Should I pay for a damp survey? Why would I pay for a survey when I can get a free one?
We hear these questions almost daily. Please let us explain how a survey works, it may save you an awful lot of money.
The only governing body for damp proofing companies is the PCA (Property Care Association) and the only recognised damp & timber qualification is the CSRT. Surely if you plan to have someone inspect your property, you'd at least expect them to be qualified wouldn't you? Well, most surveyors aren't. "Approved Contractor" basically means they are buying their chemicals from a supplier who approve the contractor because they spend money with them.
You should always make sure any surveyor who comes to your property is CSRT qualified. This means they have had extensive training and are suitably qualified to identify your problem.
PCA member companies, and CSRT qualified surveyors, will most likely charge you for your survey. If you are getting a free survey, it's generally worth what you pay for it. The contractor is just out looking to quote for as much work as possible in the hope of making some money. If you wanted your car serviced and a local builder offered to 'do it for free' would it not raise suspisions? No one works for free,there's always a catch. They are trying to make money, they just have a different way of doing it.
The damp industry has changed dramatically in recent years. The focus is now on diagnosis. There is condensation, hygroscopic salt contamination, rainwater ingress, contamination of wall plaster etc. to deal with, so it's no longer an industry where we just come out and quote for a DPC. The emphasis is on the diagnosis, getting it right and doing the job properly, not just selling damp proof courses. For this to be successful, your surveyor needs to be trained and qualified in what they do.
Two recent examples -
Damp - 200 year old farmhouse in Hexham. The client had been told by a "damp company" (contractor) that they had damp throughout as there was moisture meter readings on all walls. Quoted over £8000. We went to visit and straight away noticed that there was no actual visible evidence of damp. Yes, the meter did give readings on all walls full height. This quite clearly would send the alarm bells ringing. We'd expect to see some visual evidence of dampnesss. Long story short, further investigation revealed that the wall plaster contained black ash. Black ash mortar will give a positive reading on a damp meter. The walls were not actually damp at all. No further treatment required.
Timber - We visited a property where the client had identified woodworm in their loft. Previous two free surveys had suggested two different treatments, one for £1000 and another for £1800. The client, left confused, asked their local authority, who recommended us.
They paid for us to come out and inspect the problem. We found what looked at first glance like Common Furniture Beetle. Further examination revealed the infestation to be Bark Borer (Ernobius Mollis). Neither of the first two contractors even identified the infestation. The reason this is significant is that Bark Borer will only attack bark. Therefore the structural timbers were safe from attack. Once the small amounts of bark were gone, the infestation would die out. No treatment required. The client paid for the survey, but saved a whopping 94% of the money they would have had to pay out if they'd gone with the other contractors.
A contractor who is only assisted by the chemical company they deal with would not be sufficiently trained to identify the different between Common Furniture Beetle, which requires treatment, and Bark Borer, which doesn't. It's all about the diagnosis!
To get into the PCA we need to ensure that all of our surveyors are CSRT qualified. We need to make sure our staff are highly trained, and go through an application process. We are audited annually, where a member of the PCA will come to our office, inspect our reports, H&S info, visit our sites etc. to ensure we are meeting their high standards. Should their be a dispute, the client can also go to the PCA should they not be satisfied with our response.
To get the CSRT qualification, our surveyor must pass damp, timber and H&S examinations. The exams include written and oral exams. They are very detailed and dfficult to pass. For example, in the timber exam we must be able to identify all types of rot and woodworm, not only in English but by their Latin names also! The qualification is the equivelent of an NVQ Level 3.
You would contact our office, to provide details of the property, the problem you'd like us to investigate, and how we can gain access to the property. We would then arrange a visit which would take around 30-60 minutes. We will then send you a full written report and sketch plan, along with any associated costs.
The cost of a survey can vary depending on the location, requirements of the inspection, and the access arrangements. It's best to call our office or send an email, and we can confirm. The costs are given up front and there are no additional surprise charges.