At the moment I am ill and will probably be unable to help you again. Naturally, if the situation changes, I shall post again. In the meantime, you can find other surveyors on the Property Care Association.
Kind regards to everyone .
There is a common misconception that a timber and damp surveyor is actually a damp proofing contractor wearing a slightly different hat: nothing could be farther from the truth!
A damp and timber surveyor, such as myself, is an entirely independent, qualified professional, whose aim is to establish the cause - and if necessary - the type of treatment that may be required to combat damp or timber problems in buildings. Independent timber and damp surveyors are completely divorced from contractors and thus their findings are dependent entirely upon the building's needs, not the desire to carry out damp or timber treatments.
Because a lot of problems are the fault of poor building practices, a damp survey by an independent surveyor will very often recommend treatment by more general trades such as builders, joiners or plumbers; or by the clients themselves where this is possible.
It is the absence of ties to any particular company or organisation that allows an independent damp and timber surveyor to find the best solution for clients.
If you were to ask a damp proofing contractor for an opinion on the cause or treatment for a particular problem, perhaps one highlighted in a Homebuyer report, he would naturally make recommendations in the light of his own experience; and suggest remedies that were within his field of expertise. Even ignoring any pecuniary advantage this might gain him, this partiality considerably reduces the options for choosing the most effective treatment. I have seen many injection damp proofing courses installed simply because of condensation; and the needs of older and period properties, which require sympathetic understanding, are seldom considered.
The difference between a damp surveyor and a damp proofing contractor can best be demonstrated by the 'timber and damp survey' they each carry out. The timber and damp surveyor won't assume anything and will take at least an hour to inspect even the smallest of properties; the damp proofing contractor will often give an opinion after the shortest of visits, and his solutions almost invariably involve some sort of invasive treatment - whether it's needed or not. His purpose is not to find the best solution to the problem; it is to sell the services of his company.
That this situation exists has caused many people to pay for expensive damp proofing and timber treatments they simply do not need; and they are either seduced or lured into this situation by two separate, although usually related, events:
1. The client has assumed, quite wrongly, that because a building society surveyor - usually when doing a Homebuyer or valuation survey – has flagged a potential problem and asked for a specialist’s report, that a problem actually exists. A request for a further report does not mean the house has a problem; it means the chartered surveyor is unsure.
In response to this request, either the client, or very often the estate agent handling the sale, will contact a ‘Damp Proofing & Timber Contractor’, which results in:
2. A visit by a contractor, offering a 'free' timber and/or damp survey; and very often when money is tight, this is an extremely attractive proposition. Another version of this is the offer to 'deduct' any survey fees from the eventual cost, should work be required. I think this is even more invidious than the 'free' survey option: it's simply a variation, but with an added incentive – it still falls within the ‘free lunch’ category.
The above happens time and time again and they are pitfalls that trap many unwary people.
In this life, very little is for 'free' and it isn't rocket-science to realise that any company who carried out meaningful damp or timber surveys, which didn’t result in remuneration for them, would soon go bust; and as their surveys are ‘free’, the cash can only flow from one source, i.e. the remedial work.
Very often, the client will be offered the evidence of an electronic moisture as proof of a problem, one which only the contractor can solve; but the truth is, I’ve seen hundreds of cases where a second opinion was sought, and the ‘evidence’ of the moisture meter was either wrong; or inconclusive. In many of those cases, the expensive remedial work recommended by the contractor was simply not required.
In truth, a moisture meter cannot provide definitive evidence of dampness in buildings and they should be used with extreme caution, as a guide to further investigation; however, in practice they're often the sole factor upon which a decision to treat is made - no other investigations are carried out!
Similarly, holes in timber are often cited as an absolute reason to spray a house with chemicals, even though this may already have been done several times before; and any insects that once lived there have long since moved out.
Common sense, ability, and independence are essential facets of surveying, especially when assessing situations that involve large sums of money. The process isn’t free but it will probably save you more than it costs, whilst at the same time rescuing your property from unnecessary and potentially damaging intervention.