink?
Lots, and mine’s strong, no sugar!
- Do you take away waste materials? What about scrap metals? Is that part of the price?
This will be identified in the report and quotation. In all cases, we specify if we are removing the rubble and debris, using an onsite skip or arranging for a skip to be placed at the site. All contractors should have a waste-carrying license.
All PCA and CSRT surveyors are required by law to be trained in asbestos, and its identification and have stringent checks in place to ensure it is treated in the correct manner.
Always happy to answer questions; get in touch on 01732 884535