Damp is a common problem, but many of us don’t know where to turn to get the right advice. Here are what I believe to be the three main pitfalls to avoid when obtaining a damp survey:
#3 – Avoid trying to come to a consensus view.
What do I mean? The thinking goes like this: “If I ask three people who know about buildings to tell me what the problem is I’ll get a majority point of view and then I’ll know what to do.”
Sounds reasonable, and could work, but in reality it takes a lot of time and often you just don’t get a consensus – you get confused.
#2 – Don’t pay for a contractor to survey
I’m not having a go at contractors – most of their time is worth a lot more than you have to pay to get a survey from them (the PCA members anyway). So why not pay their fee of £90 rather than the £300 odd an independent surveyor wants?
Mostly because you’re going to want a second, and maybe a third quote and you don’t want to have to pay for those as well.
Also because, as honest and fair as the contractors I know are, there is an urge to diagnose/recommend in order to win work. Ultimately, a lot of diagnosis and recommendations when it comes to damp is subjective. When there’s a blurred line we must expect a contractor to want to fall on the side which wins work. Unfortunately this works both ways: sometimes the client doesn’t seem to want to spend money so the recommendation is only a half measure; other times the work isn’t necessarily required but the client appears willing to spend in order to have peace of mind.
Don’t buy into a ‘free survey’. I only know of a few people who provide ‘free surveys’ and these are either not qualified and therefore prone to tell you to do work which may or may not rectify the problem; or commission based surveyors who have a blatant need to sell you work.
So what is the best thing to do? I recommend instructing an independent surveyor to inspect the property, diagnose the problem and provide a clear recommendation of what to do about it WITH SUFFICIENT INFORMATION TO ENABLE A CONTRACTOR TO QUOTE WITHOUT HAVING TO CONDUCT ANOTHER SURVEY.